Editor’s Note: This post is kindly sponsored by Clint and the team from Motorcycle Shippers. Motorcycle Shippers can ship your motorcycle door-to-door around the United States with minimal hassle. If you want to start a ride away from home or ride further without looping back, these folks can help. Perfect for long trails like the Trans American. 

We’ve posted quite a few articles about shipping bikes internationally.  But what about shipping your bike in the US?  Americans live in a vast country, and getting your bike to a destination can take days or weeks.

Even though we love to ride, there are times that you may want or need to ship your bike in the continental US.  Job changes, winter weather, or selling a bike to a person farther away than either you or they want to ride are all reasons you may want to ship a motorcycle.  Especially if your time is limited shipping could be the best alternative.

Ground transportation

This article will only cover ground transportation, but air transportation is also possible at a far greater expense.  So once you’ve decided that you want to ship your bike via ground, you will find that there are many variables to consider.

Things to consider include RORO (roll on roll off), uncrated, crated, door to door delivery, terminal delivery and the like.  So let’s discuss a few of these variables.

Choosing a shipper

There are many, many vehicle shippers out there.  Since you have a wide range of choices, make sure to choose a company that specializes in motorcycle delivery.  Some companies transport mainly cars, and they may not have the expertise to safely and securely transport your bike.

Dropoff and Pickup

The first thing to consider about shipping your bike is how you will drop off and pick up the shipped bike.  Shipping companies often offer different types of services associated with the transport of your bike.

Door to Door

Some companies offer door to door service.  These companies will come to the location of your choice with a truck equipped with a lift gate.  Provided they can get the truck to the place you’ve selected; they will make arrangements to both pick up your bike and drop it off.  All that is necessary is that you or someone authorized by you is at the selected locations when the pickup and delivery will be made.

Trucks with liftgates make shipping easier. No forklift is necessary. Photo by Motorcycle Shippers.

Terminal

Terminal dropoff and pick up may be cheaper than door to door service.  These shipping companies require you to bring the motorcycle to a specified location to drop off and pick up the bike.    Their trucks may or may not be equipped with a liftgate so the bike may need to be loaded from a loading dock.

In these cases, you bring the bike to a terminal, and they may have a ramp that you can ride up and leave the bike inside the terminal.  After that, the bike will likely be placed on a pallet and tied down until it is picked up and moved into the truck.

Dealer

If you have a relationship with a local motorcycle dealer, they can be helpful and act as the dropoff or pick up location.  As you know, shipping companies often deliver bikes to dealers, and they are equipped to load and unload bikes from the truck.

Check with your shipping company to see if they will drop off at your local dealer.  Using a dealer is often a more convenient solution because the dealer can sign for and receive/load/unload your bike.  My dealer did it for me for free.

Transportation of the motorcycle

The next choice is based upon how you would like your bike to be moved once loaded.  The options are significant.  Here are a few ways for your bike to be shipped.

Open carriage

Open carriage is probably the least desirable way to have your motorcycle transported.  But it is likely the cheapest.  Open carriage means that the bike will not be covered and is subject to the effects of the elements.  Rain, snow, dirt, dust, salt, etc. can easily come into contact with your bike.  The bikes are often moved in smaller trucks with an open bed and little other protection.

Your bike may or may not be on a pallet.  Pallets can help to secure a perimeter around your bike for some protection.  If your motorcycle is not on a pallet, there is no perimeter protection, and it could come into contact with other vehicle or non-motorcycle items which may or may not be appropriately secured.  The risk of damage to your machine is higher because of this.  Although this type of service is available, I would avoid it if possible.

Enclosed carriage

Enclosed carriage is the way to go in my opinion.  Your bike will be inside a vehicle and not exposed to the elements.  It is also far more likely to be palletized or secured in a manner that will keep it adequately protected.  Generally, pallets for motorcycle transport are designed to provide secure mounting points for tie downs.

Protection

Once your motorcycle is in an enclosed space, you want to make sure it is adequately secured and protected during transport.  This can be accomplished in several ways.

Pallets

As mentioned above, pallets can provide a perimeter of protection around your bike.  They are also constructed such that there are secure tie-down points on the pallet itself.  This allows the carrier to secure your bike to the pallet, which helps keep the bike from moving around inside the trailer.

Depending on your carrier, they may or may not allow you to store things inside panniers/boxes or tie them onto your bike.  If they do not permit you to, you will have to use some other means to ship the items you would have stored on your bike.

Locking ratcheting tie-downs are preferable to sliding lashing straps. Photo by Motorcycle Shippers.

Crates

Crates take palletization one step further.  Not only is there a perimeter of protection around your bike, but it is also fully covered, providing an extra layer of protection from things like falling or moving items.

Another benefit of crates is that depending on your carrier; you can generally store additional items inside the crate with your bike.  If you are planning to ship your bike somewhere and then ride it for a long distance, having those things with your bike makes beginning your travels easier.

Crating will likely be more expensive since you will have to buy or build the crate and you will probably have to pay for the extra weight and size of the crate.  You will also have to open the crate upon arrival, which can take time and require additional tools.  But if you need to take lots of things with you, crating may be the way to go.

Things to think about

Size restrictions

Most carriers have limits on the size of your bike.  Be sure to ask your carrier about any size restrictions.  If your bike is larger than allowed, you may have to pay an additional fee or find a different carrier.

Cost

Costs vary widely based upon several factors.

Things like whether the bike is to be transported via open or enclosed carriers.

The distance to be carried is also a significant cost driver.  Obviously, the longer the distance, the more expensive shipping will be.

Weight is also a consideration.  Larger, heavier bikes will be more expensive to ship than smaller, more lightweight machines.

Insurance

Some carriers offer a certain amount of insurance for your bike included in the shipping cost.  If additional protection is requested, it can generally be added at additional cost.

Your insurance policy may provide some level of coverage as well but make sure to consult the insurance company about what coverage if any you have for shipping your motorcycle.

Documentation

Most carriers use some documentation to do several things.  The document is often called a “Bill of Lading.”  It will be used to document the pickup address, the bike’s make, model and year, its condition, and the destination address.  It may also contain some other terms and conditions which you should read carefully.

Before the bike is transported, the driver of the truck (or someone from the company who performs the pick up) should do a walk around of the bike with you or your representative before shipment.

They should note the condition of the bike, any visible damage, or anything that both parties want to be acknowledged before shipment.  It should also state the destination address where the bike is to be delivered.  Once everything is agreed upon and verified, both parties should then sign the document.

Selling your bike

If you are shipping the bike because you have sold it, most carriers will not handle cash on your behalf.  All financial arrangements should be taken care of by the parties to the sale as the shipper does not want to handle cash.  Escrow.com and Paypal can be helpful in these situations.

Keys

Some carriers do not want to be responsible for the bike’s keys.  Be sure to check with them before shipping the bike.  If they don’t want to handle keys, send them along with the bike’s paperwork (e.g., title and bill of sale) via traceable means.

In addition, the bike’s forks should be unlocked.  Unlocked forks allow the shipper to more readily maneuver the bike during and after transport.  You should also make sure any alarms are also turned off before shipment.

Final thoughts

There are lots of shippers out there.  Do your research and get no less than three quotes.  The cheapest up-front price is not always the most affordable price when “options” and fees are added in.  Make sure to get the total price including all fees and costs your bike will incur.

Although the cost is very important, you must think about all the variables.  How comfortable you feel with the means and method of shipment you choose should outweigh the price when making your final decision.  Good luck!

Featured photo provided by Motorcycle Shippers.

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