Our readers are some of the awesomest motorcyclists out there. Karl Steinmeyer is a custom motorcycle trailer builder, and a do-good’er motorcyclist too. He put together the 50 gallon whiskey barrel motorcycle trailer, shared the plans for making your own motorcycle trailer freely on bikerMetric, wrote us his best motorcycle trailering tips, and now he’s back to share a little more info.
The design of a motorcycle makes it difficult to carry any sort of load. Options exist, such as saddle bags, tank bags, sissy bar bags, or using the back seat, but these can be unsafe if the extra weight is not well distributed. Items being carried can be damaged by handling and there will be extra pressure on the vehicle. A sidecar is suitable for carrying an extra passenger and it can be used for transportation of goods, but a motorcycle trailer makes things so much easier.
A growing number of motorcyclists now prefer to pull a trailer than to use a sidecar for carrying luggage or equipment on a ride. A motorcycle trailer is much better for weight distribution and it provides greater loading capacity than the back seat of a motorcycle, which is obviously not designed to carry boxes. On a long road trip there is always a problem with where to put luggage, which is not easy to secure to the back seat or for a passenger to keep hold of. Pulling a motorcycle trailer is the best way to meet this challenge.
Trailers have become increasingly popular in recent years, for long and short trips where items need to be transported. It’s very easy to connect a trailer with a motorcycle and, with correct loading, you will get full integration and a good quality pull.
Using a Motorcycle Trailer
Anyone who regularly rides a motorcycle will benefit from having a spacious trailer. For work purposes or when you want to go on a road trip, a trailer can be used to transport luggage, equipment, tools or essential supplies.
Moving home or changing office location is much easier when a motorcycle trailer is available. Items that could not be legally transported on the back seat can safely loaded onto a motorcycle trailer. The side of a trailer can also be used to advertise a business, and all the supplies, samples or tools needed for that business can be carried inside the trailer.
Choosing a Motorcycle Trailer
Trailers come in all shapes and sizes, so there are many different types to choose from for your motorcycle. For the best performance,look for a trailer with the biggest tire height and with wheels that come with high-speed bearings. Trailer tires must comply with highway regulations and should be soft enough not to cause any damage when pulled over grassy areas.
Other features to look for in a new trailer include a hitch assembly that weighs more than the rest of the trailer, and an axle with a long enough tongue. Cornering is better with an axle tongue of more than 1-3. Anything shorter than that will mean that the axle does not function well.
Also check that the trailer you choose has an overhang at the end for easier loading, but the overhang should not be too big, or it could be scraping the ground after loading the trailer.
Buying a low-cost trailer that is not of good quality could result in having to spend more money over time, because you will be paying a lot more for maintenance and for replacement parts. Buying a trailer that is of good quality is a much better option.It will mean less maintenance and fewer replacement costs.
Hitching a Motorcycle Trailer
It’s not difficult to hitch a trailer to a motorcycle. The trailer should be hitched at the same level as the hub on the rear wheel and with enough space between the back wheel and the trailer, so nothing can touch the wheel or impede it when it rotates.
There should be absolutely no movement on the hitch when it’s connected to four sturdy points on the motorcycle. Obviously, the connection must never be made to a moving part, such as the swing arm, shock absorbers, drive shaft or any suspension component.
Trailer Pulling Tips for Beginners
1. Look in your motorcycle manual for the total weight allowance and figure out the weight you can carry in the trailer in addition to the weight of the rider and of any passenger.
2. Always check that the trailer is correctly loaded. This is the most important issue when pulling a trailer, because of how the weight distribution will affect the handling of a motorcycle. The brakes and the tires will also be affected by the loading of the trailer. Over a period of time your motorcycle components will wear out faster if the trailer is not loaded right.
3. Make an extra effort to keep straight when pulling a trailer. Each time the motorcycle moves off there will be a side force created by the hitch and a natural tendency for the trailer to pull the motorcycle over towards one side. It is important, therefore,to drive as straight as possible, in particular when you are starting off and when you are coming to a stop.
4. Avoid fast turns. You want everything to flow together when you are pulling a motorcycle trailer. The one thing to be avoided is making a fast turn.
Always use a safety chain when you are pulling a motorcycle trailer. This will prevent the trailer from breaking free in the event of an accident that breaks a hitch. In some states it is a legal requirement to use a cable or safety chain when pulling a trailer. Even when this is not required by local laws, it could prevent someone from being seriously harmed by a runaway trailer.
The safety chain should not be too long. If it is, then the trailer tongue will hit the ground when a hitch breaks. Try carrying out a ‘drop test’. This will show you what would happen and, if necessary, you will be able to make sure that the safety chain is adjusted to the right length.
It is important to carry out a regular inspection check to ensure that the trailer tires and the high-speed bearings are all in good order. After a lot of use these will begin to wear out and a trailer inspection will show you when they need to be replaced.