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The Ultimate Guide To Towing a Motorcycle on a Trailer

The Ultimate Guide To Towing a Motorcycle on a Trailer


There are many reasons why you might need to transport a motorcycle. Perhaps you're moving house and need a safe way to get your motorbike to its new location. Maybe you're going on a camping holiday and want to bring your bike for the ride, or you're testing an off-road biking trail.

Whatever the reason, there's a range of ways you can move your motorcycle from A to B but it needs to be done safely.

Since there's so much information about towing out there, we're simplifying it all and offering you everything you'll need to know about towing a motorcycle trailer specifically. If you've towed a trailer before, then learning to tow a motorcycle will be fairly straightforward.

However, if towing is new to you, we've got all the information you need to get started (and we've got the right towbar too!)

The laws around towing a motorcycle trailer. Which includes:

  • Is it legal to tow a motorcycle trailer?
  • Do I need a specific licence to tow my motorcycle trailer?
  • Are there width and length restrictions for towing a motorcycle?
  • Best tow trailers for motorcycles
  • What towbars are available for towing a motorcycle trailer
  • Ready, set, go: motorcycle safety checks you need to know
  • Other related tips and alternatives for towing a motorbike

Is it legal to tow a motorcycle trailer?

The simple answer is yes, it is legal to tow a motorcycle trailer in the UK. However, similar to towing a trailer with your car, there are some rules and regulations you must follow when it comes to towing a motorcycle. This includes how much you can tow depending on your licence, and width and length restrictions for towing a motorcycle, which vary from regular trailer towing.

Do I need a specific licence to tow my motorcycle trailer?

You don't need a specific towing licence to tow a motorcycle on a trailer in the UK, but it depends on a few factors:

1. Your existing driving licence:

  • If you have a full car driving licence (category B) issued before January 1st, 1997: You can tow without a separate licence as long as the combined weight of your vehicle, trailer, and load (Maximum Authorised Mass - MAM) is up to 8,250kg.
  • If you have a full car driving licence (category B) issued after January 1st, 1997: You can tow without a separate licence as long as the MAM is up to 3,500kg.

Government Guidance on Towing

Top Tip

Don't forget to check the towing capacity of your car. Not all cars can tow, so take a look at your vehicle's handbook or manufacturer's specifications.

Are there width and length restrictions for towing a motorcycle?

The same width and length restrictions apply to towing a motorcycle as they do with a regular trailer. That is 2.55 metres maximum width and 7 metres maximum length for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500kg.

Best tow trailers for motorcycles

As long as your trailer is road worthy and meets the width and length restrictions, you're good to go. But if you're buying a trailer, there are some considerations you should make based on your lifestyle and towing experience.

If you're new to towing, a smaller trailer may be better suited - and here's why:

  • They're lighter, which helps with speed and control
  • They're narrower which gives you better visibility in your mirrors

The lightest-duty trailers can be suitable for moving a motorcycle and they are usually more affordable too.

If you have minimal space to store a trailer, consider buying a tow dolly:

  • A tow dolly barely weighs above 15kg and is easier to transport.
  • They take up less storage space when not in use

A tow dolly only secures the front wheel of your motorcycle, leaving your rear wheel on the ground. This means your car doesn't need to take the whole weight.

What towbars are available for towing a motorcycle trailer

Witter sells a range of towbars suitable for use on trailers. All of our towbars are developed and tested to regulation 55, and are put through a number of rigorous safety tests to keep you and your motorcycle safe on the road.

Sometimes it can come down to preference for the appearance and other times your choice may be decided based on how often you'll be using it.

Our range of towbars consists of the following:

Fixed Flange: This towball is permanently attached to your vehicle's faceplate. Ideal for serious towing, such as trailers and other vehicles. If you're going to use the same car and trailer combo to tow your motorcycle regularly this is the towbar you'll need.

Detachable Flange: This towbar is just as versatile and robust, but with the added benefit of being removable. This is best suited to occasional towing.

Fixed Swan Neck: The sleeker, swan neck design is more aesthetically pleasing and comes fixed or detachable. However, you can't tow your motorcycle on a trailer and carry bicycles at the same time with this towbar.

Detachable Swan Neck: This versatile variety means you can remove the towbar when you're not towing. Ideal if you're only planning to tow sparingly. Like the fixed swan neck, you can't tow and carry bicycles simultaneously.

Retractable Towbar: This towbar can be folded out of sight in a matter of seconds. It offers the same advantages as the detachable towbars but there's no need to detach this towbar.

We also have a wide range of towbar accessories to keep your towbar safe, clean and undamaged when you're not out on the road with your motorcycle trailer.

Ready, set, go: motorcycle safety checks you need to know

Before setting off there are things you should check to ensure you tow safely. The government website has a guide on these checks but here is the rundown:

  • Make sure the trailer is coupled to the towball properly, that the height is correct and that the core cable is in safe working order
  • Fit a secondary coupling or breakaway cable to ensure the brakes work, and stop the trailer from running away should it become unattached; make sure there's enough slack so it cannot accidentally brake or drag along the ground
  • The tyres on your car and trailer must be checked before, during and after your journey; this includes inflation and tread depth
  • Check your wheel nuts and bolts are tightened and any mudguards fitted to the trailer are secure
  • Always make sure your lights are in working order and there is no visible damage
  • Make sure the weight of your trailer and load is evenly distributed and under the MAM of your vehicle, you can find this information on your vehicle manufacturer's plate or car handbook
  • A trailer without a braking system should never exceed 750kg or weigh more than 50% of your car's weight
  • Wheel bearings are one of the only moving parts on a trailer, check and add grease often
  • Check your strap tension before you leave, a mile down the road and 50 miles down the road. Re-tension the straps as often as necessary.

You can be fined up to £2,500, receive 3 penalty points and be banned from driving for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition - so it's worth taking the time to do these checks.

Other top tips for towing a motorbike

When you're towing your bike, you may find that you have to adapt how you drive.

  1. Stay below the speed limit. Driving too fast, especially in a smaller car can sometimes overheat the engine and increase fuel consumption if your chassis suffers unnecessary pressure.
  2. Don't brake harshly on a bend. Harsh braking makes the trailer unstable, so reduce your speed with plenty of time if approaching a hazard such as road works or warning signals.
  3. Motorcycle snaking? Ease off and brake gently. Snaking is a sign you're driving too fast or your motorcycle is loaded incorrectly.
  4. Leave a bigger gap between other vehicles. Other drivers may misjudge your ability to go, stop and steer, so always leave a bigger safety cushion in front of you.
  5. Don't drive in the right-hand lane of a motorway. By law, towing vehicles are not allowed in this lane.
  6. Parking will take practice. If you're new to towing, get used to parking whenever possible, especially in less residential areas, on back streets where there's more space.
  7. Get a free safety check for a trailer up to 3,500kg through the National Trailer and Towing Association's (NTTA) safety check scheme. This can highlight any issues about attaching a trailer to your vehicle, how to drive with a trailer and how to maintain a trailer correctly.

It may feel like a lot to learn, but we hope you feel confident in your ability to check, recheck and check again when it comes to towing on the road. If you are feeling unsure, always check-in with an experienced friend or professional to go over any last minute queries.

As long as you are using a reliable trailer, towbar, towbar accessories, you'll get your motorcycle safely from A to B.

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