I'm not doing so well. (I blame society.) You see, like many of you out there, I have to rent my domicile, and there's not much room for a trailer in the ol' back 40, as there is no back 40. There isn't even an "out-front five". In fact, we had to go to Ikea to buy a thing to store our cutlery in. It's that bad.
So how am I supposed to get my racebike to the track? My small, ant-like car can pull a 1,000-pound trailer, but where do I put the freakin' trailer when I'm not using it?
I went the cheapskate route some years ago; I bought a $300 folding-trailer kit from Harbor Freight Tools. The trailer went together easily enough and performed satisfactorily, although it uses cheap bearings, rattles like a Model-T on a logging road, and is now decrepit to the point of looking like found art.
There are a lot of big-buck folding trailers on the market from makers like Kendon, but these are big, heavy things that fold up, true, but still take up more room than a refrigerator in your garage (and cost around $2,000). As Steve Martin said, "let's get small".
Richmond, California welder Rod Haskins has been making the Stinger folding trailer since early in this century. He went into the business when a customer asked him to fabricate a trailer, so he attacked the problem of how to make a high-quality, durable, stable, compact, and easy-to-use trailer that could be made for a value price in the United States. It was a formidable challenge for a small businessperson.
Rod saw traditional trailer engineering as bulky and primitive, and came up with some interesting solutions for the folding trailer problem. He uses much heavier-gauge steel than most manufacturers, but to save weight has eliminated much of the frame found on conventional trailers. Instead of a rail frame, the Stinger uses a heavy, ramp-like folding structure that bolts to an enormous 3,500 pound capacity axle. In front is a heavy-duty wheel chock with two tie-down points behind it. Two more tie-down points are attached to the axle. The "tailgate" doubles as a loading ramp and has polyurethane pads and steel guards to protect the heavy-duty tail lamps.
The first thing you notice about the Stinger is that it is very low, narrow, and light. It also has eight-inch wheels, which made me worry they would spin faster than Fonzie's pupils at a Phish concert when the trailer was rolling at highway speeds. A light trailer with small wheels may be easy to move around and store, but is it safe on the freeway?
Rod knew that a trailer measuring just 48 inches from tire to tire and weighing in at 180 pounds might not inspire enough confidence in the trailer-buying public, so he applied his engineering prowess to that issue in a couple of clever ways. First, he designed a special trailer hitch that, while fussier to use than a simple ball hitch, will not allow the trailer to turn turtle, no matter how crazily you might drive. Next, he utilized heavier-gauge steel for the axle and other parts than other manufacturers might use. Finally, high-speed, heavy-duty "Sure-Lube" bearings (designed for submersible trailers) are used for maximum confidence at high speeds.
The finished product is well-built, simple to use and compact. Fit and finish is distinctly American, with heavy welds and thick powder-coat everywhere. It unfolds with very little heavy lifting required; you simply pull a few pins out and unfold it. This is in marked contrast to my crummy kit trailer, which can be so violently destructive if mishandled it should work as a Mob hitman. Folded, the Stinger fits into an incredibly tiny package the size of an ottoman, except with wheels. In fact, I had the trailer for over a month before The Wife noticed it. She asked how I was going to get my racebike to the track, and I told her I would take the trailer.
Cackling with glee, I led her down to our garage and lifted some boxes I had been hoarding for eBay shipping purposes. There, occupying about as much room as a very large dog or a child-sized casket (folded it measures about 4' by 2.5' by 2.5') was the folded-up trailer.
"What trailer?" was her bewildered response (my folding trailer was on loan to a friend).
"Huh!" was the response. This was a very different response from her than what I get regarding my current trailer, which varies from "I banged my %&^$%& shin on that %&%& thing again!" to "When are you going to get rid of that ugly piece of %&@?" When you're not using this trailer (and if you're like most motorcyclists, you don't need it most of the time, do you?) it's a very convenient piece of gear, intruding little into your stuff-and-activity-crammed existence.
However, if it doesn't work well as a trailer it doesn't matter how convenient it is, right? My coffee table is very convenient to keep in my house but does a horrible job hauling my motorcycles. Luckily, the Stinger is also a very good trailer.
Empty, you would forget it's there, as it's so light and is completely out of your field of view, except that it makes a symphony of clanging and rattling noises as it bounces over bumps, sometimes even launching its wheels into the air. Too much bouncing and a locking pin could come loose, meaning the ramp could come down clanging and dragging at 30 or 40 MPH, making a trail of orange.sparks in your rear-view mirror as the guy who was tailgating you violently brakes and swerves. Don't ask me how I know this. Tape the pins securely as a safety measure.
In fact, I would recommend pulling it empty as little as possible. Fortunately, it's small enough and light enough to actually load into the back of your SUV, van, station wagon or large hatchback until you reach your destination to pick up the motorcycle. Remember to lift with your legs.
Once there, loading the motorcycle is incredibly easy. You place a block under the tongue (Rod provides a simple, yet nicely-made square of aluminum for this purpose) and drop the ramp. You can then place a sidestand plate on the left side of the trailer and roll (or even ride) the bike up onto the ramp. Without the block the rail will drop to the ground and bend or get scratched or something; trust me. When the front wheel is butted in the chock, you deploy the sidestand (unless you have a racebike) and get off the bike if you took the time to put the sidestand plate in place. Otherwise, it's an easy affair to balance the bike to strap it down, even if you're solo, as the trailer is so low.
You then secure the handlebars with tiedown straps, and then take the extra step of securely fastening the back of the bike as well to the loops welded to the axles. When you have everything cinched down tight (but not too tight; leave a little play in the suspension) give the bike a strong nudge to make sure it is now securely part of the trailer, utter the magic words -- "that ain't goin' nowhere" -- and pop in your CD of banjo-heavy travelin' music.
On the road, a loaded Stinger is very quiet and smooth. It doesn't bounce off the ground over bumps and doesn't make the groans and clanks it does when empty. It's solid and steady at extremely-illegal trailer-pulling speeds (in California the speed limit is 55 for vehicles with trailers, not that you would guess that driving on I-5) and has a minimal impact on fuel economy (my 2.3-liter Ford Focus got 23-25 MPG pulling a trailer as opposed to the 28 it usually gets on the freeway at 65 MPH). In fact, if it wasn't for the bike following right behind you there would be almost no sign you were pulling a trailer at all.
The Stinger is a durable, well-built, practical and urban-friendly unit that is not a bad value at $1,400. It's most attractive feature is its compact storage size, but with the exception of a few inconveniences -- like the clattering that accompanies the trailer when it's empty or the need to tie down both ends of the bike -- it also works very well as a trailer, as it's easy to load and offers a smooth and safe ride for your motorcycle.
The Stinger is available in a standard size as well as a longer version (shown here) for longer-wheelbase motorcycles. Accessories like floorboards are also available. Rod is also working on a two-ramp trailer as well as a trailer for trikes and quads. For more information check out the Stinger Trailer webpage or give Rod a call at (800) 701-5501.