Saturday, October 22, 2011

Haulin' Ass [Review]

So you've got your dirt or dual sport, but you need a way to haul it between trails?  

A lot of folks say, "just get a trailer."    But then you've got to worry about greasing the axles, having a spare tire, and dealing with the always pesky problem of trailer lighting. 

Here's a lower cost alternative.   Get a hitch mounted rack for your bike.   

There are a lot of options out there.  Here's a review of a cheap Harbor Freight model, written by Modette

Harbor Freight

I paid total $142.00 with shipping and tax, I used coupon code DIsc20 for 20% off. I bought this so I could be lazy and not have to get the trailer out when its just me. 

I ride a 2001 Honda XR650R that is plated and has a 6.3 Gallon tank added. I guess my bikes weight is around 300lbs.  

Assembly: You will probably need to drill out a few of the holes as they don't line up. Also washers are lacking with this kit, might want to pick some of those up too. I also used Red Locktite on the various bolts to make sure nothing would come loose.

Had to drill one of these holes out some as it did not line up with the aluminum.

All put together

Here is the ramp attached to the unit in storage mode

On a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee with factory hitch package you can see the bead and the anti-sway device does not clamp down well.

Loading: Funny how the pictures show one guy loading the motorcycle (a heavy KLR650 at that) which be heavier then my bike. However the instructions clearly state to never load alone and always have a minimum of TWO people. Huh!!! 

Of course I need to load alone its why I bought this, and based on the picture I assumed that was OKAY (I can say its what I plan to do). I guess know your bike, I have man handled mine on single track hard trails so loading was not a big deal on a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7L. I will say practice loading and unloading before you NEED to use this. (from the practice I know with my 6.3 gallon tank I can lean the bike against the vehicle with no damage being done to my vehicle). 

I would say unloading is harder then loading, you got to get that front tire up out of the "cup" area of the rails, best to have the bike in gear and use the clutch to brake. I found that to be extremely hard to do, I held the bike upright with my right hand, and I used my left hand to turn the tire out of the cup area (that worked best).

Driving Manors: I have only tested the bike loaded around my local area on 35mph streets. It does move some, but seems pretty stable. On my Jeep the anti-sway does not work the best as my hitch has a bead around the end of the hitch receiver, so the anti-sway does not lay flush, this is probably okay just make sure if yours is the same to tighten the bolt very tight, put a piece of electrical tape around the end, this will stop the nut from falling off should it come loose from the bolt and you loosing the pieces.

Design: The rear (on the towing vehicles side on the hitch carrier) strap hook points are flimsy, they will bend up. I'm thinking use ratchet tie downs and go to the safety chain hook area of your hitch to the bike...very solid then, plus this will help keep the hitch from moving around even more within the receiver.

The tire cradle/cups for lack of knowing what to call them seem flimsy. One knob/handle already did not want to turn the bolt but instead screw the handle off the bolt. I'm not sure if this is even really needed to use, I guess it is suppose to stop the bike front tire from sliding around, but its not going to go anywhere. I'm not sure on the front tire PIN either, another safety thing I guess to keep the front wheel from hopping up (if you have it ratcheted down good it should not go anywhere anyways). Plus the Pin might damage the rim/spoke, so I'm unsure of that.

I'm thinking of instead of letting the front wheel drop down to leave the pin in and add a wheel chock to the front of this unit (use the bolt holes given for the tire clamp unit that seems flimsy), true it means I would need to back the bike off the lift, but that would not be a big deal for me or my motorcycle, if this is going on a tall truck, I could see that being a big deal to back down. I actually think it might make it easier to load and unload.Which brings me to ramp height, its fine for MY vehicle a stock height 2005 Jeep GC Limited, but that ramp is very short, the whole hitch carrier does flex down when loading and unloading...but I could see the ramp being too steep on a taller vehicle.

Towing with my 2005 Jeep GC 5.7LIt works great. I don't even notice the bike back there. The front of the car is slightly up from rear sag but I am rated at 750lbs of tongue weight. So with hitch I am around 360lbs, not that bad really. Also the instructions say not to go over 55mph... not sure I will follow that myself, I'd get run off the road here in CO with a speed limit of 75mph. I think as long as you drive sanely and safely you probably be okay. Obvious the vehicle will drive different with that rear weight back there so just realize that.

Another con is no tail lights, your vehicles lights will not be seen thus you will not be to code and a danger. I picked some up at my local Wal-Mart's store for $29 with flat 4 connector to wire on and mount. If you were going to go long distances might be a good idea to relocate the license plate to the hitch unit...most cops probably would not notice or say anything but it does give them a reason to stop you. Your call, but do realize needing to see tail lights and rear plate is required under every states laws. 

More thoughts and comments on other products...

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