Three ways to load a bike for transporting

By Guy Procter -

Riding Skills

 08 April 2011 17:25




When you've suffered the indignity -­ and expense -­ of a motorcycle falling over in a van you want to make sure it will never, ever happen again. And that's after you've shot a couple of vertebrae out of place trying to get the bike in the van.

Muscle power and string can conquer all, but when it comes to lifting 170kg of bike into the back of a van and keeping it held still it's a different matter.

Try standing in the back of a van in motion to see what we mean. Next, will baling twine do? Yeah, if you've a scout's badge for knot tying. No, the best thing is to buy or borrow proper straps that have been tested to withstand immense pulling/lifting forces, and ideally they should have mounting hooks each end and a method (slip-clutch or ratchet) of tightening them.

Van or trailer? Either will do, but a van is the safer option and will keep your bike out of the weather. And trailers are by law restricted on the speed at which they can be towed ­- it's considerably less than a van on a motorway (60mph instead of, ahem, flat-out) and trailers aren't allowed in lane three either.

1. First off the bike has to be loaded into a van. If the bike isn't too heavy and the height of the van/trailer isn¹t too high then a builder's scaffold board will suffice. The problem is scaffold boards aren't wide and have no lip to keep the wheels on the ramp ­- and it's not easy to see where the front wheel is if the bike is fully faired.

2. A bike can be loaded without the aid of a ramp by using two people. First off the two people need to stand at each side of the bike's front wheel. The person on the right hand side of the bike needs to reach down and cup his right hand under the bottom of the right fork leg. His left hand needs to hold the right bar to balance the bike.

3. While the person on the left should mimic this stance, but with his left hand under the left fork leg and right hand on the bar. On the count of three, both people should lift the fork legs up to the lip of the van. Be careful not put it on too far as the exhaust or the underside of the engine will get clouted.

4. With one person standing in the van steadying the bike and holding the front brake on. The other should put the bike in gear, then lift the rear of the bike by holding the lowest wheel spoke with both hands. NEVER hold brake discs or chains for fear of losing fingers. Any bike heavier than a 600 should be lifted by two people.

5. It's a lot  easier to load a bike up if a purpose made ramp is used as one (albeit ultra-confident) man can do it all by himself. But, you must ensure the lip of the ramp is firmly secured on the van. Otherwise the rear wheel could spin the ramp away and you and the bike will end up in a crumpled heap.

6. The easiest way to tie a bike down in a van is to get the bike as close to the van's side as possible and upright. Turn the bike's steering in the opposite direction (if right side of van turn full left and vice versa) and lean the bike so only the bar end rests against the side wall. Wedge the front wheel against something solid.

7. Bike specific straps (ratchet or slip-clutch-type) are better than rope. With hooks or eyes either end all they need is a floor mounted hook or eye to attach one end of the strap, while the other can go to various immovable parts of the bike like the bars and rear footrest hanger. If the bike is laid against the van's side, it's best to attach

8. One end of the strap to the bar or bottom yoke which is leaning against the side of the van and the other end to a floor-mount on the same side. Ideally this mount should be as far forward as possible so the front wheel's pulled tight to whatever it is resting against. Now tighten the strap

9. As per its instructions, while pushing down on the front of the bike to compress the front suspension (taking out the forks' movement stops the bike bouncing around and any chance of the strap coming loose). Add at least two other straps to the bike (either side) to secure it ­- making sure the bike is pulled forward at all times.

10. A bike can also be mounted away from the van¹s sides by placing it central with the front wheel up against something solid. With the straps positioned equally each side and pulling forward they should be tightened so the bike is always perfectly upright. Don't forget to compress the rear suspension, too.

11. Bikes with full fairings and clip-ons are awkward to tie down as the bodywork doesn't always allow straps to pass through or be positioned wide apart for stability. Clip-ons don't always have room to place a hook on. In both cases a secondary strap that fits over the clip-ons to enable straps to be used is the best bet.

12. Tying the front brake 'on' will help prevent the bike moving with the van's braking and acceleration. Use an elastic band wrapped around the lever and throttle tube, or use an unused bike strap to keep the brake on. If you¹re worried about damage, wedge an old pillow or two between the bike and the van¹s side.