How to Determine the Towing Capacity of Your Motorcycle

Even with saddlebags, a tank bag, and a backpack, it’s hard to carry much cargo on a motorcycle. So when you see someone ride by pulling a trailer, of course, it’s going to look tempting. Hooking up a trailer to your motorcycle for your next road trip would be so convenient. But is it safe? And how do you know what size trailer is appropriate for your bike? Can your bike even tow a trailer?

To figure out the answers to those questions, let’s look at what Bushtec has to say. In a recent article, it went over everything you need to know about towing a trailer with a motorcycle. Here are some of the highlights.

How much power do you need?

If you’re going to tow a trailer safely, you need to make sure your bike has enough power. Similarly, you should wait to ride with a trailer until you have a good bit of experience. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to jump into right after getting your motorcycle license.

According to Bushtec, the general rule is to skip the trailer with anything with an engine smaller than 1,000 ccs such as the Honda Gold Wing. Sadly, it doesn’t give a specific power figure to look out for. But just like when you tow with a truck, you want an engine with an abundance of torque to handle the extra weight.

How much can your motorcycle tow?

Once you have a bike with enough torque to safely tow a trailer, the next step is to make sure your trailer isn’t too heavy for your bike. After all, it’s not just about power when a gust of wind hits you from the side. On a bike that’s too small, the risk of a wreck skyrockets.

If you add up the weight of you, your gear, and your motorcycle, take 20% of that total. You now have the weight of the absolute heaviest trailer you could safely pull. Ideally, your trailer would weigh even less, since the risk of having a wreck goes up with the weight of the trailer.

How to safely ride with a trailer

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As we mentioned above, a motorcycle with a trailer attached can be a lot trickier to ride or maneuver in a parking lot. If you plan to ride with a passenger, that only makes it more important to make sure you have enough experience to tow a trailer. Their life is literally in your hands.

In general, you should make sure you don’t ride so fast you over drive your headlights or brakes, as well as your actual riding skills. Your bike will accelerate more slowly, handle differently, and take more time to come to a stop. Since the trailer is usually wider than your bike, you also have to make sure it stays in your lane and that you keep an eye out for potholes the wider-set wheels might hit.

The rider is the most important safety feature

Riding a motorcycle will always be inherently dangerous. No level of stability control, traction control, or anti-lock braking technology can keep an idiot from changing lanes without looking. Or running a red light because they’re reading a text.

The good news is, while safety systems don’t usually update themselves, humans can significantly improve their riding skills over time. But until new riders have a certain amount of experience, there’s probably going to be a gap between how much weight the bike itself can safely tow and how much weight the rider can safely tow.

If everything you plan to take with you weighs more than the recommended maximum, we get that it’s going to be tempting to risk it just that once. It’s annoying to have to repack your bags or leave behind certain items. But we’d say it’s worth it if it means getting home safely.