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Shopping for a Motorcycle Trailer
By Larry Alger


I have traveled over 250,000 miles pulling motorcycle trailers behind my bikes. I have lived out of a motorcycle trailer for six weeks at a time, and found that once you add a trailer to your motorcycle you'll never want to travel without one. A good motorcycle trailer should be designed to carry the things needed for camping and making touring a more pleasurable experience. It should be easy to retrieve anything inside. The floor of a good motorcycle trailer needs to be flat, the sides straight and the front should be square to permit the easiest loading and unloading . A trailer for your motorcycle should be light weight (about 150 to 250 pounds empty), and it should handle so well that you can't even tell you are pulling it. The following are the things you should be looking for in a motorcycle cargo trailer.


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ITEM 1: You want the trailer to be as light as you can get it and still have the structural quality needed to be a safe product. A solid frame is a must (preferably tubular steel as opposed to angle iron or flat stock). I recommend a trailer that weighs in at 140 to 200 pounds maximum. The more the empty trailer weighs, the less cargo you can carry before the trailer changes from being your friend to becoming your enemy. If you are required to make an emergency stop, you don't want the trailer to prevent you from completing the maneuver safely. A trailer that weighs over 350 pounds loaded will produce a very heavy feel in the handling of the motorcycle. That takes the pleasure out of leaning through the turns on all those wonderful back road excursions. If you must pull a trailer that is excessively heavy, you will be best served by purchasing a sidecar or a trike.



ITEM 2: The trailer should not be much wider than a dressed out touring bike with saddle bags, because if the bike clears an object while passing, you want the trailer to clear it also. And besides, a trailer that is much wider than the motorcycle will require you to ride in the center of the lane where oil and dirt build up. This is not a favorable riding condition.


ITEM 3: The height of the trailer should be less than the bottom of your tour trunk and the front should not be totally flat. Why? Because the low pressure area behind your windscreen can draw the exhaust up and forward to contaminate the rider's space if the trailer doesn't produce an adequate channel for the exhaust to flow under. It can be like having the rear window of a station wagon or van open with an exhaust leak. YOU COULD GET SLEEPY FROM CARBON MONOXIDE OR GET A SERIOUS HEADACHE. They call this the "ENVELOPING EXHAUST GAS BUBBLE".

Exhaust Diagram 1 inch Exhaust Diagram 2 Exhaust Diagram 3


ITEM 4: Make sure the tires and bearings are of a type that are readily available should you ever have to replace one while on the road. Both the 4.80 X 8 inch and 4.80 X 12" tires are common to most utility trailers and scooters. Timken style tapered roller bearings are much preferred over sealed bearings, and are also commonly used in automotive applications. These bearings are proven to be very reliable as well as readily available in all auto parts stores.


ITEM 5: The trailer should be designed so you can use the space effectively. Odd shapes, wheel wells and shock cavities that intrude excessively into the storage are to be avoided when you are shopping for a motorcycle trailer. These designs prevent some pieces of luggage, lawn chairs and all but the smallest of ice chests from being packed into the trailer without having to placed at very awkward angles. Don't be fooled by a cute design that won't hold all the things you wish to take with you.


Many motor cycle riders are discovering that pulling a trailer behind their bike improves the quality of their touring experience. A trailer will not only hold all the things that riders now stuff into the saddle bags, but also things like tents, coolers, and cook stoves. If you're not a camper you can take a full sized video camera, all the clothes you need for warm or cold weather, a set of golf clubs and you ladies can take your beauty and cosmetic survival kits too.


Even if you're not taking a trip, you can use the bike and trailer instead of a car to pick up groceries, go to the hardware or auto parts store. A cargo trailer can convert any recreational motorcycle that you love to ride into a "DO IT ALL" kind of a utility vehicle. After all, if you wouldn't rather be riding your motorcycle than driving a car, you wouldn't be reading this article would you?


A well designed motorcycle trailer can also improve the handling of your bike. Remember that overloading the motorcycle with gear strapped on the gas tank, tour trunk or sissy bar, raises the center of gravity and makes for poor handling. With a trailer, all unnecessary weight is off the bike and inside the trailer. That in turn, lowers the center of gravity and allows your suspension to function properly. The rear wheel of the motorcycle produces a gyroscopic effect that makes any well designed cargo trailer almost transparent to the rider, and in some cases, a trailer behind your bike can actually keep you from going down. I've had the experience of hitting a slick surface (all of a sudden with no warning), and had the rear wheel start to slide out from under me. By accelerating the motorcycle, the trailer acted as a balance, (like a small safety parachute) and kept the back end of the motorcycle from going away completely. I have also found the trailer to stabilize my bike in gusting cross winds and the air currents generated by large semi trucks that I have encountered on two lane highways. I hope this helps your shopping.

Please call me at 888-849-6160 with any questions you may have. Thanks, Larry.



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