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If you want to learn how to tow a motorcycle properly, ask someone who’s done it as part of their every day job. I’ve towed nearly 1,000 motorcycles over a decade in the motorcycle industry. These are my tips on how to tow a motorcycle in way that is safest for you and for all vehicles involved.

Remember, no trip is ever 100% risk-free, but with a little attention to detail, you can easily set yourself up for success!

The three best things you can do to avoid motorcycle towing mistakes are having the right ramp for the job, using no less than four straps, and strapping below the motorcycle’s suspension when possible. We’ll go over the importance of all three in detail, and four more bonus tips at the end.

Harley chopper loaded up and ready to go
Harley chopper loaded up and ready to go

Tip 1: Have the right ramp for the job, size matters

At least a few times a month someone will tell me a horror story about a time they tried to load their motorcycles themselves and failed or nearly failed. The most common mistake is using a ramp that was too short to get their motorcycle into their truck bed or trailer.

If your ramp is too short, you’re asking for a bad time. The approach angle will be too steep, which will it more difficult to push and more difficult to feather the clutch without stalling. You’re also more likely, especially with cruisers, to bottom out, and end up stuck halfway up a ramp. Black Widow Pro has a great tool for calculating the minimum ramp length you’ll need to avoid bottoming out.

Please enter wheel base.
Please enter Ground Clearance.
Please enter Loading Height.
 Reset
Minimum ramp length = ft. (1:12 Slope)

Pro Tip: The longer and wider the ramp, the more comfortable you’ll be. This might seem very basic, but the sheer volume of people who tell me they got this wrong make it worth pointing out. In a pinch you can find uneven terrain and load there to reduce your approach angle. Just make sure you’ll have uneven terrain where you’ll be unloading so you don’t get stuck with a motorcycle you can’t unload.

Tip 2: Use 4 straps to tow a motorcycle, not 2 or 3

Ideally if you had adjustable wheel chock now is when you would have it set to the right size for your motorcycle’s front tire. I’ve used this one for hundreds of motorcycles from 10” Vespa rims up to 21” custom chopper rims. No wheel chock? No problem, as long as you’re using 4 straps.

Even if you have a wheel chock, you should still rely on 4 straps, no less. Anchoring just the front end of the motorcycle you’re towing with two straps leaves the back end to fish tail behind you. The bike could end up sliding around and getting scratched up or worse. Likewise, using just one strap on the rear can’t stop a motorcycle from fishtailing in extreme circumstances.

Yellow Vespa looking fresh to death and ready for transportation
Yellow Vespa looking fresh to death and ready for transportation

Pro Tip: When you have four straps, any one strap can fail, and your motorcycle will still stay upright. Each strap has a backup. That buys you safety, peace of mind, and time to pull over calmly and assess the situation. Any less than 4 straps and you are the mercy of your straps. One failure could end your trip.

Tip 3: Strap below the motorcycle’s suspension, if possible

For an overall better motorcycle towing experience you should try to strap your bike from below your motorcycle’s suspension. If you strap above the springs your straps will be fighting the motorcycle wanting to ‘bounce’ every time you go over a bump. The up-and-down compression and rebound of your suspension could make your straps unhook.

To avoid disaster, people tend to compress their suspension as much as possible so that their straps won’t bounce off the bike. The problem is that your motorcycle’s suspension wasn’t designed for that kind of compression for extended periods of time. You could be putting premature wear on your suspension if you’ve got a lot of distance to cover.

Strapped down safely without touching those pipes
Strapped down safely without touching those pipes

Pro Tip: Find places to strap that are below where your motorcycle’s suspension compresses. On a motorcycle’s front end options can include around the fork lowers, near the axle, or through a mag rim. For strapping a motorcycle’s rear end, strapping below the suspension could include the swing arm, the frame itself, or the through a mag rim. Now your motorcycle’s suspension can soak up bumps just like it naturally would, without your straps being at risk of getting bounced off. Just avoid putting any pressure on rim spokes, cables, hoses, and wires!

Bonus quick tips:

These tips won’t towing your motorcycle a fool-proof operation, but they’ll help you avoid damaging your motorcycle or hurting yourself while loading or unloading, and from having your motorcycle fall over while on route.

Adrian Silipo and a bike ready to move
Adrian Silipo and a bike ready to move

If you have any questions, leave a comment down below, or come find me on my website or on YouTube – the links are down here:

Adrian Silipo headshot

Adrian Silipo has been blogging about motorcycles for over a decade at YouMotorcycle.com and has over 100 how-tos and motovlogs on the YouMotorcycle YouTube channel. He has no idea if anyone will read this, so if you found it helpful, please Subscribe to his channel and let him know if you have any questions!