Sunday 18 April 2021

Motorcycle Pick Up on a Budget

I've been calling around trying to find a rental van to arrange a pick up of a Kawasaki Concours C14 in Toronto.  Every rental place in my county tells me they have no vans because they are being rented out by delivery companies during the pandemic.

Last week I took my wife down for a doctor visit and noticed a number of vans at the big U-Haul centre on Speedvale in Guelph.  Using U-Haul's online booking system, I was able to reserve a van for last week and arrange the pickup.

The Speedvale U-Haul centre is a full service depot with many vehicles on site as well as storage.  The staff was spectacularly helpful in making sure I had the right vehicle (the website said I'd be getting a Ford Transit van but they GMCs on site so the guy at the counter went out and measured the openings to make sure it would still fit the bike.  They were also excellent with mask, social distancing and ensuring we had a cleaned and ready to use rental during COVID.

If you default mileage on an 'in-town' van rental the extra mileage'll get you in the end, but if you pre-state your mileage they give you a discount.  All in at the end of the day including insurance and mileage, the bill came out to $138CAD, which is impressive.  I had to put $30 in gas back into it, so the rental piece ended up being just under $170 all in.  Check out was quick and efficient with minimal contact and the return was completely contact free and effortless.

I've been thinking about getting the gear to do pickups myself, but the initial cost is heavy and then the operating costs (poor mileage, heavy vehicle, etc) pile on the costs even more.  If I purchased a tow-capable vehicle and a trailer I'm looking at $40-50k - that would be over 200 bike pickups in the rental van.  I seem to find I need a bike pickup every 1-2 years at the moment.  If I keep doing that until I'm 80 years old, I'll ring up a rental van bill of about $3800, so the I-gotta-get-a-bike-tow-ready-vehicle thing isn't really on my radar any more after this positive U-Haul experience.

I do need a couple of things for next time though.  If you want a U-Haul with the built in ramp you're looking at doubling rental costs and you don't need that space or the headache of navigating traffic with a much bigger vehicle (the van was very easy to thread through Toronto traffic).  I brought the two plastic car ramps I had along with some wood planks to load the bike, but that's not ideal as the van's deck height is pretty up there.  So, here's the list of things-to-get so that a rental van does the trick without any headaches:

Parts For Making Rental Van Motorcycle Moves Easier:

A pair of fold-up ramps would make loading the bike much easier.  These fold up and would hang on the wall in the garage, not taking up any valuable space and are capable of holding even a big bike like the Concours without any issues.

I got lucky this time as the guy I purchased the Concours off had a ramp that did the trick, but next time I'll have my own ready to go.

Cost:  $140

Ratchet Tie Downs:  I tied down the Concours once we got it into the van with nylon rope but there are relatively inexpensive options that would make the tie-down process both more secure and less time consuming.  The Connie was rock solid the way we tied it down (there are ground hoops and wood bolted to the side of the van that you can tie off too, and didn't move a muscle in transport, but for relatively little outlay I could have a set of ratcheting tie-down straps that are both more secure and very easy to set up and break down.

The web of rope got cut when we got home (and we used the bike lift to get the bike out), but with ramps and ratcheting tie-downs the transport would be been a lot easier and secure.

Cost:  $29

A mobile wheel chock: This is a bit of a luxury. The bike stand in the garage has a home-made wooden one but it's heavy and awkward. A lightweight, ride in wheel chock would make tying the bike down secure and easy, and it's easy to transport.

With this one you ride into the chock and it see-saws into position, holding the bike steady while you tie it down.

Cost:  $70

For about $250 I can get the bits and pieces that would make a bike pickup in a rental van a quick, easy and secure process.  This was a good beta-test and I now know what I need to make the next one even smoother.


In the meantime, I'm once again a Kawasaki owner, pushing my Team-Green ownership count even higher:

Kawasakis Owned:  4 (Ninja 650, KLX250, Concours ZG1000, Concours14)
Yamahas Owned:  2 (PW80 mini-bike, Eleven Mid-Night Special)
Hondas Owned:  1 (CBR-900RR Fireblade)
Triumphs Owned: 1 (Triumph Tiger 955i)

I've been a fan of Suzuki for years yet never seem to find one that suits what I'm looking for.  Kawasakis always seem to pop out just when I need one that meets my needs, and I enjoy their engineering and working on them.  Their engines especially are something very special.