Shipping a motorcycle

Shipping a BMW motorcycle by Forward Air

Shipping a motorcycle by Forward Air

by Duane Ausherman

Many years ago I sold my VW powered BMW motorcycle.  I see now that several firms ship motorcycles, some from door to door.  Use Google.

In asking around I found several that recommended a company called Forward Air.  Let me start by saying that they ship motorcycles by truck, not air.  This is all done online where one can get an exact price for delivery and can be paid by credit card or by taking in a cashier check.  I opted for the online credit card payment.

Forward Air doesn’t pick up or deliver the motorcycle.  They accept them without crating, as they provide the shipping container for you.  You must deliver the motorcycle to one of the 80 Terminals.  The receiver must arrange to pick it up at one of those same 80 terminals.

Forward Air operates one of the largest and most comprehensive network of surface transportation.   We provide scheduled ground transportation through an expansive network of more than 80 terminals located on or near airports in the United States and Canada

For a BMW motorcycle, the largest one available must be used.   You must provide the 6 straps to fasten it down in the container.   You must provide two locks, one for each end of the container. 

Safe, secure shipping using our containers: LGC
Large touring or custom bikes

 –  Maximum inside dimensions 118″L x 44.6″W x 59″H

 –  Eight tie-down rings (shipper provides straps)

 –  Lockable (shipper provides locks for two doors)

Or, you can use your own container.   Maximum dimensions of a container may not exceed 130″L x 48″W x 60″H.

I found that the Forward Air website is a bit confusing at first, but it all worked out just fine.  I received an email that specified a date that the container would be available.  It was still about 12 days out, but I was in no hurry and the buyer wasn’t either.  I was a tiny bit put out by the eventual notice of the availability of the container.  I received the notice in the late afternoon that I could deliver the motorcycle the next day.  I guess I could have arranged some delay, but a couple of days notice would have been nice.  Here is the email I received.

Shipping party: Please print and bring a copy of this email with you to the Forward Air station.
We are positioning a container for your shipment tracking # 20847102.   The container # is 20959 and is available for you 09/22/2004 in SMF.
Please be sure to drop off your shipment at the Origin Station on your scheduled ship day.   Should any issues arrise with meeting this deadline, be sure to give proper notification to
Thank You For Choosing Forward Air.
Best Regards,
Jared Dillbeck
Forward Air Customer Service

I called up just prior to leaving my house for the 30-mile trip to make sure that all was OK.  Nobody answered the phone that I let ring at least 30 times.  An hour later I got a quick answer to my call and so I left on my journey.  I was treated very well.  The warehouse person offered to help me unload the bike from my pickup truck.  By the time I had my ramp set up he wasn’t visible.  The truck was on a slant, so it wasn’t so bad.  I managed to do it myself.  That is one heavy bike.  It is much heavier now than when I built it 37 years ago……….or maybe I am a few years weaker:-)

“My” container had gotten stacked in the back and several items had to be moved out of the way.  The container shows a place for the front of the motorcycle.  Once open, I was going to turn the bike around, but the helper pointed out that it mattered none at all.  He helped hold it in place while I attached 6 Ancra straps.  It seemed to be very solid.

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Front and rear view of the mounting.  Can you see the built-in ramp on both ends?

I have hauled hundreds of BMW’s in pick up trucks and trailers with only 4 straps, so I hope it will survive the trip in good condition.  My only regret was that I didn’t think of tape.  I would have used black plastic tape to wrap around each hook to assure that it couldn’t “jump off.” I have never had one do so, but it would have made me feel better.  Take tape with you.

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Right and left side straps

I used the locks I happened to have laying around.  One was fine and the other one was way too large.  The shank wouldn’t even go through the hole.  When I asked the guy where I could buy one, he offered to trade me.  I got a really cheap lock and gave him a very high quality one:-) He really made out on that trade, but I didn’t care.  I should have bought two combination locks and just emailed the numbers to the buyer.  This way I must send him keys by express mail.  No problem, as I have to send the title anyway.  He will ship the straps back, so a couple of locks are easy.

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My “too big” lock

The container was sort of poorly designed in one respect.  The locking slide mechanism is mounted in a cavity to protect it from damage.  However, the two locks hang outside of the protective cavity.  They are quite exposed to damage.

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Exposed lock

We used some clear vinyl tape to hold the lock in place in the cavity.  I hope that it holds, but have my doubts.

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The whole process went very quickly and I didn’t spend more than 30-40 minutes at Forward Air.  Now to see how it arrives.  I have no idea who else does similar shipping, but I am satisfied with Forward Air.

It arrived in good condition.