Whether you’re a victim of the SUV trend (see our accompanying Hummer story for a great example) or you want to bolt a bike to the back of your motor home, a hitch-mounted bike hauler can take care of your moto cargo like nothing else. As long as you have a vehicle with a Class 2 hitch, you can get your bike to the track or riding area with little worry. Here’s a few we tested with our usual ferocity. Enjoy Dirt Rider’s look into the world of hitch haulers.
The Sportcarrier from Spectrum innovations features a unique design for a ramp-style bike hauler. Its channeled construction allows the front wheel of your bike to drop into place securely and requires only two tiedowns, tensioned back toward the rear tire, to securely hold it in place. This eliminates any rolling the bike may want to do as well as the obtrusive outrigger anchor points used to secure bikes by pulling them forward. Anchor points on the ends of the carriers can sometimes clip buildings or parked cars if you’re not careful. The Sportcarrier eliminates this worry. The lightweight unit took only 15 minutes to assemble and can easily be handled by one person. Also, it’s shippable through UPS. Unloading takes a strong tug to dislodge the front wheel out of its channel, and this can be awkward for shorter people or those with a taller vehicle. Ensure the thumbscrew is tightened on the ramp before driving off and clean it out regularly as the channel construction can hold some dirt. A gas can holder is available for $49.
The Versa Haul carrier sports a box-type construction as its platform for a stable ride for your beloved bike. Assembly was quick and painless with only a little fuss from some of the bolt holes. The standout feature on the VersaHaul has to be its anti-tilt bracket. The three-bolt tensioning piece surrounds the receiver tube and anchors to your hitch tube with unparalleled security. Only the Joe Hauler wedge comes close. However, the VersaHaul unit does require you to crawl under the rear of your vehicle to tighten the system down. Not as easy as the Joe Hauler, but just as effective. Another uniqueness is the taillight kit. Some bikes will somewhat block your taillights, and having the added safety of lights behind your bike may reduce the risk of having it rear-ended. Also, the tiedown arms slide into the main channel when not in use, reducing the risk of clipping buildings or parked cars when transporting an unloaded carrier. It has an excellent finish, a high-quality build and is light enough for one person to handle, though a friend is always welcome.
Joe Hauler, besides having a cool name, offers a huge line of hitch haulers. The JH08 the company sent us is a nice choice for dirt bikers. What makes the JH08 unique is the cam-lock system on the stinger. It uses a wedge method to hold the hauler steady while traveling down the road. It’s the easiest system to tighten and the least likely to wear out or damage your receiver hitch. Other standouts include a high-quality finish on all the metal and the use of carriage-style bolts and square holes, making assembly a one-handed, one-tool affair for the most part. The standard ramp system works great and is perforated so it won’t collect mud and debris. And the Joe Hauler was the only unit to supply cinch straps for the wheels–a little extra security and peace of mind for sure but they really helped with the forward and backward roll the ramp-style haulers can have. The kit was very complete and included everything needed for install and use except for a ramp, which will run you an extra $59.99. This is also a lightweight kit and is UPS or FedEx shippable.
Motorcycle Carrier II
The Blue Ox unit is by far the heaviest in the test at about 125 pounds, and it was quite the shock when we picked it up. It’s so heavy that having a buddy around is required to assemble and install or remove it from your truck. Its form factor seems to be more suited to a Harley than a motocross bike, with a huge ramp and a platform wide enough for a fat rear tire. It’s sturdy, for sure, but possibly overbuilt. In all its glory, the Blue Ox carrier is very well built. Good, clean welds, high-quality powdercoating and an obviously durable nature make it a solid piece. Odd is the removable tiedown arms, which, instead of bolting in or securing in place, simply slide into channels and rely on strap tension to hold them in. They’re secure and didn’t budge when we tested, but not having them bolt in makes us nervous. Not because we feel the bike’s security is at risk, but more so because we might lose the arms! Assembly went well, except the wheel chock was a pain to bolt on, requiring some serious muscle to get it to stretch around the main channel.
With a simple design free of the frills and fanciness found in other carriers, the MotoXCaddy simply gets the job done. Its aluminum ramp isn’t the most confidence-inspiring due to its moderately turned-up lip. But it does work and was randomly selected for our Hummer photo shoot because it looked easy to build during our rush. It features four tiedown posts for security and a wedge bushing on a special hitch-pin bolt that locks the carrier in place and kills the wobble. However, over time this bushing can wear down, requiring a replacement or, in the worst case scenario, wearing out the hitch-pin hole in the receiver hitch. We’d like to see a better wheel chock and a more secure bolt holding the ramp on while transporting, but other than that, we’re pretty happy with it.
Things to consider when buying a bottle-jack-style carrier:
Installation of the MX Tailmate is best done on the truck, as with all jack-style haulers, and is more cumbersome and intensive than ramp-style carriers. The MX Tailmate has a nice, cleanly painted finish on the parts, and the welds and cuts are decent. Also, the jack is beefy–it has a 2-ton capacity–adding to the hefty construction of the hauler. However, these haulers are a little more of a handful to install and remove, especially after a ride when your back is already tired. The jack handles that came with our unit were in two pieces and would require being taped together to make a decent leverage handle to jack up the truck. If you have a lifted or tall vehicle, it will be a pain to get the bike on the platform in the lower position without the addition of a drop hitch extension. Security is provided by two pegs/hooks that secure to the footpegs, and we suggest going through the footpegs with the hooks to add stability.
Ultimate MX Hauler
This jack-style carrier features high-quality, laser-cut arms as well as the best welds and fit and finish of any of the bottle-jack-style carriers. It has a high-end look and feel when it’s assembled, and its powdercoat finish is excellent. This jack takes a little more time to assemble than a ramp-style carrier but no more or less than the other lifting units. The jack handle is long, ensuring plenty of torque for lifting the jack and tightening the wing nuts on the footpeg shafts. We preferred this method (wing nuts on the bottom of the shafts) over other manufacturer’s set-screw-type system. It allowed us to really torque down the bikes. The geometry worked great, and the jack lifted our test bikes with ease. However, proper bolt tension on the control arms is key to a smooth operation. Hitch stability is taken care of by a unique, screw-in hitch pin that tightens the receiver tube into the hitch. The Ultimate hauler recommends the use of a ratcheting tiedown to secure the handlebar in a locked position, and ours stayed tight as we bounced down dirt roads. The gas can holder is $49.95
Moto Pro Lift
The Moto Pro Lift unit is lighter than similar units in our guide. At only 44.5 pounds, it still packs enough bulk to lift full-size 450 MX bikes. Although it’s capable, we felt it was the least secure of the bottle-jack carriers we tested for a couple of reasons. First, the strap that holds the bottle jack in place was too large for the jack. This allowed the jack to pivot off its base as we elevated the unit–causing a binding problem that wouldn’t fix itself until the bike was almost fully elevated. We tried recentering the jack numerous times, but it continued to work itself out of alignment, causing stress among the test crew and dents in the bumper of our van. Second, we would have liked to see a better way to tighten down the footpeg shafts. This carrier uses a set-screw system that didn’t allow us to wrench the bike down. Welds weren’t as clean, and the edges of the metal and aluminum were still sharp from cutting or stamping out the pieces. Once elevated and locked into place, the unit became stable and didn’t wobble. But we still wanted to torque down the footpegs. Gas-can holder, including shipping, is $39.