February 2004 Safety Thoughts
Trailer Towing Safety
by Dave Hansen,
Once you've addressed the tow vehicle & trailer issues, it's time to make sure
your bike is ready as well.
When everything's set, it's time to hook up the trailer to the tow vehicle, then load
up the bike.
Before putting the bike on/in the trailer, take a couple minutes to get the trailer ready to strap down the bike -
Park the trailer in an area that you can keep the bike tires dry while
moving it into position for loading.
Lay out the tie-downs to their respective anchors in the trailer &
pull out enough slack.
- If required (they generally are) attach easy ties to the front frame,
forks or handlebars of the bike, making sure not to pinch or damage the brake
line(s) or cables.
Make sure the front tire chock is properly secure & positioned.
- If you use a ramp, get a couple friends to help you push the bike into
- If you have a door ramp you can ride the bike into the trailer – just
be careful not to hit your head when entering the trailer.
Once the bike is in position in the trailer -
Put down the side stand & make sure the bike is in gear, engine off.
- Connect the left front tie down & remove the slack.
- Connect the right front tie down & remove the slack.
- Put the side stand up (the 2 front tie downs will keep the bike upright.
- Incrementally tighten both the front tie downs to compress the front suspension @ 3/5 to 2/3 of its' travel.
- Attach rear tie downs & remove the slack.
- Attach a tie down (or 2) to secure the bike to the front of the chock
(to prevent forward/backward motion) & tighten it down snug.
- Snug down the rear tie downs to unsure the rear tire won’t move
- Make sure the bike is in neutral for traveling.
That's it for loading the bike. Unloading is just a matter of reversing the sequence,
but here's a couple more tips that you'll need to know -
Use ratchet tie downs, especially for the front.
- Add a set of friction tie downs to the front as well (that's a
combination of a ratchet tie down & a friction tie down on both the left
& right sides in front).
- When loading, connect the friction tie downs first (this allows the bike
to be secured quickly when loading), then you can take your time with the
ratchet tie downs to get them connected & tightened down properly.
- Don't forget to tighten down those friction tie downs after tightening
the ratchet tie downs.
When unloading the bike, leave the front tie downs for last -
Make sure your front friction tie downs are tight.
- Loosen the right front ratchet tie down (the bike will be held in place
by the friction tie down).
Loosen the left front ratchet tie down.
- Make sure the bike's in gear & the side stand is down.
- Incrementally loosen the right front friction tie down (the bike will be
held up by the side stand).
- Incrementally loosen the left front friction tie down.
- Disconnect all tie downs.
- Straddle the bike.
- Put the bike in neutral.
- Put up the side stand.
- Back the bike slowly out of the trailer, controlling your movement with
the front brake.
On a personal note, I use 6 tie down points in my trailer -
2 are set wide in front of the front axle:
Each gets a friction tie down (quick connects to keep bike up while
securing properly, double insurance in case a ratchet tie down breaks, can be
loosened in a controlled manner to prevent violent whiplash effect of releasing
the compressed front suspension all at once).
- Each gets a ratchet tie down (provides secure tie down without loosening
during the trip, but is too difficult to release slowly).
- 2 are set narrow, in line with, but slightly in front of the rear
- Each gets a ratchet tie down (prevents the forward/backward movement
that loosens tie downs & causes the bike to shift during accels & decels).
- Note - H-D secures new bikes for shipment with ratchet tie downs to the
frame below the engine to the shipping pallet - this provides a secure method of
attachment that really works well
2 are set wide back of the bike:
- Each gets a friction tie down (not really needed, but can help to
prevent side to side shift of the back of the bike during travel).
These tie downs are attached directly to my rear tire/wheel assembly.
Finally, almost all trailering horror stories I’ve
heard over the years involves the bike tipping over because the rear tire moved
sideways far enough to allow the top-angled tie-downs to get loose & the
bike falls sideways.
blocks to the floor on either side of the rear tire will prevent this movement
While your trailer may be set up differently, I hope
this provides some insight & useful tips that will make your trailering
experience a safe experience.
Words of Safety