When shipping a motorcycle across the country, you’re faced with a choice. You could put all your faith in the transporter you’ve chosen and trust them to take care of everything. Or you could handle every last detail personally, prepping the bike fully before you even find a transporter.
Assuming you opt for the latter, as most riders do, here’s our selection of motorcycle shipping tips. From the obvious to the obscure, these are the little things you’ll need to know about.
Stripping the non-essentials
The easiest step you can take is stripping your bike down. Remove all loose items and detachable parts, then pack them separately for safer shipping. Every breakable component should be either removed or wrapped up for protection against any bumps in the road.
Depending on how you’re shipping your bike, you might want to disconnect the battery as well. Ideally, you’d also wrap up all the cables to make sure that accidental contact won’t cause a spark during transport. (And yes, this does actually happen.)
Draining the fluids
As most transporters will tell you, a motorcycle needs to be drained of fluids before shipping. Loading it onto a trailer with a tank full of gas, for example, is considered a significant safety hazard. So the first thing to do is make sure that the tank is no more than quarter-full. Then, you might want to consider draining all the other fluids too – the coolant, the engine oils, etc. This is not always strictly necessary, but preventing potential leakage eliminates one risk factor.
Of course, not every motorcycle owner knows how to drain all the fluids – that’s perfectly all right. It’s best to have a professional mechanic handle it anyway. Optionally, you might want to check with your motorcycle transporter – some might be willing to help you out with this for a modest fee.
Reducing tire pressure
Shipping your motorcycle with the tires fully inflated is never a good idea. Instead, let some air out to keep them loose and able to absorb small impacts which could otherwise damage the frame slightly. Reducing the pressure beforehand also keeps the tires from deflating on their own during transport.
Speaking of which, make sure that you don’t let out too much air. Deflating them too far can make the tires vulnerable to gradual tearing caused by vibrations during the drive. There’s no clear guideline here, so keep reducing pressure until you feel them going soft, but no further.
To box or not to box?
Now, on to one of the major decisions involved in motorcycle shipping. Should you enclose your bike in a container or leave it exposed to open air? There are obvious advantages to both options – extra protection on one side, significant savings on the other. Ultimately, the choice is yours: consider the distance across which you’re shipping your motorcycle and the weather conditions involved.
If you do choose to box it up, you can usually get a crate from a local dealership, although some people prefer to have their custom-made. There are many specialized companies offering this service, usually as a premium addition to shipping deals. None of them are cheap, so choose your options wisely.
Making a motorcycle shipping checklist
For some odd reason, this is a step that bike owners tend to skip. We strongly recommend that you keep a detailed list of the measures you’ve taken to secure your motorcycle for transport. List everything we’ve mentioned above – the fluids, the tire pressure, the parts removed, the containers used, etc. Take photos of the bike in its original condition and after you’ve made it transport-ready. Make note of all existing scratches and dents.
Once you’ve ticked every box, get your driver to sign off on the list, just as a precaution. Professional motorcycle transporters know how important it is to keep the record straight, and should have no objections. Speaking of which…
Choosing the right motorcycle transporter
These might just be the most important decisions involved in shipping a motorcycle. Who can you trust? Which of the transporters CitizenShipper is connecting you to seems the most reliable? Here’s a couple of broad guidelines to help steer you in the right direction.
Shop around a little. Don’t settle for the first reasonable offer that comes your way. Consider each applicant carefully, read through their profile info, browse their customer reviews. And who knows, just when you think you’ve made your decision, another quote might arrive.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Feel free to ask about their DOT registration or their insurance coverage. Ask them to explain a negative review that you’ve read. Ask about their payment methods. A transporter with commendable prior experience should be able to answer all these questions and more.
Ultimately, go with your gut. Choosing the right transporter is an art more than a science. Once you’ve made up your mind, don’t second guess and don’t prevaricate. As soon as you pull the trigger and the bike gets out there, all the pressure will fade away. If all goes as planned, a few days later you’ll be back in the saddle, cruising down the road and enjoying the scenery.
Updated September 17, 2021