Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ride To Live...

So here's the conundrum...

The Harley went into storage before the big move, and it's almost time to retrieve it. The registration and insurance are still valid, so I'm torn between riding it down to VA and trailering it. There are pluses and minuses to both options, and right now I'm really vacillating between the two.

The major advantage to trailering is that I'm not 100% certain what the legality is of operating the Harley with MA plates and MA registration and a VA residence and license. The address on my MA registration does not match the address on my VA license. The vehicle is being taken out of storage to be registered in the new state, so I would assume this would be okay, but I'm not 100% certain how it works. Putting it on a trailer alleviates this completely.

Other advantages to trailering are that I am more confident in the drive with a GPS running, and it's also less weather dependent - I'd much rather the bike get wet on the back of a trailer should there be raging downpours on the ride (and there's almost guaranteed to be downpours if I decide to ride it...)
The major advantage to riding is that I can fly up and ride it home - the 8-10 hour journey only has to happen in one direction. The dealership is only 4 miles from Manchester airport, so I could fly in, catch a cab over to the dealership, and head south. With an early enough flight, I could be home Saturday night. Otherwise, I could ride halfway, spend the night in a hotel, and leave early Sunday morning and be home for lunch. The entire family doesn't have to do the long drive both ways in two days, either.

Other advantages of riding are, well, put it this way. In the 11 years I've owned the Harley, it has never been trailered. Ever. I can mount the EZ-pass right on my windshield so going through tolls is easy. And, let's face it, that's a lot of riding to get done...

Disadvantages of trailering are that, a) like I said, I've never trailered the bike before; b) super mondo extra tolls with the trailer; and c) 500+ miles of worrying about the bike falling over/getting hit/etc. Also the extra time needed to drive north. Money should be about even - the cost of flying up solo is about the same as the gas/tolls/etc. for driving up.

Disadvantages to riding are the above-mentioned registration issue, plus the rather daunting task of riding some 500+ miles for, literally, the first ride of the season. Now, I'd probably stop in and see a few people along the way, so that's not too big of an issue. The real biggest thing I'm concerned about is the weather - I can totally see it raining/snowing that weekend and being stuck in NH with no way home other than riding...

Part of me really wants to just man up, fly up and ride back to VA. It's a lot of highway riding, which is not as scenic as backroads but, IMHO, much safer - no one makes a left turn in front of you on the highway, frex. The highway miles will help break the Harley in smoothly for the new season, and I'll start off the riding season with more miles on the clock than I've put on in an entire year some years. I rode close to 400 miles last summer with Cher and Mopar up in NH; I suspect the 500 miles from NH to VA wouldn't be that much worse.

Another part wants to be extra safe and just trailer the bike home. No worries about whether I'll have issues with the registration, weather, or simply saddle sores, only about whether or not the straps have come loose or not. If I rented a trailer in NH, then I'd only have to worry about towing the trailer for one-way, which cuts down on cost and worry.

So, hive mind, I turn to you. To trailer or not to trailer, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the rocks and road debris of I95, or to take straps to my trusted steed. Honestly, I'm torn. I can come up with a hundred reasons to ride - and a hundred reasons to trailer.

One thing I will need, if I decide to ride, is a bike-worthy GPS. I might pick up a handlebar mount case for my existing GPS for now, but get a dedicated unit later, but eventually I'll want something waterproof with a longer battery life than what I currently have (an aging TomTom with about 20 minutes of battery life...). The beauty of the Harley is that it does have a cigarette lighter (although I have no idea if it works or not...)

Trailer, or ride - what say you, internets? 

That is all.


George said...

There's always option three: have it shipped. How much can that cost?

Mopar said...

There's a tough one. If you hadn't added a cap to the EarthF*cker, I would say tossing it in the bed was a 3rd option. Can't really answer for ya, so I'll just point out a few things you might not have thought of, since I've done everything you're thinking about.
Trailer - I think it's safe to assume you don't own the trailer and aren't going to buy one just for this. That means borrowing or renting, so I'll start there.
If you borrow, that means trailering it empty one way. Small, light trailers are HORRIBLE on highways when empty. Twice I've had an open one disconnect (2 different trailers) at 50mph+ when it hit a pothole and bounced so high the coupler couldn't hold it at that angle. Enclosed trailers are generally heavy enough for that not to be a problem, but they have their own issues when empty. They tend to want to go their own direction in strong winds, or every time an 18 wheeler passes.
You also don't know the mechanical condition of a loaner/rental. Before I bought my own, I used to borrow my brother-in-law's or a friend's. Without fail, every time I had to do things like replace wheel bearings or fix wiring before I felt confident using it for a long haul. Once I even had to weld some broken parts.
Also, it won't be set up for YOUR bike. Which leads to the next part. Trailering a bike safely and without damaging chrome/paint isn't as easy as it seems. Over the years I've acquired a whole kit of specialized tie-down components specifically for each bike. I've also been able to customize my own trailer to optimize tie-down points for each bike. Now that I've scared the hell outta yea, despite what the hardcore riders will say, trailering the bike on a long boring highway ride is safer and far more enjoyable then riding it. Not even something I have to think twice about now that I own a dedicated bike trailer.

If you want to ride long distance, the GPS is almost a must have in my book. It may seem like a distraction, but it's far better then trying to read a map on your tank or worrying about missed turns. Dedicated bike GPS are sweet, and have lot's of nice features like bluetooth voice to your helmet, but they are expensive as hell. Dedicated car GPS aren't water or vibration proof, they don't run long on batteries, and they usually don't work well with gloves on. The compromise I use is a handheld GPS designed for marine use with a RAM mount on my handlebars. The one I have is discontinued, but it looks like it was replaced by the Garmin 78 which is like $180. Works well and pops right off and into my pocket when I park the bike. Another option that didn't exist until recently is the RAM Aqua Box for the RAM mount system. With it you can have a waterproof and cushioned mount for a car gps or even your smart phone, with options to run power into it. I'm considering one now.

One last thing, and this really goes if you trailer or ride. Check the manufacturing date on your tires! Bike tires should really be replaced every 5-6yrs regardless of mileage and wear. Rubber starts hardening and changing from the moment it's molded. After 5-6yrs It's starting to dry-rot even if you don't see it yet, and it doesn't grip the road like it used to. Reduced traction or a blowout on a car is dangerous enough, on a bike it can be fatal. Good tires are not cheap, but still cheaper then a hospital stay or funeral.

skidmark said...

Fly up and rent both trailer and tow vehicle.

We never expect to get pulled over (or the Spanish Inquisition) but things happen. My gut says that you will encounter a delay in order to explain things but not end up in jail over the mismatched documents. Then all you will need to do is decide to pay the fine & costs or return for trial and then pay the fine and costs. ('Cause nobody would believe a bike rider, you evil, dangerous hoodlum, you.)

This is the start of the East Coast rainy season. How waterproof are your togs and your riding skills?

My final answer? Go tow. And learn how to cross-strap.

stay safe.

Mopar said...

Skidmark brings up another option. Fly up and rent a small enclosed moving van one way and drive back. Still need to figure out best strapping points on the bike, but often the vans have tracks mounted on walls and/or floor for tie downs.
Send dad or SF over to scope it out first to make sure it will work (strong tie down points and ramp, enough room, etc).

Anonymous said...

Good Lord man, go for a ride.

jetfxr69. said...

I'm going to be the one that points out you just moved to freedom, stop thinking like a serf. You ride a Harley.
Virginia requires an inspection, yes? You're on the way to get it registered at your new home, yes? Carry the receipt for pulling it from storage and you should be good. Don't drive through NJ. (That should go without saying.)

GPS? On a bike? Get a map, plan a route, and execute. I used to make the trip from Hartford, CT to/from Leesburg, VA regularly. Go up 7, pick up 15 through Gettysburg to Harrisburg, PA and take the freeways to Scranton. Cut through NY at White Plains and keep going. Never go through the city. Looks longer the way I describe, but you never have to touch 95 in NJ, or deal with NYFC.

Roger said...

Harleys are made to RIDE not to be trailered. Git on it and ride the sucker to your new home. STAY OUT of the Peoples Republik of New Jersistan. You have valid registration, insurance and a valid drivers licence. You should be ok (Think what difference would it be if your friend was riding the bike?)

Ted said...

If you mount your E Z Pass on your bike you'll also need to call and tell them the associated different plate number. You should have a dedicated one for the bike anyway. I have a transponder for each vehicle All 4 on the same EZ Pass acount

Dave H said...

There are services that will ship bikes. A guy near me buys old bikes, fixes them up, and sells them online. He uses a company near the airport here to ships bikes in specially built cargo containers. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the company. I did find a forum with a review of a place called and users seem pretty happy with it.

If you don't want to go that route, I think hauling the bike in a truck is probably better than trailering it. Either way, Harbor Freight sells a stand + wheel chock that will keep the bike parked upright. It's got tie points so you can strap the bike to the stand and the stand to the vehicle.

fuzzy said...

If you were driving across Virginia or PA I'd say this was a matter of manning up and not trailering, but you're not. You're talking about interstate riding near NYC, through Jersey, then possible through Baltimore and around DC.

In NOVA you'll have access to Skyline drive and the even better roads around it. Don't kill yourself riding through garbage to get to a better place. said...

Haven't a clue, but I'll second jetfxr69 on route choices, far fewer tolls that way for trailers. (which means by the way, heavy truck traffic on 81/84 All the way) And on the use of maps.
Ideally, of course, one would have two days and avoid the interstates entirely. It is much more fun, but you know that!

Mopar said...

Life's too short for crappy rides. If it takes a truck or trailer to get it to the nice riding, so be it.
That is all. :P

Stretch said...

"no one makes a left turn in front of you on the highway" - You are new to the DC area, aren't you?

Second Jetfxr69's route suggestion. My Wench and I took that route both north and south to Mass. Anything that avoids NYFC and New "What's-that-smell?" Jersey is to be commended.

You fate is in the hands of the Weather Gods. Given how bi-polar this winter has been you'll probably end up w/frostbite.

Jay Ater said...

Trailers are for sissies, only acceptable if its broken.

Armed Texan said...

As someone who has moved to a new state twice since 2010, I can tell you that you're worrying over nothing.

First, no other state outside of VA cares about your registration being in one state and your license from another as long as it is valid. MA already has your tax money, CT, NY, NJ, MD, and NJ aren't going to get your tax dollars from the registration, so they don't care.

Second, while I can't speak for VA, the two states I have moved to had generous grace periods for registering your vehicle. In NH, the town clerk even told us to wait until our AZ tags expired before registering with her to save us money. In my experience, the cops don't care about where the inspections or registrations were conducted as long as they're valid. (I had been pulled over in AZ with an AZ license and TX plates and my wife had been pulled over in NH with NH license and AZ plates.) The only thing I heard was from the rookie (barely out of high school as far as I could tell) AZ statie urging me to register in AZ as soon as possible.

So, given good weather, I say ride the damn thing to freedom.

B said...


And WTF do you NEED a GPS for? Man up, suck it up and look at a map.

(of course, you don't have to explain why you NEED anything, yer a free man and all that....but still)

lelnet said...

I can't address the other concerns, but I wouldn't worry about the registration address mismatch. It's got valid plates and a valid tag, and if/when a cop runs those plates through the system, the name of the registered owner will come back matching the name on your drivers license. Assuming that the Virginia license has an "issue date" printed on it, that will also tend to corroborate the (true!) story you're telling about how the situation came about.

It's possible that, by not promptly re-registering the bike in Virginia, you've committed some kind of civil infraction there. It's also possible that you haven't. Either way, the cops in other states aren't going to care. So if you get pulled over, all you can expect is a ticket for whatever it was they say you did that made them pull you over in the first place.

"I moved out of [snow-state] in the winter, and now that it's spring, I'm moving my motorcycle down" is not a rare and strange story. They'll be prepared to cope.

Roy said...

I would fly up, rent a small moving van, and bring it back in comfort.

The weather is the biggest issue. If it was summer time, then yeah, no problem. But you don't want to be riding in really crappy weather, especially with the strong possibility of sleet or snow that's typical of early spring.

Another thing that has gone unmentioned is the condition of the roads. This winter has been an exceptionally destructive one for the roadways. The potholes this year are legendary. And on a bike, it's not just the hole itself that you have to worry about, but also the debris that surrounds them. And don't forget the danger of the vehicle right next to you that suddenly swerves to avoid the hole in his lane. Another one of the things that you will have to watch out for are the breaks in the pavement right at the interface between the roadway and bridges. Some of them are big enough to swallow a Harley whole, and they stretch all the way across the lane. Think about hitting that on your bike verses in a truck.

If the straps and tie-downs are worrying you, just stop every hundred miles or so and give them a good inspection.

Screw all that "man up" bullshite. The ride back on the bike will almost inevitably be a miserable ride. Fly up and rent the truck. You'll be glad you did.

lordjim said...

Fly up, rent a U-Haul cargo van, buy some straps, some foam padding and drive her down. Those potholes in NE are nothing to be scoffed at this year from what I hear.

Will Brown said...

Put the whole thing off for 6 more weeks. Plan to fly up on a Friday afternoon then, and drive back mid-day Saturday and Sunday morning. In the interim, arrange hotel accommodations for the Saturday night so as to schedule a blog shoot/meet-up dinner type thing. If you do things just right (and figure out how to make some of all that job related) you can write some of the expense off your taxes - or just have we fellow NRA members pay for it outright. :)

Blog fodder. Work content. Good (well, better ... probably) riding weather. Blog meet. What's not to like?

Anonymous said...

You didn't buy the thing to put it on a trailer did you? Ride fool ride.

Anonymous said...

If you are that worried and you decide to ride the Harley home, I would get a certified copy of the title and take that with you.

I have to agree that there are different tie downs for each bike. Check with the local dealer and see if they recommend something.

While I have never hauled any form of a two-wheel vehicle, I do haul an 18" telescope around which set me back $18,000 with trailer. A telescope is far more fragile than any Harley (depends on who you talk to) and requires extra straps to keep it in place in the trailer.


Wally said...

You have the option of a one-way trailer rental here, too.

Don't get me wrong, I'd say fly up and ride back but I have a vested interest in you driving North. I'll kick in for gas money :)

Jim said...

I've made three rides from San Antonio, to Boston n' back.

One, direct on the way there, and then with a detour to Tulsa on the return, for a Gold Wing rally. Oh, and rode up to the boss' condo at Kennebunk, Maine over the weekend, while I was in the area.

The next? A wee detour to Orlando to visit with my (then living) Dad, and then up 95 to Boston. With a detour into D.C. and Times Square. Just because. Straight route back home.

The third? Detour to a corporate meeting in Chicago, then to see a friend in Syracuse, then Boston, then down to Columbia, S.C. for another meeting, then back home.

You can do this, Jay. And, rain or shine, you'll enjoy the memory for the rest of your days.

You'll see sights you'll never see, otherwise. You'll meet some fine people. You'll relish the memories, forever.

Ride brother, ride!

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Geodkyt said...

From a legal standpoint, Jay, you're outside the window to legally drive the bike in Virginia on Massachusetts tags & title. It's 30 days from when you move.

AND, they'll mail you a ticket if they notice your EZ-Pass doesn't match the vehicle tags they have on file for that transponder.

You can get a short duration travel tag to GET it into Virginia to get titled and tagged. It's called a trip permit, lasts 3 days, and costs $5 (plus proof of insurance, or 1/12th of teh unisured motorist fee).

Wandering Neurons said...

I have both ridden a bike cross-country and trailered bikes cross-country, through tornados, ice storms, and beautiful weather. If you don't fly your butt up and ride that bike back to VA, you might as well turn in your Man Card. Forget GPS, memorize a simple route or get a clear Pelican case for your smartphone. Plan for all kinds of weather, but pack as light as possible. You're only riding for two days max. Plan to ride as many secondary roads as possible, forget the Interstate and toll roads, they're BORING. Program your phone with friends and acquaintances along the route home in case of emergencies or weather. Most of us have trucks and trailers. I'm one of them.
And remember, no matter what happens on the ride home, you'll have a story to tell. Do It.

Anonymous said...

This sounds to me like "the snowbird problem". If you have a vehicle that you have only ever used up north in non-winter, then it is likely registered in the state where your "vacation home" or "family compound" is located. You've decided to bring it home and register it in your state of domicile.
I've got a cottage in MA. My insurance agent has been adamant that any vehicle registered in my state of domicile be parked or garaged in my state of domicile, and that any vehicle I leave in MA must be registered and insured there. I am no stranger to mismatch between license and registration.

Mark12A said...

If you ever see my bike on a trailer it's being stolen.

David said...

I'm not a biker, but have a lot of very good friends who are. If you asked them whether you should ride or trailer the bike they would beat you with your trailer and tell you to stop asking stupid questions.

Ride it or sell it!

Borepatch said...

I'm late to the party, but jetfxr69 wins the Internetz.

efxgeek said...

Ride like the wind Bullseye!

Will said...

Get the temp paperwork from VA just before you go to get it.

If you truck/trailer it, the key to doing it properly is the front wheel must be contained in a mount that keeps it from moving. Then strap the front end down so the forks are compressed about halfway.
Then, strap down the rear end. Make sure the rear straps are not pulling the front end out of the mount. They should pull down vertically, not at much of an angle to front/rear.

Check at bike shops or the web for a proper mount to hold the front wheel. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF TRANSPORT!

If your truck isn't real tall, take the cap off, get a good ramp, and truck it. Trailer is easier to load, but can be trouble to tow, especially if you don't have experience. Get help to load/unload. Experienced help is much preferred.

Will said...

Forgot to mention the reason for the front wheel mount: The bike will fall over when the forks twist, typically.
The front straps should run down at approx the same angle as the fork tubes, and at least the width of your handlebars. A bit wider is better.

Don Fanuche said...

Man up! Ride!
That being said, it's still snowing up here in the peoples' republik. Fly up, rent the mini van, and drive it like you stole it.Just obey the speed limits in VA.

Don F

Six said...

Ride it. No worries on the registration. Every state (that I am aware of) has a grace period on vehicle registrations. It's usually something like 10 days after the vehicle is permanently moved into the new state. Armed Texan called it above. As long as the reg and insurance is up to date you're legal until after you get it home and the grace period expires.

Wind my brother. Go get some.

Pecos Phil said...

Fly up, rent a u-hual truck, put the bike in it. If properly straped down, the bike will not move around. With the bike inside a truck, out of site, out of mind, should be safe when you pull over at the tank and tummy. Yes, driving across state lines with non matching license(s) is asking for trouble. Avoid trouble.

Anonymous said...

Trailers (properly used) are efficient, safe, and can easily lug cargo (and motorcycles) wherever you need to go. Motorcycles (in all but the best of circumstances) will buffet you in the wind, expose you to risk, and require more effort to operate. Therefore I heartily recommend riding the bike. Duh!

If you wanted efficient, safe, and easy you wouldn't own a bike in the first place. You know that's how you want to roll.

Don't be stupid, shit can go wrong so take precautions. Wait a few extra weeks for the weather to clear. Go down to your local DMV and get a temporary tag so you don't have to sweat the plates. Schedule a whole weekend so the 500 mile death ride becomes two easy 250 mile "warm ups" for the riding season. Avoid New Jersey on principle. Be extra careful those first few miles cause life is like that.

Then have a blast. Also, promise to write a great post when the whole thing goes haywire. It'll rain cats and dogs. The bike's fender will fly off. Your body, unaccustomed to riding, will ache. Since you don't have a GPS you'll wind up lost in Quebec. There will probably be a plague and earthquake too. Adventure happens!

You lucky dog. It's a road trip!

Sincerely, Adaptive Curmudgeon

P.S. If I lived closer I'd loan ya' my Pony trailer... but only if you trailered your bike to a Brony convention and posted about it.