A motorcycle trailer is an efficient way to move one or more bikes, but it's important to carry your cargo securely and safely. Before you set off on your first trip, you need to make sure you, your car and your trailer are ready for the journey ahead. If you have never towed a motorcycle trailer before, make sure you are ready for the trip ahead with these four crucial preparation tips.
Choose the right trailer
Before you even set off, it's important to make sure you have the right trailer for the job. Drivers should consider various factors before choosing this type of equipment, including:
- How often you intend to tow
- The driving conditions you expect to come across
- The make and model of your bike (s)
Think ahead. For example, many motorcycle trailers come with leaf spring axles, which have no shock absorbers. These axles help keep the weight and cost of the trailer down, but without shock protection, your ride could become uncomfortable if you intend to travel off-road and over rough surfaces. Similarly, open trailers expose your motorbike to the elements. Even on a relatively short distance, this type of trailer could easily allow damage to your bikes.
For expert advice, talk to a local enclosed motorcycle trailer sales dealer about all the options available to you. He or she can help you find out more about the best trailers on the market.
Don't forget the ramp
Even with the most expensive, state-of-the-art trailer in the world, you will still run into problems if you don't have the right ramp to load your bike on the trailer. These days, many trailers come with a built-in ramp, but some models need a separate attachment. Rental trailers may also need their own ramp.
Measure your bike's wheelbase from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear wheel. If the ramp isn't long enough to cope with this, you won't even get the bike on the trailer. For the same reason, measure the ground clearance from the lowest point on the machine to halfway between the wheels. Bikes are generally heavy, and, if you get one stuck on the ramp, there's a serious risk you will hurt yourself.
Make sure your car and trailer can cope with each other
It's easy to underestimate the loaded weight of your trailer. If your car can't cope with the weight of the trailer and bike(s), you could run into serious problems. You can probably get away with a smaller car if you only carry a small trailer and one bike, but you'll need a truck or an SUV for anything more than a ton. Under a ton, you'll also need a car with rear-wheel drive.
Of course, you also need to make sure your car has the right hitch to attach to the trailer. You can buy hitch converters or extenders, but it's easier simply to match the hitch to your vehicle. You need to make sure your trailer can cope with the weight of your car on the hitch – the tongue weight capacity. You also need to make sure the hitch size on your trailer matches your car.
You can find these details in the hitch instructions and owner's manual. If you're unsure, always check with your dealer.
Check your local trailer laws
State laws vary, but you'll nearly always need to meet local legal requirements before you can use a motorcycle trailer on a public road. To complicate things further, if you're driving interstate, you may need to consider the law in each state you pass through. While many states observe reciprocity (where a traffic cop will overlook an infraction if you meet your home state laws), you could still face delays and embarrassing conversations.
Many states have speed limits for drivers carrying trailers. For example, in Alaska, the maximum speed limit is 45 miles per hour. What's more, you need to make sure you have the right insurance. Your standard car insurance may not cover the trailer and contents, so give your insurance company a call before you set off on your trip.
A trailer is often the easiest way to carry a motorcycle interstate, but you need to make sure you get to your destination safely. Take time to prepare for your trip, or you could run into problems on the road.