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How to Tie-Down a Motorcycle on a Hitch Carrier


One thing we’ve learned while working in this industry is that riders transport their motorcycles for any number of reasons. Maybe they’re traveling and want the cargo room of a truck but the freedom of the motorcycle once they arrive, or perhaps they’re on the way for a fun weekend at the track with others who enjoy racing high performance bikes.

No matter the reason, it’s critical for your safety (and the safety of everyone else on the road) to learn how to properly secure your bike before travel, particularly when you’re utilizing a hitch-mounted carrier to move it any distance because any bump in the road will feel magnified due to the extension of your vehicle's footprint. Motorcycle carriers offer a new degree of flexibility to riders because you’re able to mount them on different kinds of vehicles, since most trucks and SUVs have trailer hitches. Also, even if you do drive a truck, you don’t have to take up the whole bed with the bulk of the machine; you can mount it on the hitch and still have the truck bed in which to pack other goodies.

There’s quite a bit to know about these handy rigs, so read on for some more insight into how they can be the right fit for your next haul.

If you're still in the research phase of finding a hitch-mounted carrier, read our Buying Guide for Hitch-Mounted Carriers that provides an overview of the entire Black Widow carrier line and breaks down the features of each model so you can easily narrow down the options that will work for your bike type.

Determine Your Hitch Class

Avoiding an overload of the truck that you mount the hitch carrier to should be your first priority when getting set up. To do this, you need to be aware of the hitch class that your vehicle’s hitch can accommodate.

Class 1 and 2 hitches are usually only on cars and crossovers: smaller vehicles that likely can’t haul something larger anyways thanks to reduced engine strength. Class 3 hitches you might see on smaller trucks, while Class 4 and 5 hitches are going to be widely available on most trucks and SUVs, especially heavy-duty ones (Class 6 hitches are reserved for large chassis cab commercial-grade vehicles).

Make Sure Your Hitch Class and Tongue Weight Rating are Apprioriate

Hitch classes ensure that you don't accidentally haul too-heavy items on a vehicle that can't handle it. Measuring your hitch opening is a quick way to ID your hitch class.

Your vehicle’s tongue weight rating is a key metric for safe towing and hauling. Discount Ramps has an in-depth break-down of towing vernicular if you want to understand the intricacies in greater depth. Basically, this weight rating indicates the amount of downward force that the tongue of a trailer or hitch-mounted carrier exerts on the hitch itself. This is a tricky physics question, but generally the rule is that the tongue weight shouldn’t be more than 10% of the weight of the object that you’re towing.

Although your vehicle's manufacturer determines the maximum weight your vehicle is able to tow, you can use the chart below to find a rule-of-thumb tongue weight rating based on hitch class.

Warning! Unless we specifically state otherwise, Black Widow hitch-mounted motorcycle carriers should never be used on tow-behind trailers (including 5th wheel and camping trailers), motorhomes or RVs even if they have a hitch that's compatible with the carrier. Also, be aware that the hauling weight of your preferred vehicle might actually be limited by your vehicle's suspension. Some older vehicles could require air shocks or heavier springs to stiffen up the suspension and prevent sagging, even if the carrier is compatible with the hitch and tongue weight rating. Lastly, never use motorcycle carriers with hitch adapters or extensions because this changes the physics of the carrier and could put too much strain on your vehicle.

Class Basic Use Hitch Opening> Gross Trailer Weight (lbs) Tongue Weight (lbs) Common Vehicles Suitable for BW Carriers?
I Light-Duty 1.25" 2,000 200 Passenger cars, small crossovers
II Moderate-Duty 1.25" 3,500 350 Mid-sized sedans
III Versatile/Mix 2" 3,500-6,000 350-600 Pickups, minivans, full-size SUVs
IV Heavy-Duty 2" 10,000-12,000 1,000-1,200 Large pickups, SUVs
V Heaviest-Duty 2.5" 16,000-20,000 1,600-2,000 Heavy-duty vehicles, commercial trucks

Strapping it Down Properly

Once you’ve settled on a hitch carrier that fits your vehicle and ensured that your bike isn’t too heavy to ride on the back, it’s time to learn how to strap it down.

How to use soft loops to tie down a motorcycle
Use soft loops to prevent damage to your handlebars or bike frame

First, make sure that you buy quality tie downs straps. There’s a lot of spots in bike ownership where you can afford to save some pennies but buying cheap tie downs is not the right place to do so. You could be risking both your bike as well as the prospect of a large accident if something were to ever happen. The best way to tie down the bike is usually to first use the ramp that’s included with most models to maneuver the bike by hand onto the carrier.

Motorcycle loaded on carrier
Properly tie-down your motorycle with straps and soft loops (Black Widow Heavy Duty Motorcycle Carrier)

Next, you’re going to want to use your straps on the tie down arms located at the “front” and “back” of the carrier and ratchet them down tightly to avoid the motorcycle moving while in transit. The locations of these anchor points vary by carrier model so it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s instruction manual to ensure you’re in the right spot.

It can also help you figure out some debates that still exist among riders. For instance, manuals might have insight into whether it’s preferable to run a strap over the body of a bike or over just the tire.

Final Thoughts

A hitch carrier can be a fun, exciting and convenient way to get your motorcycle from Point A to Point B without having to put miles on it in between. They’re also a relatively inexpensive option, so they can just be a good piece to have in your garage and well worth considering for beginner and advanced riders alike.

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