Every Motorcycle Rider Experiences the Roadside Pickup + Tow at Some Point in Their Riding Career

At some point in your riding career, your bike is going to leave you stranded. I was reminded of this fact in June, when a Saturday morning ride with my wife on the back got sidetracked when I lost power to the motorcycle… while traveling at 100 kp/h.

But I digress.

Cam wearing the NEXX X Vilitur while stuck on the side of the road

So there Melissa and I are, in the median of an intersection, waiting for a tow truck. She’s on the phone with a towing company that handles motorcycles (via the built-in SENA intercom on the SCHUBERTH C4 Pro), and I’m baking in the summer sun in a black leather REAX Jackson jacket.

This also happened to be the first time my trusty FZ6 has left me stranded. As it turned out, the regulator went and took the battery with it.

Suffice to say, the entire thing really put a damper on my testing of the NEXX X.Vilitur.

Loading the Bike on the Flatbed’s Deck

38 minutes later our tow truck arrives, and together he and I load the bike on the truck. The driver, John, looked at me and asking me if I knew how to properly secure a bike to a flatbed. Like most riders, I had a general idea of how to do it but lacked the specifics. I’m sure I could figure it out, but I was thankful John opted to give me a quick how-to.

First, If Possible, Get a Flatback With a Long Deck

Loading the Yamaha FZ6 on the flatbed tow truck

Believe it or not, but some towing company flatbeds don’t extend very far and leave you with a small mountain to climb when you’re loading the deck. That kind of sucks when you’re pushing a 450lb motorcycle, so take advantage of the maximum the deck will extend.

Walk the Bike Up the Deck, & Keep Your Hand on the Front Brake

Securing the FZ6 to the flatbed tow truck

Whenever you are walking your motorcycle, you should always have control of the front brake. This is especially important when you are pushing the bike up an incline.

Keep the bike in the middle of the deck, and get it as close to the cab as possible. Lean it on its kickstand while you get ready to strap it down.

Cam's motorcycle on the flatbed

Secure Your Bike via a Four-Point (or More) Tie-Down

Tying down your bike is pretty easy when you’re using ratchet tie-downs. You want to secure your bike with its weight evenly-distributed so that it’s standing upright. The straps should be snug and taught, able to resist a firm tug in any given direction.

Do not overtighten the tie-downs, especially if you are wrapping them through your wheels or using your forks as tie-down points. Choose a part of the frame whenever possible. If that is not an option, use a part of the bike that itself is strong and securely attached to the frame. You don’t want your attachment point snapping off.

Good spots include:

  • The front/rear wheel
  • Handles attached to the frame
  • The base of your handlebars
  • Secure components that can take enough load to bear the load needed to slightly compress the front suspension

For most bikes, a four-point tie-down is sufficient. If your bike is heavier, you may want to consider six or even eight tie-down points. But for most of us, four is good to go.

How to tie down a motorcycle on a truck bed

Make sure you have a 45° angle (or as close to it as possible) for your tie-downs. This maximizes load distribution and minimizes risk to the bike. The bike should be standing upright, with little slack in the lines. 

Secure the Rear Wheel

Cam's FZ6 secured via four-points on a flatbed tow truck

Securing the rear wheel ensures that the bike doesn’t sway while you’re underway. Again, you want the straps tight but not overdone.

Be Careful When Backing the Bike Down

Once the straps have been removed and it’s time to disembark the bike, you’ll want to get in your ready position. Put your hands on both handlebars, and with the front brake applied, prepare to take the weight of the bike.

As the deck lifts, your bike is going to want to roll back- ensure you are prepared to control the weight of the motorcycle as the deck inclines.

Slowly feather the brake so that you are able to control the bike as you walk it off the flatbed. I recommend putting the kickstand up to keep it out of the way. Don’t forget to put it down before leaning your bike over.

How to Secure Your Motorcycle to a Flatbed (the Short Version)

  1. Park the bike in the middle of the deck, as close to the front (near the cab) as possible.
  2. Secure the bike from four points, attaching the tie-downs to the frame of your motorcycle (or components, such as the front forks)
  3. Make sure the bike is secured, standing vertically at a 45° angle. The straps should be tight, and the forks should be slightly compressed.
  4. Secure the rear wheel
  5. Test the slack in all the straps; make sure everything is nice and tight
  6. When taking your bike off the deck, ensure you are in your ready position and have control of the front brake

Video Walkthroughs

These videos do a good job demonstrating how to properly tie-down your motorcycle.

And if you’re using a flat trailer vs. a flatbed: