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Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to transport a motorcycle without actually riding it. Though motorcycles are considered one of the smaller machines in the vehicle world, they can seem a lot bigger when you’re trying to move them around.
I’ve owned over a dozen motorcycles and have run into every problem imaginable with them including predicaments where I needed to transport them. I’ve compiled a helpful list for you to help you decide which method is the best way to transport your motorcycle.
If you’ve never seen or used a tow dolly before, you should definitely look into it especially if you don’t have a truck or trailer to normally rely on. It is an easy way to tow a bike.
Tow dolly is an iron construction that attaches on to the car’s hitch. It attaches to the motorcycle’s front tire and holds it in place. This will leave the back tire on the road so your car doesn’t have to carry the whole weight of the motorcycle.
A lot of people are skeptical about this method because it looks like it’s not very secure. In actuality, it’s quite secure when it’s hooked up to the device properly. It’s a good idea to use some tow straps to ensure it’s security and for your peace of mind. This method is loved by many people.
One of the nice things about having a tow dolly is it’s size. It’s something small enough that you can store in the corner of your garage with really no disturbance from it at all. That’s a lot better than having to store a trailer.
Another benefit is that you can drive your car with these.; you don’t have to have a heavy SUV or truck to successfully transport your motorcycle using this method. To learn more about how to transport your motorcycle with a vehicle, click here.
It does have specs you’ll need to pay attention too. The max load a tow dolly can haul is 800 pounds (this is the weight of the whole motorcycle even though it’s just connected to the front tire). The average motorcycle weighs in at around 400 pounds so this method should work for most people. Click here for the specific tow truck I recommend from my suggestions.
Carrier for Motorcycles
If you’re uncomfortable with having half your motorcycle being rolled on the road while you tow it but still want another creative and space saving way to tow your motorcycle, a motorcycle carrier would be a good option.
A motorcycle carrier connects to your truck’s hitch or SUV. It’s a ramp that you place the motorcycle on top of so the motorcycle is towed sideways on the back of your car. These are very easy to use, and they have been an excellent way of transporting a motorcycle.
The nice thing about using this method is that because it’s sideways against the back of your car, the precautions are much less compared to towing a trailer behind you. Of course you’ll want to be mindful with your driving while you have that back there, it’s just not as difficult or intensive.
These can be used with any SUV, truck, or motorhome. However, they should not be used with a Class III or IV trailer hitch. These are not recommended to be used with any car smaller than an SUV due to the weight distribution and physics. They can only hold 500 pounds. The average motorcycle is about 400 pounds, so this should be sufficient for most people.
If you’re afraid your motorcycle weighs too much for the motorcycle carrier, you can try taking some large and heavy items off the bike such as side panels, windshields, luggage bags, etc. You can then put these in the back seat of your car. Click here for the recommended motorcycle carrier in my list.
A van is another way to transport your motorcycle. This may sound strange but it has been tried many times and is possible if you have the right equipment.
This will only work if your van is the right size and your motorcycle the right size. Some people have smaller bikes and mini vans are able to work. You can rent vans large enough to hold your motorcycle. They also allow you to move around the vehicle and lock it securely without putting your head down.
Whether it’s your van, a buddy’s van, or a rental van you are thinking of using, make sure to take measurements first before attempting to place the motorcycle inside. You’ll need a motorcycle ramp, some tow straps, a few blankets, and a tarp or some cardboard.
Before you load the motorcycle into your van, make sure that the gas tank is fully emptied. This will stop gas from leaking, sloshing around and causing health problems for anyone in the vehicle. Next you’ll want to place a tarp on the floor of the van to keep it from getting dirty.
The ramp can be used to lift the bike into the van’s back. It’s a good idea to have it against one side inside to keep it from moving around as much. To prevent scratches, you can place pillows or blankets between the bike and the side.
To secure your motorcycle, use the tow straps. You may need to get creative with where you fasten the two straps since most vans don’t come equipped with hooks for straps like this. You can then place some cardboard under your motorcycle to stop any potential leakages.
Moving truck rental
If you’re in a bind and need something pretty quick, renting a a small moving truck is a great option. They will provide ample space for your motorcycle and allow you to transport it safely.
I’ve used this method many times myself. There was a time while I was going to college and I didn’t have a truck to haul my motorcycles around (I was picking up a lot of non-running motorcycles from out of state to restore them). This was a great alternative and worked well.
Renting from large moving truck rental companies is often a good deal, especially if you pick-up and drop off at the exact same location. For example, U-Haul will rent out a 10 foot truck (which is more than enough space for a motorcycle…or three) for about $20 a day plus about 80 cents per mile you drive it.
You have to use the truck for two consecutive days, and you plan on driving 50 miles. The cost of the truck for two days plus the mileage will be $40. Then you’ll need to pay for gas which will be about another $20. You will be paying about $100 total for the rental.
$100 is a pretty good deal when you have a secure way of hauling your motorcycle that isn’t susceptible to the weather or debris from the road hitting it. Plus you’d be spending money on gas anyway no matter what method you’d be using to transport your motorcycle.
If you want to transport your motorcycle in a way that doesn’t really mean much effort on your part, shipping a motorcycle is completely possible. This method is safe and efficient, but it will be more expensive.
I have transported many motorcycles throughout the U.S. I sold motorcycles for profit while I was in college. I was able to find a few people who were from the other side of America and shipped their motorcycle to them.
Every motorcycle I shipped cost approximately $900. One went from Utah to Florida, the other from Idaho to New York. My customers were pleased with the condition the motorcycles came in, meaning they didn’t notice any damage at all.
If you’re going to use a shipping company, it’s a good idea to not go with the cheapest one. It’s okay to get a good deal on the shipping price, just don’t sacrifice the quality of the service to save a few bucks. You want one that’s reputable and will take good care of your motorcycle.
Reputable shipping firms do a fantastic job in making sure that your motorcycle stays safe and sound during shipping. They’re able to go from door step to door step, too. Every time they pick up the motorcycle, I make sure to watch and protect it.
As a little side note, when you start contacting some shipping companies, you’ll somehow end up getting a bunch of other shipping companies contacting you as well. I’m not sure how or why, but they do somehow get your phone number and try to get you to use them and their services. It’s just one of those annoying side notes you’ll have to deal with during a process like this.
Alright, I know that suggesting to use a truck to transport your motorcycle isn’t considered “creative,” but there are some creative ways to obtain a truck if you don’t have one but need one.
Like I had mentioned before, there was a while during my motorcycle restoration years that I didn’t have a truck. I had to think creatively about how I transport motorcycles when I bought them, and also when I sold them.
If you don’t have a truck, first check in with family or friends to see if they’d be willing to let you borrow one of theirs. You’d be surprised with how many people are willing to let you do so.
Renting a truck is another option if you don’t have family or friends nearby. Many moving truck rental companies offer trucks that you can rent, as well as the large moving trucks. A truck rented from a rental company will cost you about $20 per day (direct quote from U-Haul), and 80 cents per mile.
You can also rent a truck through a rental car company. Enterprise is a good example. They rent trucks for $80 per day. That may seem a little expensive, but it’s something you have to resort to when you have no other option.
It’s always easiest to load a motorcycle into a truck that has been backed up to a small hill and to use a ramp to get the motorcycle in. The hill will make it so you don’t have to push the motorcycle up such a steep angle. You should never use any other ramp than the designated one to get your bike in there.
Make sure to use strong tow straps to attach it to the truck. Make sure you use at least four tow straps. Tie down any slack that’s left over on the straps so they’re not flailing in the wind and cause damage to either your motorcycle or passing cars.
Although this may sound obvious, there are other ways to transport your motorcycle. One tonne of types of trailers out there that people think they can’t use because it’s not a “motorcycle trailer.” Any trailer that’s large enough to fit a motorcycle will do the job perfectly at transporting one, even if the trailer was meant for something else.
A hitch allows trailers to attach to trucks or SUVs. You will need some experience to tow a trailer. Make sure to do some training before you drive a car with a trailer attached.
Take the measurements of the motorcycle and the measurements of the trailer to ensure the motorcycle will fit if there’s any question of that. You should attach the bike to the trailer using at most four straps. It’s also a good idea to use some tire holders or stationary chocks to make sure the bike doesn’t roll back and forth. You can find my recommended towing methods here.
Tips for transporting your motorcycle
Since we’ve discussed ways to transport a motorcycle in this article, I’d like to add a few tips you should know when doing so. These are the tips that I’ve learned over my years of motorcycle riding.
To tow your motorcycle, you can either use a trailer, tow dolly or other vehicle. make sure to know your car’s towing capacity beforehand. You should be able to see it on a sticker that’s inside the passenger door. When doing your calculations, consider the amount of people that will be in the car as well as any luggage you’ll be taking because that is considered weight that is being towed.
No matter what you do to transport your motorcycle, it’s always a good rule of thumb to stop every 50 – 75 miles to inspect the motorcycle and make sure it is secure. It might look safe if you glance at it from your side or rearview mirrors. However, these looks can be deceiving. It’s better to be safe than sorry on something like this.
Take the assumption that drivers are unaware that you tow a motorcycle. Then, drive accordingly. Be sure to leave plenty of space between your vehicle and other cars. Double check before you change lanes. Go slower than normal so you don’t shake the motorcycle too much.
When you tie down a motorcycle, ensure that the shocks are not fully compressed (also known to be bottomed-out) during tightening of the straps. It’s good to compress the shocks some, but never do more than a 50% compression.
Transporting A Motorcycle On It’s Side
One common question I often run into when someone is transporting their motorcycle is if whether or not they can do so with the motorcycle on it’s side. This is something I don’t recommend because there are several things that can happen to the motorcycle.
First, gas will likely start leaking out of places it shouldn’t be in the first place. These places could include the gas cap from the top. Gas can ruin paint on parts of your motorcycle if it finds it’s way there.
If the motorcycle is on it’s side long enough, hydrolock can start happening within in the engine. This is when oil seeps up from the piston rings into the combustion chamber. This can make starting your motorcycle more difficult, make it smoke or make it impossible.
If you don’t have a sealed battery, the battery can also leak battery acid. This is a substance you don’t want floating around because battery acid can be extremely corrosive. See my article here for more information about what happens when you lay a motorcycle on it’s side.
If you must lay a motorcycle on it’s side to transport it, you will need to empty all the fluids out of the motorcycle. All the fluids. This includes gas, oil, coolant and brake fluid. If you’re battery isn’t sealed, remove it and store it in an upright position during the ride.
Which is the best way to transport a bike? The cheapest way to transport a motorcycle is by using equipment you already own and don’t need to rent. This can be done with a truck, trailer or tow dolly. Towing a motorcycle will always come at a little cost because of the gas mileage you’ll get while doing so.
Can a motorcycle tow an RV? It is possible to have a motorcycle and a trailer. It will be necessary for your motorcycle to have the ability to move between two trailers.