Trailers and sidecars

You can tow a trailer behind your motorbike if

  • you have a full motorcycle licence
  • your motorbike has an engine capacity of at least 125 cc.

For more details about the rules on towing with a motorbike, see GOV.UK.

Remember to check your insurance policy before towing: not all policies will cover it.

If you need to use a recovery service while towing, check whether it can recover a trailer. It’s a good idea to carry a spare wheel for your trailer and other equipment so that you can make minor repairs if necessary.

Use your motorbike handbook to check the maximum size and noseweight of trailer that your machine can safely tow and how to attach a trailer to it. It’s important to follow these recommendations, otherwise you could damage your machine or cause an accident.

Coupling and uncoupling a trailer

Take care to couple the trailer to your motorbike correctly, following the instructions in the motorbike handbook. Before you set off, check

  • the trailer is loaded correctly, with the right noseweight on the tow bar
  • the lights and indicators are connected and working properly
  • the jockey wheel and assembly is fully retracted and stowed
  • the tyre pressures are correct, the tyres are the correct sort and in good condition.

Riding with a trailer

Towing a trailer may create extra blind spots around your motorbike. Make sure that you check carefully all around you before manoeuvring your motorbike. If the trailer blocks your view in your mirrors, you may need to use extra mirrors.

There’s a lower national speed limit for all vehicles towing trailers

  • on a dual carriageway or motorway, maximum speed 60 mph (96 km/h)
  • on a single carriageway, maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h).

If there are 3 or more lanes on a motorway, you must not ride a motorbike towing a trailer in the right-hand lane.

Towing a trailer will change the way a motorbike handles. You’ll need to

  • allow more time for braking
  • allow for the extra vehicle length, particularly when turning or emerging at junctions – you might need to take a different position on the road to give you enough space to turn.

If you use your brakes too heavily; for example, when going downhill, your motorbike may suffer brake fade – a loss of braking power caused by the brakes getting too hot. To help avoid brake fade

  • change to a lower gear
  • use engine braking to slow the motorbike
  • do not allow the motorbike to coast.

‘Snaking’ is when the trailer begins to swerve from side to side while you’re riding. If this happens

  • ease off the throttle slowly
  • reduce your speed gradually until the snaking stops.

Riding with a sidecar

Before fitting a sidecar to your motorbike, you’ll need to

  • check that your motorbike is suitable for use with a sidecar – speak to your motorbike dealer
  • make sure that the sidecar is fixed correctly to the mounting points and aligned correctly
  • fit the sidecar on the left-hand side of your motorbike if it was registered on or after 1 August 1981.

You’ll need to use a different riding technique when you have a sidecar attached to your motorbike. The sidecar will affect the braking, steering and overall dynamics of the machine.

  • When you’re turning, you’ll have to steer using the handlebars because you cannot lean the machine over.
  • On left-hand bends, the sidecar wheel will tend to lift as the weight is thrown outwards: take care to keep the wheel on the ground.
  • The extra weight of the sidecar will increase your machine’s stopping distance so brake earlier.
  • The sidecar will tend to pull to the right when you’re braking heavily unless it has its own brake.

Most motorbikes used in sidecar combinations are specially adapted for this purpose; for example, the suspension settings or tyres may be changed. If you want to ride the motorbike without the sidecar, it’s likely to need changing again so it’s suitable to ride on its own.

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