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How to Transport a Motorcycle or Dirt Bike

Posted On: 03/16/2021

Whether you like to cruise down the highway on your motorcycle or explore the backcountry on your four-wheeler, you need to know how to transport your gear properly to keep it in good working order for as long as possible. Generally, riding your vehicle to your destination is the easiest way to transport it, but depending on where you’re going or what you’re doing, that may not be a viable option.

If you aren’t going to ride, you can use either the bed of a pickup truck or a trailer to transport a motorcycle, dirt bike, four-wheeler, or another type of recreational vehicle. However, each method presents its own challenges and requires different equipment. By learning about the ins and outs of each method of transportation, you can take the right steps to secure your bike and make sure it gets to your destination in one piece.

Transporting a Motorcycle in a Pickup Truck Bed

If you have a pickup, you can easily move your motorcycle or sportbike using the truck bed. While this process is a bit more involved than simply tossing your bike in the bed, it’s a fairly straightforward way to transport your bike. With the help of a motorcycle ramp, you can easily load your bike in and out of the truck.

One thing to keep in mind — you should not attempt to ride your bike on the ramp and into the truck bed unless you have a full-width ramp and a spotter. Not only could you get seriously injured, but doing so could also damage your bike or truck. Here’s what you should do instead:

Park in a Flat Area

Park in a Flat Area

To simplify the loading process, park the truck on a flat surface. This will help reduce the angle of the ramp, making it easier to push the bike up. If you want to make things even easier, park your truck on a slight incline going the opposite direction of your ramp.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of room around where you parked so you can maneuver around your truck, bike, and equipment. This process can also take some time, so make sure you aren’t in anyone else’s way or blocking access to a path or driveway.

Remove the Tailgate

Next, you’ll want to remove the tailgate from your truck. This will help reduce the chance of any hazards you might face when loading up your bike. Though the process may differ slightly from truck to truck, all you need to do is lower the tailgate, remove any cables or attachments, and lift the tailgate towards you at an angle. It should come up easily, but you may want to ask someone for help, as tailgates can be heavy.

You should always follow the instructions specific to your pickup to remove the tailgate. If you aren’t able to take off the tailgate, simply put it down. Once you’ve removed or put down the tailgate, you can secure your ramp to the truck so it won’t fall off during loading.

Get the wheel chocks
Securing bike in trailer bed with our Adjustable Width Motorcycle Wheel Chock

Get the Wheel Chocks

Before loading your bike, place some wheel chocks for added security. Chocks are a particularly sound investment if you need to move your motorcycle frequently. Once the chocks are properly placed, you can slide your motorcycle right into them.

Then, with someone else’s help, push or ride the motorcycle up the ramp and into the chock. It’s best for one person to steer, while the other pushes. Make sure you have stable footing while moving the bike into the truck. Guide the motorcycle into the chocks, and then immediately put down the kickstand or tie it down so it doesn’t fall over.

After securing your vehicle, you can then safely transport it to your destination. Upon arrival, you can then unload your bike, which requires you to follow the same steps as above, but in reverse order.

Transporting a Motorcycle With a Crossover/SUV

If you or someone you know doesn’t have a pickup truck, you can still move your motorcycle with a crossover vehicle or SUV. However, even crossovers and SUVs with a large trunk are likely too small to hold your bike, so you’ll also need a hitch carrier or a trailer to get the job done. No matter which you choose, here are the steps you’ll need to take to safely transport your motorcycle with a crossover vehicle or SUV:

Figure Out Your Vehicle’s Towing Capacity

Before anything else, you need to figure out your vehicle’s towing capacity. For example, SUVs may be able to tow a trailer, but smaller crossovers may only be able to use a hitch carrier. It’s also good to know your vehicle’s towing capacity if you’re deciding which type of ramp to buy or thinking of purchasing a lift for servicing your bike.

You should be able to find your towing capacity in your owner’s manual. Generally, you only want to tow 75% to 80% of your vehicle’s listed capacity to make sure you don’t overwork your vehicle. Be sure to account for the weight of the trailer, motorcycle, and any other accessories or pieces of equipment in that estimation.

Transporting a Motorcycle With a Crossover/SUV
Transporting with our popular AMC400 Dirt Bike Carrier

Install a Hitch

Once you’ve determined the towing capacity, you’ll have to install a hitch on the back of your vehicle (if you don’t have one already). You can’t pick out any old hitch; instead, you’ll have to confirm that the hitch is compatible with both your vehicle and your trailer. You can pay someone to install the hitch, which will probably cost a few hundred dollars.

If you’re up for the challenge, you can also install it yourself. Hitches typically come with all of the hardware you need and specific instructions for installation. Follow these instructions closely, otherwise, the hitch could separate from the trailer or your vehicle — which could, in turn, cause an accident or injure someone. Similarly, make sure you have carefully and properly secured the trailer or lift to the hitch.

Know Trailer Laws and Safety Precautions

It’s important to transport your motorcycle as safely as possible, both to prevent damage and to protect other drivers on the road. You should familiarize yourself with any trailer or towing laws in your area. You’ll likely need to register your trailer at the local DMV and get an electrical connector so its lights are in sync with your vehicle. Further, in some states, lifts are illegal because they obscure your license plates.

In addition, you should practice driving with the trailer or lift before hauling your bike so you can get comfortable with towing beforehand. When towing, you may not be able to drive as fast as usual or brake as quickly. Getting used to these differences can make it that much easier when the time to transport your motorcycle comes.

Tying Down a Motorcycle

In any case, you have to tie down your motorcycle properly before you hit the road. Tying down your bike will prevent it from damaging your vehicle or from getting damaged itself during transit. Further, in the event of a car accident or emergency situation, having your motorcycle tied down will help you avoid any further damages to your own or others’ property.

You’ll need durable tie-downs, bungee cords, or ratchet straps (or a combination of all three) to secure your motorcycle in a truck bed or trailer. No matter which tie-downs you use, make sure you secure the right parts of your bike. It’s best to tie straps to sturdy parts of the bike, like the frame, rather than its mirrors or handlebars, which could move or break off during transit.

Tying Down a Motorcycle

While tying your bike down, you’ll want to do your best to minimize side-to-side and front-to-back movement. To tie it down, lean the bike to one side, then pull out the slack on that side until it’s tight and secure. Repeat across all sides and straps until the bike is fully tied down. Keep in mind that any part of the motorcycle that touches the straps could see some wear and tear while in transit. Even well-secured bikes can move around if you hit a bump, take a turn too sharply, or brake suddenly.

All in all, you have to be thorough, careful, and patient to properly transport your motorcycle or recreational vehicle. However, it’s worth it to get your motorcycle to your destination in one piece so you can take it out on your next adventure.