How to Tie Down a Motorcycle

haul a motorcycle

The motorcycle. The word and machine that conjure ideas of freedom,  the wind in your face, perhaps the clichéd fantasies of the open road, and ultimately – independence. For those that own and ride these machines, the irony is not lost on just how often you find yourself needing to transport them by truck or trailer. Whether it’s that new project you’re picking-up across town, a buddy that’s broken down on the side of the road, or even if you’re moving to a new place, hauling a bike simply becomes a part of the experience.

What often varies is how people go about securing their bike once loaded. Kickstand up or down? Straps pulling forward or some forward and some back? What’s the right way? Well, let’s dispel some myths and provide you with solid advice on how to best go about it. Here’s how to tie down a motorcycle:

  • Use ratchet straps (versus cam-type retainers) to ensure proper tension, and those with sewn-in loops to secure the hooks help avoid damage to painted, polished, or plated components. Further protection may be found in soft strap-extenders – essentially short lengths of covered strap material that won’t harm your fine finish.Four straps, two at the front pulling forward and two at the rear pulling back, will ensure that your bike does not shift while in transport (pictured below right).  (Note: Proper strap placement secures the motorcycle against movement in any direction by pulling down and away at every corner.)

tie down motorcycle

  • Before loading the bike, lay out the straps with one end secured to the truck or trailer (pictured above left). This minimizes the stepping-and-fetching dance that can lead to dumping the bike.
  • Two people make the loading and securing process safe and efficient. It allows one person to steady the bike and one person to tie it down.
  • If you don’t have assistance, put the kickstand down and alternate sides to secure the front of the bike first until it is upright and steady. Once stabilized, put the kickstand back up to avoid damage during transport.
  • Secure the front of the bike first, attaching or looping the straps around the lower triple trees (the components that join the front forks to each other and the frame/neck.)  Ratchet straps secure the front of the bike by the lower triple-trees and draw the front wheel securely against the front panel, which features a built-in wheel chock in this particular trailer.  Keep in mind, while you want some compression, DO NOT bottom the suspension out, as this will damage hydraulic forks! (Note: Strapping to the handlebars is not recommended due to the relatively weak or flexible connections, as well as the potential to damage controls, cables, mirrors, etc.)tie down motorcycle
  • You may wish to further secure the front wheel by using a motorcycle wheel chock, as most trailers and trucks do not have a built-in one like the specialty trailer pictured above. It will also aid in loading by holding the bike upright for you while you are free to apply the straps.

tie down motorcycle

  • Secure the rear of the bike by the swingarm or a suitable position on the frame with the ratchet strap (pictured above right). Be careful to avoid contact with brake lines, wiring, or other delicate components.
  • If the swingarm or frame aren’t suitable, an alternate method is to loop the straps through and around the rear wheel and tire (pictured above left). Looping is the key here, as simply threading one strap through one side and out the other will still allow the bike to “walk” left and right.
  • Once the rear of the bike is secured, take a moment to go over all the tie-downs, checking for even tension, fully closing the ratchet mechanisms, and tying off any excess lengths of strap.

That’s all there is to safely and securely hauling a motorcycle!

If you have any questions or comments or any great bike hauling stories of your own, post in the comment section below!