MO on Tour : Okanogan Co. : part one

By Don Crafts, Chicago Desk 09/29/03

Our story begins in a warehouse near O'Hare. I'm standing in line with a dozen truckers. A lovely group of guys. They are picking up shipments. I am dropping one off - a gorgeous, red, '98 Moto Guzzi Centauro Sport. No one mentioned to me that Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. is positively the worst time to try to organize a bike drop off. But there is nothing to be done about it now.

Armed with my shipping documents I wait my turn for the next available forklift operator. One finally arrives. After handing over my papers he disappears into the bowels of the warehouse. Returning minutes later with a large metal container with the words "FRONT OF MOTORCYCLE >>" displayed boldly on each side.

This will be my bike's garage for the next four days.

As pater familias to two young boys, it has become progressively more difficult to contemplate long motorcycle trips. Even if your better half rides - as mine does - what do you do with the little ones who do not? Then there is the issue of vacation time. Any place worth visiting is a three-day ride each way. Almost a week's worth of vacation just getting there and back.

I know, I know, 'it's the journey not the destination.' Convince your spouse of that and you will have done something special. "Honey, this year our long vacation will consist of: A solid week of hard riding. No kids. No visiting with family. No lying in the sun. Any questions?" Sure. I'd like to see you try.

Where we begin
Where we end
Empty container
Front view
Rearshot, stapped down
This article has multiple purposes, none of which entail boring you with slides from my summer vacation. First and foremost I am letting you in on a number of well kept moto secrets, chief among them Forward Air freight carriers, Langlitz custom leather, a small outfit known as Hazardous Sports, and Washington state riding. In addition I'll tell you about some not so secret products from Harley-Davidson, Marsee Products and DynaJet. First up Forward Air...

"What if you could fly your entire family out to this year's vacation spot and your bike could follow?"

[ | | 800.871.1701]
Luckily there is an answer for us tragic, family-obligated riders. It comes in the form of Forward Air. Forward Air is a freight hauling company that has recently gotten into the business of hauling motorcycles. Now I know what you are thinking. As if trailering bikes to Sturgis and Daytona wasn't bad enough, now the weekend warrior, poser sect needs to have someone else do it for them? I admit it does sound like that on the surface, but give me a chance to explain...

I might be a front running, poser, wannabe, but my hypocrisy does have its limit. If I had the six days to trailer my bike to and from an exotic locale I damn sure would ride it instead. I love to ride. That's why I own motorcycles. That's why all true enthusiasts own motorcycles. Cars suck. Bikes rule. But as I said, I don't have a spare six days. Short of dedicating two full weeks to one vacation, I generally have somewhere on the order of nine days - two weekends and a business week - to make hay while the summer sun shines.

What if you could fly your entire family out to this year's vacation spot and your bike could follow? Every spare non-family oriented minute could be spent finding lost roads and exploring new landscapes. While the wee ones tear up grandma's house, you tear up asphalt. That is a deal too good to pass up. So I didn't.

This year's family vacation is to the family-rich state of Washington. Starting in Seattle my destination is our cabin in the north Cascade Mountains. The combination of urban and rural riding could not be more ideal. Seattle is an urban landscape full of steep hills, cobblestone streets, waterfronts and outdoor cafes. Perfect for aggressive city riding. By contrast eastern Washington is tranquil mountains, deserts, evergreen trees and sagebrush. Both equally brilliant. Riding does not get better.

There are a few tricks to shipping your bike with Forward Air you should know before you go. The bike is transported in a large metal container. The bike must be drained of gas and have its battery disconnected. You need to provide your own tie down straps, as well as two padlocks for the front and rear of the container. Those are the basics, now the particulars.

Packing the bike into its specially designed container is a small chore. Once you get the hang of it, it's a breeze, but the first time through it's about as fun as cleaning your rear wheel. First you roll your bike into the box and then you need to somehow balance it while you attach ratchet straps to four points on the bike. The container has three solid rings per side to accommodate straps. Locating the best tie-down spots on your ride is more tricky.

At the front end you should be above the triple clamp. As you need to compress the forks as much as possible. This eliminates the possibility of the bike bouncing loose in transit. Your bike's geometry will dictate where to attach to the back of the bike. Ideally you should compress the rear suspension as well. The technique I settled on involved running straps from the top of the triple clamp forward and from the swing arm rearward. This kept the bike from rolling forward or aft.


Current contain dimension:
98"l x 44.6"w x 47.6"h (ID). New container dimension:
120"l x 48"w x 60"h (ID). May need to lower handlebar and/or remove shield. Bring 2 padlocks and 4 ratchet straps. Compress front suspension. Drain tank on site or haul bike empty with a truck. Bring gas can when picking up bike. Ah, but I've left out the trickiest part. How do you get your bike to and from the Forward Air locations? There are two approaches:

1) The smart way: Drain your gas tank. Disconnect the battery. Remove your windshield if you have one. Drop your handlebars low. Haul your bike to Forward Air in the back of a pickup. Roll it off the pickup and into your container. Strap it down. Say goodbye. Drive yourself home.

2) The less smart way (aka. the way I did it): Ride your bike to Forward Air with a friend following you with an empty gas can, funnel and rag. Ride the bike up to your container. Bust out all required tools. Drain your tank into the gas can. Disconnect the battery. Lower your handlebar. Push the beast into the container. Strap it down. Wave goodbye. Have your friend drive you home.

Remember for one round trip you need to go through the process four times. Two loading. Two unloading. For the unloads you will need to show up with a can of gas or a pickup truck. My guess is that at most destinations you will not have the luxury of a pickup truck with a ramp waiting for you. So plan on buying a can of gas at your destination. If there are several of you together for a trip, each with your own bike, it will require a bit of planning.

Another concern is riding gear. If you are smart enough to use it, you know it is heavy and bulky. Not the easiest thing to pack for a flight. So exploit your assets. You have a very large container that is yours to stuff full of whatever you want - not only your motorcycle. Why not your jacket, boots, helmet, gloves, and tools? Don't bother hauling all that paraphernalia through the airports.

Get in your Inbox