How MPG is effected while Towing a Trailer with a Motorcycle

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Motorcycle trailer gas mileage can reach very low levels if steps are not taken to ensure your bike and trailer are set-up correctly. It can make the difference between a long journey being relatively inexpensive, and a surprise.

And if you make too many journeys without taking steps to increase your MPG, you could be wasting a small fortune.

There are a few key factors that can lead to a significant decrease in miles per gallon when towing a trailer on a motorcycle, in this article we’ll be taking an in-depth look at what they are, and practical steps that you can take to reduce their effect, and save money on gasoline.

3 major causes of a low MPG, namely friction, drag and load weight and see how we can reduce their effect.


How does this affect my gas mileage?

Poorly lubricated moving parts, flat tires and other things which cause friction can make a large difference to your bikes’ MPG. Many people keep their bike in good condition, yet do not worry about the trailer they are towing. Excessive friction can waste a substantial amount of all gasoline put into the engine, lowering your MPG.

Why does this affect my gas mileage?

When it comes to motorcycle trailer gas mileage, friction is undesirable because friction is lost energy. It’s converting the energy you would use for movement, into heat. Since the object of towing a trailer is to get something from A to B, and not to heat the tires, bearing and the road, this is bad.

What can be done to reduce friction with a trailer in tow?

Firstly, the easiest way is to check tire pressures and ensure they are to the manufacturer’s recommended standard, both for the bike and for the trailer. Flat tires produce excessive friction because more of their surface area is in contact with the road than there needs to be to ensure grip. Flat tires on a trailer will often produce a whining sound.

Check that the wheel bearings for all wheels (bike and trailer) are in good shape and well lubricated. If they cannot easily be turned by hand when up in the air and in neutral, then there is something wrong. If they are difficult to move then they may need replacing. The seal around the bearing could also be leaking grease, which is bad for the brakes as well.

Also make sure the chain is greased and the gearbox and clutch is in good shape.


How does this affect my gas mileage?

Aerodynamic drag can cause a dramatic effect in motorcycle trailer gas mileage, because your trailer is pushing against the wind, which is a natural brake, meaning your engine will be working harder and consuming more fuel.

Why does this affect my gas mileage?

Think of trying to run with a parachute on your back, the wind resistance makes it much harder. This is the same for your motorbike. The engine is having to work much harder to carry the load regardless of the weight.

What can be done to reduce aerodynamic drag with a trailer in tow?

Pay attention to the shape of the load. Minimizing drag where you can. The idea is to get the wind flowing over the trailer with the least amount of resistance. Think about the shape of a plane or a racing car, and try to pack your load with an even triangular shape that reduces drag. Make sure that there’s nothing flapping in the wind. If you have used a canvas to cover the load (which helps reduce drag), make sure it is tied down with bungee chords to stop it picking up the wind. Make sure no wind can get under the covering and lift it up.

Load weight

How does this affect my gas mileage?

It’s possibly the single biggest determining factor when it comes to motorcycle trailer gas mileage. It has an effect with any vehicle, but especially with motorcycles as even the biggest bikes have engines which produce less torque than a typical car. So excessive weight will be much more pronounced given the relative weight and torque of a bike to a car.

Why does this affect my gas mileage?

Because of a relatively small engine, there is only so much weight that can be towed by a motorcycle without the engine working too hard. If you increase the weight to more than you bike is supposed to handle, your fuel bill can be astronomical, not to mention the damage you can do to the drive-train and engine of your motorcycle.

What can be done to stop weight pushing your fuel consumption through the roof.

The main thing that you can do is be realistic. Before setting out on any journey with a trailer, you should always do a small test run to see how the bike is effected by the load. If you feel the engine is working too hard to pull the load, then it probably is, and you will be using a lot of fuel. Also, with the damage that can be caused to your bike, it’s probably not worth it to try moving a load that’s too heavy over a long distance.

You may however, be able to reduce the effect the weight has by packing the load evenly (from left to right), with most of the weight over the axle of the trailer.

To sum it up:

These are 3 things which commonly effect motorcycle trailer gas mileage, if you are mindful of these factors next time you tow a trailer on a motorcycle, you may be able to increase your MPG and drastically reduce the amount of money you pay for your fuel. $$



Karl S

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