At the start of the year, I decided I wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. So me and my wife went and took the MSF course and got our motorcycle endorsements. After that, we purchased motorcycles and modified a trailer to haul them around with. Here are all the details
We settled on getting some BMW F750 GS bikes
The white bike is mine, and I got it delivered to my house from a dealership out of state, and we found the blue one at a dealership around the corner. Since we were both VERY new riders, we did not want to ride it home. So the dealership used their ramp and loading hill to easily get the bike into the my truck.
Here is how it arrived home.
At first I assumed I could transport both bikes in the back of my truck easily. But it was a huge hassle getting this bike out. So we decided we needed to get a trailer if we want to move the bikes around.
Where we live, if we want to get anywhere outside of the neighborhood, we have to drive through some really big horrible roads. We decided we would be much better off taking the bikes to practice areas and training on a trailer, instead of attempting to ride them there.
Choosing The Trailer
My first idea was to get a pre-made motorcycle trailer like this
But, they all have HORRIBLE reviews. And for $4000, you don't get much trailer. You can pretty much only haul motorcycles on these and nothing else.
So I started looking for "real" trailers. I'd love an enclosed trailer, but where I need to pull it to store it has a height limit, so it was a non-starter. Aluminum trailers seemed to get very good reviews, but I could not find any ones locally of a good size for a reasonable price. So I started looking at regular steel utility trailers which can be found everywhere.
First, I looked at the brand Big Tex which is very popular here. They seem to get mixed reviews though, so I looked for alternatives. What I soon learned is that there just isn't too much trailer choice around at the moment, a lot of stores are completely out of stock of popular trailers, and a lot of the brands people suggest are regional to their area, and without an 8 hour drive, are impossible to get.
So, I settled on getting a Big Tex trailer. There is a dealership not too far away and I could just go grab one and bring it home. I first decided on the 12ft 35SA trailer. Its a single axle trailer and can haul around 2500lbs, which is plenty for my bikes.
The downsides are though that this trailer has no brakes. At the weight I am towing, it shouldn't be an issue though.
But when we got to the dealership, we realized that the dual axle trailer that is identical to this was just $1000 more, had brakes and had almost double the payload. So, we ended up with a 12ft 60PI trailer for about $3500 out the door. This is already under the price of some of the junk pre-made motorcycle trailers.
With a trailer that can now haul double the capacity, it really opens up what we can do with the trailer. I also thought it would be best to have the dual axles as it makes a flat tire less catastrophic.
I did also opt for the spare that mounts on the side.
Modifying The Trailer
Next with some research and trial and error, we modified the trailer to haul the 2 bikes, in a way that can be easily undone to haul something else.
The first thing we did is get some wheel chocks. We got them on Amazon, but the same ones are available at Harbor Freight
The assembly instructions were terrible, but we got there.
After getting them together, I tested them with a bike
As you can see, they hold the bike up just fine without the use of the stand. This is exactly what we wanted, as we wanted to be able to ride the bikes in and keep them upright while we tie them down.
We put them on the trailer and blocked them in with wood so they wouldn't move, and found they worked very well. We were also able to measure and figure out where we wanted them
We got them spaced far enough apart that the handlebars don't touch, and placed on the trailer they are well balanced but still provide enough tongue weight for the trailer to be stable at high speeds. We just eyeballed this without a hitch scale, and its worked out great.
Next we had to figure out how to attach them, and what other attachment points we wanted.
On each side of the chocks is an eye bolt which you strap the motorcycle to. These are extremely rough and small, and I do not trust them.
So instead, I decided it would be a better idea to get some much heavier duty eye bolts. I also got very long bolts, as I decided I could go all the way through the chocks, through the boards on the trailer and into the frame. This would mean the chocks are not responsible at all for this attachment, and it would hold the chocks at the same time. Here is what I bought
I bought a whole bunch of them, as I wasn't yet sure where I wanted additional tie downs.
Next I drilled out the threads in the chocks to fit the new eye bolts
Then, I drilled all the way through the boards in the trailer and through the frame rails, so they could be bolted directly to that
I did this for all 4, and the spacing just happened to be perfect
Since this has worked so well, I went ahead and added 3 more. One in the middle of the 2 bikes, and one each side of the bikes so that I could tie them down from the center also
This hole above lined up with a screw they used to hold the board, so I just removed the screw and made the hole bigger, and put the eye bolt in. The outside 2 had enough space away from the screws to not need their removal.
Then, I did the same thing with the rear end of the chocks. I drilled all the way through the frame with some 5/16 bolts I got from Home Depot. The holes never lined up, so I made my own.
Because the boards were not completely flat, I had to use washers to get the chocks level. I didn't want them angled inwards to offset the balance of the bikes or have the handles touch.
Here is the end result
And here is a comparison of the eye bolts they wanted me to use. I much prefer my idea of bolting them through the frame
I took the trailer for its first test down the road to get my inspection for my registration.
It worked well, but on the way there one of the straps on the right hand side of the bike at the rear came completely loose. I corrected it and came back, and it yet again came loose. The front straps were also slightly loose when I got home.
These were the straps, I would not recommend them. They are too light duty, and they come loose easily. I returned them eventually.
I decided that I should have some more attachment points at the rear of the bike, so that I can have some more redundancy in my tie downs.
I purchased these tie town hooks
I attached them either side of the trailer, and in the middle.
For these I used grade 5 bolts from Home Depot, and sprayed them black.
In the middle, I again used the 5/16 bolts I used for the back of the chocks and went through the frame. I also (Poorly) recessed the hook so that it could fold completely flat. The paint job is not my best.
But, from 10ft it looks fine.
You may not be able to tell from the close-up, but I drilled a few small holes in each corner of this pocket I dug out, so that water can drain and not sit in and rot the wood.
I bought some new Extreme Max straps to test, and took the bikes for a second trip. These were the straps I bought.
I used a set of these on the very back, some of the Stanley Straps in the middle and some old Husky straps on the front.
Here are some pictures from the second test, the first time with both bikes. I attached them where I saw fit and went on the highway to a parking lot to practice our riding.
The trailer did great, and the bikes stayed behind us
When we got back, I did notice some issues. Yet again the Stanley straps came loose!
And the rear straps got a bit scuffed from where I put them here on the luggage rack
Other than that, everything worked well, and the bikes made it home with no issue. The trailer tracked perfectly on the highway with no sway
I was VERY happy to have the dual axle trailer with brakes. At this point I could not actually use the brakes, as while my truck had all the towing features, it was missing the trailer brake controller. I could tell that I was stopping the truck and trailer, and really would feel better with the brakes.
I ordered the trailer brake controller for $150 on Amazon and put it in, and it was an immediate improvement.
I also realized how much of a pain it is using the manual jack handle to lift the trailer every time, so I corrected that problem
"Electric" trailer Jack
I looked online, and electric trailer jacks are expensive. So I took the handle off and found it was very close to being 12mm. So, I ground it down and smacked a spare 12mm socket onto the shaft. My plan is to weld this socket on.
Even without welding it and just friction, it worked great using my M18 drill to operate the jack. I tried an impact driver, but it was VERY loud and shook the jack like you wouldn't believe.
Now I knew that worked, I went ahead and welded it onto the shaft and gave it a coat of paint
I ordered another few sets of the Extreme Max straps, as well as a set of cheaper straps for the middle of the bike
These also have the clips in the hook, so they can't come off the attachment points even if they came loose.
My reason for not getting a third set of Extreme Max straps, is that the center straps need to be very short, and the Extreme Max Straps do not work for that because of the minimum length required because of the box stitching on the loops.
The other reason is that I now have some redundancy. Even if all of these cheaper straps fail, the bikes are secure with the Extreme Max straps. And if all of the Extreme Max straps fail, the bike is secure with the chock and these cheaper straps.
I also built some redundancy into the tiedowns. Even if all the Eye bolts fail, the bikes are secure with the chock, and the black hooks on the rear. And if all the black hooks on the rear fail, the eye bolts and shocks secure the bike. And even if the chocks fail, the eye bolts running all the way through them, paired with the other eye bolts and black hooks, will secure the bikes.
Here are some pictures of the end result. As you can see I moved where I attach some of the ratched straps
So far I've taken the bikes out at least 10 times, at not once has any of the straps even been slightly loose when we get to where we are going. Since my end goal is to be able to drive the bikes somewhere far like Big Bend National park, I'm very happy with the outcome.
There is some more though
As I mentioned I want to tow these to far away, remote parks like Big Bend. I figured I would asses the situation with the spare tire in my truck.
What I found is that the spare tire is actually 3 inches smaller than the tires on my truck. The spare is the OEM wheel and tire, and the wheels and tires on my truck are also OEM. Furthermore, the owners manual states not to put the spare on the Front Axle of the truck for stability reasons, and it states that towing with a dissimilar sized rear tire will damage the rear diff, and will void your warranty....
So, I found 3 wheels and tires that match my truck exactly, for a grand total of $350.
It fits in the spare tire well with no issue. As you can see these don't have a whole lot of tread, but as a spare they are fine. Next time I get tires, I'll just get 5.
Now if I'm driving in the middle of nowhere, I really don't have to worry about a flat. And I could even take a second spare with me if I wanted to!
When I got the trailer, I got the Harbor Freight Trailer Dolly
It seemed to work okay, but after just a few uses, it got a bit cross-eyed
The wheels themselves would bend and crack where the hub met the rim.
I took it back and got another, and it did the same. I bit the bullet and got the all Aluminum Aqua Cart dolly, which has been fantastic
The dolly is fairly important, as I have to drag the trailer about 150ft to the back of my yard to store it
My next project will be to add some kind of rubber stop to the gate. It is no fun hearing it clank and scrape on the ground when loading the bikes, and its already worn off the paint and started to rust.
Another thing I am looking to do is get some kind of storage box for the front. Then I could store the straps etc in there. But finding the right one has been tough
Finally, I will eventually get under the trailer and tack weld all of the nuts in place. This will let me easily remove all the motorcycle stuff to use the trailer for something else, without having to crawl under the trailer.
That's all! Hopefully it was a good read.