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Towing a Camper with a Motorcycle:
6 Safety Tips

by Rick Johnson

Towing a camper with a motorcycle requires a different skill set from towing the same camper with a car. A cyclist encounters a myriad of problems that you might never encounter when pulling the same trailer with a car. Many people who are seasoned cyclists have no idea, or very little idea, what makes for safe towing with a cycle. So here are 6 tips to consider when towing a trailer with a cycle.

1. Don't Tow a Camper with a Motorcycle If the Camper is Too Heavy

Before choosing a camper to tow with a motorcycle you must consider the weight your cycle is capable of towing. The towing capacity is not just the weight of the camper. You have to add the weight of the camper, the weight of the rider in full gear, and the weight of everything you want to take with you. If those three weights exceed your cycle's towing capacity, you need to look for a lighter weight-camper.

When considering the weight of the camper, remember that camper and trailer manufacturers give the dry weight of the basic model, and it is always without additional options. Sometimes the weight is even quoted without the weight of the wheels. This is because if you can choose different wheels, the wheel options may not all weigh the same. For example, an aluminum wheel weighs less than a steel wheel.

Options that add a lot of extra weight to a camper include batteries, spare tires, and electric brakes. Additionally, even options or accessories that don't weigh much individually can add up to 30 or 40 pounds or more if you add too many of them.

2. Watch Your Speed

Cycle riders are used to hitting the open road and cruising along at 60 - 70 mph or more. Maybe this is okay when you’re not towing, but this is never smart to do when towing a trailer with a cycle. We recommend a maximum speed of 55 mph – and that's only in perfect road and weather conditions.

3. Slow Down When Towing a Camper with a Motorcycle over Grooved Roads

When towing a camper with a motorcycle, the tires of the trailer may go through grooves in the road that the cycle tires don't go through and vice versa. This can cause the trailer to sway and can make the cycle difficult to handle if the swaying is severe. The first thing you should do is slow down so you have time to make controlled corrections (not jerky corrections). What you want to avoid is dropping a trailer tire off the edge of the pavement. This is usually instant catastrophe.

4. Don't Tow on Wet Roads

Towing a motorcycle trailer on a wet/damp road is probably the most dangerous situation of all. The first thing I’ll say is just don’t do it, especially with a 2-wheeler. Pull over, rest or even sleep, eat, whatever. If you’re determined you’re going to keep going "come hell or high water," then at the very least slow down. Don’t even think of keeping the same pace you would in dry conditions.

If you tow with a 2-wheeler on wet roads, it's not a matter of IF you're going to crash, it’s a matter of WHEN you're going to crash.

5. Slow Down When Towing in Windy Situations

Gusty winds or being passed by an 18-wheeler can cause a trailer to sway. Again, according to the severity, this swaying can make handling the cycle difficult. Take the same measures as you would for a grooved highway. Slow down and make controlled corrections. If the wind is really bad, and you find yourself constantly fighting the trailer, just get off the road!

6. Distribute the Weight inside the Trailer Correctly

The distribution of the weight of the items that you carry inside the trailer is also a major concern. If you load too much weight behind the axle line, the trailer can have a tendency to lift the tongue, especially as the trailer hits dips in the road at speed. This can decrease the downward pressure of the cycle rear tire(s) which can increase the chances of swaying.  The best way to decrease swaying is not by lowering the tongue weight a few pounds but by distributing weight evenly.

Following the guidelines in these 6 tips isn’t a cure-all for perfect towing experiences. But, they are the common-sense guidelines that can help make towing a trailer with your cycle more enjoyable.

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