Review: Princess Auto motorcycle hauler

If you’ve read a print mag in the past 10 years or so, you’ve probably seen bike haulers advertised. For those of us without a pickup truck, these rigs will allow you to haul a motorcycle behind your SUV or car or whatever, in conjunction with a trailer hitch.

I’ve long been curious about these units, however, I didn’t feel like shelling out the cash to buy one from the US  – the shipping alone would kill me! Last spring, I noticed Canadian retailer Princess Auto also happens to sell these haulers, so I got on the phone, and asked them to send me one.

It's fairly easy to roll your bike up that ramp, but it helps to have two guys
It’s fairly easy to roll your bike up that ramp, but it makes sense to have an extra set of helping hands.

The details

The bike hauler (officially known in the Princess Auto catalogue as the “500 lb Steel Hitch Mount Motorcycle/Dirt Bike Carrier”) is simple. Unlike other setups which cradle your bike’s front wheel and drag the rear wheel, effectively turning your bike into a trailer, this carrier acts as an off-the-ground shelf behind your vehicle. You use your vehicle’s trailer hitch receiver (two-inch, Class III) to install the unit and can carry a load of up to 500 lbs (227 kg).

It’s made of steel, and it’s 76 inches (193 cm) wide, with about 13 inches (33 cm) of clearance between the bike and the back of your vehicle. The carrier protrudes about 29 inches (76 cm) from the back of your vehicle, but some of that depends on how your hitch receiver is mounted.

The handlebars would occasionally rub against my back window if the straps loosened. You can avoid this by tightening the straps and using lots of them, but it makes sense to wrap something soft, like a towel or old shirt, around the bars.
The handlebars would occasionally rub against my back window if the straps loosened. You can avoid this by tightening the straps and using lots of them, but it makes sense to wrap something soft, like a towel or old shirt, around the bars.

How does it work?

The carrier comes disassembled, but with basic tools and a quick read-through of the instructions, you should be able to put it together in about half an hour, give or take a few minutes. There’s nothing complicated to this process.

There’s also nothing complicated to the process of mounting it to your vehicle. Once it’s assembled, it takes seconds to slide it into your hitch receiver and pop in the cotter pin – job done.

The hitch and the bike did protrude a bit from the sides of the Jeep, but if you are used to driving larger vehicles, you should be OK.
The hitch and the bike did protrude a bit from the sides of the Jeep, but if you are used to driving larger vehicles, you should be OK.

The fun starts when you roll your motorcycle on to the carrier. The ramp assembly works quite well, at least with off-road/dual-sport bikes – the big wheels of my DR350 easily rolled on to the carrier. If you were trying to haul a scooter with 12-inch wheels, that might be tricky. However, this is a motorcycle carrier, not a scooter carrier.

It helps to have a second pair of hands when you’re putting the bike on the carrier, but it’s doable solo. The problem is, if you’re doing it yourself, you might have a difficult time steadying the bike while you strap it down. However, I managed it fairly easily by myself with the DR350.

Once you’ve got the bike on the carrier, you’ve got to secure it. This can take a few minutes, and you’ll probably want at least half a dozen ratchet straps around. Be sure the bike isn’t banging against the back of your vehicle once you’re done; after I loaded my DR350, I noticed the handlebars would make contact with my Jeep Cherokee’s rear window. This wouldn’t be a problem for everyone, since the DR350 has wider handlebars than many motorcycles.

When you’re driving down the highway, you’ll notice you can hear the rack moving around a bit back there – the fit between the rack and the trailer hitch is loose enough to allow for some play. It’s a bit unnerving the first time you use it, but in short-to-medium-length trips in areas around home, nothing worked itself loose. However, if you were planning on traveling a longer distance, you’d want to pay particularly careful attention to your straps.

I tended to use quite a few tie-down straps, which meant it took longer to set the hauler up. However, I felt the added security was worth it.
I tended to use quite a few tie-down straps, which meant it took longer to set the hauler up. However, I felt the added security was worth it.

Conclusions

By the end of the summer, I’d used the rack to move my DR350 around occasionally, but never got the chance to take it on a longer trip, which would have been the ultimate test of durability. For the limited use I did get out of it, it proved to be a handy way to haul lighter (under 500 lb) motorcycles around on shorter hops.

Otherwise, this is a good buy, especially if you catch it on a sale at Princess Auto – and everything goes on sale eventually at Princess Auto. It won’t replace a pickup truck, or even a well set-up trailer, but it’s also a significantly cheaper option for those with just a car and a limited budget.

The bike hauler is on sale for $99 at the time of publication, and is available on the Princess Auto website here.


GALLERY

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7 thoughts on “Review: Princess Auto motorcycle hauler”

  1. I’ve used mine once so far, plan to use it again tomorrow.
    I have a Yamaha XT225 and use the rack on a Toyota Tundra. I can carry my wife’s ATV in the box and my bike on the rack at the same time. The last 3 km of my trip was off-road and the bike stayed solid on the rack.
    The only problem I had was undoing the straps on the handlebars. If you undo the inside strap the bike tilts away from the truck. If you undo the outside first the handlebars slam into the tailgate. I think I’ll try putting a strap around the front wheel and handlebars to keep the forks compressed until all of the other straps are off.
    I wish the ramp was a little longer. I’ll probably modify it. Trucks sit higher than most SUV’s.

  2. Good read,

    Anyone have any “I pulled you over because I couldn’t see your tail lights/plate” issues?

    How big of a back tire can fit into the rack?

  3. I bought one 2 years ago and have used it several times with my super Sherpa…2 straps is all I use and it has been solid, haven’t done any real long hauls however. my hitch has a 300 lb. tongue weight limit. I think whatever your tongue weight limit is will be the more relevant limitation to go by, not the 500 lbs.

  4. I bought one last summer (on sale for 79.99) to haul a KTM 530 home. It went together quickly and easily and I was able to secure the bike with 2 tie downs effectively and got the bike home without incident.
    It’s not the most robustly constructed piece as the steel is pretty light gauge so Like Jimo I’m going to have it welded together and get some reinforcement added just for piece of mind.
    It was a good purchase though and I think a good value.
    I wouldn’t even THINK of approaching the 500lb. limit though. The KTM or DR350 is as heavy as I would go.

  5. I bought one but haven’t used it yet because the spare tire on the back of my motorhome is in the way. I’d like to weld some 2″ extension overlaped as well as weld up all the joints on the carrier to make it stronger.

  6. The ultimate test would be a quick run through Montreal.
    If the bike, carrier, and back window are still attached afterwards – the unit can be designated as official zombie apocalypse gear.

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