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Common Tread

How to load a dirt bike into a pickup truck

Sep 10, 2019

I’ve written an article about loading a motorcycle into a pickup truck. Does this really need a re-write?

One of you smartasses is going to inform me that a dirt bike is a motorcycle. You’re not wrong, but dirt bikes are a little different from street bikes. First, they’re consistently really light. That means your loading and strapping techniques can be adapted to make life easier due to that fact. Secondly, unlike a street bike, which can often be ridden to its destination, for a pure dirt machine, many riders need to transport their bike in a street-legal vehicle; riding to the trail is often out, so developing a good loading system is important because it may be a task performed often! Finally, they’re sort of built to spill, so if you have a loading accident, it’s usually not a big deal.

Here’s the hot-ticket way to load up a dirt bike into a pick-’em-up all by your lonesome.

Brandon with straps
Brandon is one of the resident RevZilla dirt junkies. He does lots of off-road riding, so he's pretty good at moving a dirt bike in his trusty Toyota, and he's agreed to demonstrate exactly how to do this. For starts, prep your area, of course. Set up your ramp, and make sure you have straps handy. Photo by Lemmy.

Leave the tailgate on

I’ve recommended (strongly!) in the past pulling your gate if loading a motorcycle. I stand by that advice still: The cables don’t like all that weight, and a motorcycle concentrates a lot of weight on the center, the weakest part of the gate. A dirt bike, though, is different. Dang near any pickup truck can support the weight of a man or a dirt bike. (Try not to make it support both, if you can.) Toss your ramp on there. I’ll recommend strapping the ramp to the truck, but I’ll be honest: I literally never do this, and I don't know any off-road riders who do. Yes, the ramp might shoot out from under the bike. No, it’s never happened to me. I live on the edge. If you're worried, strap it to the truck.

Drop the rear if you can

If you can get the rear wheels of the truck into a low spot or back the gate up to a hill that slopes into the bed, that will make loading in easier… but it’s usually not totally necessary. Most average humans can load a dirt machine into a truck bed on flat ground, even solo.

Set up your dirt bike stand

This is the key to the whole operation right here. If you don’t have one, get one. (An inverted five-gallon pail works, or for my super-high truck I have an equestrian mounting block, but you need something.)

Stand
Here's the key to making this whole endeavor a snap. Photo by Lemmy.

Because you won’t be passing the bike to someone already in the truck as I’ve suggested you do when loading a heavy street bike, you need some way to bridge the gap between the ground and your tailgate. The bike stand basically turns the loading process into a walk up a set of large stairs. I set up to the left of the ramp, which is centered, because I am most comfortable walking a bike on the left. (Hundreds of miles of pushing broken junk along American highways will do that.) I suspect you are the same way.

Placing the stand is critical. Brandon's done this a time or two, but if you have not, a quick imaginary dry run should make it clear if you've got it in the right spot. Photo by Lemmy.

Protip: if you haven’t ever done this, do a “dry run” going up the stand without the dirt bike; you’ll quickly know what you need to do to fine-tune the position of the stand.

Walking the bike up
Take your time. This part's really not bad, even on a lifted truck. Dirt bikes are light! Photo by Lemmy.

Walk it up

You don't really need additional explanation on this point, do you?

Tie it down

All my off-road bikes are trailies, so I sometimes throw them on the side stand, cinch the right side of the triple down some, then flip the stand up and repeat on the left. (I use cam-buckles sometimes, too. They’re not strong enough for a street bike in my opinion, but the Pro Taper tiedowns are the best in the business.) If you are loading an MX bike, you can cheap out like I do when I don't use the stand: just lean it against your body and shimmy around the truck bed like a doofus. Or you can play Big Spender and use a triangle. I also think it's important to get at least one strap at the rear of the bike. Dirt machines are so light, a good bump can easily allow the rear end to move all over. Plus, if you've left your tailgate down and the tire of your bike is on it, it can keep your gate from suffering from those same bumps.

Brandon ready to go
And that's it! It's a low-drama affair if you know what to do. And now you do! Photo by Lemmy.

Easy-peasy. Turn the ground and the tailgate into a set of big stairs, and the whole job goes lickety-split. Happy loading!