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 Motorcycle Safety
 General Discussion
 Towing a trailer
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17358 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 03/15/2007 :  4:36 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like
I don't, and never have, towed a trailer behind a motorcycle. Motorcycles are not made to do that. Yes, I know of lots of tourers that have hitches on their bikes and when they travel they often tow a trailer. That is not an insignificant number of those tourers. I think it's close to 20% of the people I have ridden with on overnighters or camp outs pull trailers.

Well, I'm not going to challenge them - they do what they do and most of them are excellent riders who understand safety and behave themselves out on the road. But I would like to learn a few things from them - or you, if you have that experience.

Mostly I'd like to understand handling characteristics. I would also like to know about maintenance.

So, here are a few questions I'd like feedback on, if you will.

1. Trailers do not have their own set of brakes. That means you WILL increase your stopping distance and time in an emergency stop situation (the added weight is NOT carried on the motorcycle tires.) But beyond that, what happens to the motorcycle when you do a panic stop maneuver? Does the front-end dive more or less than it does without that trailer?

2. I understand how to chain a trailer to a bike (crossing them under the tongue) but I do not understand about the hitch itself. I understand how the ball of the hitch is captured by the receiver on the trailer, but I cannot imagine that receiver having the degrees of freedom needed when the bike is leaned over sharply in a tight turn. Indeed, I can well imagine that a trailer would physically prevent a bike from leaning as far as you might need it to lean as that receiver jams against the stem of the ball hitch. Is that right?

3. Do you have to grease that ball and, if not, does rust inhibit or effect the handling of the trailer?

4. Though rarely, I have seen trailers sway back and forth while a bike continues traveling in a straight line. What causes that and what can be done to prevent it?

5. How significantly does pulling a trailer affect your gasoline mileage?

6. What wear and tear to your tires, clutch and transmission do you attribute to the fact that you pull a trailer?

7. What, besides the obvious cost of the trailer and having a hitch mounted on the bike are the hidden costs associated with having a trailer?

8. What, besides the obvious cargo carrying benefits do you get from pulling a trailer?

9. What maintenance is required of the wheels/tires on a trailer?

10. Does your motorcycle insurance cover damage to or caused by the trailer, and does it include the contents of that trailer?

Niebor
Ex-Member

Posted - 03/15/2007 :  5:18 PM
James, another forum I'm active on has many members that pull trailers. Mind if I duplicate your post there?
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17358 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 03/15/2007 :  5:52 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Not at all.
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Gs82Seca650
Male Advanced Member
1990 Posts
[Mentor]


Southern, PA
USA

Yamaha

1982 XJ 650 R Seca

Posted - 03/16/2007 :  6:20 AM
James,

As a life-long RV'er, I have towed many trailers. I have never done so with a motorcycle, but I can answer some of your trailer specific questions.

1) Some trailes DO have their own brakes, they are electric type brakes. Most larger RV's have them and I would guess that some of the larger trailers designed to be towed by a MC would probably have them as well. You need an electric brake controller to actuate the electric brakes.

2) Based on my understanding you are correct. The ball/tongue would prevent you from leaning over as far as you normally would or could in a turn, extra care would absolutely be needed.

3) This is an issue of wide debate. All my life I have greased the ball, I feel it is very important to prevent binding and prolong the life of the ball and trailer tongue. The grease should be wiped off and clean grease applied every few trips to make sure it does not get dirt/sand embedded in it.

4) Trailer sway can be caused by lots of issues, some preventable, some not. On larger trailers and travel trailers (like I own) there are "anti sway" hitches which securly tie the trailer to the tow vehicle. Sway can also be caused by under-inflated trailer tires. As a general rule, you should ALWAYS inflate the trailer tires to the maximum stated cold pressure. If you do not, and you load heavy, the tires can overheat and fail. The tires on the towing vehicle are also important. If you have tires with thin (IE sidewalls with only a few plies) there is more lateral flex in those and less stability to prevent sway. I just replaced the tires on my K1500 Silverado. I went with LOAD RANGE E tires for it, for the added stability when towing. Sway is also many times induced when a large vehicle passes you and the "dam" of air they are pushing hits you and the trailer. You should ALWAYS drive/ride at a reduced speed when towing.

5) Towing cuts down on fuel economy greatly depding on the TV (towing vehicle) My Gas powered Silverado gets about 15mpg average when not towing and about 5-8 when towing. Diesels do better in that department, but I would expect similar results when towing with a motorcycle.

6) This is all going to depend on just how much towing you are doing. There would be more wear to the drivetrain, tires, brakes, ect, but if you stay within the weight limits of your vehicle you should be ok. A very gerenic rule is to take the towing capacity of your TV and the GVWR of the trailer. The GVWR should be NO MORE than 80% of the towing capacity for the TV for good reliability and longevity of the TV.

7) For smaller trailers, I don't know of many hidden costs. Here in PA, Any trailer over 3K registered weight must be inspected annually. You have to think about where you are going to store your trailer. Can you store it at your house or do you have to rent a spot for it? Generally maintenance and annual registration on a trailer is not expensive, but again, that all depends on the size/weight of the trailer in question.

8) I am not sure what other benefits you get besides from added cargo capacity. I saw a few small pop-ups at the York RV show last weekend and there was one hooked up to a Harley E-Glide, so at least that one is specifically designed to be towed by a motorcycle. That added benefit would be not sleeping on the ground....LOL.

9) The "general rule" among us RV'er is that trailer tires should be replaced every 3 yrs irreguardless. You need to be VERY careful with the smaller trailer tires because they are prone to fail if you load them close to their weight carrying capacity. Remeber when you are going down the road at 55mph, those little 6" tires are really turning quickly and they do get HOT. The wheel bearings should be checked and re-packed with grease annually. Tire air pressures should be checked before each trip, along with the trailer lights, safety chains, hitch, ect.

10) My understanding is that while the trailer is hooked to your motorcycle, it is part of the motorcycle for LIABILITY only. You would need separate physical damage coverage (PD) to cover damage to the trailer.
Since I am a property claims rep, I can tell you that the trailer contents would be covered by most homeowner's insurance policies.

Any other questions please ask. I hope this helps.

-Greg

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Victory
Advanced Member
633 Posts
[Mentor]


Pawcatuck, CT
USA

Victory

10th Anny Vision

Posted - 03/16/2007 :  7:33 AM
I have never towed a trailer behind a bike and I know these are the people you are looking for. I have towed lots of other trailers but will not assume a comparison.

I know a rider that tows a trailer behind his bike. He searched the internet about doing it before buying it. One thing he found is a lot of "towers" press having proper tongue weight. You may want to ask question(s) about that?
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6937 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 790 Adv R

Posted - 03/16/2007 :  8:10 AM
A little searching on Google brought up this site: http://www.webbikeworld.com/motorcycle-trailer/ with some references to motorcycle trailers. Go down to where it says " Motorcycle Trailers for Towing Behind a Motorcycle".

Some of those look like they would limit the amount of lean before the hitch would bind. At the end of the list is a one-wheel trailer that leans the same as the bike pulling it.

There is a reference on one site to a swivel hitch, which is what I would want if I were to ever pull at trailer behind a motorcycle (which I won't ever do, that's what convertibles are for).
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Niebor
Ex-Member

Posted - 03/16/2007 :  8:58 AM
Three guys from the Motorcycle Tourers Forum recommended:

http://forums.delphiforums.com/MCTr...towing/start

Another posted the following response:
I'll second the comment above. The traile-towing forum is a great resource. But, I'll also try to answer the questions from my experience.

1. Trailers do not have their own set of brakes....
I have made emergency stops (I hate the phrase "Panic stops", you should never panic.) while pulling the trailer two-up. I always try to remember that it's back there and includes extra weight which will lengthen stopping distances. But, when riding two-up, I always do the same thing. I've not noticed any great difference in emergency stopping between heavily loaded two up and the same weight with a trailer. It will probably take longer to stop so just keep that in mind.

2. I understand how to chain a trailer to a bike (crossing them under the tongue) but I do not understand about the hitch itself.
I use a Hitch-doc hitch on the Connie pulling a piggybacker trailer with a "straight hitch", not a swivel hitch. Some people use a swivel hitch with a huge amount of twist available, I've not seen any need for that. I HAVE scraped the pegs while pulling the trailer with no ill effects. The trailer isn't noticeable in the twisties, though again, I'm usually a milder rider while two-up.

3. Do you have to grease that ball and, if not, does rust inhibit or effect the handling of the trailer?
Nope. The ball and hitch on mine are chrome. No rust to deal with. I'm not aware of anyone that greased their hitch/ball.

4. Though rarely, I have seen trailers sway back and forth while a bike continues traveling in a straight line. What causes that and what can be done to prevent it?

Typically trailer sway is caused by uneven loading or putting too much weight behind the centerline of the trailer. I've not had the pibbybacker sway or fishtail.

5. How significantly does pulling a trailer affect your gasoline mileage?

Significently! With us two-up and the Connie overloaded somewhat (I'm a security squad-sized guy) pulling the trailer, I get about 35 mpg on the highway at full highway speeds. I ride about the same speeds on Interstates with or without the trailer. I'll get about 40 mpg without the trailer and passenger.

6. What wear and tear to your tires, clutch and transmission do you attribute to the fact that you pull a trailer?
Haven't noticed any. I put about 25K miles ont he bike per year, and don't notice any tire wear differences between solo and trailering two-up trips. I do use Touring tires.

7. What, besides the obvious cost of the trailer and having a hitch mounted on the bike are the hidden costs associated with having a trailer?

Fuel mileage is the only one.

8. What, besides the obvious cargo carrying benefits do you get from pulling a trailer?

Keeping Momma happy! We can pack more clothing for various weather conditions and events at the destinations, food for in-route meals, and it's more convenient to throw gear into the trailer, so we change jackets as the weather changes, shed the electrics more often, etc. It's just more convenient. The bike is less loaded since I empty the saddlebags into the trailer to take weight off the bike when trailering. We can buy things along the way without having to pay UPS to deliver them home. At destinations, I sometimes take the trailer off and chain it to a pole while we ride the fun roads without the trailer.

9. What maintenance is required of the wheels/tires on a trailer? Annually, I'll pump replacement grease into the bearings. I check the tires just as I do on the bike.

10. Does your motorcycle insurance cover damage to or caused by the trailer, and does it include the contents of that trailer? Depends upon the insurance, so I won't comment on this one.

With the trailer, my wife likes to go on long trips with me (we just returned from a week in FL). Without it, packing and lack of clothing space makes it inconvenient for her. Once you get used to it, it sorta disappears back there. Biggest difference to me is that I have to watch for extra room when driving in heavy traffic. I have less than $1,000 in the trailer and hitch. It was a good investment.

Ride Safe,
John McCain

And regarding fuel efficiency, another posted:
I agree with John too.

Pulled a trailer on a 16 day, 3255 mile trip last June. The trailer made it possible for us to camp, which saved enough compared to motels to recover the $700 paid for the trailer.

Other than extra braking distance, there was no difference. My GL1800 usually averages 40mpg. My gas mileage while pulling the trailer was 42mpg at 55-65mph and 36mpg at 75-80mph.

Bob Fisher
Kalamazoo, Michigan

And yet one more perspective, (these guys are great!)

I'll comment on a few of these I'm pulling my 3rd trailer behind my 3rd Gold Wing:

1. Trailers do not have their own set of brakes. That means you WILL increase your stopping distance and time in an emergency stop situation (the added weight is NOT carried on the motorcycle tires.) But beyond that, what happens to the motorcycle when you do a panic stop maneuver? Does the front-end dive more or less than it does without that trailer?

Never had a problem on the GW. Just always be aware extra distance is required for the extra load.

2. I understand how to chain a trailer to a bike (crossing them under the tongue) but I do not understand about the hitch itself. I understand how the ball of the hitch is captured by the receiver on the trailer, but I cannot imagine that receiver having the degrees of freedom needed when the bike is leaned over sharply in a tight turn. Indeed, I can well imagine that a trailer would physically prevent a bike from leaning as far as you might need it to lean as that receiver jams against the stem of the ball hitch. Is that right?

I've always used a swivel hitch. Most trailers that I see don't have a swivel. Doesn't seem to be a problem with them.

3. Do you have to grease that ball and, if not, does rust inhibit or effect the handling of the trailer?

I keep a light coat of vaseline on the ball.

4. Though rarely, I have seen trailers sway back and forth while a bike continues traveling in a straight line. What causes that and what can be done to prevent it?

What John said.

5. How significantly does pulling a trailer affect your gasoline mileage?

4-5 mpg

6. What wear and tear to your tires, clutch and transmission do you attribute to the fact that you pull a trailer?

On our 2001 GW, we thought we had clutch problems. With over 99,000 miles on it (30,000 with a trailer) the clutch was still well within limits. A bearing within the engine was determined to be the problem. So, I don't attribute that problem the trailer.

7. What, besides the obvious cost of the trailer and having a hitch mounted on the bike are the hidden costs associated with having a trailer?

Convenience.

8. What, besides the obvious cargo carrying benefits do you get from pulling a trailer?

Convenience. Since the trailer does not affect the ride at all, we use our trailer quite a bit. In the winter, we'll haul it around just to have a place to put our winter gear when we stop to eat or shop around somewhere. In the summer, the cooler is great! A place to lock up the helmet and jackets.

9. What maintenance is required of the wheels/tires on a trailer?

Grease/repack wheel bearings. No problem.

10. Does your motorcycle insurance cover damage to or caused by the trailer, and does it include the contents of that trailer?

I have a separate policy on the trailer itself. Motorcycle insurance typically covers $X amount of accessories. If the trailer is covered under you motorcycle insurance it probably states that it must be attached to the bike. What happens if the trailer leaves the bike? What happens if you unhitch the trailer when you get to your destination and it gets stolen?

Mark Campbell
Newnan, Georgia







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Niebor
Ex-Member

Posted - 03/16/2007 :  9:04 AM
Here is an interesting response regarding tow ball lubrication:

I agree with everything else that has been said, but offer one different opinion on question #3.

3. Do you have to grease that ball and, if not, does rust inhibit or effect the handling of the trailer?

I use a 4" sheet of wax paper doubled over between the ball and hitch. It keeps everything quiet.

Randy Rainwater

Kingwood, Texas

2003 GL1800A
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jimvw57
New Member
21 Posts


Red Wing, MN
USA

Posted - 03/25/2007 :  11:05 PM
First time I put a trailer behind my bike, I tried laying it down with the motor off to see if it would flip the trailer. The pegs hit before the trailer came close to lifting a wheel.

I was caught in the rain during a trip and aside from slowing down, I had no problems.I did allow more stopping distance with the trailer.

The bike I was with had a sidecar AND a camping trailer. Both had electric brakes (sidecar and trailer) He did add motor mods to handle the extra load.
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