No Trailer, No Problem: Here’s How to Properly Carry Your Motorcycle in Your Truck Bed

A secure bike is a happy bike.

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No Trailer, No Problem: Here’s How to Properly Carry Your Motorcycle in Your Truck Bed © No Trailer, No Problem: Here’s How to Properly Carry Your Motorcycle in Your Truck Bed

Folks, aside from my wife, my children, and writing about cars all day, there is nothing I love more than motorcycles. They offer freedom, camaraderie, lifelong friendships, and they’re singularly the best form of antidepressants I've ever experienced on the market. They can, however, be a pain to move—and I’m not talking about learning how to ride.

Just like cars, planes, and humans, motorcycles are subject to Earth’s laws of entropy. Parts break, transmissions seize, handlebars crack, and tires go flat. Furthermore, not all motorcycles are road legal, as is the case with the 2021 Honda CRF450RX in this article. Often, to get anywhere you can actually ride the dang thing, it needs to be transferred to a destination. And I don't want to go to jail because I was riding an unplated dirtbike.

(Disclosure: When Guides & Gear wanted to do a big series on motorcycle parts, riding methods, payload carrying, and a few other stories for two-wheeled lovers, Honda came through and sent us a 2021 Honda Ridgeline and CRF450RX to play with. Look for more stories soon.)

You can load it onto a motorcycle trailer, but those are expensive and annoying to store and drive. Another option is to hire a tow truck but that's impractical. But if you have a truck, you could toss it into the bed and payload carry it to your destination. And that's what we’ll be focusing on today, and we hope to have you slapping your two-wheeled pride and joy into the bed of your truck, strapping it down, and taking it there yourself.

Payload carrying a motorcycle can be intimidating. It not only involves your bike, but it also includes ramping your motorcycle into the bed, strapping it down, and heading out onto the open road with 300-900 pounds in the bed of your truck. It doesn’t have to be tough, though, as the right guidance from your favorite editors at The Drive can make it a very simple process. Let’s start with safety considerations. 

Estimated Time Needed: 10 minutes

Skill Level: Intermediate

Vehicle System: Truck bed

Working with your vehicle(s), especially in this case, can be dangerous. Things can go very wrong, and when working with the bed of your truck and a heavy motorcycle, you have the real possibility of a 300-pound pointy motorcycle falling on top of you.

We’re going to go over how to protect against as much potential danger as we can, but you can’t escape all of it. So, here’s what you need to know so you don’t die, get maimed, or lose a finger and help you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless — hopefully. 

I’m glad you asked! Your truck’s payload capacity varies from truck to truck and is determined by a variety of engineering factors. Most new trucks, even the mid-size ones such as the Honda Ridgeline I used for this story, have payload capacities of more than 1,200 pounds. The Ridgeline here has a payload capacity of 1,500 plus some change.

As for motorcycles, they range in weight from a scant 251 pounds with the Honda CRF450RX I’m using for this guide, to 370 pounds with my old Suzuki SV650. And that Harley-Davidson Road King you've been eyeing? Well, that sucker is more than 820 pounds without you on it. (If you want to know more about payload, you can read What Is Payload Capacity? It’s yet another good read by your favorite editors.)

We’re not psychic nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to secure your motorcycle to the bed of your truck.

Like I said above, organizing your gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the ratchet straps. Drop the four regular straps, one at each corner of the truck bed. Set the two motorcycle fork ratchet straps at the front of the bed near the cab. 

  • A topdown view. , <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Another bed angle., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • A look at the straps holding the bike down., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>

Here’s the point where we usually say, “You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage … yadda, yadda, yadda … Check your local laws … blah, blah, blah … we aren’t getting you out of jail.” That, however, isn’t always the best way to get a motorcycle into the back of a truck.

I’m going to go through two methods of loading your motorcycle into the bed. One makes it easier for you to load up the bike but isn’t always available. The other is slightly harder but is the far more common method.

Let’s do this! 

  • Hill loading made easy., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Another hill angle. , <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Looking into the bed from the hill. , <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Far easier to load and unload using a hill., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>

If you’re like me and have a spot on your property where there’s a slight hill and flat space beneath it big enough for your truck, you can use the incline to reduce the ramp’s angle for easier loading. Here’s how to begin:

  • Flat spot loading. , <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Ready to be loaded., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • Lining the bike up with the ramp., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>

Most people aren’t like me and don’t have a convenient hill nearby, so flat-surface loading is required. It doesn’t really change the process; you’re just increasing the angle of the ramp and making it slightly harder to get it into the bed of the truck. Here’s how to do it:

We’re going to start by strapping down the forks. 

Strapping the wheels down is fairly simple now that the forks are secure. 

  • Straps on the swingers. DonJonathon Klein' />
  • Another angle on the straps. , <i>Jonathon Klein</i>
  • DonJonathon Klein' />
  • Hooked into the bed tie-downs., <i>Jonathon Klein</i>

Strapping down the Swing-arm is fairly simple now that the front is set. 

Always perform a quick strap tension test before heading out. One may have loosened during another strap’s cinching, so a quick tug to ensure there’s still adequate tension on the strap is all you need to do. It saves you the headache of finding your bike has met an unfortunate end with the Kia Sorento that was tailgating you for the last 20 miles.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s time to get that thing off your truck. Once again, you have options based on your locale. Just like hill loading, hill unloading uses the topography to your advantage and reduces the angle of departure. Here’s how to unload your bike using a hill. 

Flat-surface unloading is as straightforward as flat-surface loading. Here’s how to do it:

The Guides & Gear editors have picked up a few tips and tricks in our nearly 20-year riding career. Here are our best-kept secrets. 

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

A: Please, please, please, don’t do that. Those trailers aren’t rated to hold your motorcycle’s weight. You’re endangering yourself, your bike, your car, and those around you when you do stuff like this. Use motorcycle-rated equipment.

A: If you’ve secured your motorcycle properly, i.e., all the straps are in their correct place and tensioned, you shouldn’t need to. Do I? Yeah, I do as it calms my overly cautious brain and reduces the risk of rolling backward. It’s overkill, but safety overkill isn’t bad.

A: How strong are you, and/or do you have friends?

A: Get some friends, give it a lift, and drop it in, but we aren’t helping you get it out.

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below, and let’s talk!

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