Exploring Your Trailering Options for Your Motorcycle

Now that riding season is really sneaking up on us, I know that a lot of you guys are itching to get out and rack up a few miles.  It’s usually times like these, when we see guys riding in good weather far away from us, that we start thinking about how we can easily haul our toys to those warm spots and ride them.

Let’s face it, if you’re dealing with blowing snow in Butte, Montana but could head south a few hundred miles to warmer riding what do you do?

Stare Death in the face dodging black ice on the bike or load it up in a trailer and have four wheels helping you along?

Yeah – I’ve ridden in the snow once and didn’t like it one bit.

For me, the idea of a trailer is novel, but not one I’ll use – as some of you will recall, I have an old diesel dually to handle the stray times I need the bike to piggyback on a trip, but for a lot of folks, a trailer makes a lot of sense – most any SUV or car can haul a bike on a trailer and the actual costs for a basic 6×10 trailer are far less than even the most ragged used vehicle.

So what do you look for?

Actually, there are a lot of things, but first, let’s make a couple of assumptions…

  • You’re going to be hauling one or two motorcycles
  • You’re buying (not building) a new trailer
  • You’re mechanically adept and reasonably healthy

If you just need a “point A to point B” trailer, then damn near any one of the generic trailers sold by home improvement retailer like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Tractor Supply will probably do just fine.  These will usually have an extruded metal ramp to load equipment on but you need to be sure that the ramp and the hinges are strong enough to support your bike when you load it.  Remember, too, that lightweight trailers like these will “flip” up when weight is put on them, so if you are headed to a rally and you’re only going to drop the trailer and unload the bikes later, you could have a real challenge ahead of you.

You’ll likely have plenty of space on the platform of the trailer to carry gear, but, since the trailer is open, you can’t leave it unattended – your stuff will wander off.

The good news on these is that they are super inexpensive – $1500 will get you moving and, because they are super lightweight, you can haul them behind any truck and nearly any decently powered car.  No need for super strong hitches and the wiring is basically “plug and play” for anyone with the smallest amount of electrical knowledge.

The next step up in trailers is a “true” motorcycle or “toy hauler” trailer.  These are built on heavier frames, often feature tilt ramps for loading, and usually provide some kind of enclosed storage for tools and gear.  Bigger models in this category will often feature electrical brakes to help with handling on the road.

The catch, of course is cost(s) – there’s just more “stuff” on these and as a result, you’ll spend more to own them – at least another thousand bucks.  Due to the heavier weights, you’ll also need to make sure your tow vehicle can handle it – very few cars today will have the guts to haul these but if you have an old rear-wheel-drive V8 that was made two generations ago, you might be okay.  Likely, though, you’re going to need at least a full-size truck.  If your trailer has electric brakes, then you’ll also need a little bit more wiring hooked up as well as an electric brake controller wired up into your cab.

That extra weight and the added drag of storage compartments will also likely impact you at the gas pump, too.  Expect at least a 15% decrease in economy when you haul a trailer like these, unless you’re hooking it up to a diesel truck.  Smaller engines that have to work harder may lose up to 50% depending on the weight and the terrain you’re hauling in.

The top of the line trailer for moving your bike is the one that is fully enclosed.  These are generally built on the same frames as the last ones we just talked about, but the entire trailer is encased in a fiberglass or aluminum body.

Obviously, you’re going to add some more money to the purchase price, but the beauty is that all your gear is protected, all the time.  Surprisingly, fuel economy for these types is usually nearly as good as an open trailer, since many are built to be aerodynamic.   Even though I don’t like trailers, I love the fact that you can effectively buy a complete garage for your bike and, even when you have it parked behind the house, you can have a dedicated space just for the scoot – no worries about the kids “borrowing” your tools, no worries about the wife bumping it when she’s carrying in groceries, and no dust settling on your bike.

An added bonus of a fully enclosed trailer is that, with the correct wiring setup, you can utilize a power inverter to run interior lights or, if you’re feeling frisky, you can permanently mount tools – yes, even an air compressor.

What about resale value?

Actually, where I live, in the southern United States, there is always a market for used trailers – everyone has a brother who has a landscaping business, hunters want to haul quad bikes, and SUV owners who have to haul in mulch or home improvement supplies all seem to own a trailer.

In other words, you aren’t going to take long to sell a trailer if you decide you don’t need it anymore – and you aren’t going to lose a lot of money in depreciation, either.

So, if you’re ready to take a road trip but aren’t ready to jockey your bike through the snow to get to warmer climates, look into the trailer options – there are some great ones out there that can put you on the road to fun and sun weeks earlier than usual.

Keep the shiny side up.

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