How To Load a Motorcycle into a Pickup Truck

How To -

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Loading a motorcycle into the back of a pickup truck can be surprisingly tricky. This basic guide to the process should help you through it.

Supplies You’ll Need:
- Motorcycle Tie-Down Straps
- Motorcycle Ramp
- An able-bodied buddy.

Steps:
1. Park on a firm, level surface and clear your truck’s bed of any flotsam or jetsam that could cause you to slip.
2. Unfold the ramp and place the rubber edge on top of the tailgate’s lip.
3. Secure the ramp using a tie-down connected to it and the truck.
4. Place the bike in neutral and it up with the ramp.
5. While you hold the bike’s handlebars from the left side, have your friend push from the rear, applying pressure to a part of the bike that can take the weight.
6. Get the bike as high as you’re comfortable with, apply the front brake, then have your friend climb into the bed and pull the bike the rest of the way in.
7. Attach the straps above (very important) the suspension and to tie-down points on each side of the front wheel. Brace the front wheel on the front of the bed.
8. take the slack out of the tie-downs as the bike is completely upright.
9. Bounce the suspension as your friend pulls the tie downs equally tight, the bike should remain securely upright when you’re done, but should have some of its suspension travel remaining to absorb bumps during the trip.
10. Consider securing the rear wheel with another tie-down if it seems as if it might shift during the trip.
11. Check on the bike periodically or when you stop for gas to make sure it remains secure.

Notes:
1. Do not lower the side stand once the bike is loaded.
2. Compressing the suspension fully could damage your bike.
3. If the bike shifts during travel, don’t panic. Find a safe place to pull over and re-secure it, maybe a a little tighter or more evenly this time.
4. The tailgates on some trucks can’t handle the weight of large or multiple bikes. Consult your owner’s manual to figure out how much they can hold.
5. It can be a good idea to securely chain your motorcycle to your truck when parked to prevent it from being stolen.

Do you have any tips or tricks you can add? Tell us in comments below.

  • drivin98

    So, don’t just drive it up the ramp then?

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaroncsberg Aaron Berg

      if it’s running, why would it be going in a truck? hahaha

      • Kevin

        Track day, for one.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Not unless you’re name is Jamie Robinson

      • http://www.facebook.com/aaroncsberg Aaron Berg

        yeah, if you have a problem half way, it ends in tears.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brett.lewis3 Brett Lewis

      I’ve done it a couple dozen times. No biggie but it is a little scary the first time or two.

  • Chris Davis

    Best tie down accessory in my book is a Canyon Dancer or similar apparatus. This is particularly true for sportbikes where the fairings would otherwise come into contact with the straps, particularly if you’re hauling two bikes.
    I like ratchet tie downs to save on the hassle of jumping on the bike to compress the suspension, but good point mentioning that you can overdo the tightness.
    Lastly, a step stool or even your toolbox can make good step to get into the bed. Best solution though is another ramp to walk up.
    Cool that you got Sean Gosling to do the vid.

    • therubbersidedown

      My favorite trick for bikes with fairings that will contact the straps is to strap down the front end using the lower triple clamp. Usually if you loop the strap around the triple and back down to your tie down point it will force the strap away from the plastic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fetherston Chris Fetherston

    Some tips I use:

    1) Two ramps, one to walk up, one for the bike. Put the bike in first gear and power walk it up the ramp while walking beside the bike as if you were pushing it around the garage. Have a friend spot the high-side. Secure BOTH ramps to the truck.

    2) Smaller bikes you can swing the rear tire out to the left or right and close the gate

    3) If you do this regularly, build a front wheel chalk to reinforce the front of your pickup bed. Pickup beds can bend after a few trips without reinforcement.

    4) If it’s carbureted, or doesn’t have a vacuum petcock, turn the fuel off. Vibration from transit can cause the fuel to leak out of the carb overflows.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      excellent additions!

  • Trevor Stepan

    Nice job Sean! This is probably common sense, but I’ve made this mistake before, because I was in a hurry to unload my bike… If you can, reverse up to an inclined driveway to decrease the angle on the ramp. I cracked my sportbike’s bottom fairing on the lip.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Yeah, we looked for an incline so I could illustrate that but couldn’t find anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darranrwilson Darran Wilson

    The hipster look cancels out all the valid knowledge…

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      Cool. Thanks for the input.

    • http://www.facebook.com/davidabl.blankenhorn Davidabl Blankenhorn

      Actually it suggests that if they can do it anybody can do it.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Damn kids these days, with their motorcycles and trucks and knowledge and stuff.

    • JP

      I knew how to load motorcycles into trucks before it was cool. Thanks for the video Sean. This is something I always wondered about and you did a good job explaining it in the video.

    • Justin Turner

      Sorry about your penis.

  • Kevin

    Nice GT1000, gonna get one of those someday, when I have a bigger garage.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      and it sounds better than it looks.

  • GT

    At 120lbs in my younger days I’d frequently load sport bikes single
    handed by backing the truck up to a small hill or sometimes into a lower
    area like a small drain. Allows you to roll right into the truck bed no fuss.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      a great option when you have a nice incline nearby

    • Andrew Poon

      good tip. even backing up against a sidewalk curb and bringing the bike from the curb level makes a huge difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Wood/100000972873153 Bryan Wood

    What? Stop 1/2 way up? With the front brake? You know on an incline with all the weight on the wheel its likely the front wheel will just slide. You need to get it up the ramp in one shot, otherwise you run the risk of it tumbling over while 1/2 way up. Momentum is your friend, as long as you have an actual human friend in the bed of the truck to catch it before it slams the front wheel into the rear of the cab.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      a great option if you have a 3rd person handy. I’ve never had a front wheel come close to slipping, and would much rather stop half way up than over extend myself beyond where I feel I can control the bike.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Wood/100000972873153 Bryan Wood

        Once you get some practice you can take a run at the truck and hop up as the bike crests the top of the ramp. That’s the best way to do it, and the only way if you don’t have any friends. All it takes is dropping one 1/2 way up, and you will never look at it the same way again.

        So your ramp folds in the middle? And you attached the tie down to the lower half, below the fold? It can still fold that way.

        Also, you borrowed what may be the worst truck for street bike hauling. 1) Its got the jacked up 4 x 4 Baja TRD suspension, to make loading harder. 2) Its got the extra short bed. Hauling a street bike with the rear wheel on the tailgate for any length of time leads to banana shaped tailgates.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          Attaching the tie down is to keep the ramp held tight against the truck, but you bring up a good point that attaching above the fold would help with that as well.

  • smokin88lx

    I’ve heard this other places but never explained. How are you going to blow out your suspension if you tighten it down too much? You “hit a huge bump” in the truck it has to go through the trucks suspension before it gets to the bikes forks therefore would be softer than if you hit the same bump if you were riding the bike down the road. Also I’ve bottomed out hard on my bike in a construction zone and messed up the steering head bearings and my forks didn’t blow out. I can’t see how a bike in a pickup bed is going to take a hit like that without doing some damage to the truck.

    So has anyone blown out their forks from strapping them too tight?

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      but if you were riding the bike down the road, the forks would not already be fully compressed so it would be like taking that jump (even into soft sand) with zero give in the forks.

      and the answer to your question is yes (though luckily not at this publication).

      but again, this is just a precaution we take because we have to load and unload so many bikes that do not belong to us.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.berndt.73 Jonathan Berndt

        nah thats being over cautious! ive been loading my own bikes by myself for 20 years.
        first i can compress the front end with the same tie downs you are using, without having a helper compress the forks (never a bad idea to have a second helper for loading and ill always use one if available!) its not hard to do.

        second, while i never completely compress em, i cinch them right down, and i have never blow a seal, even transporting a 748 from Massachusetts to Texas, ive never heard of anyone blowing a seal during transport and if they did, ill wager the seal was shot to begin with.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mitchel.durnell Mitchel Durnell

      To add to what Sean said, inside the forks are springs and fork oil; compression works the springs and increases the psi of the oil against all the parts of the fork, including the seals. Over cranking them down has little stability benefit and is needlessly hard on the forks.

  • worker88

    What are the pros/cons of sidestand use? I always leave mine down in a truck or flatbed tow truck.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      If you hit something in the road and the bike bounces around, it can damage your truck bed. Plus, it’s just unnecessary and you can forget its down and it’s just better if you can make it a habit of leaving that step out.

      Again, we’re being nit picky here and I’m sure you’ve never had an issue, it’s just what we recommend.

  • Nathan Wiley

    I load bikes completely different from this. First, I always ride my bike up the ramp rather than try to push. I have much better balance on the bike than I do on the ground with the bike above my head. You guys in the video looked like you were close to dumping it, maybe not, but it looked sketchy. This is where those slow speed clutch skills that every rider should possess come in handy. Second, I actually put the tiedowns upsidedown to what most people do. This way when I’m loading the bike by myself (which is always), I can set the loose hook on top of the bed which can be reached from the saddle. Then after I hook up to the bars I can pull the tiedown towards myself (still sitting on the bike) while compressing the forks. Works like a charm. More than one way to skin a cat etc, etc.

    Post script. The tiedowns that have a carabiner on one end are the greatest invention since the tiedown.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      I knew making this that people would have lots of variations. If you have the skill to ride it up and are willing to risk the consequences, more power to you; but when asked to make a video for the lowest common denominator (of intelligence and ability) this is what I thought was best.

      The only reason it looked a little sketchy was because we did it at my photographer friend’s house and used our other friend and his bike, and he had never loaded his bike before. He got confused when I grabbed the front brake and told him to get in the truck and he kept pushing on the back of the bike while I had the brakes locked up. I had full control of the bike the whole time.

      Switching the ties is definitely a great adaptation for when you are securing a bike yourself, as is finding an incline to back up to as so many people have suggested.

    • http://www.facebook.com/OMG.Awesome Clint Keener

      Riding a dirtbike up a ramp, yea.

      See the video of the guy who tried to ride the Harley up a ramp, got wheelspin, and fell off?

      • Nathan Wiley

        That same rider would probably fall off coming up my driveway. Are you from the same school that says it’s safer to walk your bicycle through an intersection than ride it?

        • Kr Tong

          I’d agree with you if your ramp had the grip of chip-seal and didn’t have a 2.5 foot drop on either side. I’ve loaded and unloaded lots of bikes without any ramp. I’m not gonna attempt to walk someone through how though.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yeah, this is terrible advice. Great that it works for you, but it’s both dangerous and not applicable for most bikes/truck/people/conditions.

      • Nathan Wiley

        I’ve loaded countless dirtbikes, Honda St1300, V-Strom 1000, SV650, RF600, and even a Goldwing by RIDING them up my ramp. I guess I’m just living on the edge huh?

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          If it works for you, great. If someone’s watching a video on how to load a bike and hoping to get real, material advice, not so great.

          The rest of you: please don’t ever even try this.

          • http://nathanwiley.smugmug.com/ Nathan Wiley

            If fact, don’t ride motorcycles at all, WAY too dangerous. If one feels they can’t ride a motorcycle safely up a ramp, they probably shouldn’t ride one down the road at speed.

            Wes, I find your sudden stance as the be all, end all well of motorcycle knowledge laughable.

          • Jeff McCabe

            Yeah, I’m with Nathan. I’ve done it for 30 years. It never occurred to me not to do it. What are people doing to make it dangerous? Burnouts on the ramp? Inability to ride in a straight line for 10 feet? Stopping 1/2 way up and suddenly realizing theres no place to put your feet? I dont get it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brett.lewis3 Brett Lewis

        Some of the things I’ve seen on this site, and riding a bike up a ramp is dangerous?

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          risk vs (possible) reward my friend.

  • http://twitter.com/KeyserBroze JB

    The best part about this video is that you guys finally have an independent rideapart channel on YouTube. No longer will I have to sift through all that automotive nonsense to see the videos! Congratulations, guys.

  • http://twitter.com/pinkyracr Susanna Schick

    I love my Joe Hauler cuz I can load it all by my lonesome. Same with a van. That’s the bummer about trucks, they’re too high, so it can be tricky loading a bike solo. I like to use the motor to help get it up, and start from a couple feet back for momentum. But that requires good throttle control. ;-)

  • Emmet

    I’ve been loading bikes for years and I still learned a few tricks (I’ve always used ratchet straps) from that video. Thanks!

    I’d suggest using the clutch as a dead man’s brake while in first gear-be on the left side of the bike and let out the clutch if you see the need to stop the bike. You really have to be careful of the rear tire from sliding and the ramp must be secure. Only use this if you’re unloading from a low vehicle where you’d step down alongside the bike.

    Since I drive a lifted 4×4 van, I have to use two ramps to load my dirtbike: a wooden board ramp for the bike and a wide aluminum ramp to walk up on. The aluminum ramp allows you to keep alongside the bike and step into the van with the bike (I can load my dirtbike solo this way). Use grip tape on wooden ramps for added security-nothing sucks more than have to manually apply brakes ABS-style (“Oh, what’s that? You’re trying to line those tires up with me? Too bad-down she goes!” Wooden Ramp says).

    I put the bike in gear but that’s a moot point since the bike isn’t going anywhere. Not sure that’s an effective tip now that I think about it…

    Last tip, Harbor Freight sells a really cheap wheel chock that works great.

  • Isambard

    This method seems adequate if you have help and drive carefully. But with a little more equipment (and expense), it’s easy to load and unload on your own and have peace of mind, however fast and far you drive.

    I use a front wheel chock that is bolted with quick release bolts to the truck bed; a Canyon Dancer to tie down the front end; and a “tyre down” strap on the back wheel. I use tuff rails to anchor the straps front and rear.

    It might sound like overkill but the bike ain’t moving an inch, however fast I go, stop or turn in my truck. I’m confident it wouldn’t even budge in an accident.

    The chock is set to fit the front wheel perfectly, so it holds the bike upright on its own while I strap it down. I can just run the bike up the ramp and into the chock in one step. The ‘tyre down’ stops the bike from doing a stoppie in the truck bed if you have to sit on the brakes, and, unlike the method shown above, it doesn’t load the rear suspension. It’s probably enough to hold the bike on its own. I highly recommend it.

    http://www.v2mal.com/tyredown/product/58

    The Tuffrail allows you to anchor the tie-downs wherever you want. They are incredibly strong and well made. Also recommended.

    http://www.tuffrail.com/

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      These are all fantastic additions that anyone who transports a bike regularly should look into. This How-To was just intended to be more for people who have no idea than those who are concerned with the BEST way to do something.

  • Eric Shay

    I have a little 2wd ranger, I have always parked bikes diagonally, two straps to the triple trees, and one looped through the back tire with the tailgate up. You might not have the right angle on the front straps, but I like the comfort of having the gate closed.

    • Isambard

      I got a Ranger with a 7 foot bed for exactly this reason. It’s a shame nobody makes a small truck with a long bed anymore. Even a standard full size truck has only a 6.5 foot bed.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        The Tacoma we borrowed for this video has a 5ft bed.

        • Isambard

          Yeah I’ve seen enough buckled tailgates and scare stories that I’d be wary using a short-bed truck to regularly haul anything heavier than a dirt bike. I’ve seen some Tacoma owners reinforce the tailgate with diamond plate, which probably helps.

  • Kr Tong

    Only thing I can think of adding to “tips” is you never need more than three tie downs. More than that and you’re usually entering murky territory.

    How to videos I was thinking of:

    How to *securely* tie down one or two sets of tires to your motorcycle without damaging your bike’s paint.

    How to save money on takeoffs (on second thought I don’t want people knowing)

    How to lose money on takeoffs

    How to set up your ergos

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      explain to me how the set up in the video got “murky” by adding the 4th tie down….

      • Kr Tong

        I wasn’t commenting on the video. Too many tie downs usually means you’re worried it’ll fall over, because your first three were connected in bad spots. Chances are if you need more than 3 it’ll fall over anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mitchel.durnell Mitchel Durnell

    Sometimes the rear wheel will not end up where you want it to after loading. In this case, at least for sportbikes, stand over the rear and grab one of the wheel spokes with your hands. Pull the spoke upward to rotate the tire, pushing left or right as needed. This reduces the overall strength needed to move the rear, as the tire rolling even slightly lets it slide against the truck bed or trailer surface.

  • http://www.facebook.com/damiengaudet Damien Gaudet

    That is a beautiful bike.

  • Brian

    My experience comes from 1 major sticking point. How long is the bike travelling in the bed/trailer/or other conveyance? If it is only a few miles or under an hour, sure this is fine IMHO. When travelling long distance though, I use a Baxley Sport chock in the bed for the front wheel. I then use ratching straps around the lower portion of the fork leg to the lower forward portions of where you are anchoring the bike as pictured here -> http://www.mad-ducati.com/Technical/TieDownCAE/FrontLeft2S.jpg ( pictures used are not my bike, but from the persons I learned this technique) and one wrapped around the rear wheel -> http://www.mad-ducati.com/tiedown/dscn1039s.jpg . These are used to secure the bike from forward and rearward movement and keep it secured low to the floor. I then use an additional tie down to keep the bike from swaying laterally. When doing this, the bike rides naturally on its own suspension absorbing the road bumps and anomalies and driveway easements and other movements that would pitch or roll the bike around when jarring it.

  • Sergei Petrov

    you can use the engine to power up the ramp and milk crate as a step and get it in there by yourself….

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      you can.

      but if you make a video about how to load a bike into the back of a truck and that’s the method you teach, the dropped-bike-gods haunt you in your sleep.

      if it works for you, more power to ya.

  • Andrew Poon

    GREAT article! but just a warning for anyone with a Tacoma… the 4 upper rail hooks (the spring loaded ones that slide along the upper length of the bed) that were used in this vid are complete garbage. they torque like crazy depending on the angle of force and i’ve seen them fail. best to add D-rings to the 4 large floor bed bolts or a back rack as proper and secure tie down points.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      i didn’t touch those upper rail hooks….

      • Andrew Poon

        my bad :) i watched on an iphone

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          no problem. i just had the same thoughts about those hooks and was very glad the truck also had d rings bolted to the bottom to use. those moveable hooks are really only good for big, light things where more points of contact with the truck are needed.

  • Porter

    Nothing to add. But I’d like to emphasize the importance of tying down the excess straps. My pops accidentally left one loose strap when he was trailering his show bike several years ago. Four hours of a nylon strap slapping at a high frequency against the side of the gas tank removed a lot of the clear coat from about a 2 inch section of the tank. Loose straps is bad juju, friends.

  • http://www.theratchetshop.com/ John G

    Brilliant tips, it is very important that you do have the correct equipment when loading and transporting a motorbike. Using good quality ratchet and tie down straps is vital too.

  • Gabe Tower

    Awesome vid. Thanks!