The best way of transporting your motorcycle is to ride it. That's why you bought it isn't it? But sometimes it's just not feasible or practical to ride it to where you're going. In those situations you'll load it into the back of a pickup or onto a trailer, and when you do that you need some good quality tie-down straps.
Tie-down straps for motorcycles – you can use them on ATV's too – come in two types: cam buckles and ratchets. Here we're going to explain the merits of ratcheting tie-down straps and follow up by reviewing of one of the highest-rated straps you can buy.
- Transporting a motorcycle or ATV
- Types of tie-down strap
- Using a ratchet strap motorcycle tie-down kit
- What to look for in a ratcheting tie-down strap kit
- Review of the RHINO USA motorcycle tie-down ratchet strap kit
- About the manufacturer
- Caring for your ratcheting tie-down straps
Transporting a motorcycle or ATV
We might call them “toys” but we invest a lot of money in them and they're heavy. When it's time to move them by truck or trailer you want to know they're secure. Plus there's the safety aspect: no one wants a bike or ATV breaking free and bouncing down the highway!
Whether you're using the bed of your truck or a special-purpose trailer the principles for securing the load are the same. Being lower, a trailer is much easier to load though. If you're putting a heavy bike onto the back of a pickup you'll need a quality ramp or ramp set.
Always make sure the bike or ATV is centered left-to-right in the bed or on the trailer. If you can, use a chock to secure your motorcycle's front wheel. Then fit the tie-down straps. You'll need two for the front: there's debate about securing the rear, although two more straps is probably best.
At the front one end of each tie-down goes to the anchor points in the bed. The other need needs to hook onto a rigid structural part of the bike. Soft tie-down loops are useful here. They can wrap around the forks above the lower bracket. Alternatively, you might tie to the engine guard or frame. Handlebars and grips aren't generally recommended because of the risk of bending them.
Best practice is to have the straps running back and up at 45 degree angles. This helps pull the front wheel into the chock if you're using one and resists any tendency of the bike to tip.
At the back the main concern is to stop the wheel from skipping sideways as you go over bumps. Two more tie-down straps will work well, or you could run a single strap from side to side, looping it around the top of the wheel. If the bed or trailer is long enough, go with the 4×45 degree approach, but note that the rear straps will pull the front wheel out of a chock.
Pull the straps tight enough to partially compress the suspension. You don't want to bottom it out but you need to pull it down enough that bumps in the road won't dislodge the hooks. You'll probably also want to fold back the kick-stand as you pull the bike down.
Types of tie-down strap
The two types are the cam buckle and the ratcheting tie-down. In the cam buckle one end of the strap is fed through the buckle, pulled tight, then locked in place by pushing down a lever. The belt side of this lever usually has small teeth to grip the strap. As the strap is pulled tighter the idea is that the teeth bite down more.
Like the cam buckle design, ratcheting tie-down straps have two parts: a ratchet on a short length of strap with a hook at the end, and a second much longer strap, also with a hook at one end. Unlike the cam buckle design, the loose strap end is threaded through the center hub or ‘axle' of the ratchet and then pulled to take up the slack. Then the ratchet handle is cranked back and forth to wrap the strap around the hub and pull it tight.
Ratchet tie-down straps are easier to tighten than cam buckles and you can get them tighter. They're also much less likely to let go, thanks to the dog and claw-type of mechanism and won’t damage the straps.
Using a ratchet strap motorcycle tie-down kit
Hook the short length of strap on the ratchet to a secure mounting point. Hook the loose end to a secure point on your motorcycle, or to the ends of a soft loop tie-down wrapped around a structural component. Thread the loose end of the strap through the ratchet and pull it tight. Then crank the ratchet handle to tighten the strap. This will pull the bike down on it's suspension, so don't tighten it too far.
When fitting the strap make sure it won't rub against any sharp edges. Also check that it's not going to push against any fragile components like fairings. Some motorcyclists like to put a twist in the strap before threading it through the ratchet. They argue this will lessen the resulting wind noise.
Never leave a strap end loose. It will flap around and could mark your paintwork. Worst case, it might even go under a wheel. Make sure it's tied down or otherwise secured before leaving on your trip.
To release a ratcheting tie-down strap just pull on the trigger or grip bar. This lets the hub rotate so you can pull the strap free.
What to look for in a ratcheting tie-down strap kit
Having decided on ratcheting rather than cam buckle tie-down straps, the top two things to consider are strength and length. Strength is quoted in pounds and usually refers to breaking strength rather than the maximum safe load. The maximum load you should put on a strap is one third of the breaking strength. Always make sure the straps you buy are stronger than weight of the load you'll be securing.
Length determines how useful your straps will be. Look for straps long enough to secure your motorcycle or ATV. Straps that are too short may force you to use anchor points that don't do such a good job of holding your bike in place.
The ratchet mechanism itself must be both strong and easy to use. Look for sturdy metal components, a large, strong handle and a release that's easy to use.
Likewise, the straps also need good hooks. ‘S' hooks are standard, but look for those made from quality steel. If they have safety clips that stop them coming off the anchoring point, so much the better.
Review of the RHINO USA motorcycle tie-down ratchet strap kit
This kit includes four ratchets, four 8′ long tie-down straps and four soft-loop tie-downs for wrapping around rigid motorcycle components. Woven from a silk-polyester blend of material, the black straps have a breaking strength of 5,208 pounds. (That makes the maximum load 1,736 pounds.)
The straps, and of course also the ratchet hubs, are 1.6” wide. That's wider than you'll see on most competing products and contributes to the higher strength. The distance from hook to ratchet is 7.5”.
The ‘S' hooks used at each end are coated chromoly steel. Safety clips are standard.
As with other products from RHINO USA, this ratcheting tie-down strap kit comes with a lifetime warranty. Best of all, you can save $18.00 (36%) if you order your motorcycle tie-down kit directly from the Rhino USA website.
About the manufacturer
RHINO USA is a family-owned business based on the West Coast. The founders are all avid outdoorsmen who became frustrated with the low quality gear available for securing loads and rescuing 4×4's. In response, they started their own company to manufacture and supply stronger, more durable straps and tie-downs. They offer a variety of outdoors equipment, including tow straps, shackles, pressure gauges and more. You can browse through all of their products directly on their website here https://www.rhinousainc.com/collections/all.
Caring for your ratcheting tie-down straps
There are two things to think about if you want your straps to last. First, never let the fabric chafe against hooks, your truck or trailer, or what you're securing. Second, as the ratchets will get wet from time to time, apply a little waterproof grease. White lithium, available in spray form, is a good solution as it both lubricates and protects against moisture.
Quality tie-downs are an investment
If you're going to transport a motorcycle or ATV on a trailer or in the back of your truck it's essential to tie it down securely. Not doing so risks the bike toppling over and possibly even falling out. A good ratcheting tie-down kit helps protect your “toys” so why use anything less than top quality equipment? The RHINO USA kit reviewed here is a sturdy, well-made product that does the job.
Looking to purchase a set? You can buy them either directly from there website here: https://www.rhinousainc.com/products/rhino-usa-ratchet-straps or from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07F23GJKF/