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How to tow a bike & tips for him to get the Mrs safely riding her own bike
article The Adventure motorcycling industry is alive and well as you all know, and sales in this category played a significant part in carrying the industry through the recession. It seems like an “easier” product to sell than other, less versatile bikes – mainly because we can bring work related savings like running costs and time into it when we explain all the benefits to the prospective customer who actually came to buy a weekend toy to explore the less travelled parts of our amazing country.
Written by Stefan Boshoff (Senior Instructor - Country TRAX Off-road academy, Free State)

The next card the sales executive plays is the “family” one. “See, this bike is great for travelling to work on the N1 fast and cheap, and you use the same equipment on weekends to de-stress all the stress you built up travelling on the N1 during the week, AND you can take your wife along on the back – great bonding time and good for saving your marriage too…. And you need another set of protective clothing and panniers and a compressor”. The list goes on…. A good sale is made and everyone’s happy. Next, the inevitable happens – wifey starts to enjoy this de-stressing and bonding and all that goes with it, and soon she gets bored with sitting on the back and she now wants her own bike. That is where the “wheels fall off” (literally!) in many cases we encounter as we meet people at the Country TRAX training courses.

Please excuse the generalization; it is merely to explain the point. Sales staff at bike dealerships have blood on their hands. A lady who has never ridden a motorcycle arrives in a great looking body that has last seen any exercise at the Pofadder Laerskool local netball tournament 15 years ago, and asks for a motorbike “to learn on and ride with hubby and friends”. Our sales executive recommends that you buy “once and for all” and she walks away with a two cylinder machine three times her body mass. The lowered seat and suspension is “sold” as reasons why this is the ideal machine and off she goes.

Not all of them even get as far as the course venue, and the lucky ones get to spend good bonding time with orthopaedic surgeons. And there are the unlucky ones that pay a higher price.

So, please guys – let your good lady ride. But start off on a 230 or similar, light and controllable bike and give her the opportunity and time to build confidence and strength to confidently handle the bike before you go for the large machinery. And make sure she learns the correct techniques early on. Whilst you are at it, why don’t you both do some training together, each on the appropriate bike? We would like to help you end your biking career with “and they LIVED happily ever after”.

See you at one of the Country TRAX training venues soon! Look at www.countrytrax.co.za.

All of this brings us to the next point. What happens when wifey’s or a friend’s bike (preferable of a different brand to yours – it just makes a better story) breaks down or runs out of fuel and needs a tow to the nearest civilization? Towing a bike is a risky affair at best, but what follows is an attempt at explaining the safest method. So we are stuck next to the road, we had a look at all the options and we decide that towing the bike is the only one we have.

First we have to find the tow strap. A good quality tow strap, designed for towing bikes is of utmost importance. Always have one or two with you! Make sure it has good protection on the end loops to prevent it wearing through prematurely. Without appropriate sleeves covering the end loops, they just do not last very long.

Attaching the strap to the bikes takes some logical thinking; otherwise it can easily end up causing a lot of damage to man and machine. Never attach a tow strap to the towing bike’s rear sub frame. It is not strong enough and damage is inevitable. Likewise, the handle bars and forks of the towed bike should never be used as attachment points. A jerk from the towing bike after the strap slackens will easily cause the bike to run off in the wrong direction. Or if you hit an obstruction with the front wheel and it stops suddenly, but the handle bars or triple clamp continues to move because the strap is attached there, it results in damage and broken friendships.

The correct way is to attach the tow strap to the right foot peg of the towing bike, and the left peg of the towed bike. That way, the rear brake of the towed bike remains unobstructed and the rider has maximum control. Place the loop on the outside edge of the towed bike’s peg, with the rider standing on it with his / her boot to keep it in place, or get rid of it when needed. The bikes can now pull off (slowly…) and ride in staggered formation, taking corners wide to avoid the strap getting into the rear and front wheels of the two bikes respectively.

Keeping the tow strap low down and attached to the strongest areas of the bikes far outweighs the danger of wheels touching the strap. This way, a bike can be towed safely for extended distances, with all the required controls unobstructed. Both riders can stand on their bikes for best control, and it saves friendships and marriages. Traction can become a problem in loose surfaces, and a little external help might still be needed, but that is only in extreme cases. At the end of the day, the bit of brand bashing that goes with the pictures is worth not waiting for someone to come and rescue you from some way out place.

Tow straps are also useful for getting a bike out when stuck in things like mud or a steep uphill where there is inadequate traction to pull away. Again, we don’t want to interfere with the rider’s ability to control the bike, and we want to keep the attachment points low down. Pushing a bike from behind is rarely a good idea, due to the loss of traction when the real wheel is pushed upwards by the helper(s). Using two tow straps, one can attach a lot of manpower to the bike and effortlessly pull it out of some real sticky situations, as can be seen in the pictures.

Happy towing till next month….

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