Tag Archives: motorcycle trailer

How does a motorcycle camper affect a bike’s gas mileage?

The Impact of a Motorcycle Camper on Gas Mileage

I’ve read a lot of discussions about the impact of a motorcycle trailer on a bike’s gas mileage but had never tracked it for myself. On my recent run down to the Georgia Mountain Rally in Hiawassee, I decided to pay closer attention.

Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper
Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper

I thought it would be especially interesting since I was pulling a Mini Mate motorcycle camper loaded with four boxes of books. It would be the heaviest pull I’ve done in a while. The Mini Mate weighs in at 265 lbs. empty and I usually carry very little gear, so my total towing weight with the Mini Mate almost never exceeds 300 lbs. In this case, four boxes of books added 160 lbs., plus the additional stuff I needed for my booth at the rally. I figured by the time I was done, I was looking at a weight of something in the range of 420 to 450 lbs. That’s about the same weight as a Time Out Deluxe loaded with gear.

A lot of factors go into determining gas mileage. The biggest factors are speed and weight, but other elements play a role, too, like the size of the bike and its power (Honda ST-1300), riding style, terrain, and weather. Especially headwinds. More about that later.

motorcycle camper mpg table

The ride to the rally and back covered about 1200 miles of mixed roads including state primary routes, US highways and some Interstate. On the way down, I plotted a leisurely route that included a greater variety of roads than the return trip. About half way into the run to the rally, I picked up I-40 from Greensboro, NC to Asheville, NC where the pace picked up. I increased my pace to stay up with traffic.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

The last segment included long pulls up steep hills on US 23 and US 64 to the turn for Hiawassee, but also corresponding long runs down those same grades. Borrowing a page from the hypermiler’s handbook, I pulled in the clutch and coasted. On one stretch down US 64 I coasted for 4 miles at or above the speed limit. That was kind of fun. It probably boosted my mileage on those long grades by 1 mpg.

Let’s just say the trip back was an entirely different story. After 3 days of unceasing high winds, toppling trees, 45 degree daytime highs and intermittent wind-driven rain, I was ready to get back. Right now. Seeing a break in the precip on my iPhone RadarScope app, I executed my escape plan.
The winds were unbelievable, and in my face for the first 100 miles from Hiawassee to Asheville. Believe it or not, having the camper attached to the back of the bike makes it feel better in strong winds, like attaching a tail to a kit. Headwinds tossed the front end around like a pup with a rag doll, but the rear end stayed planted.

Mileage, predictably, took a hit. While I wasn’t averaging very fast speeds, the headwinds added to the work the bike had to do to pull itself and the camper up those long grades, and the bike actually slowed on the downhill grades with the stiff headwinds buffeting the bike. I don’t think it would’ve mattered whether I was towing or not, the combination of hills and weather conditions caused my mileage to plummet for the first segment of the return.

Return mileage wasn't as stellar, but it still wasn't that much of a deviation from my regular hammer-down riding style.

At Asheville, radar revealed that a turn north would get me ahead of the weather front and out of the rain, so that was a no brainer. I-26 is an easy run over the Bald Mountains of the Appalachian range between Asheville and Johnson City, Tennessee. At this point, the path home was made clear by predictions of 3 to 5 inches of rain and the sight of animals lining up two-by-two. I would pick up I-81 and make a bombing run home.

Riding now on long straights with lower grades, my mileage ticked up just a little bit even though I was twisting the throttle at a decent rate, keeping up with or passing some traffic, what most riders would consider a normal, safe pace. I stopped for the night in Salem, VA. I’d gotten well ahead of the bad weather, but it was still chilly. Escaping the worst of it tired me out, so I decided I would make the final run home the next day.

I didn’t waste any time getting home. Let’s put it that way. It was a brilliant sunny day out, but the lack of cold weather gear made it uncomfortable. So I just put my head down and banged out the last 225 miles.

Comparing this to my usual mileage without a trailer revealed that the impact isn’t a much as I’d expected, even at the faster rates. My ST-1300 averages around 46 MPG when I’m making a long run at modest highway speeds, about 3 points higher than the best MPG I averaged pulling a loaded motorcycle camper at those same speeds. When moving at a faster pace on the Interstate or when I’m carving up some twisties, my average drops to 37 MPG or about 4 MPG better than when towing.
I would have thought the difference would be greater, especially on the return trip with higher speeds, but the numbers don’t lie. Over the course of a 1200 mile trip, towing the camper cost me about one extra tank full of gas, or about $21.

Considering the difference in comfort between camping in a puddle (complete with wind-driven whitecaps) and camping off the ground, high and dry, I’ll gladly pay for the extra tank of gas and bring the camper along for the ride, every time.

P.S. Incidentally, I should add the camper handled great behind the bike, even with that much weight. I inflated the tires to 50 lbs. PSI (max is 60), and made sure the bike’s tires were at their max as well. I loaded the books evenly across the bottom of the camper to keep the weight low and evenly distributed. I used engine braking when slowing for traffic lights so I didn’t add too much strain to my brakes. Even descending the mountains of western North Carolina in driving winds and rain, I never felt like the camper was pushing the bike. It was still a fun ride!

Trailer and Bike Wiring Compatability

You can connect any trailer to your trike as long as you understand how BOTH are wired.

Q: I am in the market for a good used Escapade in the 1990s and up.

I purchased a 2004 Goldwing Trike last year and am considering now in looking for a trailer although my possibilities of locating one are slim to none because I’ve been searching the web for a year now and still can’t find a good used Escapade for sale.

I was told by the company I bought my trike from to make very sure what kind of motorcycle cargo trailer I ever purchased because all trailer hookups are not the same. For example, if I purchased an Escapade BE SURE the wiring on the trike is for an Escapade; otherwise, it will fry the trike’s wiring.

Can you confirm for me if this is true? Also, are all Escapade models wired the same. Example, I don’t want to have the trike wired for an Escapade LE model only to find out that I found a good deal on an Escapade SE model; however, the wiring is different.

Thanks for your input on both of these questions.

A: Good questions. There is a lot of confusion about bike-trailer wiring, because every company that makes trailers tends to do something different. There are quasi-standards, but no one is bound to follow them. Every maker uses a different style of plug. There are four-wire and five-wire trailers. Four-wire trailers can have five wires, five wire trailers can have six. If you aren’t familiar with them all, it’s hard to sort things out.

First, let me assure you that you can attach any trailer you like to your trike. The key is to understand how the trailer is wired so that you are matching the trike’s wiring to the trailer. This is where some folks get into trouble by matching wire colors, thinking that they should connect “white to white” or “black to black”. That is probably what led to some of those fried wiring harnesses your dealer was talking about.

If you know what light function corresponds to which color wire on your trike, you can match that up with the same light function on your trailer, whatever color it happens to be. If you need to change plugs and slightly rewire the trailer, it’s really no big deal, as long as you know what color corresponds to which light function.

For trailers like Escapade, the company is still in business (and making great trailers), so you can get a wiring diagram with color codes that will tell you what color on the trailer wiring corresponds to the ground wire, brake, turns, and running lights. (While we’re on the subject of Escapade, the wiring for the Escapade LE is the same as the Escapade SE, as the Escapade Elite, etc.)

If you’re buying a used trailer of ANY brand, Escapade, Time Out, ANY trailer, I always recommend that you map which color wire activates which specific light. I’ve seen some that have been rewired over time, and done differently than what came from the factory. I once saw one where it had been completely rewired with ALL RED wire because that’s what they guy had on hand. He made little tick marks on the end to distinguish one red wire from another.

The best way to do this is to simply hook up a 12 volt source to the wires on the trailer and power them up one at a time to see what color wire turns on which light.

If you find your trailer is a four-wire (brake lights operate on the turn signals), you may need to install a 5 to 4 converter so your trike’s brake lights will show up properly on the trailer.

Plugs don’t matter. You can change plugs on the trike or trailer. All you need to insure is that the connection between trike and trailer have enough pins for your wires and stay securely plugged together.

In all cases, I prefer to use an isolating trailer wiring harness for trikes because this powers the trailer lights off of the trike battery instead of adding them to the trike’s signal circuits. If something does happen and a short develops, it will not “fry” the trike’s wiring harness. It will simply take out a fuse on the wiring kit. A fuse that can be easily replaced once the problem is found and fixed.

Good luck in your search – used Escapades are hard to find. When one rider is ready to sell his, he usually has two or three friends in line to buy it. Of course if you decide to go the new Escapade route, feel free to contact me!

Online Trailer Buying

A rally that attracts a lot of out of town riders is a great place to see trailers and talk to their owners.

Question: I would like to buy a trailer but I am not sure about doing this online.  I would like to make sure I’m getting what I pay for.

Answer: I agree, and I don’t think you should order a trailer online if you’re not sure it’ll fit your needs.

Different folks have different comfort levels. Many of the people I talk to already have a pretty good idea what they’re looking for in a trailer. Sometimes they are buying the same thing a friend has. Other times they saw a trailer or camper on a road trip.

I try to provide as much info as I can to give folks what they need to make a purchase decision they can feel good about. When I put together the product lineup for Open Road Outfitters, I looked at over sixty companies that make trailers. Some I wouldn’t pull out of my street.  Others, in my opinion, are way over-engineered and overpriced.  I tried to strike a balance with the trailer line up I’ve assembled, but they all have a few things in common:  they are well-made here in the U.S.A., they tow well, and they represent a good value.

Sometimes having that info online is enough, sometimes it’s not.  I encourage folks to ask questions.  I try to answer them as honestly and fairly as I can, but I also realize that my opinion is not always sufficient to justify a purchase of several thousand dollars.

I usually tell folks that if they aren’t sure what they want,  go to a couple of bike rallies, especially those that cater to moto travelers like Americade, or one of the big national events like Sturgis or Daytona.  Rallies with Gold Wingers tend to have a TON of trailers, so even if you’re a died-in-the-wool Harley rider, check with a local Gold Wing group. Seeing a trailer firsthand and talking with the owner at a rally, I think, is one of the best ways to get a firsthand, unsolicited opinion on how a trailer performs.

Occasionally I can put an interested buyer in touch with a customer who has purchased the type of trailer they are considering.  My customers are scattered all over and their contact info changes fairly often so this isn’t guaranteed, but when it works, it’s a great way to learn more about the specific trailer you are looking at.

Beware of vendors selling hot deals on eBay. One in particular seems to have made a great business out of selling imported trailers and campers that are copies of American designed and manufactured trailers. They’re offered cheap, and with lots of extras. Just remember, you get what you pay for.

What to Look For When Buying a Used Trailer

Question: I’m looking at purchasing a mid-80’s Escapade trailer. What should I look at when considering the condition of this trailer?

Answer: There are a few things I’d consider with any used trailer and a couple of specific points with the Escapade.

To begin, I would only buy a used trailer if either a) the manufacturer is still in business or b) replacement parts are clearly available from auto sources. I get many requests for parts for trailers (especially campers) I have never heard of or that went out of business decades ago.  Business stability and length of production are factors that I  considered when choosing the trailers I would sell.

In evaluating a trailer I pay most attention to the stuff you can’t see easily because that’s usually where the problems lie. I mean, a trailer isn’t that complicated, so there isn’t that much to consider.  If you’re buying a trailer to tow right now (as opposed to buying a restoration project) you want to make sure the frame underneath is clean and straight, that the trailer shows no signs of neglect (stored outside uncovered for years), and that any special parts are in good repair (more on that in a minute).  I would pull one of the wheels off, take off the dust cap and look at the condition of the grease.  Dry, old grease means the bearings may need to be replaced.  Any slop or movement in the wheel while attached to the hub may mean the same.  Check the lights to make sure they work and the wiring harness hasn’t been hacked.

Inside, does the trailer show signs of water leakage? Is the gasket around the tub in good condition or does it show signs of dry rot?  Is it dirty or does it look like it’s been kept reasonably clean?  Carpet can be refreshed or replaced if its worn but an unusual amount of crud is just another indication of how the trailer may have been kept. What’s the condition of the fiberglass? Are there cracks or breaks that need to be fixed?  Does hardware like locks and hinges work properly? Likewise, exterior cosmetic issues like trim or paint can usually be fixed (or ignored) but a big slash or gaping hole might give you pause to wonder about a trailer’s history.

Campers require an extra level of scrutiny because they have many more parts, some of which are sensitive to wear. Set up the entire rig and check the tent canvas carefully.  Look for signs of dry rot or weakness due to UV exposure.  Nylon tent material breaks down as it is exposed to sunlight.  Many campers develop problems not because they’ve been heavily used but because they haven’t been maintained properly. For example, a rider returns home from a wet weekend camping trip and forgets to air out the canvas…that’ll create ripe conditions for rotting, a situation you can sniff out as soon as you open up the unit.  Does it smell musty?  If it does now, it will months and years from now unless you strip it and refit it.

You also want to set up a camper to make sure it has all its poles, supports, etc.  The first camper I bought had a half dozen poles needed to set up the interior. A few years later I sold my bike and camper to a buddy in California who flew out and rode it back.  He sold off the camper when he returned home.  A few years later I was cleaning out the garage and found…you guessed it…the poles.  I’d forgotten to include them and he never set up the camper.  Apparently, the buyer never did either.  Whoops.

Now, about the Escapade.  This brings me to the topic of special equipment.  The Escapade is a well made trailer that uses air shocks to smooth out the ride.  Those air shocks are also specially made for the trailer and available only from Escapade.  I would make very, very sure the air suspension system holds air because replacement shocks are north of $350 each.   The air system may leak air due to old o-rings in the air system fittings, so if there’s any question about the air suspension, you’d want to sort out the problem or have the seller account for the replacement cost of those shocks as you negotiate your price.

As usual, common sense, a little skepticism and a critical eye are useful tools in evaluating a used trailer. Hopefully the points I just outlined will give you some additional points to look at to ensure that you make the best buy possible.

Have a question about motorcycle trailering? Feel free to e-mail me, dale@openroadoutfitters.com and I’ll try to answer your question, or point you in the right direction.

BMW CAN-BUS and Trailer Wiring

Question: I’d like to add a trailer to my BMW. I have a 2007 R1200RT. I’m having trouble finding someone who will wire it up. In fact, no one wants to touch it! They say that anything I add to the wiring will cause it to fault and they don’t want to be responsible, etc., etc. Do you have any thoughts or ideas?

Answer: BMW makes a great bike, but in this situation, the wiring system they use for their bikes is a little too smart for its own good. However, it is possible to add trailer wiring to your recent model Beemer. And, as other manufacturers adopt smarter wiring systems, this situation is going to occur with greater frequency.

Most bike signal circuits are wired the way they have been for decades. 12 volt power runs throughout the system and it is applied/removed from lights and turn signals based on the position of various switches, e.g. the ignition switch, kickstand, and kill switch. For the most part, the bike doesn’t monitor the power drain on the system in any way. It either works, or it doesn’t.

BMW began adopting the Controller Area Network BUS (CAN-BUS) for their motorcycles somewhere around the mid 2000’s. It makes sense, and it’s a move that other motorcycle makers will eventually adopt. CAN-BUS is essentially a “smart” wiring harness. It simplifies wiring, which reduces production costs and improves reliability. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to bolt-on goodies that have to interface with the bike in any way beyond tapping the battery. For example, adding a harness to drive the lights on a trailer.

The problem is most apparent when you try to figure out how to make your CAN-BUS bike drive the brake and tail lights of a trailer.

In the department of brake and tail lights, most bikes use a bulb with two filaments, one that operates the tail light and one that operates the brake light. Extending these functions to the trailer is easy. Tap the wiring harness for each light separately and run them to the trailer. Do the same for each turn signal and you’re done.

When you pull off the tail light module of some CAN-BUS Beemers, the first thing you’ll notice is the brake/tail lights use bulbs with just one filament. And just two wires, a hot wire and a ground. How do you get tail lights and brake lights out of a bulb with one filament and just one hot wire? The CAN-BUS system. This intelligent wiring system runs the bulb at a low 5 volts of power, enough to make it glow as a tail light. When you apply the brake, CAN-BUS bumps up the voltage which brightens the bulbs. Voila! Brake light!

This presents two problems for the would-be trailer puller. To begin with, a trailer has separate circuits for brake and running light. Second, CAN-BUS systems are very sensitive to the amount of load on the circuit. Extending the circuit by adding lights can make the bike’s computer think there is a problem, shutting down the circuit. Like I said, a little too smart for its own good, in this situation.

The good news is, there is a simple fix. First, make sure your trailer’s light are drawing the smallest amount of power possible. If your trailer is equipped with incandescent bulbs, replace them with LEDs. Plug-in equivalents that fit standard light sockets are inexpensive. LED lights draw a fraction of the power that incandescents require, which will prevent the bike’s computer from detecting a fault.

Now, since the bike is driving the lights at low voltage, then high, your trailer’s LED lights will mimic the action of the bike. All you need to do is hook up the trailer’s running light circuit to the bike’s combined running light/brake circuit. When first turned on, all your running lights will operate at low brightness, just like they should. And when you grab the brake, your running lights will brighten, just like brakes.

Another option is to use a wiring harness that has been designed for this specific application. I have a BMW CAN-BUS adaptor for single-wire systems that is designed to split out these functions onto two separate light circuits, so you can wire your trailer normally.

CAN-BUS is now appearing on many other bikes, including the most recent Harleys. Soon, it’ll be on just about everything that’s made. But you’ll still be able to wire it for a trailer.

9 Ways To Buy a New Trailer For Less

Photo Courtesy of Alan Cleaver

Thinking about buying a trailer, but need to get it past the home budget czar? Really like a particular trailer but find it’s just a little out of your range? Here’s a list of ways you can save money when buying a trailer. Depending on your circumstances, it is entirely possible to cut your cost for a trailer by more than half. So, I hope this helps you get the trailer you want, and a price you can afford!

Buy Off-Season

This may be the most obvious of suggestions, but making a trailer purchase in the off-season will save you money. In October, we’re still mourning the loss of fair riding weather for the year, and haven’t started looking forward to next year’s rides. Very few people are thinking about trailers. As we begin to approach riding season on the calendar we suddenly remember – Oh yeah, I guess I’d better get that trailer ordered!

Do yourself a favor and budget for your trailer purchase between November and January. There’s a good chance you will find special shipping deals, discounts on leftover models, and incentives on orders for the new year.

Buy a Complete Package

Do you need a hitch and wiring for your bike along with the trailer? You may be able to get a package deal and save money on the extras when you buy everything all at once.

Buy a Trailer Timeshare

Have you and a buddy talked about buying trailers for your future trips? If you have similar tastes in bikes, you may be able to save by splitting the cost of a trailer with your friend. Think of it as a “trailer timeshare.” People buy timeshares of beach condos, exotic sports cars, and airplanes, so why not a trailer?

When traveling together, you’ll find that a 25 cubic foot cargo trailer can easily handle the gear of two couples. You’ll also have the use of a trailer when you go off on solo trips. You’ll need to agree on a common color choice, how the trailer will be stowed, and how to allocate its use when you are not riding together. But if you find you can agree on these things, sharing a trailer means you’ll get all the trailer you want for half the money.

Make a Group Buy

Maybe you and your friend like to travel together, but you know a trailer sharing agreement would never work.  You can also save by buying with a friend or with a group if you purchase trailers from the same place at the same time. A package deal will allow a willing dealer to create some incentives for a group purchase.  Shipping two or more units to the same location can also help reduce your freight costs by as much as a third.

Terminal Pickup

Speaking of shipping, it’s possible to save a big chunk on freight by picking up your trailer at the freight terminal of the truck company handling your delivery. Often, delivery to your door is expensive because the shipping company will need to run a special truck to your house. If you have a pickup or a flatbed trailer, or access to either, picking up your trailer at the terminal will often save you $150 or more.

Make It a Vacation

I’ve sold trailers to many riders who avoid crating and shipping fees altogether by making a vacation out of picking up their trailer. Escapades are manufactured in the Virginia mountains while American Legends are made in the midwestern heartland. Mini Mates come from Pennsylvania and WAGS are in Iowa. All are great riding destinations.

Cash Talks

Dealers who accept cash or personal checks for payment may be willing to give you a discount.  They would be paying the discount to a credit card company, so why not give it to you instead? Card discount rates usually run 1.5 to 2.5 percent. Potential savings: A cash discount on a $4,000 trailer would put $100 in your pocket.

Go Color Neutral

If you’d like to have your trailer color-matched but want to keep your costs down, consider buying a neutral color. Most trailers are available at no extra cost in stock colors. Fiberglass trailers are usually available in a white or black gel coat.  Gel coat is a hard finish used to give fiberglass a finished look.  It is not as glossy as paint, but if a black or white trailer would look good with your bike, even if just for a year, you can get it painted later and spread the cost of the trailer over time.

Escapade LE Motorcycle TrailerGet Only the Critical Stuff

Finally, take a really hard look at what you absolutely need and order only the most critical things with the trailer. Most trailers have a long list of options you can bolt on to the trailer.  Many of these are cosmetic enhancements that may add to the appeal of the trailer, but don’t necessarily change its performance. Many options such as coolers, luggage racks, spoilers, chrome trim, extra lights, can all be added at a later date.  There are a few options that make sense to have installed at the factory.  For example, if the trailer you choose offers interior carpet as an option, have that installed by the factory.  It would be difficult, time-consuming, and probably more expensive to have carpet added later to your trailer.

Let’s take a real example. Let’s say you’re interested in an Escapade LE trailer (25 cubic feet, air suspension). You really want it color matched to your bike but you need to keep the price down. On an Escapade, as I mentioned above, the only critical factory-installed option is the carpeting. That’s it. Don’t let another dealer tell you otherwise. Everything else can be bolted on later. Chrome wheels? Chrome tongue? Luggage rack? These can all be added later with no problem. Stone shield? Skip that and have a car detailer install a clear stone guard on the front. Cooler? Bolt on.  Garmet bag? Bolt on. Spoiler? Bolt on. Not as easy as adding some of the other things, but it’s still a bolt on.

When you take off all the things you can add later, guess what?  A color-matched Escapade LE that would have cost you $4590 with all the popular options is now $2,865.  Later, if they’re important, you can add your accessories. But for now, the important thing is, you have a color-matched trailer for almost half the price of a full-loaded trailer.

How Do You Save?

I’ve shared a handful of ideas for saving money on a trailer purchase. What’s your strategy?

Storing A Trailer

The most important thing you can do to increase the longevity of your motorcycle trailer is to store it in a sheltered, dry area. Long term exposure to the elements is the number one killer of all things mechanical. You’ve seen what happens to junker cars and bikes when they’re left out. They begin the inevitable reversion to their original elements, broken down by the sun, wind and rain.

A motorcycle trailer is no different. Constant exposure to the sun bleaches out the natural oils of rubber tires, causing them to dry and crack. UV rays will cause a painted trailer to fade while environmental hazards like acid rain, tree sap, and bird poop eat away at the clear coat on the paint. Moisture accumulates on the components underneath, eating away at metal components and corroding electrical components.

Before you store your trailer, it should be clean and dry. Storing a dirty, wet trailer creates a microclimate from whence all manner of organisms will spring to life to attack your trailer including rust and mold. If you have a stone shield (bra) on the front, that should be removed as well. Moisture trapped behind the stone shield can cause paint to blister with long term exposure. Open the trailer lid and let it air out thoroughly if you brought home anything inside the trailer that was wet. Once the interior is completely dry, close the lid to avoid providing an inviting new home for mice.

For long term storage, remove the tongue to save space. Most trailer tongues bolt to the front of the trailer and can be easily removed. This makes the trailer more compact and you won’t stumble over the tongue trying to navigate through your garage.

Is Motorcycle Trailering For Me?

So, lately you’ve been thinking about pulling a trailer with your motorcycle. Is trailering the best solution for you? The only way to come to the right conclusion is to get the answer to a few basic questions which we’ll consider in this section.

Here’s the first one: What does owning a trailer help me achieve as a rider? Why am I even thinking about owning a trailer? For most people, the answer to this question can be summed up in a word—convenience.

How much time do you spend before a trip trying to figure out how to get all your gear on the bike? How many strategies have you concocted for getting all your gear on board? Ever had a fight with your co-rider about who gets what space? Adding a trailer to your bike will almost surely eliminate the fussing and carping that precedes any long ride.

Packing up in the morning is a snap.  Toss your gear into the trailer, drop the lid, and ride off. When you’re riding with friends, you’ll make the whole trip more enjoyable for your buddies when you offer them a little extra space to pack some gear in your trailer. And you’re not limited to towing your trailer with your motorcycle. You can easily tow your trailer with any vehicle.

Pulling a trailer has some potential safety benefits, too. Trailering makes your bike more visible on the road. Your physical size on the road increases, making you easier for other vehicles to spot. Your trailer also improves your conspicuity at night with its extra lights. And, if you’re the type who stacks their bike high with gear and a co-rider, a trailer will make your ride safer simply by eliminating the top-heavy feel of your bike and restoring its balance.

Trailering with a pop-up camper makes motorcycle camping a blast. Have you passed the age when sleeping on the ground was fun, but still enjoy sitting around the campfire with other riding buddies? A pop-up camper will allow you to really enjoy this aspect of riding. Campers not only making setting up camp easier, they are also more comfortable when you need to ride out a bad weather spell. And have you priced hotel rooms lately? Even at middle-level hotels? For the price difference, you can recoup the cost of a motorcycle camper in just a year or two if you attend a couple of rallies each year or take a couple of long trips.

Trailering your gear means it will stay dry and secure. It means you won’t need to stop to put rain covers on your soft luggage, and your rain gear, kept on top of everything else in your trailer, will be easy to get to quickly without unpacking a bunch of stuff.

Your gear will be far more secure, too, than when strapped to your bike in a couple of soft bags. When you stop for lunch or call it a day, you can easily secure your trailer and its contents without spending time securing your gear or worrying about it when it’s out of sight for a few minutes.

The bottom line is this—a motorcycle trailer will help you enjoy the motorcycle touring experience and, quite possibly, encourage you to ride further and take more trips. How can that be a bad thing?

Is Trailering Safe?

When I talk to a rider who has never pulled a trailer before, I often hear something that starts like this…

“I know this guy who knows a guy who heard that a guy was towing a trailer and it caught the edge of a bridge abutment and yanked his bike so hard it threw him over the bridge onto the Interstate and a truck runned over him.

“I heard about this guy that had a pop-up camper and it popped open whilst he was a running down the Interstate and caught like a parachute and throwed him off.”

“I heard about this guy who…”

Once you’ve heard a few of those stories, you probably start thinking, “Jeez, is towing a trailer safe?”

I understand what people mean when they ask this question, but it’s the wrong question. After all, is riding a motorcycle safe? Motorcycling is an activity that entails risk. Those who ride have judged that they are willing to accept the risks in order to enjoy the reward of riding. Smart riders do things to reduce their risks.

Similarly, towing a trailer with a motorcycle can add some risk to the act of riding. Sometimes people forget they are pulling a trailer or ride too aggressively, and when the trailer hits an unexpected bump or falls off the shoulder of the road, it can momentarily upset a bike’s handling. If you’re caught completely off guard, it might lead you to over correct and crash. On the other hand, if you’re a smart rider, you choose the right trailer, and you learn good habits, your actions can offset those risks. One of the primary aims of this site is to help you make good decisions and learn good habits.