How to Load a Motorcycle in a Truck Bed

As much as we love to ride, there are times where it’s just better (or necessary) to carry it and what better way to do that than in the bed of a pickup truck?  The process of loading a bike in a pickup truck bed is simple but highly prone to mistakes, as can be seen from this or this (quite humorous) video.

In this detailed how-to, we will walk through what we believe to be the safest way to load, unload and transport a bike in a truck bed as well as some common mistakes to avoid.

What You’ll Need:

A front wheel chock is a good idea to ensure the bike doesn’t move once loaded in the truck (especially if you can’t close the tailgate).
  • Two ramps (it can be done with one ramp but two are preferable), the longer, the better
  • 2 to 4 tie-down straps (ratchet-type straps preferred)
  • A handlebar harness such as Canyon Dancer, High Roller, Cycle Cynch or similar.
  • If your bar ends are not accessible, heavy duty velcro hang-all straps such as these from Husky
  • A front wheel chock (optional) such as this one from Baxley
  • A second set of hands (again, optional but highly recommended)

Step 1: Set Up the Ramps, Straps and Wheel Chock 

In this example, the longer (silver) ramp is used for the bike and the black ramp is used to walk the bike up into the truck bed.
  • Set up two ramps side-by side with the first ramp being used for the bike and the second one, for you to walk up/down
  • The second ramp is particularly important for both loading and unloading as it helps you avoid this mistake
  • Using tie down straps, secure each ramp to the truck in such a way that they won’t shift positions as the bike’s front tire transfer momentum onto the ramp
    • You can use any solid part of the truck for this but a trailer hitch is usually the best option
  • If you are loading a new bike, are using a new truck or even new ramps, check to ensure clearance is adequate as bottoming-out the bike at the top of the ramp could end in tears
  • Set up the wheel chock at the front of the truck bed and line up the main ramp so that the bike’s front wheel will roll directly into it
  • Set up your straps in the truck bed so that you don’t need to worry about this once the bike is up in the bed

Step 2: Get the Bike Into the Truck Bed

  • This is the part when things can go very wrong so think your strategy through
  • Make sure the bike is lined up correctly with the ramp so you have a straight shot up the ramp and into the middle of the truck bed (and into the optional, but highly recommended wheel chock)
  • Holding the bike by the handlebars (or clip-ons), walk (don’t run) the bike’s front tire onto the ramp
    • If you run the bike at the ramp, you risk dislodging the ramp and smashing the bike and/or truck
  • It’s very likely that you’ll need help to get the bike up the ramp so have someone help push the bike from the ground as you hold the balance
  • Feather the front brake to keep the bike from rolling back as needed
  • If you’re not using a wheel chock, when you get the bike into the truck, put the kick stand down so you can start securing the bike

Step 3: Secure the Bike

These handlebar tie-down straps make quick work of securing the bike.
  • Set up the handlebar harness or velcro straps so you have a good anchor point at the front of the bike
    • If you are using velcro straps, a good place to attach them is at the fork, right above the lower triple clamp
  • Anchor the ratchet straps to the truck, to the bike and tighten each side so it’s barely snug
  • If the kickstand is down, remember to put it up before you tighten the straps (otherwise, you can end up with a dent/hole in the truck bed)
  • Once both front straps are in place, apply a few more clicks of tension to the ratchet straps, paying attention to the fork’s compression stroke
    • A frequent mistake people make is to over-tighten ratchet straps and this can blow the fork seals or damage the internals, especially if you do this repeatedly and/or move the bike long distances
    • Especially when using a wheel chock, you only need the straps to be snug, so that the fork compresses a few centimeters past static sag
  • To keep the back of the bike from moving, you can also attach a strap on each side
    • Passenger footpegs, rear sets or grab bars are all good anchor points for these secondary restraints

Step 4: Unload the Bike

  • Repeat step #1 so that the ramps are ready to unload
  • Untie the bike, using the kick stand as soon as the suspension decompresses to make sure the bike doesn’t tip over
  • Make sure the bike’s rear tire is aligned with the ramp so you have a straight shot out of the truck
    • If it has shifted from the journey, use some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease (and if necessary, a friend’s help) to move the back of the bike in line with the ramp
    • You will have limited ability to steer with the front so this step is critical
  • The front brake is the key to getting down the ramp smoothly
    • Use it to control the speed of the bike and let gravity do the rest
  • Have a friend monitor the line of the rear tire while you hold the balance and walk backwards down the ramp
  • Don’t forget to put down the kickstand when the bike is off the ramp!

Common Mistakes:

Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 7.30.59 PM.png
You can watch this video for proof, but it rarely ends well…
  • Don’t sit on the bike and try riding it up the ramp
    • As a last resort, you may opt to use the bike’s clutch and throttle to help get it up the ramp with you walking beside it, but the risk of something going wrong is much greater than if you just ask a friend to help
  • Loading a bike with a single ramp is a risky proposition (unless the ramp is very wide so you can also walk on it)
  • Avoid using makeshift ramps like plywood or 2×4’s as they may not support the weight of the bike and are prone to shifting under load
  • Once in the truck bed, don’t leave the bike in gear in an attempt to keep it from rolling back (this will cause wear and stress on the gearbox and is unnecessary if you use proper tie-downs and a wheel chock)

Other Tips:

b_182922.jpg
Diagonal-loading the bike is an option but is much less “straightforward” 😉
  • You can modify the above procedure by loading the bike into one of the front corners of the truck, instead of using a wheel chock (which may allow you to close the gate)
  • You can reduce the height of the truck bed by finding a ditch or slope and backing into it to load the bike
  • Using a longer ramp will always make getting the bike up easier, so if you are ramp shopping, look for the longest ramp you can live with
  • The longer the trip, the more you should think about secondary and tertiary restraints to make sure your bike doesn’t move around
  • There are some nifty ramps our there from companies like ReadyRamp and Extreme Max (RampXTender) which double as a truck bed extender and are worth a look
We like the RampXtender from Extreme Max which attaches to the truck using the stock tail gate locks and comes with all the mounting hardware.

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