Hitch Mounted Carriers

I bought a dirt bike some years ago and went through the process of trying to decide how I would take it along on my excursions in my fiver. Glad to see the Wanderman wrestled with the same dilemma and decided to document the decision process. Here it is:
Since my RV isn’t very large, I really didn’t want to go the towed vehicle route (toad). I figured I could mount a small motorcycle on a carrier to the class IV hitch in back. I started researching hitch mounted carriers in general. From the small and inexpensive to the massive, hydraulic lift, expensive versions.

Since an average, small, dual purpose (on and off road) motorcycle would weigh around 300 pounds I went looking for a carrier that could carry at least 400 pounds, figuring the extra capacity would act as a “safety net” in case of problems. Seemed pretty logical to me. I have a 1999 Lectra VR-24 electric motorcycle that would eventually live on the back of the RV and charge from the excess power generated by my solar charging system after the batteries were fully replenished. It weighs about 258lbs. So far so good. Kind of.


Tongue weight. That conjures up some pretty bizarre images! Actually, it’s the weight supported by your hitch in the vertical direction. This is NOT how much you can tow! Hitches can have tongue capacities ranging from 200 pounds for class 1 all the way up to 1800 pounds for a class 5 hitch. I have a class 4 installed by the factory so that gave me around 600 pounds to play with.

Choosing your carrier. Motorcycles are HEAVY! While a small bike is easy to push around on the ground, pushing one up a steep incline isn’t nearly as easy. Most of the less expensive hitch mounted carriers have a ramp that either drops down or is removed from the hitch and affixed to another part of the carrier to act as a ramp. There is also the type that tilts the entire carrier to form a ramp, but this looks more difficult to me as it will “flatten out” when the weight of the cycle gets past the center of gravity. That might happen pretty fast! This can be a bit scary to do alone. If you have a LIGHT motorcycle or even a scooter it might not be all THAT bad, but would require caution to be safe. Either of these can be had for under $300. If you look around, you’ll see MANY models both steel and aluminum versions and a variety of weight capacities.

The next style is a bit different. It has a winch that acts as a lifting mechanism for the the entire carrier. The carrier descends to the ground flat, then you roll the motorcycle onto it. then operate the winch to raise it up. Very cool. of course, cool comes with a price tag. In this case a bit lest than $3000! I like the concept, but seems a bit pricey to me.


The last version uses hydraulics to lift the bike and is well suited to carrying larger motorcycles. Ones that you wouldn’t be likely to push up a steep ramp in the first place. Of course, you need a very high weight rated hitch to carry this tongue loading. I’ve seen them on large bus style class A’s.

There are other styles available, like this one with a dolly wheel to take some of the load off the hitch. There are also ones that use a trailer style tongue jack (electric or manual) to lift the carrier.

Once you get the motorcycle on the hitch, how does it stay there while you are driving? 


Tie Downs! These are available at almost any big box home store or auto specialty shop. Maybe even Wally World! Most of them are nylon straps that have a hook on either side and some type of ratchet system to tighten the strap down over the load. Depending on your bike, there are various ways to hold it down. The front wheel is usually locked to the carrier to prevent it from rolling/turning. I use a strap on each handlebar end and one over the rear frame. I snug them down so the suspension is a bit compressed and then add another strap through the center of the frame. My carrier (like most of them) has points to attach the tie down strap hooks.

It is important that the motorcycle doesn’t shift too much (or at all) during travel. aside from wearing through your nice paint, it could loosen more and more and eventually create a dangerous situation! Imagine a 300-pound+ motorcycle dropping off your carrier while en-route!

Since I will eventually be carrying my electric motorcycle I figured I would mount a socket near or under the back of the RV for charging. Stay tuned!

Be Seeing You…Down The Road,

Rich “The Wanderman
http://www.thewanderman.com

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This document was last updated on April 12, 2012

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