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Towing a Motorcycle Trailer for The First Time

When touring two-up or camping, the benefits of a motorcycle trailer are evident.As soon as we pulled into Marcus Dairy I knew I had a problem. The Danbury Connecticut restaurant is long famous as a Sunday biking destination and motorcycles filled the lot in long herringbone patterns along narrow lanes.

Normally there wouldn't be a problem, just ride the bike down to an empty spot and back in. Problem was there were no empty spots. Worse yet, when I reached the end of the lane, it was blocked. Still no problem, right, just pull a U-turn and head out the way I came. Wrong. If my bike had stopped at the rear fender, that's what I would have done, but it didn't. For the first time, I was pulling a motorcycle trailer.

I couldn't back up the lane to the exit and I couldn't turn around. Only two hours with my new trailer and I'm starting to have second thoughts. One of the reasons I enjoy motorcycling is the maneuverability. Sure, the trailer handled well on the road and was easy to pack, but at what cost? Finally, I parked the bike in the center of the lane, locked our helmets in the trailer, and went in for some breakfast. It's no use trying to think on an empty stomach.

After a hot breakfast and some ribbing from my wife and friends, we left the restaurant to find the crowd had thinned, giving me enough room to turn the bike and trailer. Next time, I'd check the parking situation a little closer before pulling in.

Over the next seven days, I pulled the motorcycle trailer over fifteen hundred miles in seven states - through sun and rain, gravel and mud, one hundred degree heat and forty degree cold, on flat four lanes and winding mountain roads, country lanes and city streets. Halfway through the trip, I came to a conclusion; I should have bought the trailer the day I bought the bike.

Everyone I asked about pulling a motorcycle trailer told us the same thing; you won't remember it's there. They were right. At our first gas stop I pulled up to the wrong pump and had to back up. I nearly jackknifed the trailer before my wife reminded me it was there. The trailer tracked with the bike under all conditions. I had expected an increase in lateral force in the corners, causing the bike to want to drift off line. I was wrong. The motorcycle leaned and cornered as if the trailer wasn't there. 

I developed the habit of setting my rear view mirrors to see the back corners of the trailer and glancing back when I hit a bump or a rough section of road. The trailer bounced occasionally, but I never felt it. Even on rough gravel roads, the trailer transmitted no motion to the motorcycle. Slow speed handling was unaffected. I turned the bike as tight and slow as I did without the trailer. Gas mileage decreased only one to two miles per gallon.

Does your wife carry more toiletries for a week trip than you've used in your whole life? Who cares? With a motorcycle trailer, you can take it all. For me, packing and unpacking a motorcycle are the worst parts of any tour. With the trailer, we were able to pack in regular soft-sided luggage and it didn't have to fit in the saddlebags. Just pull into a motel, grab your bags, and check in. In the morning, throw your bags in the trailer and you're ready to go, with no creative packing or arguing about why the hair dryer doesn't fit today when it fit just fine yesterday.

On the road, the trailer was a real convenience. Jackets, gloves, rain gear, maps, and snacks were easily accessible. The ice chest on the trailer tongue held our favorite drinks for whenever and wherever we wanted them. The trailer also increased our visibility. With a motorcycle trailer, our overall vehicle length increased, helping other drivers to better gauge our speed.

When touring two-up or camping, the benefits of a motorcycle trailer are evident. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The trailer adds to the weight and length of the motorcycle. Weight affects the acceleration and braking. Length effects maneuverability in tight quarters. Turning sharp, alongside an obstacle, like a curb, post, or stopped vehicle requires special attention. Braking distance increases slightly and you need a little more clutch and throttle when starting out. Strategic parking is must. While you can back a motorcycle with a trailer, the relatively short tongue length makes it prone to jackknife.

None of these considerations begin to outweigh the convenience of a motorcycle pull behind trailer. If you have been avoiding a motorcycle trip due to lack of space, don't wait any longer. You won't even remember it's there.

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