(Editor’s Note: addendum at bottom added on March 11, 2014)
Problem: Storing and accessing your precious motorcycle in a small garage that’s full of stuff. Solution: Harbor Freight’s Haul-Master (Item 95896) Low Profile Motorcycle Dolly.
I bought mine in 2007 to handle the dreaded chore of maneuvering my awkward, top-heavy first-gen Concours around my overcrowded garage. Before this godsend, I had to uncover and back out my vintage car, move the chipper shredder, then roll the Connie back and forth a half dozen times to get it away from the wall and turned around. Putting it away was even more trying. The Motorcycle Dolly solved all of that, simply and elegantly, by allowing me to roll the bike away from the wall, past the car to the garage door and then to roll it off the dolly onto the driveway.
Operation is simple. Using the handles attached to the cam-like end ramps, you rotate them downward. This lifts the main rail and its four casters about an inch off the floor and prevents the unit from rolling. Then you roll your bike up the little end ramp and onto the rail until you hit the stop pin. Put the sidestand down in the multi-position pan provided, and lean the bike to its resting position. Finally, rotate the ramps upward and roll the dolly and bike in any direction, including rotating it within its own length. The 2-inch wheels demand a smooth, even surface, but operation is easy.
I recently went to a Harbor Freight store to verify that the product was still the same as I’d purchased so many years back. Things seemed identical: Heavy-gauge, powdercoated steel rail and pan; end ramps; ball-bearing swivel casters; stop pins; and 38 sets of fasteners. Beware, assembly takes a bit of time.
In all these years, I’ve only had one incident in loading/unloading bikes from the dolly. Rotating the ramps tends to pull the whole dolly in the direction of rotation. This can cause the previously deployed ramp on the other end to rotate upwards. Believe me, you don’t want to try to get your bike on or off this thing with ANY of the four main casters in contact with the floor. I put a latching device on one end to lock that ramp in the down position. I wish they’d integrate that idea into any product upgrade.
Harbor Freight claims a 1,250-pound capacity. The rail is just shy of 8 inches wide. Length between the stop pins is claimed as 75.5 inches. Mine is actually 76.25 inches and just fit my Connie’s 61.2-inch wheelbase. According to the numerous, mostly 5-star, product comments on the Harbor Freight website, people with longer bikes typically omit the stop pins to utilize the rail’s full 83-inch length.
Priced at $99.95, this unit is often on sale. I’ve seen it as low as $69.95. I paid full boat and would gladly have paid twice that. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best piece of motorcycle-related equipment I’ve ever purchased.
ADDENDUM, 3/11/14: Rider staff assembled and evaluated a new Harbor Freight motorcycle dolly in its garage, and our experience largely mirrors that of the author. The following are some additional comments regarding installation and use.
Installation: All of the pieces and fasteners were included, and the installation instructions are complete but very brief. We strongly recommend laying out and organizing the various fasteners and acquainting yourself with the exploded diagram before assembling the dolly. One person assembled the dolly in 1 hour, 15 minutes, including several minutes spent searching for two replacement M6 bolts that were broken during assembly. Do NOT overtighten the bolts! Assembly was straightforward but it was awkward getting two wrenches on each bolt/nut when installing the five casters.
Use: As the author mentions, after deploying one carriage (the “cam-like end ramps”) to lift one end of the dolly up off its casters, levering the second carriage into position can cause the first one to roll forward and disengage. In lieu of Bucher’s home-engineered latching device, we recommend having a helper hold the first carriage in place while the second one is deployed. Also, we found this levering effect to vary depending on the type of surface–a highly polished concrete floor allows the second carriage to slide easily into position without moving the first one, but on a rough concrete surface that the carriage “bites” into, the levering effect is greater. Bucher doesn’t mention using tie-down straps, but Harbor Freight’s instructions recommend using them to secure the motorcycle on the dolly, and we endorse this approach. Also, we recommend putting the bike into gear so it can’t roll forward or backward.
We tested the dolly using three different motorcycles: a KTM 1190 Adventure R (550 lbs. fully fueled, 61.4-inch wheelbase), a Honda ST1100 (735 lbs. fully fueled, 61.2-inch wheelbase) and a Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero (843 lbs. fully fueled, 65.6-inch wheelbase). With the kickstand tray bolted in the center position (it can be moved up to a foot forward or a foot back in 6-inch increments), the KTM’s and Kawasaki’s kickstands landed right in the middle of the tray, but the Honda’s landed toward the back of the 7.5-inch-wide tray. The Honda’s uneven weight twisted the tray, which caused its caster to bind and not swivel easily. With comparable wheelbases just over 61 inches, the KTM’s and Honda’s tires just barely fit between the two removable stop pins, which prevent the bike from rolling off the front or back of the dolly. Due to its extended 65.6-inch wheelbase, the Kawasaki was too long to fit between the stop pins. Although Bucher mentions that some people use the dolly without stop pins, we advise against doing so.
How well Harbor Freight’s motorcycle dolly works depends on several factors: 1) the texture or “grippiness” of the floor – smoother floors allow the cam ramps to operate more easily but the casters often slide rather than swivel and roll, while rougher floors give the casters more grip to swivel/roll but can cause the first carriage to roll forward when the second one is deployed; 2) the length of the motorcycle – some long-wheelbase motorcycles will not fit between the stop pins; and 3) the weight of the motorcycle – the dolly is rated for 1,250 lbs., but the 700+ lb. motorcycles we put on it visibly twisted the metal frame and sometimes caused the casters to bind rather than swivel and roll. The dolly works best with lighter, smaller motorcycles. If you purchase this dolly, we strongly recommend following the safety recommendations and use tie-down straps, and whenever possible, get another person to help with loading, unloading and moving the bike-laden dolly around.
One final note: Other solutions are available, such as Legal Speeding’s Park-n-Move (visit http://www.legalspeeding.com/Park-n-Move.htm, $199 for the centerstand model, $299 for the cruiser non-centerstand model), though it retails for nearly two to three times the price as the Harbor Freight dolly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: See your local Harbor Freight store or visit harborfreight.com