Tips for Hauling Motorcycles with Your Truck

For those who haul their motorcycles, pickup trucks have quite a few built-in features and additional accessories to help. But having the gear isn’t the same as using it properly. Luckily, there’s a lot of information and support available to potential transporters. Here a few of the most important to keep in mind when you load up your bike.

Stay On the (Correct) Level

As in real estate, loading your motorcycle into a pickup’s bed is all about location, location, location. Having a motorcycle ramp definitely smooths the loading process. However, even if your bike is on the lighter side, it still might be a struggle to get it up the ramp. Especially if your truck is on the tall end, and doesn’t have a ladder or other assistance built into the tailgate. And if you get it wrong, either you or the bike could get wrecked.

One way to avoid this, as RevZilla recommends, is to back your truck against a nearby hill or rise. That way, the ramp slopes down, and gravity does the work for you. Instead of straining to push, or risking running the engine, you just steer and brake.

Have Your Gear and Truck Set Up Properly

Whether it’s changing your oil or loading a big Harley, make sure everything’s where it needs to be. That extends beyond having tie-down straps handy and lining your wheel chock up with your ramp, though.

Regardless if you’re loading your bike into the bed or onto a trailer, make sure the truck isn’t going to move. For the minority of trucks with manuals, that means putting the truck in gear and putting on the parking brake. For the rest, leave it in Park with the emergency brake on.

RevZilla recommends removing your truck’s tailgate completely for loading into the bed. Not because of scratch damage: bed liners and options like GMC’s carbon-fiber bed make that unlikely. It’s because your tailgate may not be able to take the weight of your motorcycle and the ramp. However, many trucks come with trick tailgates that can be positioned completely out of the way, making removal unnecessary. When in doubt, check the owner’s manual or local dealer.

Lastly, make sure the ramp you’re using is wide enough for you to comfortably maneuver the bike. That means leaving room for you to put a foot down and step on it if need be. Some trucks have built-in steps or ladders which can help with this, too.

Weight Distribution

Even motocross bikes weigh more than the average person. Placing that kind of dead weight incorrectly, especially in your truck’s bed, can have disastrous results. Terrifyingly-poor handling and braking can happen even if you’re under your truck’s payload or towing capacity. Know these figures ahead of time, for sure. Also, don’t place your Harley Road Glide at one end, and a Honda CRF450 at the other.

Tie-Down Strap Positioning and Loading

How many tie-down straps you use depends on your bike’s make and model, although both Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Cruiser recommend at least two both front and back, at a roughly 45-degree angle. Placing these straps is also bike-dependent. Ideally, they should be attached directly to the motorcycle’s frame. Handlebars and the front triple clamp also work. Much like attaching a bungee cord to your car’s bodywork isn’t a good idea, tie-down straps shouldn’t be attached to a bike’s fairings.

To avoid scratching anything on the bike, Motorcyclist recommends using soft-tie hooks. If none are available, you can loop the end of your tie-down strap to make one.

As you drive along, your tie-down straps are going to compress and rebound with the truck’s and bike’s movements. If they do this too much, the straps can get damaged or loosen. For that reason, compress the bike’s suspension before fully tightening-down the straps. Start with the front, then the rear. The goal is to prevent the bike from moving at all.

You may need some assistance for this—and actually, for everything else.

Buddy System

If possible, ask someone to help you. RevZilla, Motorcyclist, Motorcycle Cruiser, and Rider Magazine all recommend having a buddy with you. Having a helper/spotter is especially crucial when loading into the pickup bed. Make sure to coordinate with your buddy what exactly each person will be doing, and where the bike is supposed to end up. You’ll both be safer for it.