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Thread: Towing heavier camper

  1. #1

    Towing heavier camper

    I just recently bought a new to me Bunkhouse LX camper which I intend to tow with a GW GL1800. I have towed a smaller, and lighter, cargo trailer for several years with no issues. I've also taken the GWRRA trailer towing course. The bunkhouse tows like a dream, the suspension works well, it tracks straight and stays straight during braking, no electric brakes. My only issue is the noticeable weight increase going from cargo to camper trailer. The GW has ample power to tow, but I am concerned about braking. Does anyone have an any advise that would help with this transition? Trailer empty weighs 342 lbs, also appreciate advice on how much extra weight I could safely add in the way of camping gear.

  2. #2
    Gordon's Avatar
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    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Nothing more than be cautious, and leave yourself ample room for passing and stopping.....

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    Gordon

  3. #3

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Be a little more planning ahead on turns too. I found mire than once I came ibto a highway ramp (like a cloverleaf) with a little too much speed. A heavy trailer will continue pushing you straight as you dive inyo the corner.
    '05 ST1300 - 1987 TravelLite p'up, 1999 Roll-A-Home
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  4. #4
    Site Supporter mailman01's Avatar
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    Re: Towing heavier camper

    I have an Aspen of similar weight, w/brakes...usually runs around 500 lbs loaded...but very easy to exceed that amount if one goes for the "kitchen sink" when packing....with all that basement area it can be easy to start throwing in stuff simply because you have the added room, not so much that you actually "need" all that stuff.

    When possible, anticipate your stops and avoid having to start on sharp inclines in the uphill direction. Can't always be done...avoided, I mean.

  5. #5

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Slow down and shift down prior to entering the curve, then accelerate as needed through the curve. That way the trailer will be pulled by the bike instead of pushing the bike.

    Be sure your brakes are in as good condition as they can be. Bleed and flush the system every couple of years. If you are inclined to do so, stainless steel brake lines will add an amazing amount of braking efficiency. I installed on my FJR years ago and it made quite a big difference - two finger brakes after the change.

    Going to the Dark Side will increase your rubber on the road. A very good thing in critical stops or riding in inclement weather, such as a snow storm, hail, etc.

    I've been towing an Aspen Classic since 2006 and never had an issue. Even some technical roads like highway 129 - the Dragon. Never considered trailer brakes and never would, but that's just me.

    Practice panic stops in an empty parking lot.

    That's about all the advice I have, but you should have zero issues, especially towing with the GL1800, if you use proper precaution.
    Aspen Classic Camper, 06 GL1800

    My Pics: http://www.picturetrail.com/bvail My trailer forum: http://forums.delphiforums.com/MCTrailertowing

  6. #6

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Proper braking and cornering are the key here. If you have to hit the brakes in the corner you could end up washing out the rear end of your bike.. always brake before going into a corner and either maintain steady throttle or slight acceleration through the apex of the corner.. that keeps the wheels firmly planted and minimizes the effect of the trailer pushing on your hitch.

    Other than that be aware you need a little more room to stop.. I always found that utilizing engine braking more enhances your awareness of what it takes to slow down your rig. I rarely use 1st gear to engine brake when I'm not towing but I use it a lot when I do have a rig behind me. Maintain proper following distances too.. a min of 2 seconds between you and the car in front should give you enough to get it hauled down in anything but a full on panic stop situation.

    Towing isn't particularly hard or scary as long as you have good riding habits to start with. It can even be fun, working your bike more to it's potential. Most of us rarely really use the power our bikes have, riding with a heavy trailer really lets the bike flex a little.

  7. #7

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Pick your parking spots and gas stops so that the bike points up hill on the way out. Try not to set the bike on the side stands on the downhill side of a, as the bike weight + tongue weight + Passenger can roll your handlebars in the clamps, or just loosen up your handlebar bushing substantially. Better to wait for an easier gas pump to come open than to pop a hernia... Back into down hill parking spots dead slow, as front brake only in reverse direction has not much braking power. Don't park in due straight up hill parking spots that you need to chock your tires to stay there, don't have enough brakes to pull back down out of them if they have freshly sealed the pavement.

    Watch out for pot holes in parking lots. Drop a trailer tire into an inch deep pot hole and try to back up, ever so slightly up hill...

    If traffic is stop and go for more than a 1/2 mile, think long and hard about your clutch plates. Bikes cannot creep along up hill for very long before overheating their clutch plates... Either get to the shoulder and roll along with the clutch engaged at dead idle, or give yourself enough space in front of you every time you stop to roll a couple hundred feet. Get with the big rigs that are trying to stay in gear. If they are metering traffic through a bridge or on-ramp, you almost have no choice but to just head to the shoulder or you'll kill the clutch.

    Go slower than the slow big rig trucks down mountains. 6% and more. I've towed over I80 and I70's passes... Something that helps a bit with engine braking is if you richen up your idle mixture a bit on a carburetor bike the fuel will give a bit more cylinder pressure to you than a totally lean burn mix. 3rd gear at 45 is a lot smoother down the hill than 2nd gear at 45. Less valve float... One other thing to keep in mind, that is if the trailer gets any funny ideas of its own slipping downhill you have to accelerate to straighten it... So while engine braking leave a thousand rpm or so above where you are engine braking to pull it back straight. Don't ride, or touch the brakes except enough to light off your tail lights if possible. If you do use them, don't drag them just burn off 5 mph in a few seconds and then let them cool for a minute or so.

    You can slow down down the hill, but cannot panic stop without getting passed by the trailer on a road with a large incline, and any banking for road drainage. The trailer wants to rotate to the low side where the road is banked. The slower you get, the more it wants to go down the hill... So if you have to panic stop down a big hill, you have to draw up the force vector in your head and point the bike to the middle of the road and aim to get stopped on the shoulder as the trailer is going to pull you there even if you brake straight.

    Pay a lot of attention at parking lot speeds on inclines. If you've got a 5 or 6 foot drop over 20 feet going down to a surface road out of a parking lot, the least bit of sand can lock up your front wheel and then you end up doing what I affectionately call, motorcycle skiing. You don't gain much traction on sand by trying to modulate the front brake once it locks up at less than a mile an hour... You just end up boots down riding out the slide. Not much you can do with the rear brake, unless you can keep your arms straight and hold the bike up with just your left foot.

    In gravel campgrounds you have a bit of the same dilemma... I've been in a few where the tent camping is down a hill with gravel. On the way down you have to be walking speed, which is front brake only... Or the front end will wash out just turning. Getting back out, let the bike warm up to full operating temp before you give her a go up the hill... Walk the hill once and see if you've got any soft spots to avoid. Gun it and get up to 10mph or so and keep traction on the rear wheel, even if you have to ride the brake a bit.

    Practice panic braking a bit... On a bike without a trailer, you've normally got a lot more front braking power than rear. Depending on your tongue weight, your front brake works right up to the edge where it starts getting light when the trailer starts to push on you. A bit of this depends on your tongue height, as well as weight. If you've got a lot of drop from axle height vs a level frame. With the trailer ball and extra weight, you can actually momentarily lock up the front brake and the trailer will hold you straight. I have had this happen twice... I went straight through an intersection in new york city right off the Tappanzee Bridge when the dew fell on the oily roads around 11pm. The tires sounded like a zipper... Did it a second time down in Massachusetts. I now take 81 to 84 going up to Maine. We don't have the contact patch on the tires to stop on city streets that are oil soaked.

    If you hit some rain cold enough to fogs up your windshield and helmet visor, and pull off the side under a bridge... Be very careful merging back on. Once our tires are cold, and you want to go from a dead stop to highway speed... You'd be very surprised just how easy it is to spin the rear tire for just about as long as you want. Most of the time riding we get a mile or two at least to warm up the tires before merging onto a highway. From the shoulder on cold tires, it can pucker you up a bit. You had better have a very long sight line before the next car comes out...

    If you get a lot of side wind, sometimes you just have to stop. Out west towing a big trailer can be subject to the weather... I try to move behind big frontal systems east bound, or let them pass over after dark when west bound. Route planning can involve riding north or south, if a front is slow moving rather than just due east. No fun to catch the same front every day around 3pm. Somewhere around 40mph sustained side wind, becomes a pain in the ass to make any time. When the road makes it a head wind, and you don't have enough horsepower to push 65mph into a 40mph head wind, you end up slowing down to 55... Then if it comes around to the left or right you've got a 40-50mph gusts, and only making 55mph forward. The forces start shoving you around like you are over-speed on a kids tricycle. Places to keep in mind to stop for the night... Rawlins, Wyoming... Hayes, Kansas... Grand Junction, CO. Just be well aware that the weather in the plains states can dictate that no matter what vacation time you have, you aren't going anywhere till the wind slacks up. Sometimes you can get a start at 8am, or after 8pm and the wind will let up. The afternoon however, can white knuckle you for as long as it takes to get there. Also, carry spare gas out there, as a true head wind can drop your miles per gallon down into the 20's. If you've got a 120 miles to go and a 40mph head wind, even with 5 gallons of gas you are pushing your luck a bit...

  8. #8

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Check out this little clip about trailer tongue weighting as well... A lot of trailer wag is in the rear tire/swingarm and shocks, but that is only after your tongue weight is set correctly.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jk9H5AB4lM

  9. #9
    Site Supporter mailman01's Avatar
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    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Zach, lot of good information here...Thanks.

  10. #10

    Re: Towing heavier camper

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidir View Post
    I just recently bought a new to me Bunkhouse LX camper which I intend to tow with a GW GL1800. I have towed a smaller, and lighter, cargo trailer for several years with no issues. I've also taken the GWRRA trailer towing course. The bunkhouse tows like a dream, the suspension works well, it tracks straight and stays straight during braking, no electric brakes. My only issue is the noticeable weight increase going from cargo to camper trailer. The GW has ample power to tow, but I am concerned about braking. Does anyone have an any advise that would help with this transition? Trailer empty weighs 342 lbs, also appreciate advice on how much extra weight I could safely add in the way of camping gear.
    Others have already given best advice. Ride cautious, look and plan "farther ahead". Allow extra stopping room. I can relate. I have a Hannigan GL that I couldn't load and it be as heavy as my empty Rollahome unless I filled the Hannigan with sandbags. It still takes longer to stop than "no trailer" of course but I can't load it up "wrong" and make it tow poorly. The Rollahome with brakes is somewhere around 400-415 lbs empty. I didn't weigh it empty but did weigh it before I left on a 7,000 mile trip to Banff/Jasper this July. The Wing has ample power. You will be able to maintain 65-75mph in any wind if your trailer tows well. The Wing can do it!!! I drove in a lot of hard wind and could always maintain full speed limit anywhere. I would rather pull it at 75mph in a crosswind than tow it around town and over irregular parking lots or gas stations at low speeds. I don't like low speed turns when 1 wheel hits a bump or uneven spot and you have 600+ pounds behind me. Wide trailer axles, heavy loads, high center of gravity, and a hitch ball that is very far behind the rear wheel has quite abit of side torque or leverage against the bike when one wheel hits a "bump", especially in a turn. The 2012 and newer wings have a disadvantage over the earlier models too, with the angled saddlebags, the hitches had to have long extensions to extend farther back to clear the saddlebags. Something like 4" longer or so. That makes a lot more leverage to "yank" the Wing around if you encounter situations like I tried to explain above. It also puts a lot more actual weight on the rear tire on the newer Wings even if the tongue weight is the same. Simple leverage. I extended the tongue on my Rollahome an additional 12" to help lower tongue weight and help counteract the leverage I mention above. That helped considerably. My trailer weighed 615# when I left on my 7,000 mile trip and I was able to load so that the weight at the hitch ball was at 40#. I'm just not putting more than that on my Wing. I know I know I've read all the 10-15% tongue weight and saw the YouTube video that proved a point but in my opinion was significantly exaggerated with an impractical trailer design. It certainly did prove a point though. I absolutely understand that so don't follow my example :-)

    I only had one "nervous" experience and that was going downhill at a 10mph curve on an awful rough road in Colorado (Douglas Pass) between Vernal, Utah and Grand Junction. I felt my speed was too high and still had brakes applied as I was in the curve...Trailer was "bouncing" and trailer brakes were set a little too tight.... trailer wasn't trying too "push" the bike but instead "pull" the rear end back while I was leaning hard right and turning sharp.... not a pleasant feeling. Eased off the brake sensitivity and made sure I had my speed down plenty BEFORE the turn from then on. I also have a switch relay to kill power to the trailer brakes and if a sharp curve was coming up, I killed the brakes before entering the curve. I really do like the trailer brakes when going straight but will switch them off if I see a sharp curve from now on. Just start slowing down sooner and all will be ok. The Wing has great brakes. I also happen to run an "alternative" rear tire and it has tremendous amount of traction on any type of road, wet or dry. Good luck and enjoy your trailer! Now if someone would design a low slung camper trailer on trailing arm, spring over shock suspension like the Hannigans or even the Tailwinds, instead of the tall "Dexter" type axles, that could be a "home run" camper trailer.
    2012 Goldwing & matching Hannigan GL trailer
    Windbender, Traxxion triple tree & AK20 struts
    Michelin Alpin ZP rear tire
    2016 Roll-A-Home camper

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