How to Tow a Motorcycle – The Complete Guide

How to Tow a MotorcycleSo you finally got that motorcycle. Maybe you want to take it on a trip without putting all those miles on it. Is it time to move, and you need to load it up? Did it break down? There are several reasons why you may need to move a motorcycle without riding it. But how can you tow a bike?

How to tow a motorcycle? You can haul a bike by loading it onto a trailer and pulling it with another vehicle. If you have a smaller motorcycle such as a dirtbike, you can often load it directly into the bed of a pickup. The final and increasingly popular option is loading it into an enclosed vehicle, such as a box truck or toy hauler. 

Does the question then become, do you have the right equipment to tow a motorcycle? We did a lot of research and have compiled all sorts of info for you. Read on to see the great things that we figured out.

Having the Right Equipment

Before you attempt to tow a motorcycle, make sure that you have the right tools for the job. You will need several things. The first thing is a vehicle to pull the bike. 

Make sure that your vehicle is set up to tow. Make sure that the vehicle doing the towing can handle the weight of your bike and a trailer. Find out what the vehicle's towing capacity is. There will be some great information on that later in the article.

Make sure that you have the correct trailer. It is vital to make sure that the container is rated to transport the motorcycle securely. Not every trailer is capable. There are several motorcycle trailers on the market that are specifically designed for this task. Consider purchasing one of these if you will be towing your motorcycle frequently. These trailers are often lightweight and able to be configured to be pulled by several types of vehicles.

The Basics of Towing

Towing may seem easy, but it is actually a pretty dangerous business. If you aren't sure how to tow, here are some basic principles to follow. These will by no means make you a master, but they will start you out with a great foundation. Considerations to have before towing:

As previously mentioned, there are several considerations to have before towing. The following information will help you determine if your particular vehicle can tow the trailer that you want. This is very important and can help you from making a dangerous or expensive mistake.

Tongue Weight

One of the first and most important things to consider is tongue weight. For those who are not familiar with the principles of towing. Tongue weight is the amount of pressure that the hitch is putting on your vehicle. 

In basic terms: The more weight there is and the more weight that is in the front of the trailer, the more tongue weight you have. This is great because it really helps with the overall stability of the vehicle and trailer.

This section applies to all forms of towing except for using a box truck or the bed of a pickup. We will discuss that in the following article. Tongue weight applies to trailers that are hitched to a vehicle that is providing power and pulling them. 


Let's talk about payload. The payload is the weight of the occupants of a vehicle, their gear, and any cargo that is loaded directly into the vehicle. A motorcycle loaded into the back of a pickup is a great example. A bike loaded into a box truck is also a great example of payload. Make sure that you are not exceeding the maximum weight of your vehicle.

A Note for Using Box Trucks

When you are using a box truck, you need to consider the weight of everything that is being carried inside the box and truck. This includes all cargo and passengers in the vehicle. Make sure that you do not exceed the maximum load. Doing so can cause issues with handling, stopping, and center of gravity. The truck may tip over.

Steps for basic towing

As promised, here are the principles of necessary towing. If you have never pulled before, it might be a great idea to ask a friend for advice! Following these steps will help you start to understand everything that is at play when you are towing. 

  • Check all of your equipment
  • Practice hitching your trailer 
  • Practice trailer backing: 
  • Make sure your tires are good 
  • Take your turns wide
  • Use your mirrors
  • Watch your weight 
  • Secure the trailer: 
  • Check the lights: 
  • Make sure your vehicle has towing power
  • Make short trips to learn how your vehicle handles
  • Drive slow
  • Give yourself space to stop

Securing the Motorcycle

Anytime that you are towing, the load must be secure. Failure to do this correctly can cause the weight to shift on the trailer or in the box. You run the risk of damaging your motorcycle. This differential in pressure can cause the trailer to sway.

In some cases, you may not be able to correct this quickly enough to avoid the vehicle or trailer from losing control. Here are some tips for securing your motorcycle

  • Make sure that all fuel is drained from the motorcycle
  • Use straps or chains to tie the motorcycle down
  • Use secure anchoring points
  • Make sure that 60% of the weight is in the front of the trailer
  • Secure the tires to keep them from rolling

The Science Behind It

This goes back to high school. At the risk of sounding tedious, there was actually a point to Newtonian physics. Seriously, this may ring a bell. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. But the whole thing is rolling down the road, what do you mean? In this case, we are talking

About what is happening in the trailer, in the box, or in bed. If the motorcycle is not secured, it becomes an object in motion being pulled by an object in motion. It sounds like two times the fun, not really. This can cause the motorcycle to slide around and change the balance of the vehicle. This can cause an accident.

Can I Use My Car

If your car has a hitch, you may be able to tow a motorcycle on a trailer. You need to really consider the added weight. Most cars are not designed to handle so much extra weight. You should refer to the towing capacity of your specific car. Using a lightweight, a streamlined trailer that is designed to be pulled by a car is a suggested option. 

A newer way to tow a motorcycle behind a car is with a tow dolly. This looks somewhat crazy, but the concept actually works well if done right. To use this method, you mostly lift the front end of the motorcycle off the ground by using something that looks like a quarter trailer with a single axle. This leaves the rear tire on the ground, along with about 75% of the weight. To do this, you should have some towing experience and know-how to use straps.

How much does it cost to have a motorcycle towed?

It may be more comfortable and more cost-effective to have someone else tow your motorcycle. By doing this, you don't have to worry about the headaches, just the cost. If you are just having it pulled locally, meaning within a 10-mile radius or so, that will generally cost between $50 and 150 dollars. If you are going to have it towed any kind of distance, the average cost to have a tow company hook up to it is $75. The company will then charge between $2 and $4 per mile. Please keep in mind that these are just estimates based on research. If you are going a long distance, you may be able to talk the tow company into giving you a flat rate.

Can You Lay a Motorcycle on Its Side in the Back of a Truck and Transport It?

The thought of this makes most motorcycle owners cringe. The reality, though, is that you can do this. It will take quite a bit of preparation, though. You cannot just lay it on its side and take off unless you don't mind damaging or destroying it. If you have no other choice here are some suggestions on doing so.

  • Drain all of the fluids completely
  • Remove the windscreen
  • Remove the battery
  • Remove the mirrors
  • If possible use straps or chains to suspend the motorcycle keeping it from actually laying down
  • Find padding to lay the bike on
  • Expect a mess

If you follow these suggestions, you can transport a bike lying on its side in the back of a truck. You can expect a fair amount of difficulty moving it when you get where you are going. Try and have an extra pair or two of hands to help you. Expect that there will be some fluid seepage. No matter how well you drain the fluids, there will be some residual. With some preparation and luck, it can be done.

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One comment

  1. What are your thoughts on towing a motorcycle on a tow hitch just by its front wheel, so the rear wheel is always in contact with the road and always rolling?
    Bike in question is a belt drive BMW f800ST.

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