Friday, 15 March 2013

And the motorbike came too... my life is complete!

Carrying a motorbike in the load bed of a Nissan Navara

Some of you may remember that I used to tow with a blue Renault Trafic van, which I used to transport my motorbike. 

Vanity got the better of me (I’m sure people used to think I was either delivering my Airstream or had just nicked it) and I acquired my gorgeous Nissan Navara four years ago. Of course, that meant leaving the motorbike behind.

At first, it wasn’t a problem, especially as I would nip home every six weeks or so and get my motorbiking fix. However, this is no longer an option as the Airstream is now home. Getting rid of my beloved Triumph after 21 years (I bought it new in 1992) wasn’t an option.

It just so happened that I noticed that some of my Airstream buddies were carrying their motorbikes in the back of their pick-up trucks. So I looked a little harder at using my Navara to carry the Triumph.

After some trial and error, we eventually got there:

As I load and unload the bike on my own, stepping up onto the high tailgate isn’t an option.  I purchased two folding ramps in order to get the bike up and down: One ramp for the bike, one ramp for me to walk up and down. These were purchased from The Ramp People, and I was delighted by their old-fashioned good friendly customer service.

With the bike safely strapped in, there is no room to shut the tailgate. There is enough clearance to be able to tow the Airstream, but as the number plate is obliterated I choose to only carry the bike when towing rather than making other arrangements.

The only alteration needed to the trailer was that the Winterhoff hitch had to go… there simply wasn’t the room to operate the handle with the Navara tailgate down. Maybe I could have tried to hitch the trailer before lowering the tailgate and loading the bike, but then I would not be able to unhitch quickly in an emergency, so this was a non-starter. To get over this problem I fitted a regular Albe hitch with a teeny handle meaning that the trailer can be detached even with the tailgate down. The intention was to a blade-style stabiliser at a later date, but having now done 2000 miles in all weathers without one (including crossing the Skye Bridge in gale force winds), I’ve decided that the Airstream is so awesomely stable that I really need not worry. During the winter when the bike is in hibernation the Winterhoff goes back on.

It’s all good, except for one thing….

Nowhere could I get an ‘official’ figure for how much weight the lowered tailgate of the Navara would take. Figures banded about were 100lbs (which sounded way too low) and 100kg, which sounded about right.

The problem is, my Triumph is 240kg. I weigh 75kg. Therefore while I’m loading and unloading, there is about 200kg on the tailgate, albeit briefly (assuming the bike loads 120kg onto each wheel). In transit, a piece of wood slid under the rear wheel spreads the load between the tailgate and the load bed meaning that very little weight indeed is on the tailgate. I remove the cover to my Armadillo roll top to gain those essential extra couple of inches, but I don't need to go to the bother of removing the entire assembly. 

I’m pretty sure, however, that I’ve damaged the hinges to the Navara’s tailgate. After 2000 miles it still closes and locks, but it doesn’t close as smoothly as it used to. I can live with this as long as it doesn’t get any worse. If it does… I may end up having to have the tailgate hinges replaced. Not ideal, but I have to say that having the bike with me once again has really enhanced my summer touring. It was a bit of a struggle to get there, but very well worth it.

 My life is now complete.

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