Motorcycles are often built to be long-lasting workhorses, but every now and then, sticky situations head our way and a bit of problem-solving creativity for our motorcycles may be asked of us. When it comes to much more serious situations, riders may find themselves with a motorcycle that won’t want to run despite a fair amount of diagnostic effort. In such cases, riders may be left with the option of having their motorcycle towed by another motorcycle. While this sounds relatively straightforward, there are a good few principles that should be followed in order to avoid catastrophic failures along the way. If you’re looking to learn a new life skill on the road, here are a few tips on towing a motorcycle:
Last week, a few of our writers decided to put this to the test. We attempted to tow a motorcycle through the back roads of Marikina City, and we learned three important things about knowing when it’s appropriate to tow a bike. Firstly, it’s important to have your motorcycle towed by someone you trust since a lot of coordination work is required between the rider towing, and the rider being towed. This may be a good friend, a riding buddy, or a stranger you’ve met and trust. Secondly, it’s important to set ground rules between both riders before the towing starts in order to keep the situation controllable. Work out signals for when to stop, how fast to go, which lane to stay in, etc. Lastly, it’s important to put that trust into action and trust that the other rider is working for your best interest. Now that we’ve got a few things on mindset out of the way, it’s time we get started on actually towing your bike.
What you will need
Towing is no easy feat, and preparation for the task at hand is key to ensuring the success of your tow. When preparing for a towing job, you have to make sure that you have a tow strap in good condition at hand. Tow straps are typically flat and wide and are about 4-5 meters in length. Having a strap of this design is important – we’ll get to that in a bit. Apart from having a tow strap, it’s also important to make sure that your motorcycle is able to be towed. If you’re considering a tow after an accident or after a major failure on the road, riders will have to be sure that the motorcycle is in good condition to be rolled on the ground. This means no bent wheels, no deflated tires, no cracks on the chassis, etc. On top of these two, the last thing you will need is a good route to pass through, which brings us to our next section.
Planning your route
Finding an optimal route is important for a good few reasons. Firstly, both riders – the one who will tow, and the one who will be towed – must be comfortable going through a specific route, whether this is because of familiarity, the absence of traffic, or the abundance of safe stops along the way. Know that towing on a highway or major road is generally inadvisable, since other motorists will be traveling at higher speeds, and towing may pose a danger to the general public. It’s also a good idea to avoid steep inclines and declines, and roads with heavy stop-and-go traffic in order to keep the towing job as smooth as possible. Make sure to spend a few minutes agreeing on a route in order to ensure a smooth tow.
Starting the tow
When starting on the tow, the first and most important task is to mount the tow straps on each of the two motorcycles. The general principle to follow is to keep the tow strap straight and parallel with the direction of the road. When mounting the tow strap, there are two options that can work best. The first is by utilizing the footpegs. The rider in front can tie one end of the strap to either of the footpegs, and the rider at the back must tie the other end of the strap to the opposite peg. This means if the rider up front uses the left peg, the rider at the back must use the right peg, and vice versa. Riders must tow side by side, with the bike at the back being a few meters behind.
Another option would be to have the rider in front have the tow strap tied to the back of the motorcycle, while the rider at the back can have the end of the strap tied to the front of the motorcycle through the T-post. Regardless of the method chosen, it’s important for the rider at the back to have the tow strap tied in such a way that it can be let go at will. Don’t hard mount the strap – wrap it a few times around the footpeg, or route the strap from the t-post to the handlebar grip and wrap it around a few times. In emergency situations, the rider at the back can simply let one foot go, or release the handlebar grip in order to completely detach the tow. This is essential in making sure that both riders are towing safely.
Maintaining the tow
After all of the above is sorted properly, it’s now time to maintain the tow until the destination. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the tow strap constantly needs to be tensioned. If the tow strap goes out of tension, any abrupt movements from the rider upfront or at the back can cause both motorcycles to jerk front to back, or side to side. Since the motorcycle upfront has a working engine, and the motorcycle at the back doesn’t, a good tip would be to have the motorcycle at the back lightly feather their brakes from time to time in order to keep the tension on the strap, especially when going downhill.
When going through stop-and-go traffic, the rider at the front also has to keep a good amount of space from the vehicle upfront, in order to have enough room to move the bike forward in case the tow strap needs to be tensioned. Regardless of the situation, both riders will need to make sure that the tow strap is tensioned and that both motorcycles are traveling at safe speeds. With all of this said, make sure to keep your cool, and you should be good for an emergency situation like this. Good luck, and safe travels!