Whether you’re heading out for a cross-country road trip or just taking your dirt bikes a few miles to your favorite trails for the day, there is a right way and a wrong way to haul your machines. When you do it right, you won’t suffer any pulled muscles, your precious cargo won’t go flying off the trailer at 70 mph and you won’t have to pay any tickets for failing to properly secure your bikes.

Size Matters, Of Course

If you’re carrying one, two or even three or more dirt bikes, you’ll need an open bed pickup or a light to medium trailer. A van could work with one or maybe two off-road bikes or a mid-size cruiser or sportbike. If you’re hauling Harleys to Sturgis, you can put one in the bed of an open, full-sized pickup and one or two more on a trailer, open or enclosed.

Photo by DiamondBack Truck covers via Flickr

Essential Items for Securing the Machine

Here’s a quick list of all the stuff you need to attach the bike to the vehicle; all of it is easily found at your favorite motorcycle store online:

  • Tie Downs: Don’t go cheap with tie down straps. For heavy bikes, get the 2-inch wide aircraft-quality ratchets. PowerTye makes the 2-inch Big Daddy Trailer Kit that is perfect for tying down two loaded touring motorcycles. For MX bikes and enduros up to 500cc, the 1 to 1 1/2-inch nylon webbing like the Moose Racing Ratchet/Cam Lock will work fine. Don’t forget soft loops to attach to the handlebars if your motorbike has a fairing or windshield.
  • Loading Ramp: Fly has two versions of its Folding Runway Ramps. The standard model is rated to 400 pounds and the heavy-duty version is rated to 750 pounds. Both will fit in the bed of a pickup or store safely behind the truck seat.
  • Front Wheel Chock: This is basically a block of wood or a loop of steel tubing to put between the front tire and the contact point on the truck or trailer. It is used to keep the front wheel from slipping sideways and it helps protect the tip of the front fender from scraping.

Just Do it Like This

When you’re pushing the bike up a ramp onto a pickup, you and a friend each grab one end of the handlebar, push the bike to the limit of your height and hold the front brake until your friend can climb into the truck and pull the bike in. If you don’t have a ramp, each of you can grab a fork leg and lift the front wheel into the truck, then, holding the front brake, both lift the rear end and push it in.

Put your chock in the center, up against the front wall, roll the bike forward until it firmly contacts the middle of the chock and put the bike on the side stand. Making sure the front wheel is pointing straight, hook a tie-down strap to the left handlebar and the other end to the left-side hole on the bed, then pull it just tight enough to not sag. Hook the right-side strap the same way, then pull hard on the right strap, compressing the fork springs and bringing the bike upright. Pull down the left and right sides alternately until the forks are tight and the motorcycle is level. Do the same thing in back, using the energy from the rear shock spring to provide tension.