Tow the line: Load your bike safely

Load a bike on to a trailer and drive away without fear or fuss

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

1Check you are le­gal

Be­fore you load up, hook up and drive off, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to know if you’re legally al­lowed to drive with a trailer. If you passed your driv­ing test be­fore Jan­uary 1, 1997 then you au­to­mat­i­cally have the cor­rect en­ti­tle­ment. Af­ter this date the rules changed, so check on www.gov.uk/tow­ing-with-car. Speed lim­its are also dif­fer­ent: 50mph on sin­gle car­riage­ways, 60mph on dual car­riage­ways and mo­tor­ways.

2Get strapped up safely

Make sure that the straps you are go­ing to use are in good con­di­tion. The ratchet mech­a­nism should work freely, and the straps them­selves should have no fray­ing or signs of wear. Con­sider pur­chas­ing a han­dle­bar strap, th­ese make se­cur­ing a bike to a trailer re­ally sim­ple. Never be tempted to buy bud­get or cheap straps: some of the worst are rub­bish that stretch when tight­ened.

3Plan ahead

Be­fore you load the trailer, iden­tify the lo­ca­tion of tie-down points and place the straps roughly in po­si­tion. Aim to get a strap on the han­dle­bars, one each side, and hook the other end of the straps to the widest point of the trailer, slightly pulling the bike for­ward at the same time. Make sure that the trailer is hitched se­curely to the tow­ing ve­hi­cle with the hand­brake is on.

4Loads bet­ter

Most bike-spe­cific trail­ers have a slight re­cess for the front wheel to set­tle into. The re­cess should also have a stop at the front so the wheel can­not pop over the end of the trailer. Roll the bike up the trailer. If the bike is a heavy­weight, you should ideally get some help. You’ll need some fancy foot­work to ne­go­ti­ate the lat­tice frame­work.

6Don’t get the front in a flap

When it comes to se­cur­ing the han­dle­bars, you can strap from where the bars leave the top yoke or use a spe­cific han­dle­bar strap. If you’re not us­ing a han­dle­bar strap, you can loop a strap around the bot­tom yoke, or the han­dle­bar it­self if there is suf­fi­cient clear­ance be­tween the strap and body­work.

8Don’t rub your bike up the wrong way

Make sure there are no straps rub­bing on pan­els. Any con­tact is likely to leave a mark and in­crease the risk of the strap fail­ing, so re­po­si­tion the strap if you can or pro­tect the fair­ing be­neath with a rag. Also, check that the bike is up­right. Vis­ually check from the rear and evenly re-tighten the straps front and rear to get it straight.

5Use the high and wide rule

When it comes to se­cur­ing the bike to the trailer you should use at least four straps, and high and wide is the golden rule. Strap the bike in from the sub­frame area, or you could use the pas­sen­ger footrest hang­ers. Ideally you need to have the straps pulling the bike down and for­ward to the widest part of the trailer. Par­tially tighten them at this point.

7Tight but just right

Tighten the straps in pairs – the front pair first. Do it evenly and, if you’re us­ing ratchet straps don’t over tighten, as their power can bend metal parts. Tighten them enough to com­press a third of the bike’s sus­pen­sion travel. Tighten the rear straps evenly, a few clicks at a time, and make sure all straps are pulling the bike for­ward and down.

9Tidy the loose ends

Tie back the ends of the straps so they don’t whip around in the wind. For added se­cu­rity, hold the front brake lever on us­ing a strap or ca­ble tie. Make a fi­nal check around the bike, re­move the ig­ni­tion key, and make sure all the fair­ing pan­els are se­cure and not likely to blow off. Like­wise, en­sure pan­niers, fuel tank and top­box lids are locked.

Tow­ing your bike on a trailer does not need to be stress­ful

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