How to Secure a Motorcycle on a Trailer (The Right Way)

Riding your motorcycle is no doubt the easiest way to get it from point A to point B, but sometimes that isn’t an option. Whether you’re a competitive rider or you’re just traveling far for a destination ride, there are plenty of reasons you may need to get your bike up on a trailer and ready for the road. Here’s how to secure a motorcycle on a trailer, plus some tips on what not to do.

How to Secure a Motorcycle on a Trailer

It seems simple: roll the motorcycle up a ramp onto a trailer, throw some ropes on it, and you are road ready. But it’s not quite that simple, especially if it’s your first time trailering your motorcycle.

The first caution you should be aware of is that driving any vehicle with a trailer behind it is different than operating the car or truck on its own. Most motorcycle trailers are relatively light, but that doesn’t mean the driving experience will be the same as it was pre-trailer.

Practice driving with the trailer attached but without your bike on it, making sure you minimize blind spots, know when to stop when you back up, and get familiar with how your vehicle’s handling changes with the added weight.

After you’re confident in your ability to maneuver the vehicle and the trailer, it’s time to get your bike up on there. It’s easiest if you have a ramp, and many trailers come with a fold-down ramp to make things simple. The next step can be simple or moderately tricky, and that’s getting the bike up the ramp.

Plenty of motorcyclists have horror stories about crashing their bikes into their vehicles or driving them off the trailer altogether. But at the same time, it’s not always possible to maneuver a 500-pound motorcycle up a ramp using your muscles alone. If you can, ride the motorcycle up the ramp slowly, in a low gear, or enlist some help pushing it.

Keep the bike in gear when you shut it off; this way, if it becomes dislodged from the tie-downs, it’s less likely to roll away. Then get your equipment ready to start securing everything to the trailer.

Tools for Getting Your Motorcycle on a Trailer

An essential tool for securing your bike on a trailer is your tie-downs. But ratcheting tie-downs might be a bit overkill for your motorcycle—unless you have these on hand already, you can opt for ties that are strong and thick with heavy-duty hardware.

You want to avoid equipment failures, but you also don’t want to spend a fortune on tie-downs for towing pickup trucks when it’s not necessary. Ratchet straps are easy to compress, so they’ll work, but you can also grab another option with a high enough working load limit to accommodate your bike.

A wheel chock is another helpful tool for loading up your bike, particularly if you’re doing the job solo. The wheel chock can be either metal or plastic and will keep the front wheel from moving while you tie everything down.

You may also want a tarp or motorcycle cover to protect your bike from the elements during transport. Tie the tarp or cover to the bike rather than the trailer—it’s not load-bearing, so you don’t have to ratchet the straps down quite as carefully.

Keep an eye on where your straps lay, too, both the tie-downs and the tarp or another cover. You don’t want metal or other abrasive materials scratching your bike’s paint job or chewing a hole in your seat. Clean rags or soft straps attached to your tie-downs can help avoid cosmetic damage to your bike while traveling.

What Not to Do When Securing Your Motorcycle on a Trailer

And remember that motorcycle values depend on more than just mileage. If you plan to sell the motorcycle you’re transporting, even a small dent or ding can impact its overall value. Therefore, it’s essential to take every step possible to keep your bike secure on the trailer (and before and after transport, too).

Most manufacturers caution against ratcheting straps on your handlebars—even though plenty of online guides recommend it—because of the amount of stress the straps put on them. Instead of strapping your handlebars and potentially bending or otherwise damaging them, choose another attachment point for the straps.

And although you should compress the front suspension to secure the bike, you don’t want to drop it as low as it will go. Many trailers feature a built-in block to keep you from going too low, and it’s because you can do long-term damage to the shocks by ratcheting the suspension down so tightly. About halfway should be enough to keep the bike from jostling around and prevent damage.

Finally, although it might seem simple since it gets your bike level, don’t use the center stand to balance the bike in the trailer. You’re only increasing the center of gravity, which makes the bike unstable, and it’s prone to wobbling and severe damage if it falls over.

Tips for Securing a Motorcycle on a Trailer

With any type of bike, you should aim for four tie-down points for maximum security. The idea is to have two tie-down points at the front and two at the back. Using an X pattern gives the greatest stability and attaching the straps high on the bike is preferable to attaching them low.

As you start attaching the tie-downs, use your bike’s kickstand to hold it upright. Once you get one side tightened, you’ll pull the bike vertical, but while you’re ratcheting everything down, the stand will keep it from getting away from you.

Keep in mind the overall weight of your motorcycle and how high your equipment is rated. Your tie-downs should be able to manage the weight of the bike, for example, so reading the specs is crucial to avoid a tie snapping while you’re on the road.

As you ratchet the ties down, you want to compress your motorcycle’s front suspension at least halfway (but not all the way). This will keep wobble to a minimum and ensure there’s no movement either up and down or side to side while you’re on the road.

Of course, on a 3 wheel motorcycle, your process will vary a bit from the steps to tying down a two-wheeled bike. The same rules apply with tightening down, however, even though you won’t need a kickstand to maintain balance while you secure it.