For carrying motorcycles
Motorcycle carrying trailers may be open or enclosed. They may be wide, for two machines side-by-side, or narrow, for just a single machine. The main features that distinguish them from other flatbed or enclosed trailers are track(s) to keep the wheels from sliding side to side and sufficient tiedown points to keep the motorcycle(s) from tipping. They may also tilt, or include ramp(s) to facilitate the loading and unloading of motorcycles. Trailer manufacturers often offer trailers specifically designed for carrying motorcycles.
Enclosed trailers, as seen in the photos, have the advantage of protecting motorcycles within from the weather and from prying eyes, and of being able to lock the motorcycles up securely. However, they are heavier than open trailers and create more wind resistance, decreasing the fuel efficiency of the towing vehicle. An enclosed motorcycle-specific trailer can be built low enough so as not to increase resistance due to wind, thus substantially maintaining efficiency.
Collapsible or folding motorcycle trailers are available to overcome storage problems that might prevent use of a non-collapsible trailer, some such trailers are sufficiently compact to allow the user to carry the trailer in the trunk of a car when not in use.
The basic motorcycle trailer design consists of a fixed platform mounted above an axle, which requires the motorcycle be loaded by physically lifting it or rolling it up a ramp onto the platform, potentially a difficult problem when dealing with a heavy touring machine or one that has been disabled. Since the latter half of the 20th century a number of different trailer styles have been devised to make loading motorcycles on them easier. Broadly, such designs include:
- Tilt-bed, wherein the platform teeters on the axle, bringing the tail of the trailer to ground level. The motorcycle is pushed or ridden onto the trailer bed, which in some designs automatically tilts back to the horizontal and locks in place when the load moves forward of the bed pivot point. Such designs still require the machine be pushed up an inclined plane.
- Drop-bed, wherein the platform is lowered to the ground in a substantially horizontally fashion and the motorcycle has only to be rolled or ridden over the lip of the platform and secured to it, whereupon the entire platform and load are raised and secured for towing. Such designs only require the machine be raised by the thickness of the platform, which is typically less than 10 cm (4 in). Numerous mechanical designs have been devised by trailer fabricators to achieve this goal.
For pulling by motorcycles
Trailers towed behind motorcycles are distinguished by their relatively small size, especially narrow wheelbase. They are also often styled to match the look of the motorcycle they are intended to be towed behind. This styling can include the overall shape, fender shape, lights, chrome, etc.
The Guinness World Record for a motorcycle and trailer is 139.5 mph, set in 2002 by Motor Cycle News (UK) towing a Squire D21 trailer behind a Kawasaki ZZ-R1100.
In the United Kingdom there are some legal restrictions on towing trailers.
- Only motorcycles with engine displacement over 125 cm3 (7.6 cu in) may tow.
- The motorcycle must be marked with its kerbside weight.
- The trailer must not be wider than 1 m (3 ft 3 in).
- The distance between the rear axle of the motorcycle and the rear-most part of the trailer must not exceed 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in).
- The laden weight of the trailer must not exceed 150 kg (331 lb) or two-thirds of the kerbside weight of the motorcycle, whichever is lighter.
- The trailer must be clearly and indelibly marked with its unladen weight.
- The UK speed limit is 60 mph on motorways and dual carriageways and 50 mph on all other roads unless a lesser limit is in force.
- One must display the same number plate as the towing vehicle on the trailer.
- Trailers must have two red sidelights, two red stop lights, a number plate light, two triangular red reflectors and amber indicators (which flash between 60 and 120 times per minute) at the rear.
- All trailers built after September 30, 1990 also require white front reflectors.
Safety tips for towing include:
- Motorcycle manufacturers do not recommend that trailers be towed by their motorcycles because of the increased safety hazards. All towing is done at the operator's own risk.
- A ball hitch, where used, should be well greased at all times to facilitate smooth cornering.
- While towing a trailer, one must remember to ride closer to the center of the lane, taking the width of trailer into account. Be careful of the "oil strip" in the center of the lane at intersections, especially when it begins to rain after an extended dry spell. Also, watch for uneven road surfaces and road edges that can unbalance the trailer.
- Keep enough of the weight forward of the axle to maintain a positive hitch load when loading the trailer.
- The Pav 40/41/100
The Pav trailers were manufactured in the Czech Republic, originally by "AVIA n.p". and later by "KOVOZAVODY SEMILY" by Jawa Moto. Earliest examples were made in the mid- to late-1950s, which pre-date the PAV 40. The PAV 40 debuted in approximately 1958 or 1959. The PAV 41 eventually replaced the PAV 40 and was produced into the 1970s. Pav trailers feature a single 4-inch (102 mm) wheel and are rated to 80 km/h (50 mph). They were made to be attached to Jawa motorcycles, although they make excellent accessories for Vespa, Lambretta, Cezeta, Heinkel, Fuji, Zundapp, Cushman, or any other vintage motorcycle, scooter or microcar (like Isetta or Messerschmitt). Having just one wheel, these trailers are attached to the towing vehicle by a hitch that has only two degrees of freedom — pitch and yaw.
- "Fact Sheet: Trailers Drawn By Motor Cycles". Department for Transport. April 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
- "California DOT Towing Your Trailer Safely". Retrieved 2007-03-01.
- "Loading your cargo trailer for motorcycle use: A Question of Balance". Retrieved 2007-03-01.