How to Load a Motorcycle Onto a Truck (By Yourself)
Getting a bike loaded into a truck bed is something that gives many riders sweaty palms - there really is a lot that can go wrong. Learn from other people's mistakes, and don't take any chances...do it the way the pros do!
As much as we here at BikeBandit love having your business, filling your order for new fairings or a tank because of a loading mishap is something we would rather avoid. We know scuffs and drops are part of the deal when you're a rider - but nobody wants to damage their bike while doing something as simple as loading it!
So to help you all out, we put together a simple way to load a motorcycle into a truck safely and securely. Once you've got the process down, you can load just about any bike easily, without all the sketchiness you often see when people load and unload motorcycles!
What You’ll Need:
Arched ramps, BikeBandit tie-downs, and a sturdy wheel chock is all you need.
Step 1: FIND AN INCLINE
In my opinion, this is the most important step to loading and unloading a bike safely.
Why? Because when you position the truck correctly, you can greatly reduce the angle you need to push the bike up, and reduce the amount of overall force you need to use to get the bike into the bed. This makes the entire process much easier, and a lot less risky.
9 times out of 10, I find the easiest way to do this is by pulling your rear wheels right in to the low point where the edge of the street meets the edge of the driveway. Streets are curved down toward the sides to allow for drainage, and most driveways are designed the same way. Using the slope of the street tilts your bed down a little, and rolling the bike down the driveway puts some gravity on your side. Set your parking brake so the pickup doesn’t move.
Most driveways work well if you park the truck right; if not, you can probably find a slope in your area that will work.
If you look around your area, you might find an even easier incline to help you load your bike (like a neighbors house with a steeply sloped driveway.) Even just backing up to a curb can cut 6-8” off the incline, and make the job a lot easier.
You can see how much difference even a very small slope makes in approach angle and tailgate height. All I did here was reposition the truck in the same area, using a drainage gutter.
Step 2: Set Up Your Ramps
There are a few things you should ALWAYS check with respect to your ramps.
One, use arched ramps. Using a straight ramp creates a high point right where the ramp meets the tailgate, and a perfect spot for the lowest point of your bike to slam into right as you’re coming over the crest. This actually happens to a lot of people! It can easily send your bike tumbling (though finding an incline will reduce that angle.)
Second, make sure they are fixed securely to the truck using security straps or ratchet straps. Them resting on the edge of the tailgate just isn’t gonna cut it. The weight of the bike or the flexing of the trucks suspension can shift things around just enough to dislodge the ramp, and send you and your bike to the ground.
You also need a way to get YOU up into the bed. The ramp has the bike’s route into the bed covered, but unless you have a way in there too, you’re gonna find yourself in trouble about halfway up. You’re controlling all the bike’s movement, so if you can’t walk right alongside your bike all the way until its resting in the wheel chock, you’re doing it wrong.
I always use two ramps. Saving money by using only one ramp was never worth the sketchiness that went with it to me!
For this, I use a second ramp, identical to the first, secured to the truck the same way. I’ve also seen people use a step stool or even a toolbox for this task, but be aware that it can shift; if it does that while you’re pushing the bike up, you’re gonna be in trouble.
Step 3: Set Up Your Wheel Chock and Straps
Once you’re happy with the position of your pickup and the ramps, set up your wheel chock and straps. Generally right in the center, pushed against the front of the bed works (unless you’re hauling two bikes.)
A heavy wheel chock won’t shift when you roll the bike into it, which is why I like the BikeMaster Front Wheel Chock so much; it weighs a good 20 pounds or so. You’ll also want to look for a chock with a swiveling ramp that locks the wheel into place, which keeps the bike upright and holds it pretty securely by itself. These double as great stands for the garage too!
I really like this wheel chock from BikeMaster, but there are other models that are similar. Just make sure you get one that can hold the bike up by itself.
If you have the smaller, lighter style of chock made of steel tubing, be advised that these are not meant to hold a bike up by themselves; they are designed to be bolted to the floor of a trailer and used with straps. They won’t work well in a pickup bed (though bolting one to a piece of plywood to put in a pickup bed may work, but I still recommend a true wheel chock instead.)
Step 4: Load The Bike
Now you should be ready to roll the bike up into the bed. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, half the battle has already been fought.
Human-power, or Bike-power?
There are two schools of thought here: using the bike’s power to get it up the ramp, or just pushing it.
What you do depends a lot on the bike. You can push a dirt bike up fairly easily, and sport bikes and standards can also be done the same way. Bigger bikes, like cruisers and touring bikes, are probably going to need a little horsepower to get them up.
If I can, I always prefer to push. It is more predictable, and if you’ve positioned your truck and ramps properly, it is pretty easy to do. If there’s anyone nearby, ask for a hand; all you usually need is a little push from behind, or for someone to catch the front end as you push, so it doesn’t roll back.
If you positioned your truck right, half the battle has already been fought by the time you start pushing the bike up the ramp.
However, I’ve loaded bikes countless times alone, so another person isn’t absolutely necessary (but for goodness sakes, if you do have a friend nearby, get them to help you; if they’re filming you with a camera phone, it’s a bad sign! Fail vids, people...)
Under Power: Ride It, or Clutch It Up?
If you use the bike’s power, there are two methods: riding it up, and walking it up using the throttle and clutch. I’ve seen many people do both. I prefer to walk it up. If it stalls, it is a lot easier to walk it back down and try again. And worst case, if the bike falls over, you can get out of its way.
On the other hand, people who ride it up say "its just like riding up a little hill." In a way, this is true...if hills were 8 inches wide, really steep, and had horrible traction. Here's the problem: if the bike stalls, you’re kind of screwed; you'd have to get the bike down a narrow ramp backwards for another shot, and it wouldn’t be easy. You could also lose traction and spin the wheels right off the ramp.
Personally I would rather try a couple times, using a method I knew I could back out of if I lost my footing or something shifted, instead of the "all or nothing" approach of gunning the bike up in there. But hey...whatever works for you.
Once the bike is in the bed and rolled into the wheel chock, the hard part is done! Now all that’s left is to strap it down securely to make your precious cargo road-worthy.
Step 6: Strap It Down
Whenever you load or transport anything, you should always try to anticipate any equipment failures. In other words, for any way you use to secure the bike, there should be another to back it up if it should fail.
I use a pair of tie-downs in front, and a bed-extender in the rear. With the wheel chock, only two tie-downs will hold the bike very securely. The bed extender serves as a barrier to keep the bike in the bed if it happened to come loose somehow. Using another set of tie-downs in the rear will work too, if you don’t have some type of bed extender.
The straps I use have an integrated soft loop, which is an awesome feature for hauling bikes. If you don’t have these, you can use regular ratchet straps with a soft loop added, or something like a Canyon Dancer harness.
This is where the soft loops come in, allowing you to hold your bike with nylon straps instead of metal hooks. Attach on a sturdy part of the bike that wont bend or twist.
Where you tie it down depends on the bike. If your bike has 1-piece solid bars (like a dirt bike or a cruiser) you can throw the straps right over the bars. If your bike has clip-on bars (like a sport bike) this is riskier, because the pressure on them can cause them to shift or even break. The forks or triple clamps are a better place to strap down bikes with clip-ons.
Tighten the straps until the suspension is about halfway compressed. Any less and they might be too loose, allowing the bike to shift, but smashing the forks too far down can bottom them out and damage your suspension.
Its also a good idea to have a few soft towels handy; the straps may come into contact with a part of the bike that can be scratched, and you can use the towels as padding.
Tie a knot right beneath the buckle to prevent the straps from backing out, and secure the excess strap (the BikeBandit tie downs come with a velcro strap for this.)
Step 7: Make Your Load Road-Worthy
Now your bike is all loaded up and strapped down. All you have to do now is give everything a once over, making sure nothing in the bed can move around and damage the bike or fall out of the truck.
I always secure everything in my bed, so it doesn't move around while I'm driving. A bed extender is a great place to strap the ramps, but you can find a bunch of ways to do this.
I like to use a few straps or bungee cords to secure anything else in the truck, like the ramps, stands, a tool box, etc. If you’ve done everything right, your bike won’t budge an inch while moving, even when you turn, accelerate, or hit the brakes. Now you can hit the road in confidence, knowing that your bike, and the rest of your cargo, isn't going anywhere without your permission!
(If all else fails...you can always just do this!)
Do you have any helpful tips you use to load your bike? Anything unique to certain types of motorcycles you can think of that will help someone else? Share it in the comments below!