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Worried about how to transport a motorcycle in a pickup without getting it damaged?
In this guide I show you how I loaded a Goldwing safely in the back of my pickup and how you can safely do the same- Even if it’s your first time.
Loading a motorcycle into a pickup truck is a job that makes every bike owner a bit queasy.
I’ve done it several times and I still get nervous.
There’s no real ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, but some methods work better than others.
Actually, let me modify that statement; If you’ve damaged your motorcycle and/or hurt yourself or anyone else, you’ve done it wrong. You have failed.
How to transport a motorcycle in a pickup truck
Everyone has their own way of doing the job, but I’m going to outline a simple task list that worked for me.
None of what I’m going to cover is new, just different in certain areas.This is the basic task list I used to load, transport and unload my gl1800 across country with zero issues.
Getting your motorcycle into a pickup:
- Measure the truck bed and your motorcycle for compatibility
- Locate an incline
- Get your ramp set up
- Set your wheel chock (optional)
- Load the bike
- Secure motorcycle in truck bed
- Inspect the load
- Unload your motorcycle
What You’ll Need loading a motorcycle
To transport your motorcycle in a pickup you will need a minimum of one ramp, an incline to back the truck into and enough straps to ensure four points of contact to hold the motorcycle securely in position.
Here’s basic list of the things you’ll need.
- Aluminum folding ramps (arched) with security straps
- Canyon Dancer handlebar harness, with soft loops
- Ratchet tie down straps
- Microfiber Rags
- Second person (recommended if you know someone)
- Motorcycle wheel chock
- Bed extender
- Extra set of tie downs
A Couple Things to keep in mind
Let’s talk motorcycle ramps
There are a lot of different options for ramps, but you want to choose wisely. Stay away from ATV ramps when your trying to load a motorcycle.
You specifically want to use an arched ramp to reduce problems you can encounter with breakover over angles.
If you need help choosing a ramp check out our best motorcycle ramps for pickups. I’ve provided a buyers guide to give you all the information you need to choose a good ramp.
In addition to an arched ramp, you want a ramp that is longer instead of shorter.
Watch the loading angle
If the angle is too steep, you’ll have too sharp of a transition point.
What’s the transition point?
That’s the point where the ramp connects to the pickup.
If the angle is too steep, there’s a good chance the bottom of the bike is going to high center and get stuck.
Here’s the breakdown of the above steps I used when I loaded my GL1800 into my pickup.
If your bike is going to sit on your tailgate, make sure it can handle the weight.
Step 1: Measure Your Motorcycle And Pickup Bed
No matter what you tell your lady friends, size is going to matter.
You need to know how big the space is that your motorcycle is going in, and how long the wheelbase is on your bike.
In other words;
Is your bike compatible with your truck.
Although I’d never loaded a motorcycle into my pickup, I new that the first thing that need to be done was to take two measurements to get a good idea of the space I was working with.
Measure the length of the pickup bed with the tailgate down.
I measured the entire distance from the front of the bed where my front tire would touch all the way to the end of the tailgate.
The width of the bed of course, isn’t as big of an issue, but you do want to be aware of the location of the fender wells and how they may or may not affect the placement of the bike once it’s loaded.
While your taking a close look at the pick up bed, you may want to start looking around for the points where your going to attach the hooks to.
Now that I had my overall length measurement, it’s time to take a measurement of the motorcycle.
Measure the length of the motorcycle.
Next, I measured from the outer edge of the front tire to the contact patch of the rear wheel.
If you’ve never heard the term, the ‘contact patch’ of a tire is the actual area of the tire that’s in contact with the roadway. Whether you’re in a car or on a motorcycle (or anything that has wheels), it’s scary to think sometimes that there is very little rubber or surface area that actually keeps us on the highway.
Since I’m a bit anal, I also took a measurement of the length of the contact patch itself so that I could get an idea of it’s area.
After placing a flat surface in front of the tire and a flat surface to the rear of the tire, I measured the distance between the two which told me about how long contact patch is.
I didn’t measure the width of the tire, as I new it wouldn’t be a problem.
You really don’t need to measure the contact patch, I just did it to help me understand exactly where the bike was boing to sit in the pickup.
Simplifying the motorcycles wheel base measurement
Let me simplify measuring the motorcycles overall length because you don’t have to be as detailed as I was.
Measure your bike from the outer edge of the front tire to the approximate center of the rear axle. This gives you the length that you’ll be working with and puts you right in the middle of the contact patch.
Yes, there will be overhang to the rear. You don’t need to worry too much about, just know that it’s there.
Double checking the area my motorcycle will sit in inside the pickup bed
Now that you have your wheel base measurement (excluding overhang) and you’ve measured how long the truck bed is. You should now have a pretty good idea how the motorcycle will sit inside the bed.
Just to be sure, re-measure your truck bed with the wheelbase measurements of your motorcycle and you should know exactly where your bike is going to sit.
Step 2: Locate An Incline To Load The Motorcycle
The next step in the process is locating a sufficient incline to load the bike from.
In my opinion this is an important step that can make or break how the actual loading and unloading of the motorcycle is going to go for you.
Imagine this scenario–
You’ve got the truck parked on a nice flat surface with your ramps secured. You load the motorcycle, get to the top of the ramp and the engine, engine mount (or both) high centers at the top of the ramp.
You lose your balance; the motorcycle starts to lean and – voila!
The bike keels over sideways causing you to dump your bike on the ground from 3 to 4 feet in the air.
You get the added bonus of learning how to lift a motorcycle off the ground which when done wrong presents another opportunity for injury.
Finding a good incline to load your motorcycle from helps you change the angle of the ramp to the pickup bed. The steeper the incline the flatter the angle.
The flatter the angle, the least likely your motorcycle will high center at the top of the ramp.
Positioning your pickup truck
Now that you’ve either found a good incline to load the bike from or decided to use your own driveway, you need to get your pickup truck positioned in the right spot.
If you live in a neighborhood with a driveway and it appears to be flat, chances are that your driveway is not as flat as it appears.
Keep in mind that your driveway will always have at least a slight angle for water runoff towards the gutter.
It’s the same with the roadway in front of your house;
If you notice as you drive around, highways and roadways are all engineered with a slope for the same reason as your driveway – to channel water off of the crown of the road and prevent water build up on the roadway.
Taking these two angles into account you’ll want to position the rear wheels in the gutter at the end of your driveway. This is the best position to place your truck that will give you best (or flattest) angle to load your motorcycle.
When we loaded the Goldwing, the house I was moving from had such a steep angle that the angle made the loading ramp just about level. We were able to get the wing loaded without incident and which was ideal for my first time loading a motorcycle into pickup!
Other options to load your motorcycle
If you’re just not happy with driveways angle, check with your friends or look for a nearby curb you can back up to. As long as you can raise the ramp off the ground at least 6 inches or so, you should be good.
Another option is to contact a motorcycle dealership in your area (if you have one) and ask if you can use their loading dock.
If you don’t have a bike shop, look around any other business that may have a loading dock that you can use.
For example, a trucking company, grocery store etc.
Step 3: Get Your Ramp Set up
This is an area that you don’t want to be lazy or in a hurry, it’s important that the ramp be secured while loading.
Make sure that the top of the ramp is pushed against the tailgate properly and use ratchet straps or extra tie downs to secure the ramp against the vehicle.
You’ll want to get the ramp(s) as snug as possible so that there is no movement.
Place one hook on the ramp and the other on a point on your pickup truck.
Between the motorcycle itself pushing against the ramp upon loading and the suspension of the pickup moving, there is a probability of your ramps will shift on you.
Not having your ramps secured means that you may dump the bike. Fail.
Let’s have a quick discussion about the ramps you need to load your motorcycle.
There are two key features of any ramp that your ramp needs to have:
- Have a weight rating that can handle the weight of your motorcycle.
- The ramp(s) should be arched at the top where it attaches to the tailgate.
If you cut corners on the ramps your use, your setting yourself up for failure.
Get an arched ramp
When buying a ramp, make sure the ramp is arched at the top. Do not buy a ramp that is completely straight.
Straight ramps will create point where the ramp connects to the pickup that your motorcycle will get high centered on, causing a massive fail.
Arched ramps reduce this high point making the ramp/pickup connection point flatter.
Use two motorcycle ramps
To load your motorcycle, you should really have two ramps or a wide area to work with.
One ramp for the motorcycle;
Another ramp for you to walk on beside your bike. This helps to make sure that you can walk right into the bed of the truck and control the motorcycle.
Using two ramps give you more area to work from and more control when load the bike.
You should be able to just escort your bike right into the back of truck, no problem.
My ramp setup is a bit different
This is one of the areas where we did things a bit different loading the Goldwing.
I purchased two ramps but I wasn’t happy with the width of a single ramp. To me, the single ramps are narrow and don’t provide ‘room for error’.
I do my best to try and foresee the potential for disaster as best I can because I don’t trust myself! Using a typical narrow motorcycle ramp was out of the question for me, my paranoia wouldn’t allow it. Joining the two ramps was the best solution and it worked awesome.
Step 4: Set Your Wheel Chock (Optional)
The next step after you get your pickup set the way you like with the best angle and get your ramp setup, is place a wheel chock.
Place the wheel chock against the front of the pickup bed and center get it centered.
If you’re using a wheel chock, you want one that has some weight to it (around 15 – 20lbs) and won’t slide too easy.
When it comes to wheel chocks, you’ve got two options:
- Purchase chock that you can use in your truck and in the garage.
- Build one at home out of plywood and 2×4’s (you see how to do it here)
This is an optional step that some people recommend and others don’t.
When we loaded my gl1800 into the pickup, no chock was used and quite frankly, wasn’t necessary. We didn’t have any problems during transportation.
Step 5: Load The Motorcycle
Ok kids, here’s where the rubber meets the ramp, it’s about to get real up in here.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
- Selected a good spot to load the bike (driveway, loading dock etc.)
- Located a motorcycle ramp with an arched top that can handle the motorcycles weight
- Set the wheel chock (again, this is optional)
Now we’re going to load this beast.
How to get your motorcycle up the ramp
When it comes to how to get your bike up the ramp, you have a couple modes of power to choose from:
- Bike power
- Push it up the ramp
Using the bikes power
If you decide to use the bikes power there are two ways that people choose to do it.
You can either-
Clutch the bike up the ramp or you can ride the bike into the truck.
I would strongly suggest that you NEVER choose to ride a large cruiser motorcycle (or any motorcycle for that matter) into the back of a pickup truck. The potential for catastrophic failure and injury will increase dramatically.
If the bike stalls, or you get a case of vertigo there’s no place to go but over the side, potentially with a motorcycle on top you.
If you screw up and hit the throttle or enter the pickup bed to fast, you’ll wind up in a front-end collision the cab of your truck.
Clutching the motorcycle
Clutching the motorcycle up the ramp is the better option of the two and is the method that we used to load my motorcycle.
It’s important to note that there is a bit more risk doing it this way than pushing due to the motorcycle running and a person having to control the clutch.
The thing is, if you’re loading a large heavy motorcycle, this is probably the best option to get the bike loaded.
If you have your ramp set up right (with two ramps) you should be able to walk right up the ramp with your bike.
Didn’t get the right angle of attack or you need to make an adjustment? You can allow the motorcycle to roll back down under control and start again if you need to.
Pushing it up the ramp
Pushing the motorcycle up the ramp is considered the safest by many, but it’s not without danger and will depend a couple of things.
How heavy is your motorcycle? You may need a lot of humans to help push and control the bike.
How steep of an angle is your ramp? You don’t want to push a heavy bike uphill.
In my opinion, this is a method for smaller motorcycles such as dirtbikes and sportbikes and maybe not the best for large heavy motorcycles unless you have help.
Step 6: Secure The Motorcycle With Tie downs
When securing the motorcycle, you’ll want to have four points of contact from the bike to the pickup bed, two in the front and two rear.
Don’t confuse four points of contact with four straps (although you should have extra with you).
You’ll read online in other places that two points of contact is good enough. I respectfully disagree, and would recommend that you always transport your motorcycle with four points of contact. With good straps and appropriate downward pressure, this method will provide you the best and most stable securement. Once we secured my Goldwing, it didn’t budge for 2300 miles.
Use a Canyon Dancer
I recommend using a canyon dancer harness for the front of the motorcycle.
A canyon dancer is a single strap that runs from one side of your pick up, attaches to the handlebars with loops (usually soft loops), and then attaches to the opposite side.
What you wind up with is two contact points, one strap. Each side has a ratchet so that you can adjust the downward pressure equally.
Apply enough downward pressure to get compression on the suspension to help get the motorcycle settled in and the straps tight.
I suggest using your best judgement here based on your personal knowledge of your motorcycle, but don’t compress the suspension all the way to the bottom.
To secure the rear portion of the motorcycle, you’ll need two separate tie downs, one for each side.
Be careful where you attach these on your motorcycle. Make sure you use the heavy vehicle parts (the frame for example) to attach the tie downs to, and not anything that’s breakable.
Finally, you’ll want to have some rags (microfiber rags are best) to put under any of the straps that come into contact with the motorcycle.
Step: 7 Do A Walk Around Inspection
You’ve got the motorcycle loaded into the pickup and secured with your tied owns.
Take a few moments and double check the bike and give your tie downs a bit of a tug and make sure that nothing has become loose.
It’s imperative that you ensure that the motorcycle won’t move when you accelerate, turn etc during transportation.
Make sure you bring extra tie downs and bungee cords to secure the ramp inside the bed of the pickup so that it doesn’t damage the bike.
Step: 8 Unloading The Motorcycle
The obvious here is that you’re going to secure the ramp to the truck just like you did when you loaded the bike.
Just make sure the ramp is lined up with the back tire and you should be good to go.
This is where us Goldwingers have a bit of an advantage – We can use reverse to help get the motorcycle started down the ramp. Using reverse also helps control the motorcycles speed down the ramp and not allowing gravity to completely take over and ruin the party.
If you’re new to using the reverse feature, you can check out my guide on how to reverse a Honda Goldwing GL1800.
Hauling A Goldwing- If it Fits, it Travels!
A while back, we had the ‘pleasure’ of moving 2300 miles across country from the southwest to Florida.
Moving. Is. Not. Fun.
Along with all of the many worries that go with moving, I had think about how I was going to get my baby across country. Since it’s just me and my lady trying to handle this whole move (for the most part) I had 3 options:
- Put the motorcycle inside the moving truck (my preferred method).
- Loading it into my pickup truck.
- Leaving it and my pick up behind, flying home to get both.
As it turned out, option 1 was a no go (too much crap in the moving truck!) and I managed to get a friend of mine to drive my pickup with my Goldwing in it. At least we can get this all done in one shot.
Here’s a recap of how I loaded a Goldwing into my pickup
This is the down and dirty list of steps that we used to load my Goldwing. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but what we did worked quite well. Transported my baby 2300 miles across country with zero incident.
- I measured the both the bed and wheelbase of my Goldwing to make sure it would fit, since I had doubts.
- As it turned out, my driveway had such a steep incline, it was perfect for loading. The incline of the ramp to the pickup was drastically reduced.
- Two ramps were used. However, I had them bolted together to make one nice wide ramp. The ramp was secured to the pickup with the straps that came with them.
- Loading time! My friend took the lead (he has more experience than I do). He started the motorcycle and ‘clutched’ it up the ramp on the left side. I was on the right to keep the bike stable and use the handbrake when he was ready.
- The top of the ramp was the tricky part. At this point, he needed to get on pickup (he had been on the ground up to this point), this is where I came in. I engaged the front brake while he held the clutch in and got on the truck. It’s sounds tricky, but it really wasn’t.
- He then clutched the bike into it’s transport position. The motorcycle was shut down and left in gear to keep it from moving and the side stand was put down.
- The canyon dancer (with soft loops) and rear tie downs were applied. The motorcycle was rock solid inside the pickup bed.
We started down the highway and did our first tie down check about 15 to 20 miles into the trip. Rock solid.
13 More Useful tips When loading your motorcycle
- Be aware of your straps on sharps edges. It shouldn’t happen, but you don’t want your straps cut by either a sharp edge on the motorcycle or the truck.
- Keep the loading area and bed of your pickup free of debris and other items you can trip over.
- After you’ve started the trip, check the motorcycle the first couple of miles. It may have shifted a bit and you may need to adjust the tie downs.
- Check the motorcycle periodically and when you stop for gas.
- Don’t fully compress the suspension, you may damage the bike.
- In additions to checking the weight limit for your ramp, pay attention to the ‘working load limit’ (or WLL) of your tie downs and make sure they can do the job. The rating should be listed on the straps.
- Be aware of how much weight your tailgate can handle. If your unsure, check the owner’s manual of your vehicle.
- Leave the motorcycle in gear to help prevent it from moving. Just keep this in mind when you unload the bike in case you decide to start it.
- Watch the weight distribution in side the bed of the pickup. If the motorcycle is too far to one side or the other, the extra weight can cause your pickup to handle poorly. If the motorcycle is heavy enough and the weight is distributed wrong, it can cause a rollover even at low speed.
- Make sure you take all slack out of the tie downs, readjust during your trip as needed.
- Secure the loose or extra portion of the tie down straps. You don’t want loose straps hitting the motorcycle and damaging the bike during transportation.
- Don’t use bag guards and other non heavy vehicle parts, They will be ripped from the bike.
- Check the securement points on your pickup and make sure they can handle the job.
Summing it up…
If you’ve never done or haven’t done it much, now you know how to transport a motorcycle in a pickup truck.
Just make sure that you have all of the right gear to get the job done and that your bike will fit.
There’s not really a right or wrong way, but let’s face it.
If you or the bike gets damaged, that’s probably the wrong way.