Some riders are surprised when they look at the specs on a motorcycle hitch and see a tongue weight rating of only 40 or 50 pounds. Can a hitch be strong enough if it is only rated for that kind of tongue weight? Yes, because tongue weight rating doesn’t really have anything to do with the strength of the hitch.
When you attach a camper or cargo trailer to your motorcycle, the weight of the tongue presses down on the hitch. That weight affects the bike in the same way as if you were loading gear in your saddlebags and trunk. Too much weight on the back of the bike shifts weight off the front tire, which reduces your ability to steer the bike effectively.
The tongue weight rating of a hitch is really just a number that’s used to help you judge how much load you’re putting on the back of the bike to help you avoid overloading it. You can judge the tongue weight of a trailer or camper in a couple of ways. Picking up the tongue with fish scale is probably the easiest method. You can also use a bathroom scale. Just prop up the tongue with a stick that’s centered on the scale.
If the tongue weight is at or near the limit, try moving some of your gear behind the axle to shift the weight balance. You’ll want to check this new setup to make sure the camper tows okay. After all, too little tongue weight will upset the handling of the camper, leading it to sway or “wag” at highway speeds. If your camper needs that high tongue weight to tow smoothly, then try to carry only light items in your saddlebags and TourPak. Put any heavy items in the camper or trailer. The aim is to avoid overloading the back of the bike.
So if tongue weight rating doesn’t tell you how strong a hitch is, what does? Look at the materials used in the making of a hitch. Side arms and base plates that attach to a bike should be made of quarter-inch material at a minimum. Many imported and inexpensive hitches are made with thin material that flexes under load and will eventually fail.
All of the hitches we sell are made from quality quarter-inch, three-eighths and in some cases, half-inch cold rolled steel. They’re built to tow anything that's suitable for motorcycle use.