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California Scientific
4011 Seaport Blvd
West Sacramento, CA 95691
Sales@CalSci.com
800-284-8112
916-372-6800

Hauling, Shipping and Storing your Motorcycle

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Hauling Your Motorcycle

trailer trailer
Harbor Freight utility trailer. 1075 pound capacity, 40" x 48" bed. $180. Optional motorcycle rail kit, $50.
trailer trailer trailer trailer
checkmarkHarbor Freight folding trailer. Folded, it uses 2 ft. x 5 ft. 3'' of floorspace. Frame has slots for stake siding. I have one of these with 8,000 miles on it. 1175 pound load capacity, 4' x 8' bed. $219.99
Optional motorcycle rail kit, $50. Optional stake sides kit, $73. Optional stake sides hooks, $12.
Canyon Dancer
checkmarkCanyon Dancer Harness - a must if you trailer your bike anywhere. Item #W53-936 $25.

How to haul a bike in a pickup

Get a motorcycle loading ramp. Make sure you get one that folds, and is rated for at least 800 pounds. Be careful about this - most ramps are for dirt bikes and rated for more like 400 pounds. These will deform over time. Get at least one pair of tie-downs, preferably two. Most people prefer the cam-buckle tie-downs to the ratcheting type. I have tie-downs that have both cam buckles and ratchets - I saw them once at Sam's club and bought two pair. I've never seen them since, and I deeply regret not getting two more pair. Get (steal) a plastic milk carton from a grocery store. This is your step up into the truck. Get a 10" by 10" piece of plywood or particle board to put under the bike's kickstand. This helps get the bike closer to upright and protects your truck bed.

Some people make a piece of plywood about 5' by 1', cut to fit the truck bed just behind the truck's rear window. Then you nail a couple 1' long 2x4's onto the plywood in the center, with about 4" between the 2x4's. This will brace the front wheel so that it can't turn on you while you're driving, thereby loosening the tie-downs.

Find a place where the road is fairly crowned and the driveways tip upwards from the road a fair amount. Back your truck into the driveway until the rear tires are solidly in the rain gutter. This will leave pretty much your entire truck out in the street, perpendicular to traffic. Put on your 4-way flashers, put the truck in park, set the parking brake. This alignment gets the tailgate as low as possible, and makes the run into the truck easiest. You're looking for a place that lowers your tailgate at least 18" towards the ground; two feet is preferable. The driveway should be heading downhill towards the truck so that the bike wants to ride up the ramp, or so that when unloading, when the bike is off the ramp it's backing uphill and wants to stop.

Lower your tailgate. Place the ramp in the center of the tailgate. Place your milk carton on the ground, open side down, just behind the truck's tailgate on the left hand side of the ramp. Put your 10" by 10" piece of wood near the left wheel well. Prepare a path that's easy for you to walk.

Start the bike, put it in first gear. Now, standing on the clutch side of the bike, walk the bike up the ramp. Let the engine and brakes do all the work, don't use your muscles to push or pull. Use the clutch and front brake to modulate the speed. If you don't like your run-up to the truck, stop, back the bike up, and start over. Shiny side up, rubber side directly below, concentrate on no tipping side to side. Since the engine and brakes and gravity are doing all the heavy lifting, this should be relatively easy. Be careful to be standing very solidly when you stop the bike in the truck bed. The truck suspension will rock a bit for about two seconds due to the sudden movement of 1000 pounds of bike and you. Put the bike's side stand down, on the piece of wood. Your bike should be happily parked in the truck now.

The bike should be centered in the truck bed and pointing straight along the direction of travel. Some people like to put the front tire in the left front corner of the bed, and have the bike diagonal in the bed. This will allow you to close your tailgate, which is an extra piece of security. I don't care for this as much as it's harder to tie the bike down properly, and considerably harder to unload the bike. The diagonal thing is good for dirt bikes, not as good for touring bikes.

Put the canyon dancer on the handlebars, put tie downs on the canyon dancer, and then attach them to the truck bed. Tighten the tie downs until the front forks are about 2/3 - 3/4 compressed - not quite bottomed out. Start with the throttle-side tie-down, and pull the bike to straight upright. You can now put the side stand back up. Now, tighten both front tie downs until the forks are 2/3 compressed and the bike is upright. You want the bike riding on its suspension. If you're just going a few miles, you're done. If you're going several hundred miles, it's a good idea to find tie-down points at about the passenger peg or passenger hand rail locations, and run tie downs from there to the tie down points at the back of the bed. Check the tie-downs carefully, they should not be touching your bodywork at any point. If they are, get a rag and put it between the tie-down and the paint. You must find a way to tie up the free ends of the tie-down straps, or they will flap in the wind and scratch up your paint. I like to leave my saddlebags and trunk on the bike when hauling, as there's just no good place to keep these in the truck bed, and they fill up too much of the truck interior.

To get the bike out, find your dream parking spot. Place your milk carton and ramp. Release the rear tie-downs if any, then the throttle side tie- down. Last, the clutch side tie-down. Stand on the left (clutch) side of the bike. Leave the engine off this time. Pull the bike backwards until the rear tire is on the ramp. At this point, you'd better have a good grip on the handlebars and front brake lever, the bike really wants to go down the ramp. Walk the bike down using the front brake to modulate the speed and the milk carton as your step.

If you have to park overnight with your bike in your truck bed, back up into your parking space so that there's a building or tree or massive bushes directly behind the truck within 6 feet. Now to get the bike out, they have to lift it over the sides. Some people like to loosen the front tie-downs to relieve stress on the front fork springs. I don't, 'cause 1) I might forget to re-tighten in the morning, and 2) if overnight compression makes the front fork springs sag, they were made of junk metal and needed to be replaced anyway.

Using these techniques, I've loaded Harley Road Kings and my ST1300 in and out of my '00 Silverado 4x4 about a dozen times all by myself, no extra person. I find that unless the extra person is a motorcycle rider with loading experience, they just get in the way - push when you're not ready, pull when you want to go forward, and fail miserably to understand that the bike must stay quite vertical or nothing is going to stop it from falling off the ramp and doing $$$$ damage. If you do have an extra person, they should only be helping keep the bike upright, there's no need to push or pull the bike forwards and backwards.

If you've never loaded a 500cc+ street bike in a truck before, I'd advise you get some experienced help for the first time or two both in and out. Practice in (or near) your driveway a couple three times before driving away.

You might have the idea that if you're going to the Honda shop, they will know how to do this. This is not my experience - Honda guys tend to look like keystone cops when loading or unloading a street bike. They're used to 220 pound dirt bikes, and the extra 500 pounds really throws them. Harley mechanics generally know how to do it, but they don't tend to want to touch your bike until asked, then they want you to step aside and let them do it. Generally, no mechanic with any sense will touch your tie-downs, as they don't want the responsibility.

If you learn how to do this by yourself, I guarantee you that everywhere you go, you'll drop jaws. It's well known that it's impossible for one guy to load or unload a street bike by himself.

Shipping Your Motorcycle

Expect to pay $400 - $800 for x-country. There's several links to shippers in the Links section. Here's a couple that riders I know have used this year. I suggest you call several and get prices and requirements. Some, you just ride up on your bike. Others, you have to supply it already loaded and tied onto a pallet.

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How to store your bike for the winter

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The best solution is to move someplace where you never get snowed in more than 3 days at a time. A man has to have his priorities. If for some inexplicable reason this is not an option for you, here's an alternative. Here is a printable checklist.

  1. Find a nice place for your bike to spend the winter. You want to avoid water condensation. Water condensing in the engine or exhaust pipes can cause rust. You can guard against water condensation by keeping your bike somewhere where the temperature doesn't change so very much, like never below 50f. Your living room is a great place, although if you're married I concede that your wife will likely have a different view on this point. A heated and secure garage would be good. An unheated garage is next best. Outdoors under a waterproof tarp where the bike is sometimes in the sun is the worst possible location. The daily heating and cooling under a waterproof tarp is guaranteed to cause water condensation. Avoid wind, dripping water, damp and musty places, and vermin. Another thing to avoid is a garage holding a dryer which is not vented to the outside. Make certain your dryer is vented, or you'll pay an extraordinarily high price. Unvented dryers have been known to lead to completely seized up motors.
  2. Completely wash the bike and dry the bike. Wax the bike and polish all the shiny bits.
  3. Clean and lube the chain.
  4. Fill the tires with air to their max load spec - see the sidewalls. This helps prevent flat spots.
  5. Gasoline oxidizes as it ages. This produces varnish as a byproduct, which is bad for carburetor jets and fuel injector outlets. To avoid this use a fuel stabilizer. Add the amount recommended on the bottle in the tank and fill the tank completely with gasoline - a full gas tank won't rust internally. Run the engine for a couple minutes to warm up the engine oil and to get the stabilizer into your carbs/fuel injectors.
  6. Now that the engine is warm, change the oil and filter. Storing a bike with used oil is not a good idea. Water vapor and condensation in your crankcase oil will combine at room temperature with sulpher to form sulphuric acid. This is a bad thing. The sulpher mostly gets into the oil as combustion by-products, so if the oil is new, this is not a problem.

    Synthetic oils have a big advantage for winter storage. The increased film strength of synthetic oils means it takes considerably longer for the oil to all drain down to the oil pan, so when you finally do start your engine there's still a little oil on all the bearings. Also, synthetics offer superior protection for cold weather starts. If you drained out normal oil and replaced it with synthetic, you have to start the motor and run it for a minute to get the synthetic oil pumped all throughout the motor.

  7. Remove the air filter, fogging oil fogging oil fogging oil fogging oil start the engine and spray the specified amount of Engine Fogging Oil into the airbox. This will coat the inside of the engine to prevent condensation and rust. Shown are fogging oil products by Briggs and Stratton, Yamaha, Pennzoil, Golden Eagle.
  8. If you have carburetors, turn off your fuel and drain your float bowls. If you have fuel injection, start the bike and run it for a minute to get the fuel lines filled with stabilized gas.
  9. Spray Pledge furniture wax on any chrome, or polished or raw aluminum.
  10. Clean and treat all leather with saddle soap and a good leather oil.
  11. Treat plastics and vinyl with Armor all. If you really want to go nuts, you can Armor all your tires and hydraulic hoses too. Alternatively, use a silicon spray like Tire Black.
  12. Put some motor oil all over the front fork tubes. Get on the bike, hold the front brake and bounce the bike up and down to work the front suspension. This will keep the rubber seals from drying out and protect the exposed fork tube.
  13. Check your battery, make sure it's full. If not, add distilled water. Use a trickle charger every four weeks or even better, get a "Battery Tender" and leave it on 24/7.
  14. Check your radiator level, add aluminum safe antifreeze as necessary.
  15. Put the bike on its center stand to take as much weight off the wheels as possible. The tires don't like to sit in one place with weight on them for a long time. This is a bigger problem if you live in a city with smog, as the ozone makes this problem a lot worse. On the center stand the bike is almost balanced, so the rear tire is in the air and the front tire has only maybe 50 pounds on it.
  16. Use plastic wrap and rubber bands to seal the outlets of the mufflers. Also seal the engine air intake, if you can get to it.
  17. Use a good breathable motorcycle cover to keep the dust off. Don't use plastic covers, they trap moisture. An old sheet works great.
  18. Before you start the bike again, remember to remove the plastic wrap from the exhaust pipes and airbox inlets, and wipe the Pledge wax off the exhaust pipes. If your memory is as bad as mine, you might tape a note to yourself over the ignition keyhole. You don't have to worry about the fuel stabilizer, it will just burn away.
  19. You can just leave the bike in this condition for many months. You don't have to worry about valve springs - modern valve springs that are made to allow the engine to rev to 8000+ rpm won't sag. If you're so desperate for a motorcycle fix that you simply have to start it, make certain to run it for at least 5 minutes or so. Starting your engine for, say, 30 seconds is a bad idea - you pay the extra wear and tear price of starting an engine where the oil is cold and has all sunk to the sump, and you don't heat the oil and exhaust up enough to boil off sulphurics and water vapor. Remember to open the garage door while the engine is running.