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Finding The Best Way To Transport A Motorcycle

All the Options in One Article

By Brett Shirley

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Ten years ago, I moved to Park City, Utah, sight unseen, to take a job that bumped me from $10/hour to $12/hour. What I didn’t know was that this would incite a lifelong love affair with Utah.

While my career eventually took me to Texas, I would find myself returning frequently to visit Utah with friends and hit the slopes in the winter, or mountain bike trails and trout streams in the summer.


And when my company announced we were going remote (thanks to the pandemic) it didn’t take much for me to jump on the opportunity to move back to the Beehive State.

Once I made the decision to move back West, the planning began. Utah has been, without a doubt, my favorite state I’ve ever ridden through, so selling my newly-acquired Thruxton R (aka Maddie) for the move was out of the question. But—how did I get it there?

Option 1: Truck Bed
On my trip through South America, I unfortunately got very used to transporting my bike in truck beds after multiple breakdowns in the most inconvenient of locations (deep in the Amazon, the middle of the Atacama Desert, and a remote mountain top in Bolivia).

We used everything from 2x4s, to ladders, to sheer brute force to get my 500-lb BMW GS in and out of truck beds. When you're trying to figure out how to transport a motorcycle, and you think options are non-existent, you learn to use what’s around you.
 Luckily, in Texas, I had the option of picking up a motorcycle loading ramp from CycleGear. Their bi-fold trackside ramp was both economical and easy to use. Even better, at 46” (folded), it would easily fit in my 5’ shortbed. It came with a stability strap to keep the ramp from shifting on me, and it makes solo loading a breeze.


Option 2: Hitch Carrier
But for this trip I needed to utilize my bed space for other cargo, therefore I needed to find an alternative solution. I had seen various hitch carriers on several Instagram moto pages and decided to start doing my research on that option.

For such a precious piece of cargo, I didn’t want to bet on anything flimsy.

In my research, I stumbled on a set of reviews for hitch carriers on “The Drive.”

Given the price point, weight, and subsequent return shipping hassle, I would need to rely heavily on what others experienced, before pulling the trigger on a hitch carrier of my own. All I can say is that I chose poorly.

The dry weight of my Thurxton R is 450lbs (claimed). For this, I chose the Black Widow MCC-600 (in the review’s honorable mentions category). Made of powder-coated steel, this beast of a carrier weighed in at 100 lbs, but had a carrier rating of 600lbs. Most of the other candidates were for lighter model bikes, like dirt bikes.

My other concern was the max tongue weight that my truck could bear. The 3rd Gen Tacoma claims to handle 670 lbs. Maddie, combined with the carrier, came to approx 575 lbs. This would be fine for flat roads, but I wasn’t too sure about the down-force, were I to hit a bump. Going over the tongue weight rating could result in a bent/damaged hitch or worse, sheared mounting bolts.

Here is a great explanation of how this particular ramp works.

When my ramp finally arrived, I was disappointed to discover that the main piece was bent, but I was able to use a bottle jack to bend it back to the correct position to continue assembly. Once put together and mounted on my hitch, it was time to test it out.

Given the robust craftsmanship, I was certain this carrier would solve all my transport woes. However, once I actually tried to load the bike, the carrier creaked like a farmhouse door. My confidence went out the window, but I decided to forge ahead.

Stumbling block number two was the mounted wheel chock—it would not pivot to let my front wheel roll over it. So I removed the chock and pushed the front wheel forward into the cradle.

The third issue then reared its head: the cradle would not hold the bike upright while I went to work on the tie-downs, leaving me to scramble between tightening straps and balancing the moto. Between my confidence being shot and the inability to solo-load, this option was not going to cut it.

With a lighter bike, I would certainly re-evaluate a hitch carrier.

Option 3: Enclosed Trailer:
I admit that I did shop around a bit for an enclosed motorcycle trailer, not wanting to travel 1,300 miles with Maddie exposed to the elements. But as you can imagine, trailers are not cheap. Plus they require registration and insurance, and you need a place to store them when not in use.

With enclosed trailers starting at $6,000+ this wasn’t a cost-effective solution for me either. That, and I certainly didn’t have trailer storage where I was going.

Option 4: Folding Motorcycle Trailer
With the carrier out of the picture, and the obvious hurdles to an enclosed trailer, I was onto evaluating folding trailers. I was impressed with what Kendon offered in this arena: solidly built, stowable trailers.

While this addressed the functionality and ease of use, it did come at a cost. Kendon’s entry-level trailer, a single-bike version, goes for $3K. If I were one to haul my bike often (multiple times per year), I would definitely have moved on this option.

However, if I want my bike somewhere, I typically ride it. I mean, how often am I really moving across the country?

Option 5: Trailer Rental
Given the minimal use I would give any trailer I bought, I decided to see what rental options were available.

A quick search on U-Haul turned out to be the best way to transport a motorcycle (for my needs, anyway). For a paltry $85, I could rent an enclosed 8’ trailer for 5 days! It was more than enough time for my trip from Austin to Salt Lake. No storage, no registration, and it came with enough tie down points to restrain an army of titans.
Option 6: Bike Transports
I'm adding this one to Brett's options. When you factor in time and gas, it's often more simple and convenient to use a Transport company like Haul Bikes. For between $400 and $750 they will come to your location, load your bike and unload it at your destination almost anywhere in the country. You don't need to worry about tie-downs, trailer hitches, or driving across the country slowly because you're pulling a trailer.


I always prefer to have the bike as solidly attached to my vehicle as possible. Truck bed with loading ramp is my first choice for transporting a motorcycle, if I don’t need the bed space.

First runner up, enclosed motorcycle rental trailer.

Second runner up, foldable, stowable motorcycle trailer

Honorable mention goes to the hitch carrier—but only if I’m moving a dirt bike.

There are lots of great solutions out there depending upon your expected frequency of use, it just takes a little research (which hopefully I’ve cut down a bit for you).

Click to get started.
Click to get started.

Brett Shirley
Described as a wild card by his peers, Brett is an avid traveler and enthusiast of all things 2-wheeled. While he gets his mail in Austin, TX, chances are he's somewhere on the road. Brett spent several years in the corporate arena, before embarking on a bucket list trip to ride the North-South route from Alaska to Patagonia. Come hell, high water, or a burned-out clutch in the middle of nowhere, there's nowhere he'd rather be than on a bike. From Vienna to Vietnam, Seattle to Santiago, Brett loves connecting with other cultures and embraces riding the world.
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