How much towing capacity do I need for a motorcycle?

young woman sitting on top of a motorcycle

Towing a Motorcycle

It’s time for summer vacation, and families everywhere are making plans! As exciting as this time of the year is, make sure you get the car, truck, or RV inspected and checked out for the road. Including making sure that the vehicle you’ll be using can tow any of the things you’re taking like boats, jet skis, ATVs, and or motorcycles. Keeping in mind that motorcycle towing is a little different than the other things you may be taking with you. 

What is the best way to transport your motorcycle?

If you’re new to the world of motorcycles, the dealership where you purchased your bike can provide you the different motorcycle towing options available to you. If you’re new to motorcycle ownership, there is nothing to be embarrassed about asking, “How do I tow a motorcycle?”.  Chances are, you have already gone through a class on how to handle a bike before the purchase was complete. But if they didn’t cover motorcycle towing, they are a great source of information. 

Having it towed by a professional wrecker service that specializes in motorcycle towing, but Motorcycle towing costs can be expensive, especially if you’re going on vacation!  You don’t want to plan on using that type of motorcycle towing unless you’re broken down. 

So, what is the DIY way of motorcycle towing?  There are advantages to this method, but there are a few downsides as well that should be considered. First, let’s review the how and what about DIY motorcycle towing, starting with the statement, “take your time, do it right”. Here are the recommended steps for DIY motorcycle towing: 

  • Get the right towing vehicle or trailer that is properly equipped for securing the bike. Pickups are the first choice, your own or a rental, or purchase a motorcycle trailer. 
  • Have help on hand because even the smallest of motorcycles can get heavy when you’re loading and unloading it alone. The bike should be in neutral and a person on each side as you roll it up the ramp. 
  • Tying the bike down is crucial for safe motorcycle towing. Using with a soft tie and a solid structural place to wrap the tie around, like the fork assembly or the lower triple clamp. Never use the brake lines or wires! And don’t put pressure on the bodywork or fenders. 
  • Have 4 straps for each corner of the bike.
  • Check your vehicle insurance to make sure you’re covered for your motorcycle. Towing has it dangers and obstacles, and if you get pulled over, they are going to check your insurance. 

Now, the pros and cons of DIY motorcycle towing. 

  • The Pros: You will be in control of the bike arriving at your destination. That is part of the allure of a motorcycle – being in control! You’ll also save money by DIY motorcycle towing if you take your time, have the right equipment and supplies, and get help loading and unloading the bike. 
  • The Cons: Just like any hobby or pastime, motorcycles will take a lot of your time, and a lot of money with additional things like equipment. Yes, it will be cheaper (if you do it right) than paying for professional motorcycle towing, but don’t be cheap with quality of the tie-downs or ratchets. 

Is it illegal to tow a motorcycle?

Not when it is done correctly and adhered to the state guidelines for motorcycle towing. Don’t be that person that causes a wreck on the roadways. Ensure that you have the bike properly loaded and secured either in your truck or on a trailer. If you’ll be traveling through different states, check the laws on motorcycle towing in each one.        

What is needed to tow a motorcycle?

The key to safe and successful motorcycle towing is making sure you have the right equipment and tools, including a vehicle with adequate towing capacity.  Next, you need a motorcycle ramp for loading and unloading the bike or a trailer that has a built-in ramp. The ramp should be made of durable, heavy metal and if you’re using a trailer, you need to make sure you have the right hitch. Next make sure you have a small diameter tow rope, a nylon strap, and either a cable or a wire. 

Is it legal to tow a motorcycle with a car?

Yes, if the car is registered, and your insurance covers the car and the motorcycle towing.  Be sure know the state guidelines for motorcycle towing on the roadways and you have the bike secured on the towing trailer, a motorcycle carrier, or a tow dolly. 

Using a tow dolly is the easiest way to use a car for motorcycle towing, but you will need to have a hitch installed and confirm the car’s towing capacity. The dolly will be placed on the hitch and the front motorcycle tire will be at the front of the trailer then strapped down. As you load the bike onto the trailer, make sure it is in neutral gear and leave it neutral for the tow. 

Can a motorcycle tow a car?

Motorcycles can tow trailers, but the towing limit will not be sufficient to tow a car. To tow a trailer with your bike, you need to make sure you have the proper combination of motorcycle engine displacement and a lightweight trailer with all the necessary hardware.

man in a leather jacket standing in front of a motorcycle

A Closing Question on Motorcycle Towing

You can’t afford a professional motorcycle towing service. You don’t have a trailer or a pickup, but you do have a low-profile van, so can you lay a motorcycle on its side to transport it? This is not the ideal way for motorcycle towing, but it can be done. Make sure you drain the gasoline, oil, and all fluids, then remove the battery first. Once you have arrived at your destination, stand the bike upright and let it sit for several hours before adding any fluids or installing the battery.