Ah, the open road. The rubber on the blacktop, speed, and adventure, there’s nothing quite like it. But before you can get all Springsteen, you might have to ship your bike somewhere first. And that involves fees and equipment and preparation, which can blunt the thrill of even the most mettlesome biker.
First, you’ll need to decide the best mode of shipping for your budget and schedule. By land or by air? With a truck, or a trailer, or through a shipping service?
If you’re looking to transport your motorcycle cross country, look no further. Here’s a simple guide to making that decision easier.
5 Best Ways to Transport a Motorcycle
1. Motorcycle shipping by air freight
The further you need your bike to travel – i.e. outside the US – transport by air becomes the quickest option. If you’re planning a trip to Patagonia, air freight is unquestionably the way to go. That is, if you don’t want to arrive before your motorcycle, and kick your heels waiting for it in customs.
A word of caution: If you’re crossing borders, it’s important that you check the customs policies of your destination first. You don’t want to spend the first few days of your dream vacation sitting in a customs office, speaking with local officials who, according to some real-life horror stories, will take advantage of a naive traveller who doesn’t know the language. To double down on worst case scenarios, cargo sometimes has been known to arrive in the wrong location, or the wrong country.
That’s not always the air freighter’s fault, or the local customs office’s. A misspelled or hard-to-read label can land your cargo in Uruguay instead of Paraguay, or vice versa. It happens.
But if you make sure to leave no room for error in your transit application, there’s no need to worry. You can gun it straight out of customs the minute you land.
2. DIY motorcycle transport
When shipping a motorcycle over land, some motorcyclists prefer to cut out the freighters and shipping services and transport your pride and joy themselves. A good move, if you know what you’re doing. If you’re not already an experienced vehicle haulier, it’s wise to read up on a few do’s and don’t’s.
Let’s say you don’t already own the necessary tools, but you want to make informed purchases. The first step is deciding between a truck and a trailer. Pick-up truck owners are in luck; you won’t need to consider cheaper options. But the smart move for car-owners is to avail yourself of a trailer. Both modes are safe and easy with the right know-how. Here it is:
3. By truck
To load your motorcycle safely, put it in neutral (found between first and second gear) and park both motorcycle and truck on an even surface – the flatter the better. Uneven ground or soft ground can destabilize the operation and risk undue damage. Concrete or black top are the best surfaces for this.
Don’t bother using wood to load the motorbike on: the risk of it snapping or sinking is too great, as motorcycles can be heavy
Unfurl the truck’s ramp, if it has one. If the ground is even, pushing the motorcycle up the ramp will be a clean effort. Make sure the rubber supports are level and the motorcycle is not in danger of tipping as it loads. The metal should be flat: if unsure, use a spirit level to detect unevenness.
Then, most importantly, use a strap with a ratchet to tie down the motorcycle in the truck bed. Most ramp-bearing trucks will have a ratchet tie-down to secure the strap. Your number one priority is to stop the motorcycle slipping mid-transit, so tightening the ratchet to extreme tautness (without injuring the bodywork) is essential. For this reason, bungee straps are a no-no. They can give at the worst possible time, spilling your hog onto the freeway like ice-cream on a loop-de-loop.
If you can, enlist a friend to help you with the actual loading. Motorcycles can be heavy and cumbersome when you’re not riding them, and you’ll appreciate the certainty of balance that comes with another pair of hands.
After that you can drive any distance without fear for your motorcycle’s safety.
4. By trailer
At least three ratchet straps are required if you use a trailer. That includes one with a ‘soft loop’ to prevent friction on the paint work.
To stop the motorcycle slipping in transit (your most crucial aim), invest in a pair of wheel chocks. These are U-shaped pieces of wood or plastic that seize the wheels more effectively than brakes. These are especially recommended for heavier motorbikes. In all cases, they lessen the pressure on ratchet straps to hold the vehicle in place.
Make sure the straps restrain the handlebars and the soft loop runs through the rear of the motorcycle. If yours has spoke in it’s wheels, try to avoid passing straps through them, as this can result in damage. Careful owners will want to place a cloth between the straps and the motorcycle body tol prevent scratches.
A good way to test whether your motorcycle is secure on the trailer is to flip the kickstand. If the motorcycle can stand on its own, thanks to the tautness of the straps, then the vehicle is safely stowed. If not, give the ratchet a tighten for security.
Then you’re ready to roll out. Happy trails!
5. By shipping service
By far, the safest option for your motorcycle is to employ a shipping service with a five-star reputation. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Many services function like marketplaces, allowing trained drivers to bid and outbid each other to secure your delivery. That means you get the best deal and have the freedom to pick and choose who you entrust with the safety of your motorcycle.
A little research might be required. Then post the details of your motorcycle’s journey and let the quotes come to you. Pick one (ideally a driver with good reviews) and speak to the transporter, so you can be confident they have the right skills first. Then join up at your destination and relieve them of your motorcycle, and you’re away.
If you don’t intend to transport your motorcycle more than three times a year, shipping services are your safest and cheapest option, say comparison experts. Choose open or enclosed shipping, depending on budget, season or preference.
Then simply meet the driver at the location and you’re free to ride.