Tying up a fat lady

Rope on bike” width=

Correctly securing your bike can mean the difference between an
enjoyable trip and a costly repair.

Actually the title should be tying down a phat lady. I just thought the other way I’d get a few more clicks. This will be a blog about safely transporting my Valkyrie on a trailer, not the other subject that probably came to mind.
While my bike is certainly not a trailer queen, I’m not beyond loading her up on the trailer when circumstances dictate. There are times when I simply have to be in a larger vehicle. Having a trailer often means I can haul one or more of the bikes along when they would otherwise have simply stayed in the garage. A trailer can actually mean more time in the saddle, not less. It can mean riding after the other business is done, not simply sitting around, wishing I had the bike with me.
Now that the bike is on the trailer, I want to be sure it rides safely. I don’t want it to fall or bounce out or over. My trailer is 16 x 6 and I’ve installed two locking wheel chocks. It has rails all the way around that allow plenty of anchorage points to secure the straps. But now several questions arise. Kickstand up or down. Forks compressed or not. Where on the bike do I attach the straps?
Putting the Valkyrie on the trailer, the wheel chock stands the bike straight up, rendering the kickstand question moot. When I put the smaller Magna in the back of my pickup, I use the kickstand. Many bikers tell me this is a bad idea because hitting a large bump could break it. I disagree. If a bump breaks the kickstand, you didn’t have the bike properly tied down, and it is probable the bike would have been jarred loose from its tie-downs. The kickstand gives you an additional support point and will help keep the bike in position, and in its straps. A broken kickstand, in my opinion, means you had other more serious problems.
I used to ratchet the forks all the way down to prevent the bike from bouncing. Several people have suggested that this may not be good for the forks. Keeping the springs fully compressed for hours or days might weaken them. While I have no empirical data to either confirm or dispel this notion, it does make sense to me.
On the other hand, taking no compression out of the forks leaves a lot of bounce. Even with the wheel locked into the chock, the front end would be bouncing from every bump, just as it is designed to do. That would cause a lot of jerking on the straps, but also a lot of negative pressure on the forks as they fully rebounded, then were snatched tight by the wheel locked into the chock. They were not designed for that.
My compromise solution is to pull them down a little less than half way. This stops any negative pressure because the straps will stop the upward bounce before the forks reach their maximum distention. And the front end is less prone to bounce around because there is some tension already in the forks. I’m still compressing the spring some, but only in the upper end where it is less likely to become permanent.
For anchor points on the bike, I used the rubberized hooks through the luggage rack on the back. These are fine and are unlikely to cause trouble. For the other places, I run the straps through the engine guards and around the risers on the bars. This will eventually cause trouble if I trailer long enough. Those straps will eventually rub through the chrome and I’ll start to get rust. A simple solution might be pipe insulation to protect those pieces.
I use ratchet straps for the primary tie-downs, but also run safety rope as a backup. Always have at least two means for each direction of restraint. Ratchet straps are the best way to go, but there may be times when they are unavailable or unusable for some reason. For those times, you need to know how to tie at least three knots. One is the bowline, another is a truckers-hitch and the last is a half-hitch.
Learn these knots and practice them. You’ll find they can bring a lot of pleasure to binding your phat lady.

- Guy Wheatley

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.