How to Load and Transport a Motorcycle in a Truck? [Video]


I’m just going to come right out and say it, the safest and most convenient way to transport a motorcycle is by using a trailer or a toy hauler. However, some owners prefer to haul their motorcycles on their trucks.

If you too are considering transporting your bike in a truck bed, this post is for you.

To transport a motorcycle in a truck bed, you have to follow these simple steps:

  1. Make sure your bike fits in the truck bed (its weight also matters!).
  2. Select the right equipment (ramp, wheel chock, ratchet straps, handlebar harness, brake level lock).
  3. Remove the tailgate and secure the ramp to the truck with straps.
  4. Load the motorcycle onto the truck bed by hand with a helper.
  5. Secure the machine with a wheel chock and straps.
  6. Stop and check the bike regularly during your trip.
  7. Unload the bike slowly and carefully.

If you would like to learn more about these steps, keep reading.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know about transporting a motorcycle under one roof.

No fluff, just the stuff you need to avoid an accident:

Can You Fit a Motorcycle in a Truck Bed?

Yes! Generally speaking, most motorcycles can fit in a truck bed. As a rule of thumb, the longer the truck bed and the smaller/lighter the bike, the easier it is to load onto the bed. But it also has to be mentioned that not all trucks and bikes are compatible. Whether a motorcycle can be hauled in your truck depends on some important factors, which are as follows:

  • The dimensions and the weight of the bike
  • The capacities and dimensions of the truck bed
  • Whether you want to close the tailgate up
  • How much gear you want to haul along with the bike
  • Whether you can load/unload the bike safely and securely

One of the most important factors is the dimensions of the bike as well as the truck bed.

Dirt bikes are commonly hauled in truck beds, and this is no accident. These machines, just like small-bore street bikes are small and lightweight, which means they fit on the majority of truck beds.    

On the other end of the spectrum, you can find large cruisers and touring bikes like Honda Gold Wings and flagship Harley cruisers. Since these bikes are about 8-9 feet long and extremely heavy, they are hardly transportable in trucks.

Even if it’s possible to haul these big boys in full-sized trucks, it is far from convenient.

This means there is no right or wrong answer here, as the dimensions of bikes and truck beds vary widely. Best practice is to measure the bike and the truck bed to determine how whether the bike will fit in the truck.  

Besides the dimensions, the weight capacity of the truck is no less important. To stay safe and legal, make sure you don’t exceed your truck’s capacities.

Another important factor is the height of the bed. As a rule of thumb, 2WD trucks feature lower beds while the bed of lifted 4WD trucks is always significantly higher.

Unfortunately, it’s typically more difficult to load a bike onto these high 4WD trucks, due to the high load height.

This means that even if a heavy bike fits in a truck’s bed, loading and unloading may carry too much risk. If you feel you can’t confidently handle the weight of the bike, you should consider using a trailer instead.

Will a Motorcycle Fit in a Short Bed Truck?

When it comes to short bed trucks, it’s safe to say that they can carry the majority of dirt bikes and lightweight street bikes. These motorcycles are only 6.5-7.5 feet long, which means they can even fit comfortably in short beds. You can place the machine at an angle if you place the front wheel in the corner and put the rear wheel in the opposite corner of the bed. This trick allows you to close the tailgate up in most cases.

You can see the process in this video:

If you want to haul a longer bike or even two machines, their rear wheels will likely sit on the tailgate. In such a case, never overlook the tailgate capacity either, which is always clearly stated in the truck’s manual.

Tailgates can typically get damaged in two ways. They can bend under the rear wheels of the bikes and/or the tailgate cables can break.

This is why hinged steel tailgate supports always do a better job. They are more durable and less prone to breaking. However, you can also support tailgate cables with a pair of straps added onto each side of the tailgate.

But again, if you haul a motorcycle in a short bed truck and its rear wheel sits on the tailgate, always double-check the tailgate capacity to make sure it can handle the weight.

Another great addition for short bed trucks is a bed extender.

You can find some special models on the market that are specially designed for motorcycle riders. These units are virtually motorcycle loading ramps, but once you fold them they turn into a bed extender.

As placing the ramp in the bed beside the bike(s) is always a hassle, this special design makes riders’ lives easier.

Truck Bed Dimensions vs. Motorcycle Length [Chart]

For a better comparison, we’ve compiled the average truck bed and motorcycle dimensions by category.

Motorcycle Category Length (feet)
Average dirt bike 6.5 – 7.5
Lightweight street bikes 6.0 – 7.0
Middleweight/Heavy Street bikes 7.0 – 8.0
Cruiser/Touring 7.5 – 9.0
Average Truck Bed Length 5.0 – 8.0

 (You can read more about motorcycle dimensions here.)

Motorcycle Loading Ramps

The most important piece of equipment you will need is a motorcycle loading ramp. These ramps are classed into two main categories, straight and arched ramps.

When selecting a ramp, make sure you purchase an arched ramp.

The main drawback of a straight ramp is that it attaches to the truck bed at too sharp an angle. (Known as a brakeover angle.)

Why is this angle important? Simply put, if the motorcycle features a low ground clearance there is a risk that the parts on its bottom (like exhaust pipes, fairings, etc.) get damaged.

In the worst-case scenario, the bike can “run aground” on the edge of the ramp, which can cause the bike to fall off. You can see the issue play out in this video:

This is where arched motorcycle ramps come in handy.

These ramps are arched or feature two or more smaller angles instead of one sharp one. This means the arched ramps attaches to truck beds at slighter angles, making the connection point between the ramp and the truck flatter.

Loading a motorcycle onto a truck: Ground clearance issues

Besides its design, the length of the ramp is no less important.

How Long Should a Motorcycle Ramp Be?

As a rule of thumb, a motorcycle ramp should be as long as possible, especially if it’s a straight ramp. Why? This is because the longer the ramp the lower the angle connecting to the truck bed. In other words, longer ramps help reduce the brake-over angle. If you are looking for some ballpark figures, you have to take some measurements first. In a nutshell, the length of the ramp you need depends on three major dimensions:

  1. The motorcycle wheelbase
  2. The motorcycle ground clearance
  3. The height of the truck bed

The scope of this article doesn’t allow for going deeper into the math, but here’s a great calculator to determine optimal ramp dimensions.

In general, arched ramps can be shorter thanks to the lower break-over angle.

Arched vs. straight motorcycle ramps

Besides its length, the width of a motorcycle ramp also matters.

According to RevZilla, the best motorcycle ramps are wide enough to comfortably walk the bike up. Another trick is using more ramps side-by-side.

It’s safe to say that for heavy cruisers and touring bikes a full-width motorcycle ramp is a must!

You won’t realize how important this is until your bike loses its momentum and stops in the middle of the ramp!

Regarding material, make sure the surface of the ramp is rough for a better grip.

How Do You Load a Motorcycle into a Truck Bed?

You can load a motorcycle into a truck bed in ten simple steps:

  1. Best practice is to have someone help you. (loading a bike alone is always risky!)
  2. Back up the rear wheels of the truck into a ditch or to a hill/inclined driveway (if it’s possible).
  3. Put the truck in gear and apply the parking brake as well.
  4. Make sure you have the right equipment in your hands.
  5. Keeping safety in mind dismount the tailgate (if the entire bike fits in the bed).
  6. Place the ramp into position, to the center of the truck bed.
  7. Secure the ramp with two ratchet straps to the truck (very important step!).
  8. Line the motorcycle up with the centerline of the vehicle behind the ramp.
  9. Push the motorcycle up by hand. If you have a helper, ask him to push the machine while you control the steering and the brake.
  10. Once the bike is in position secure the front and rear sides of the bike with ratchet straps.

Here’s a great video on how to load a motorcycle onto a pickup truck:

Keeping safety in mind, always push the motorcycle by hand onto the truck instead of using engine power.

If you try to “power-load” or ride your bike up the ramp, things can go wrong in many ways. Doing it wrong can damage the bike, the truck, and even yourself!

That’s why the best practice is to load the bike with a helper.

It’s also highly recommended that you secure the ramp to the rear axle of the truck with ratchet straps. Never attach them to plastic parts as they could easily break.

Many owners forget this simple step and the consequences are often catastrophic.

Tip: There is a lesser-known trick to make the process easier. Before loading, find a ditch and drive the rear wheels of the track into it (or just back up to an inclined driveway/hill). This results in a lower truck bed height and a better breakeover angle.

Loading a motorcycle onto a truck by yourself

How do You Load a Motorcycle onto a Truck by Yourself?

Although it’s not a good idea to load a motorcycle onto a truck by yourself, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you find yourself in such a situation you can choose from three different methods:

  1. Loading the biked from a hill
  2. Pushing the bike by hand
  3. Consider investing in a powered motorcycle ramp

The simplest way to load a bike onto a truck by yourself is to back up your truck to a hill and slowly move the bike downhill into the bed. It’s far easier than pushing the machine up on a ramp!

If the right terrain is not available, you have to move the bike up to the ramp. If you are alone, make sure that the ramp is wide enough for walking up the machine.

If it’s a narrow ramp, you can place a step behind the truck which helps in climbing. If the bike is lightweight, you can probably simply walk it up as you can see in this video:

If you can’t load the bike without using its engine power, it’s a clue that you’d better ask for help.

Sure, you can see owners who try to power-load their bikes or even ride them onto the truck. But keep in mind that these are very dangerous practices, as a little mistake can easily lead to an accident.

The main problem with this option is that it’s difficult to determine the correct speed.

For instance, you can easily slam into the cab if you ride the bike too fast. In contrast, if you don’t have enough momentum, the bike will likely stop halfway up the ramp.

If you are lucky (and the ramp is wide enough to put both of your feet down) you can back up the bike and give it a new try. If not, the machine may fall off the side of the ramp.

Therefore, even if you are alone, it’s definitely not recommended that you ride up the ramp. Instead, try to load the bike from a hill or walk it up the ramp if it’s possible.

However, if you have a heavy motorcycle, this is obviously not an option for you. But don’t worry! All you need is a powered motorcycle ramp.

Powered Motorcycle Ramps

This ramp is basically a motorcycle ramp lift that is powered by an electric drill. The main advantage of this unique ramp is that it can handle the weight of even the biggest cruiser motorcycles.

On top of that, you can control the process by yourself, while the bike moves slowly and securely towards the truck bed.

If you want to learn more about this automatic motorcycle ramp, don’t miss this review video!

How Many Bikes Can Fit in a Truck?

Generally speaking, you can place 1-4 bikes onto a truck depending on the type and size of the machines (as well as the dimensions of the truck bed). Many trucks can accommodate two street bikes or even 3 dirt bikes without any issues. What’s more, you can even load 4 dirt bikes on a truck. It’s tricky and tight, but it’s not impossible!

How do You Put Two Motorcycles in Your Truck?

To safely put two motorcycles in a truck you will need a pair of wheel chocks to hold the bikes in place. First, install the chocks on the truck bed. You will have to do some measuring to determine their place. The next step is to align the ramp with one of the chocks, load the first bike and secure it with straps. Finally, replace the ramp, load the second bike, and don’t forget to secure it too.

Here’s a great video on how to secure two motorcycles in a truck with tie-downs.

This process is always much easier if there are tie-down points in the middle of the truck bed.

Don’t forget to secure the rear of the bikes, as well as the two machines together! Also, make sure that they are at a safe distance apart and won’t slam into each other on a bumpy road!

How Do You Put 3 Bikes in Your Truck?

To put 3 bikes on your truck you will definitely need 3 wheel chocks installed in the bed. Start with loading and securing two motorcycles to the two sides, and then repeat the same with the third. Truck beds can typically accommodate 3 dirt bikes without any issues, but they are too narrow for street bikes.

How Do You Load 4 Bikes into a Truck?

Although it’s possible to load 4 bikes into a truck, keep in mind that it’s a big hassle. What’s more, there is always a risk that they damage each other down the road. If you want to load 4 bikes into your truck by any means, it’s best if you load two of them forward and the other two backward. Securely tie them down one-by-one and make sure their handlebars don’t touch each other.

We’re talking about dirt bikes here of course. But if you want to haul 4 of them regularly, best practice is to place 3 of them in the truck bed and the fourth on a hitch hauler.

Another option is placing two bikes onto the bed and the other two on a trailer. (Or even put all of them on a bigger trailer.)

How do You Load a Motorcycle into a Truck Without a Ramp?

If you want to load a motorcycle into a truck without a ramp, best practice is to back up the truck to a hill. Finding the right terrain may take some time, but it’s worth the effort. Push the bike up to the hill and load it carefully down onto the truck bed. But don’t forget that when you reach your destination you have to unload the machine somehow! This means you will need to find a hill again or get a ramp.

If you want to check how professional trial riders load their machines, don’t miss this video!

How Do You Secure a Motorcycle on a Truck?

The best way to secure a motorcycle on a truck is to insert its front wheel into a “wheel chock” and tie it down to the anchor points of the bed with ratchet straps. Let’s see how to do it step-by-step!

Do You Need a Motorcycle Wheel Chock?

The short answer is yes, it’s recommended that you use a wheel chock, especially if you want to haul your bike regularly. This unit is small, cheap, and it can secure the front wheel really well. That’s why it’s a must-have item on every rider’s truck!

Without using a wheel chock, you will worry about the straps and have to check the front wheel several times to make sure it hasn’t moved. Installing a wheel chock is like having extra insurance on the bike.

How Do You Tie Down a Motorcycle in a Truck?

Experts agree that the best way to tie down a motorcycle in a truck is to secure it with four ratchet straps. They are easy to use and virtually never loosen up if they are installed properly.

As the first step, if your truck is equipped with a wheel chock (which is recommended) make sure that the front wheel sits in it securely.  

When it comes to attaching the straps, it’s very important to use the frame and the handlebar of the bike as anchor points. Never attach the straps to lights, signals, mirrors, or mufflers!

Also, don’t attach the tie-down hooks directly on the bike as it may damage the paint. Instead, you may want to use soft-loop straps.

Choose some anchor points on the motorcycle and in the truck bed as well. The best practice is if the straps are at an angle of about 45 degrees to the sides.

Secure the front of the bike with tow straps. Start with one side and make sure that the strap is tight. If so, proceed with the other side.

Once the bike is stable, repeat the process at the end with two other straps.

To firmly tie down the machine, you have to compress the suspensions. But avoid applying too much force as it may end in over-compressing.

Also, don’t let the kickstand carry the weight, as it can lead to severe damage. You can’t go wrong by putting the kickstand up, just don’t forget to put it down before untying.

Keeping safety in mind, you may want to use a front brake lever lock or even a bungee around the lever to lock the front wheel.

Motorcycle Handlebar Harness

Also don’t forget that when the truck is in motion the straps can damage the fairings, seat, or any other parts they come in contact with. Because of this, make sure that the straps are at safe distances from the bike.

It can cause a lot of headaches on full-fairing sportbikes, as they lack optimal anchor points.

That’s why it’s recommended that you use a handlebar harness on sportbikes. This product moves the anchor points to the end of the handlebars, far from the fairings.

It’s made of the same materials as standard tie-downs and are so inexpensive. If you’re interested in more details, don’t miss this video:

Strapless Motorcycle Stands

Let’s face it, tying down a motorcycle properly takes time and effort. But to the delight of riders, more and more motorcycle transport stands are appearing on the market.

These units are also known as “strapless motorcycle stands” as they can secure the bikes without using a single strap!

What’s more, they can save space as well as the bikes can be transported side-by-side.

Securing Your Gear

Last but not least, don’t forget about your gear. Besides the ramp, jerry cans, bags, and the tailgate all have to be secured in the bed before you start your journey.

Unsecured gear on the truck can damage the bike or even cause it to fall off the truck down the road.

How do You Transport a Motorcycle in a Truck?

To properly transport a motorcycle in a truck, you have to make sure you’ve secured the bike and the gear in the bed. Before you leave, double-check everything to make sure all straps are tight. When you’re on the road, always drive the truck carefully and defensively. Keep in mind that a sudden movement can damage the bike in many ways. Another key for safe transport is to stop frequently down the road and re-check the straps and the entire bike!

How do You Unload a Motorcycle from a Truck?

How do you unload your bike from the truck? Many owners believe that unloading a motorcycle from a truck is easier than loading, but they are wrong! In many cases, unloading can be as hard as loading, or even harder! Because of this, it’s highly recommended that you never try unloading it by yourself, especially if you have a bigger bike. Let’s see the process step-by-step!

Before you release the tie downs, make sure that you put the kick stand down as the first step. Then release the straps on the throttle side and finally on the clutch side.

When it comes to moving the bike down the ramp, you can slow down the machine by using the front brake.

Be very careful when you’re backing down the ramp. As you can hardly see your next steps, things can go quickly wrong.

That’s why you should use a wide loading ramp, and you may want to use a full-width ramp for safety reasons. Backing the bike down on a narrow ramp is neither comfortable nor safe.

Again, you can probably unload a lighter bike by yourself, but an extra hand never hurts. But keep in mind that unloading a heavy motorcycle is not an easy job, so you will need some friends to help you out.

Conclusion

When it comes to hauling a motorcycle, regular trailers and toy haulers always do the best job. Thanks to their low platforms, loading and unloading the bikes on and off is so much easier.

In contrast, transporting a motorcycle in a truck bed is always tricky. This is because you have to push the bike much higher, which results in more stress and risks.

This is why trucks are typically used for transporting dirt bikes and lightweight (or sometimes middle-weight) bikes. These motorcycles fit well in many truck beds, as they are only 6-7 feet long, while the length of truck beds ranges from 5 up to 8 feet.

Regarding heavy cruisers and touring bikes, many of them can reach a length of 8-9 feet and a weight of 700-900 pounds. Therefore, transporting these bikes on a truck is not recommended.

The safest way to transport these big machines is to place them on a dedicated motorcycle trailer or invest in a motorized motorcycle ramp.

Whatever you choose, the key is to never try to ride your bike onto the truck bed (or the trailer). Best practice is to walk up the bike on a wide ramp assisted by a helper. He can push the machine from its rear while you control the brakes and the steering. Once the bike is in the bed, you have to secure it with a wheel chock, four ratchet straps, and a front brake lever lock.

The most important thing is to act carefully, take your time, and never load/unload the bike by yourself if possible!

References:

https://ridermagazine.com/2018/04/03/tips-transporting-a-motorcycle/

https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/how-to-load-a-motorcycle-into-a-truck

https://www.motorcycletouringtips.com/how-to-transport-a-motorcycle-in-a-pickup-truck/

https://www.discountramps.com/how-to/powersports/load-motorcycle-into-truck/a/b117/

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