Between 2002 and 2017, the number of motorcycles registered in the U.S. has doubled from 4 million to 8 million. And why not? Whether it’s the back trails or the open highway, there’s nothing more liberating than sitting astride a powerful piece of machinery.
Of course, if you want to transport your motorcycle, you’ll often need to load it onto the back of your truck or trailer.
Given that the average motorcycle can easily weigh 600 lb. it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Looking for the best way to transport a motorcycle? Follow these tips for loading, tying-down and transporting. Then, check out our suggestions on how to deter thieves and keep your motorcycle safe.
You can also watch this quick video showing the best way to attach your ramp.
1. Use a Ramp
One of the biggest mistakes that motorcycle owners make is that they skimp on a loading ramp. In fact, the internet is full of videos of unfortunate individuals who attempted to load their motorcycle using wooden planks. They don’t end well.
Instead, invest in a good quality loading ramp. Many are made from aluminum which makes them strong enough to support the weight and light enough to transport on your own. Also, many can fold to fit in the back of your truck or trailer.
When looking for a ramp, keep the following in mind:
- Make sure that it’s the correct length. A ramp that’s too short can lead to loading accidents such as stalling and slippage on inclines that are too steep.
- Determine optimal ramp length, using a Motorcycle Ramp Calculator, you'll simply need to provide your Loading Surface Height, Ground Clearance and Wheelbase.
- If you have low ground clearance (under 4”), you may be at risk of having the under-body of your vehicle hit or scrape against the bed of your truck or trailer. Using an arched or curved ramp allows your vehicle to load at an angle parallel to the ground. This allows for a smoother transition that protects both your vehicle and your truck or trailer.
2. Attach the Ramp Properly
When you’ve unfolded your ramp, attach the end with the rubber tips to the tailgate. This will help prevent scratching and keep your motorcycle in place. If your ramp has hooks or connectors that will lock into your tailgate, make sure they are securely connected.
Next, use a ratchet tie-down strap to secure the ramp to the truck. Most ramps will have a hook intended for this use. Place one hook from a ratchet tie down through the hook on the ramp and secure the other end to a loop or hook in the bed of the truck. Use the ratchet to tighten the strap until the ramp is held firmly in place.
Look for straps that are rated to support the weight of your motorcycle. Look for sturdy, anodized or coated hooks and cambuckles. These will better support the weight, lock in place and prevent rusting over time.
Do not use a bungee strap to secure the ramp. Bungee straps may give, allowing the ramp to fall.
3. Put It In Neutral
Before you load, make sure your motorcycle is in neutral. It’s found between first and second gear and most motorcycles have a neutral light, that lets you know when you when your motorcycle is in neutral.
Also, avoid loading your motorcycle on soft or uneven ground. These might give way when weight is placed on the ramp while loading. Instead always load on blacktop or concrete. If neither of those are available look for a patch of dry, even ground.
4. Get Help Loading
You wouldn’t lift 200 lb. at the gym without a spotter, so why would you try to do the same thing with a 600 lb. motorcycle? Get a friend to help you when loading and unloading your motorcycle, otherwise, the motorcycle could tip and hit the ground, or even worse, fall on you. When loading have your friend push from behind while you steer.
Before the motorcycle has cleared the ramp, use your right hand to squeeze the front brake lever on the handlebars. This will keep the motorcycle from rolling backward. Then your friend can climb into the bed of the truck and help you pull the motorcycle in the rest of the way.
5. Secure your Motorcycle
Once your motorcycle has been loaded into your truck, it’s time to secure it for travel.
At minimum, you should have three ratchet straps with at least one “soft loop” or heavy duty loop that won’t damage the paint on your motorcycle.
How you tie down your bike will depend on the model of the motorcycle and the dimensions of your truck or trailer. However, it’s advisable to use either the frame or a solidly mounted part on the frame as an attachment point.
The first step is to get your truck or trailer as level as possible. Then, set two ties up front and two on either side. This should be adequate for most street bikes, but if you’re concerned, you can always add an additional two ties in the front hook.
Connect the tie-downs to your floor or frame loops and extend them out as far as you need to attach to your motorcycle (and where you can reach them).
A good rule of thumb is the 45-degree rule. All straps should form a 45-degree angle between the bike and floor and at a 45-degree angle from the motorcycle to the anchor points.
If you’re using a motorcycle ramp, don’t forget to strap it down as well.
6. Use a Wheel Chock
Another option that you can use is a wheel chock. These are curved blocks or metal frames that can keep motorcycle wheel from shifting.
Some chocks are simple rubber bricks, others have aluminum frames with locking mechanisms to keep your wheels straight and secure. Also, while some can secure to your truck without needing to drill holes in the truck bed, others cannot.
7. Use a Cover
Once your motorcycle is loaded and secured, you want to protect it from road dust, grit and insects. One easy way is with a motorcycle cover. Ideally, you’ll want a cover that can be effectively secured to your motorcycle while allowing your motorcycle to stay securely in place. Your cover should also be durable enough to withstand the high winds from the road and waterproof to keep your motorcycle dry.
Load, Secure and Transport Your Motorcycle Safely and Enjoy the Road
When the time comes to haul your motorcycle, following these steps will make it easier to load, secure and transport your motorcycle. They will also help protect your motorcycle from being scratched or getting dirty before you get to enjoy your ride.