Pickup trucks are a common vehicle of choice when it comes to hauling motorcycles. Whether you’re transporting sportbikes for a track day or taking a dirt bike to the trails, trucks can handle it. There are quite a few built-in truck features, and aftermarket accessories, that can make it a cinch. Here are a few of the most important to consider before you head out.
If you’re planning on transporting your bikes in the bed, you’re going to need a ramp. Especially with modern pickups, which are often large enough to make placing items back there difficult.
Ramps can be either straight or arched, and come in varying lengths. Short straight ramps are easier to place and position, but they may be too steep for low-riding bikes. Arched ramps are larger and more expensive, but break the incline into smaller, less-steep segments to avoid that problem.
Your truck’s tailgate needs to be sturdy—it’s where the ramp attaches to. But with modern tailgates’ multi-functionality, sturdiness isn’t the only thing to consider. For one, it needs to open at a comfortable height for ease of loading. Also, tailgates aren’t just hunks of metal anymore.
Some tailgates have built-in ladders for easier bed access, in case you need to adjust or inspect something. Others swing to the side instead of down or open partially. GMC’s MultiPro tailgate, for instance, can open into a work table, so you can rest a shop manual in easy reach.
Tie-Down Hooks & Straps
Once the bike is in the bed, it needs to be secured. Almost every pickup offers several tie-down hooks that can be installed in the bed. The exact number varies between manufacturers, as does each hook’s weight limit.
The bikes are secured to the hooks with tie-down straps. These straps can be either cam buckle or ratchet. Cam buckle straps are basically spring-loaded versions of an airplane’s seatbelt. Ratchet straps, as the name implies, use a ratchet mechanism to slowly tighten the strap down. They take longer to secure but can make the strap extra tight compared to the cam buckle. However, some prefer the cam buckle, as it’s easier to work with.
Tie-down straps are a necessity to keep your motorcycles in place. But even the best straps won’t stop bikes shifting from riding over rough pavement or into high-speed wind. Have you ever strapped a mattress to your roof, or had to use a van to move long planks of wood? Know the terror that creeps in every time the load shifts when you hit a bump? Wheel chocks keep that from happening with your bike.
While wheel chocks differ based on material and adjustability, they all provide support and bracing to keep your motorcycle’s wheel straight. They attach directly to your truck bed—some temporarily, some permanently. You can even make your own out of some spare lumber.
A lot can hit a motorcycle in the back of a pickup. Rain, hail, rocks, dopey horse flies. Even extended sun exposure can damage certain plastic and rubber components. Bike covers help keep your bike safe from such things.
Not all covers are created equal. Some are designed only to reflect UV waves and prevent morning condensation. Others are fully waterproof. Covers have to be selected carefully for their intended purpose and the size of the bike they’re covering. But they will help keep your bike pristine over long rides in the bed.
Trailer & Trailer Hitch
Depending on how many motorcycles you plan on transporting, your truck’s bed might not have enough space. That’s where a trailer comes in handy. Not only does it provide more bike storage space, but all of the accessories and features described above apply to the trailer just as much as the pickup’s bed. Some trailers are even covered, so you won’t need to invest in a cover for each separate bike. However, trailers do have to be registered at the DMV—and some states may also require inspection.
Sizing a trailer means understanding your pickup’s towing class. This doesn’t just mean knowing your pickup’s towing capacity and the weight of your bikes and tools, though. You also need to know the trailer’s weight and the required type of hitch. Not only to make towing easier but keep you and the truck’s occupants safe.
Trailer and Pickup Bed Alternatives
But what if you’re not transporting an entire armada of bikes cross-country? Or you’re worried about improperly loading bikes into your pickup’s bed? There are some alternatives worth considering.
If you’re only transporting one bike, a motorcycle carrier may be a better option. Essentially a bicycle rack sized for one motorcycle, carriers don’t have to be registered. They also have a built-in ramp and wheel chock. Fitting a motorcycle carrier does require an existing trailer hitch, and carriers have lower weight limits than the bed or trailer might have. But for carrying a dirt bike to the local trail? Shouldn’t be a problem.
Another alternative is the Multy Rack. Think of it as a motorcycle’s rear luggage rack, but for your truck bed. The Multy Rack operates with an electronic winch and has a built-in extendable ramp. Multy’s promotional materials also appear to suggest wheel chocks are also available. Owners would have to provide tie-down straps and covers. Reviews are not available at this time, but there is some solace in the hand-welded CNC-jointed aluminum design which attaches to the truck frame.