Benjamin Franklin famously noted the trade-off between freedom and safety. Motorcyclists and cyclists know it well. Bikes of all kinds allow their owners the freedom to travel and to experience the thrill of travel. The price of that freedom? You have to know what you’re doing before getting on the saddle.
But riding is only one part of vehicle ownership – the biggest and best part, thankfully. But transporting your ride by truck or trailer, or, god forbid, if you sustain a puncture, are also parts of the experience. Knowing what to do then is as important as knowing how to ride. And in those cases – breakdown or transit – you’ll need to know how to strap down your vehicle for haulage.
The cost of two-wheeled freedom is safety, but in this case it’s the safety of your motorcycle or bike that is at stake. All the more reason to be familiar with the process of strapping or tying down.
(For a more general overview of motorcycle transport, this guide is for you .)
How do you tie down a motorcycle?
First, you’ll need a pair of heavy duty ratchet straps, available from any major hardware store. Ratchet straps aren’t heavy and they don’t take up much room, so you can stow a pair in a top box, pannier, or even looped around the rear seat and the undertail of your ride, then forget about them until they come in handy.
So much for holding on to them. How about using them?
Before you get to the strapping down, you may need to push the motorcycle up a ramp to get it onto a trailer or truck bed. Good news for ratchet strap owners: Ramps have a hook at their highest end which you can tie with a ratchet strap to a second D-ring nearer the cabin, or trailer front. That will stop the ramp slipping during the crucial loading process. (Never use a bungee strap for this; no matter how tight you wind it there’s always more give.)
That achieved, stow the ramp and free up both ratchet straps to begin tying, or strapping, down your motorcycle. (If you have wheel chocks, now’s the time to apply them. If not, don’t worry.)
First off, secure the handlebars to hooks or D-rings on the sides of the truck or trailer. Tighten both straps until taut, preventing the handlebars from turning even half an inch. The other ends of each strap should be tied to hooks or D-rings further back than the handlebars, so that the straps, when taut, are diagonal. For best results the straps should be forty-five degrees from the motorcycle’s length when viewed from above.
Part two involves the straps’ ‘soft loops’. Run each one through a part near the rear of the motorcycle, e.g. the swing arm. The spokes of the wheel are not recommended, as the loop will bear tension. Secure the other end of the strap to a strong point near the front of the truck or trailer. A bird’s eye view would show the straps forming an ‘X’ with your vehicle at the centre.
Then tighten those ratchets. Tauten the front straps first, keeping the handlebars locked, and then the rear straps.
Pro-tip: flick up the kickstand as soon as you can in this process. For one, it can damage the floor of the truck or trailer if the tension on the straps causes the bike to spike’. Secondly, this will let you know if the straps are secure. If they are, the motorcycle will be able to stand without the kickstand’s help.
How do you strap down a sportbike?
Sportbikes differ from other motorcycles for having higher performance engines, higher footpegs and more lightweight frames. A machine built for speed and acceleration more than cross country travel can often be more expensive as well as more fragile.
That means two things. One, fixing a sport bike (or streetfighter) that has been damaged in transit can be a big financial blow. And two, they’re more likely to need a truck or trailer to reach the racing circuit, so sport bike owners must be doubly confident they can ensure their vehicle’s safe transit.
The method of strapping down a sportbike is near enough that of an ordinary motorcycle. The advantages are the footpegs which, if high enough, can be ideal extra mooring points for your straps. The disadvantage is the more lightweight body. Too rigorous a strapping-down can buckle the plating in extreme cases. Loosening the straps is not the answer. Just slip a cloth or garment between the belt and the bodywork, and you and your ride are good to go.
How do you tie down a bike?
Dirt bikes and regular push bikes have this advantage over motorcycles when it comes to transporting them: Certain parts can be dismantled and reassembled in less than five minutes. If you’re taking your dirt bike to the mountains, or hauling your old Raleigh to a new home, step one is to remove the saddle. There’s a quick release mechanism on the saddle post – mark your preferred height, then take the saddle clean out.
Next, flip the bike upside down and rest it so the rear wheel makes contact with the truck or trailer bed. Using your trusty ratchet strap, hook one end to the driver’s side D-ring and loop it around the seat tube, securing the other side to the passenger side D-ring. Now perform a symmetrical operation with the other ratchet strap looping around the head tube and secured at the D-rings at the rear of the truck/trailer bed. The soft loop can come in handy for keeping the front wheel from freewheeling. Or, go the whole hog and remove the front wheel too.
Now you’re ready for transit. Bikes are much lighter, but don’t skimp on keeping the straps taut, just in case.
How do you tie down a street bike?
Slender-framed street bikes may require more care when strapping down, but the principles are the same for any bike. Two ratchet tie-downs positioned and tightened with sympathy for the strains of the road and on the bike, and the cyclist’s realm unfurls to the horizon.
“Nothing brings more bondage than too much liberty.” Benjamin Franklin also said.
But for cyclists and motorcyclists, nothing assures more liberty than a couple of straps.