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How Motorcycle Towing Safety Works

Connecting a Motorcycle for Towing
Roadside memorials are a frequent sight along well-traveled roads and highways. By practicing safe motorcycle towing, you can help prevent new ones from cropping up.
Roadside memorials are a frequent sight along well-traveled roads and highways. By practicing safe motorcycle towing, you can help prevent new ones from cropping up.
Brent Stirton/Stone/Getty Images

The example on the introduction page was a little dramatic, but it serves to illustrate an important point. If managed properly, motorcycle towing is a perfectly safe activity and an excellent way of moving a bike from one point to another without actually straddling the engine. However, in the worst of cases, irresponsible and unsafe towing practices can cause serious harm to you, innocent drivers or your precious bike.

Th­ere are­ several different methods of connecting a motorcycle for towing out there, and the most important safety tip of all is to make sure you select one that meets your particular towing needs. You'll want a trailer that can support the weight of your cargo and safely connect to your towing vehicle. Some of the more popular options include open flatbed trailers, enclosed trailers, two-wheel motorcycle towing trailers, motorcycle lifts and motorcycle towing cradles that attach the bike's front tire directly to your hitch tube. For a more detailed look at these options, read How Motorcycle Towing Trailers Work.

When connecting the trailer to your vehicle, make sure that the hitch pin is in. This secures the ball mount (or other towing apparatus) to the vehicle. Secure the hitch coupler and spring bar hinges, and make sure your safety chains link the trailer to the vehicle in case the hitch malfunctions. Finally, ensure that you'll be able to effectively signal turns, decelerations and stops to other drivers by connecting the trailer's lights to the electrical plug. For a more in-depth look at this area of trailer safety, read How Trailer Towing Safety Works.

Connecting a motorcycle to a trailer is another matter. Obviously, a motorcycle requires a certain amount of balance to remain upright, and you can't just wheel it up onto a flatbed trailer and bust out the kickstand. The movements of the trailer would unsettle it and, before you know it, you've wiped out the Sunnyside Chapel Youth Choir as well. To prevent such tragedies, you'll want to secure that trailer. One of the most widely used methods is to strap it in place, upright, with towing straps. These tough, nylon cords ratchet tightly and come in handy for various motorcycle towing arrangements. Just make sure they're tight and attached to the cycle's frame or other secure structures. Towing experts recommend tying down the straps so that they form a 45-degree angle between the bike and the trailer floor.

Straps are often not enough, however. To keep the bike from moving around, you'll want to employ a motorcycle rail, wheel cradle or wheel chock to help lock the cycle in place. A motorcycle rail is essentially a secure metal gutter for the cycle's wheels to sit in. Chocks and wheel cradles provide a shorter, C- or L-shaped length of rail to cradle the front wheel and prevent it from rolling backward. Different trailers' designs feature different arrangements of these two elements.

Sound good? Well, none of it will save that van behind you full of children unless you're also driving responsibly. Learn how on the next page.