Dirt Bike Loading Ramps
It's only an eight-foot journey but lots of things can go wrong when loading a dirt bike into a pickup truck, and Murphy's Law always seems to hover over the loading process. It's fairly easy getting the dirt bike halfway up the ramp, but then comes the big step into the truck bed which is where many of the mishaps occur. There really aren't any 'how to load a dirt bike secrets', but a having a good set of ramps (along with some practice) is an important factor. Wooden ramps and metal ramps are the two most popular options, and each has their pluses and minuses.
Wooden ramps: Wooden ramps have been around for a long time. They're readily available, inexpensive, and you can easily cut them down if they're too long. There are, however, several drawbacks to wooden ramps. There's no easy way to secure them to the truck so they're more prone to kicking out when loading, especially for beginners. They're not as strong as metal ramps and they can be very slippery when wet. Backing the bike out of the truck is a bit harder because the end of the plank sticks up due to the thickness of the wood and the angle of the ramp. The small metal ramp adapters that attach to the ends of the wooden planks make it much easier to get the bike's tire onto the plank, but make sure the metal adapters have some kind of padding on the bottom. Wooden ramps work really well if you have a small embankment to back up to so you can lower the ramp's angle, but you'll need a similar layout at the destination end.
Metal loading ramps: Most metal ramps are usually made of some kind of lightweight aluminum composite and come as single ramps or triple bi-fold ramps that are used mostly for loading ATVs and lawn mowers, but the bi-fold ramp makes walking the dirt bike into the truck bed a lot easier. Most of the single ramps are folding ramps which is good for those with shortbed trucks as most ramps fold down to around four feet. When buying runged loading ramps take a look at the rung spacing before buying. The closer the rungs the easier (and safer) it will be to walk the dirt bike up the loading ramp. The closer the rung spacing the more expensive the ramp, but if it prevents twisted ankles and/or dropped bikes, its worth the extra cost.
Unless you run them over, metal ramps will last for years and they have much greater load bearing capacities than wooden ramps. Almost all metal ramps have some sort of strap to attach them to the pickup which lessens (but doesn't totally eliminate) the risk of the ramps kicking out, so be sure to use them. The only real drawback is their cost, but they last a long time and hold their value well so you can always sell them if they're no longer needed.
Dirt bike loading tips: Dirt bikes aren't heavy, but they can be unwieldy the first couple of times you try loading them so it's a good idea to have an extra set of hands around. Here are a few other small things to consider when loading a dirt bike:
- a dirt bike only needs one ramp, but having two ramps offers a safer way to walk the bike into the truck bed
- wooden ramps can be slippery when loading in wet weather but you can add strips of non-slip material to the ramps to add grip
- if the wooden ramp adapters don't come with hardware, use carraige bolts when attaching metal ramp adapters to planks so there's no bolt head sticking up
- if you bought a rung-type ramp and find the rungs difficult, try placing a 2x6 (or 2x8) in the center of the ramp (remebering that wood can be slippery).
- most metal ramps are just over 7' long, so make sure you'll be able to fit them in your truck's bed to get them to your destination.
- you probably don't need to be told, but keep kids and pets away from the truck when loading the bike
How not to load a dirt bike video: Here's a two-minute video showing what can (and does) go wrong when loading a dirt bike. There's only two dirt bikes and two motorcycles in the video, but you'll get the idea even when it's an ATV or snowmobile. There's also a Part 2 video. The second video is titled 'How to Load a Motorcycle'