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How to Pull a Trailer - What you need to know

Posted by Karl S on Apr 23rd 2015

It's not uncommon for a motorcycle manufacturer to attach warning signs on their vehicles. Since motorcycles are not inherently designed to carry a trailer, the owner can easily void their warranties. This information is listed in the owner’s manuals along with the reasons why. In specific, some of the basic designs of many motorcycles cannot handle the added weight of a trailer. If violated by the owner, they can expect added wear and tear along with more difficulty in handling when they hit the road.

This said, it is important to note that if a trailer is hitched to the back of a motorcycle, there are special precautions that must be taken. One of the most essential precautions is ensuring the hitch that the rider attaches is sturdy. Which means, it must be connected to at least 4 points on the back of the cycle. 

Also, for obvious reasons, the hitch should not be connected to the drive shafts, shock absorbers, swing-arms or moving suspension components. The driver should also make sure that there is a proper amount of distance from the rear wheel and the trailer. This added distance will allow the trailer to move up and down without being impeded. The distance from the rear wheel, however, should not be too far.

Though all of these requirements are necessary for a safe and smooth trip, the primary reason for this article involves the proper techniques and operation of trailering. Which means, people who use trailers to carry additional items along with them to their destination should also know the best techniques and designs to use for maximum safety.

Choosing the Right Pull Behind Trailer and Essential Specifications

When an individual chooses a trailer (that's you), there are several things that should be aware of. Some of the most vital is avoiding the use of a trailer that has cheap lawn or garden tires. Since these tires are too soft for the road and non-compliant, they are not designed for highway driving. You do see "those guys" out there.

Because trailers are available in different shapes and sizes, they also contain different features. So, it is important to know what to look for in the best designs. Many of the most essential features designs are as follows: cargo areas should provide enough room for proper loading, trailers must meet specific gross vehicle weight requirements and the trailer must have the appropriate axle width tongue to length specifications.

Once the owner of the motorcycle has selected a trailer that meets the proper design requirements, this information should be applied to the type of motorcycle that they will be operating. Therefore, according the design of the motorcycle, the owner should consider if carrying additional gear is feasible. Because a trailer cannot be seen as the primary means to carry everything, there are some general rules that will apply. 

For instance, when the person is loading the trailer, they will need to consider how much weight is involved and how it must be distributed. Typically, approximately 30 to 40 percent of the total weight that is being transported should be distributed over the axles, and a greater portion in the front (the tongue side) than on the rear. It is also important to accurately estimate the weight of any riders since the safety of these rides are imperative.

The Transport

After the motorcycle owner has secured all of the proper calculations and specifications, they will also need to consider the transport carefully. Which means, it is important to remember that all of this weight will have an impact on how the person drives. With all of the additional accessories on the back of the motorcycle, it will affect the handling. Also, based on how much weight is involved, the brakes and the tires can wear out prematurely as well as other components of the bike.

The way you -the driver - handles these transports can easily become problematic. Specifically, because the trailer will automatically create side forces that will move the bicycle back and forth. Therefore, the driver must be skilled in driving the load straight down the highway or side roads. It is also important to note if the trailer has not been loaded or mounted properly, the driver may experience slight to very hazardous driving conditions. It does not really matter how well the person has anticipated these affects, there will be effects that will occur. It is important for you to leave additional room when you come to a stop so that any problems can be minimized.

Another crucial problem that drivers may experience when braking involves excessively heavy trailers. Unfortunately, this kind of problem can cause the motorcycle’s wheels to wobble when they begin to slow down. Because the majority of the weight can be transferred to the hitch, the affect can be very dangerous trying to manage  hundreds of pounds of weight  while trying to stop. Also, in cases where the trailer has been overloaded, the driver may be subject to the bike standing upright, especially if you are trying to race to your next stop and forget you have a fully loaded trailer back there.

Motorcycle Trailer Manufacturer Recommendations

Though there are many hazards to not preparing these transports properly, there are recommendations that have been made by the manufacturer. The manufacturers recommendations are designed to assist with ensuring the motorcycle trailer combinations are operated with ease. Some of their more common and essential recommendations include ensuring the tires are inflated properly, additional care is taken with hitches and bearing care is closely monitored. 

It is also important that the drivers follow the recommendations for servicing since there is a potential for tires and bearings to fail. Also, before any transports occur, there needs to be a pre-ride check. In the pre-ride check, people should inspect every component of the combination including insuring proper use of safety chains and cables. This inspection is designed to prevent them from breaking apart, while also allowing the driver to make the appropriate turns.

Trailers have been designed to allow the driver to take extra gear with them to their destination. Some of the more important items includes taking real luggage to a hotel or a camp site. Trailers provide more flexibility in touring and can be very instrumental in carrying items back from the local grocer, parts shop, or any other shopping trip. Pulling a trailer with your motorcycle can open up many more options and places for you to ride. Be sure to be safe, or you won't be riding anywhere.