If you’re new to track days and having your own track bike, you’re probably new to the notion of transporting it around with you, and you may not know how to strap down a motorcycle to secure it properly for its travels.
This isn’t going to be the definitive guide on strapping down a motorcycle, simply because of the massive array of vans and trailers people use to transport their bikes around.
However, we can look at the important things you’re looking to stop when strapping a motorcycle to a trailer or van, as well as some of the options you’ve got and things you want to try and avoid. With that then, let’s look at what makes a bike secure.
You don’t need 101 anchor points to keep a bike safe and secure while in transit. You’re looking to stop just a few things from happening, which if you can cover should mean your bike stays plenty secure enough. Those things are:
Take my setup as an example. I use a MotoLug trailer which has a built in wheel chock that stops the bike rolling forward and backward, as well as stopping the wheels slipping left and right with the help of the main channel that the bike rides into and sits in. All that’s left for me to do is to stop the bike tipping left and right and I do that with ratchet straps. So I am able to ferry the bike around with nothing more than two ratchet straps pulling on either side of the frame and it stays perfectly secure.
However if you have something like a flat bed trailer for example, you are going to need to secure it in more than one way, maybe using something like a purpose built wheel chock and some ratchet straps to prevent any of the above from happening.
I will also mention that while I’m saying you don’t need to go over the top, you must be 100% confident that the securing methods you have chosen will keep it firmly in place. The last thing you or anyone else wants to see is your motorcycle bouncing down the road behind you.
Leave some play in the suspension – While you want to make sure that there is plenty of tension to ensure there is no unwanted bouncing around or unhooking of straps, at the same time you don’t want to completely bottom out the suspension as this won’t help your bike handle bumps properly which means it will then react unfavourably to them. You need to find a healthy balance between a nice secure tension, and giving the suspension a chance of absorbing any bumps. When I ratchet strap my bike down I try to tighten it up so it feels very taut, but there is still some movement when I pull on the middle of the strap (roughly an inch or so). In time you will find that perfect amount of tension.
Pick sturdy parts on the bike as anchor points – Things like pegs, exhaust, front sub frame, and even the bars and rear sub frame could be damaged given enough force. If you can, use things like the frame of the bike, bottom yoke and the swing arm for your main anchor points as they can take quite a bit of pulling. So pick your anchor points wisely and treat the more delicate areas kindly if you have to use them.
Do my forks need protecting? – You hear a lot talk about the effects of compressing the front end while in transit, with some saying that it damages them and others saying they do thousands of miles with the bike strapped down without any problems. I’ll leave the decision up to you, but given how suspension works, in my opinion it is quite safe to compress the forks for long periods of time as long as you don’t take it too far as mentioned above. As long as you have it tight enough to hold the bike firmly, but not too tight so you’re bottoming out the suspension, then I think you will get by just fine.
The bike should be at one with the trailer – When you have finished strapping the bike down, when you attempt to rock it you should see the bike and the trailer moving as one, as if the bike is physically attached to it. If you can see this then you know your bike is anchored to the trailer well.
There are quite a few equipment options when looking at securing your motorcycle for transit (some rather bizarre), but below I have just gone with the few that are the most effective and aren’t going to bankrupt you.
Wheel Chock – These can be used in vans, box trailers or flat bed trailers. It’s best if they’re fixed to the floor to eliminate any sideways movement. Used in conjunction with a couple of ratchet straps on the frame, they’ll give you a very sturdy setup.
Tyre Downs – A fantastic bit of kit that removes any compression of the forks because it clamps onto the rear wheel alone. They are known to be very secure and if you have something holding the front wheel in place you can get away with just using the Tyre Downs. The only downside is if you don’t have the two mounting points in the right place (50mm in front of the rear axle and 750mm to 900mm apart) then they have been known not to be as effective and in some cases snap!
Ratchet straps – No introduction needed for the ratchet strap. They’ve been around for years and secured a whole magnitude of different objects and merchandise. With smart use of the ratchet strap you can be sure your motorcycle stays super secure.
Handlebar Tie Downs – A good cheap way of making sure that tie downs used around the handlebar area stay secure, rather than trying to wrap standard ratchet straps around the handlebars and hoping they stay in place. Another bonus of handlebar tie downs is the fact it keeps the tensioned straps away from any bodywork to prevent damage or wear marks.
Use the above advice and tips to help you learn how to strap down a motorcycle for its travels. You don’t need to go way over the top with how it’s secured, but you need to be sure it is in fact secure so the bike makes it to the other end of your journey. Make sure you cover the areas discussed and you’ll get many trips and many hundreds of miles of happy travels.
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