Tech Tips: Transporting Your Bike To The Track


This issue I want to discuss the transportation of your bike and gear, this may be to a track, service centre after a breakdown or just taking the bike away with you when travelling. Believe me, you can do damage to your bike without even starting it when it’s in transport. 

There are many different ways to transport you bike; by trailer, by utility, by van or by truck; I’ve even seen a guy with an outfit with the bike on the side!

Obviously, we all want to make sure our pride and joy is going to be transported safely and arrive at the destination in the same condition as when we started. This is where it can be difficult if you don’t know or understand what the bike needs and what you need to do to make sure that all is safe and all is not damaged.

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First and for most is how you get the bike into the transportation you have decided to use. I can’t think of many examples where you can just roll the bike in without having to climb some sort of gradient, so, we are going to need a ramp. Now, I mean a ramp, not a lump of timber, not a section of U channel from a building site and not a convenient couple of mates to help you lift it on. Mind you I have one ingenious rider at Eastern Creek load and unload his and hers bikes using a hydraulic crane off the side of his truck using slings to support the bike! Very clever.

The height that you have to get the bike to, ute or trailer or van, can be made far easier if you obtain a ramp that can be long enough to make the ramp angle more shallow, this alone will make the job of pushing or riding, yes riding, you bike into or onto your transport.

You can use a ute to transport everything to the track but the easiest way to pack everything will always be a trailer.

There are many types and styles of aftermarket ramps, most are aluminium and most fold for convenient storing; some have supports to the ground in the middle and so on.  One of the most important things you can do with your ramp is have it lock in, in some fashion to the trailer, van or ute. This obviously stops the ramp from moving when loading or unloading, a secure ramp gives you confidence to hit the ramp with speed when loading. If it slips to the side you will drop the bike from a fair height. You might even end up under it and injured. 

Once the bike is on board, it has to be secured; many bike trailers have a built in front wheel support area. Box trailers, vans and utes don’t so you need to make sure that the front will stay where you want it to. There are many aftermarket support stands that can be bolted down to the floor of a trailer, van or ute. Most will hold the bike upright when the front wheel is in place giving the luxury to then move around the bike without the fear of it falling while you tie it down, these are a must if you are doing this a lot on your own.

Tying the bike down is the most critical and misunderstood aspect of the job. This is where damage can occur to your bike, forks and fork seals can damage very quickly if you tie the bike down incorrectly.

The bike, even when tied down, must be able to move, the suspension must be able to go through it’s normal movement without being hindered. The bike needs to be able to bounce but not come loose. If you lock in both the front and rear wheels absolutely solid with no back and forth movement the bikes suspension can’t move or travel. Think about it, the wheel base of you bike changes as you ride, the suspension when fully extended gives the longest wheel base to the bike, when the suspension compresses the wheel base shortens because the forks are angled, the swingarm also changes the wheel base.

So, if you lock both wheels, there is nowhere for the suspension to move except to try and compress and as a result damage will happen to your bike. Most common is fork seals and steering stem bearings, but the longer the bike is tied down and the longer the distance of transport, more damage can occur. You also need to ensure that hooks or soft ties are secured in a way that when the suspension of the bike compresses over bumps, the strap or tie down won’t become unhooked from the bike when the strap goes slack momentarily. 

The answer is to only lock down one wheel, if the front is your choice, lock it by the axle or lower section of the forks near the axle, not by the triple trees pulling the front down, this will cause damage. If by the rear wheel, the same applies, only by the wheel, there are some very good tie down systems for rear wheel on the market. There are also many types and brands of tie downs, I prefer the ratchet type, fitted properly they never come undone. To support the bike from rocking from side to side, use points on the frame about mid point and about at wheel height. This will support the bike but not put strain on it.

“To support the bike from rocking from side to side, use points on the frame about mid point and about at wheel height. This will support the bike but not put strain on it.”

Think about where you put your fuel can, tools and any other gear including the ramp, if these are just placed in the vehicle or trailer and not secured they will move, they can then rub or scrap your bike, rub or scrape on other gear, it wouldn’t be good to have you fuel can rubbed through on a trip and end with 20 litres of fuel sloshing around in the back of the van or trailer. 

And one thing I always remember – Mark Stenburg, our contributor and lawyer, once represented a man who’s bike ramp bounced off his trailer, went through a car windscreen and seriously injured the driver. He did jail time. So always secure your ramp!

If your bike falls off on the freeway, it’s gonna cost you big bucks! Words: Paul Bailey

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