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Classic Velocity Blog

Rallying the Trailers

Classic Velocity

The 2011 BMW MOA International Rally was a good way to spend some quality time with 7500 of your closest friends...during a heatwave. In fact, this year the tag line was "A Family Reunion". As with all large families, you have to love everyone even if you dont always agree with uncle Phil's politics, or cousin Susan's body piercings. One of the things that I really admire about this family is the ingenuity. In some cases it is just frugality. Despite owning and paying for a premium brand, there are some family members that will go to great lengths to avoid spending the amount demanded for a comercially available gadget or enhancement. They will make their own. Many have the knowledge and skill to do so, and we are all thankful for some of the resulting commercial products or home workshop items available. Others create solutions to problems that the commercial world doesn't view as viable. For example, what if you'd like to use your dual sport bike to drive your snow plow ? You won't find that coupling in the BMW accessory catalog, now will you ? Anyway, the solutions at the rally always range from humorous to brilliant, and this year I was particularly captivated by trailers. Not because I want one, but because I noticed a lot more of them than in prior years. I have to admit that I have seen a few on the road over time and have always thought that they compromised the whole purpose of a motorcycle. Why not just pack less gear or use UPS ? Why compromise the most agile of vehicles on the road ? Perhaps valid questions, but a sidecar is perhaps more compromising, and I want one of those someday. if this many of my family members saw wisdom in this approach, I should at least replace sentiment with research.

BMW owners have long been known for loading up their bikes with gear and going to Columbia for coffee. Via Tibet. In fact, many bikes at the rally were stacked with loads that I'm sure required them to use major highways where the overpasses had sufficient height clearance. Vendors offering solutions for carrying more stuff or offering smaller lighter stuff are always popular with my family. If there is a crack or a crevice on a BMW motorcycle, chances are that someone makes a storage solution that fits in that space. I myself am planning to sell a storage solution for the space in between spokes on alloy wheels. The prototype has a slight problem above 30MPH and in crosswinds, but it provides 20 liters of usable storage, so I'm sure there is a niche of people who are willing to compromise. My other idea is for a periscope that allows us to see over our fully extended tank bags. Many family members at the rally showed up with sidecars full of gear as another way to address the problem. I'm sure some of these sidecars never had a person in them and exist solely to carry gear. But I digress.

The point is that in many ways, a trailer is a natural extension of the need of this family to carry more gear. The family members with trailers have obviously decided on a more traditional automotive approach. Attach a trailer hitch, and pull something behind you with more room for gear. It has some logic and it is even convenient. As family member Frank said to me, "I got tired of having to pack and unpack the bike every time I stopped to camp. Now I pull up to the camp site, unhitch the trailer, and go ride the twisties." Sounds appealing. Another family member, Steve. said "I had this bunch of aluminum diamond plate laying around. It was either a set of luggage or this. By the time I made the luggage big enough, I was as wide as a freakin car, so I went with the trailer."  Having seen some loaded up bikes, I can see his point.

Motorcycle trailers have some unique challenges. The hitch needs to be attached to solid points on the rear of the frame. With a swingarm (or even a single-sided swingarm) at the back of most bikes, this can be a challenge. They need to lean, or allow the bike to lean independently. They need lighting. They need to be lightweight. But that is not all. It is a long held view that trailers should match the vehicle pulling them, and hence the 57 Chevy pulling the half-of-a-57-Chevy trailer. The equivalent was certainly at the rally, with an K1200LT and trailer. Home-made, store-bought, one wheel, two weels, big, small, cheap, expensive, they were all there. Family member Rick observed, "I have not seen two of the same trailer at this entire rally. It is just a giant Farkle, and no two bikes are farkled the same." Farkle on Rick. I'm not sure if this is a growing trend in the family or I'm just noticing them more this year. I'm not a potential customer for a trailer, but you have to admire the resolve and ingenuity that goes into this particular solution to taking it all with you.