Story and photos by Stu Seaton
I have a great job. I get to meet extremely talented people and today I met a bunch that were a ton of fun. A while back, I received a call about this company called Sarasota Motorcycle Trailers owned and operated by one of the most down-to-earth guys you could ever have the pleasure of meeting, Ken Moulton. He mentioned some really cool stuff that he’s putting together with Frank Cipra. For those that don’t recognize that name, I can tell you that if you’ve ever watched an NHL game you will have seen some of his artwork as Frank paints about 70% of all the Goalie masks in the NHL. So what the heck does that have to do with motorcycles? Well, it all comes down to all things towed behind motorcycles.
I recall back in the 70’s when I owned a Moto Guzzi T3. I wanted to haul more stuff than any motorcyclist should be allowed to haul, so I built a trailer. The Moto Guzzi T3 was not the biggest performer, but it was reliable. Cushy and slow enough that a TTC bus could give it some serious competition; but it had a huge heart. I figured it would yank just about anything as long as I didn’t ask the poor old beast to go more than a 100 odd klicks per hour. I had a frame welded up and then plopped a car top carrier on the frame. Voila, I had myself a trailer. Barnyard engineering through and through, but neat nevertheless, a trailer. After sticking it on the back of the Guzzi I loaded it up, two two-fours too many, more camping stuff than Sir Edmond could have ever dreamed of, a cast iron barbeque, some of the other riders stuff and we all headed off to Algonquin Park. That was when I learned how not to tow a trailer. The poor old Guzzi huffed and puffed up to 100 km/h whereupon the trailer decided to wander and do this weird dance that eventually required me to need a change of shorts. Luckily it was the 70’s and the ever-present rat van was handy, so after I finally got the whole issue slowed to a very wobbly stop we off-loaded a ton-O-junk and cautiously carried on. After that trip I was kind of trailer shy.
Oh my, how things have changed.
Ken showed me the design, build and finish process of Sarasota Motorcycle Trailers and I was genuinely impressed by the attention to design detail. Like the fact that none of the Sarasota Trailers exceed the nominal width of the handlebars of the towing bike, smart move with that idea, considering that an ape like me might just forget that I have a trailer on behind when I decide to whistle through a tight space. Other bits and pieces that spell quality stick out like the Pirelli Tires mounted on polished cast aluminium wheels, fully chromed rotating hitch-drawbar assembly, independent suspension, waterproof hatch covers, paintwork and finish that is impeccable, interior lighting, 12-volt power outlets along with side and rear exterior lighting that would get any cage driver’s attention, well okay, almost any cage driver. Ken showed me a test trailer that they purposely tow at speed over gravel in order to find the areas susceptible to stone chipping. Sarasota modified the finish to include anti-chip coatings in specific areas. It’s taken Ken a few trips back to the drawing board to answer the question correctly, but he feels that he’s now found the right coating combination that will keep any Sarasota trailer looking great for years, regardless of whether you drag it up the Dempster Highway or stick to pure pavement.
My big question of course, how do they work? Simple answer…load up and ride. The hitch geometry and very low centre of gravity allows you to ride without really thinking that you have things like your tuxedo, camping stuff and all those indispensable left hand widgets tagging along behind in well-controlled comfort. Hard stops don’t produce rear-end lift and corners seem to be the same with or without the trailer on. I looked at three of the five models that Ken makes; the Silhouette, Slingshot and Splash, and although they all looked good, the Slingshot was the one that caught my eye. Low and lean with funky roadster style fenders, yup, at that moment that cute little number would have been my choice.
Just about the time I was considering fitting a hitch on my bike to tow a Slingshot, Ken rolled out the Silhouette model that Frank Cipra had spent some very serious airbrushing time on. Wow, hold the phone. What a stunning knock out! To heck with towing it down the highway, I’d just park it in my shop and be mesmerized by the mirror gloss-black finish with a brilliant tiger magically appearing in a swirl of yellows and stripes down each side and leaping off the trailer top from under eighteen layers of clear coat.
After a while of sheer amazement, I asked Frank what the deal is, after all, he’s famous for goalie masks, “what the heck are ya doin’ painting motorcycle trailers?” He laughed and then told me why. “Goalie masks are very hard to paint as there are so many air holes and wild contours to consider, it’s like a tricky puzzle that you need to choreograph around the helmet and get it absolutely correct before any paint goes on, otherwise the scene, or theme, will simply be lost on the mask. Painting on large surfaces like the lid of the Silhouette allows me a big flat canvas to really get creative on.” Wow, I guess so, I think the tiger just licked its lips and winked at me.
Motorcycle trailers are becoming more and more popular because they really do give you the best of both worlds. Two-up long hauls where camping is the desired option has always proven to be a challenge when it comes to hauling gear that you need, or want, to take along. I have seen some two-up bikes that were loaded so top heavy and hard against the wind that you just have to wonder what would happen to the handling characteristics of the machine and if the engineered safety factor had taken a few days off. With a trailer you have all your gear stored in a dry cocoon that sits low to the road, running on proper suspension and has engineered handling qualities, unlike piles of gear stowed on top trunks. Big loads heaped on top trunks and saddle bags makes about as much sense to me as a chocolate teapot. Sarasota Motorcycle Trailers will also ensure you have the correct hitch and will even colour match the trailer to your bike. Believe me, you’ll look a lot cooler than I did when I was wobbling around with my first trailer thing.
The nice part about the whole trailering experience is that when you get to wherever your daily destination is, you can simply pull a pin, drop the trailer and lose yourself in some of Frank Cipra’s artwork. I wonder what that tiger would look like with the light of a campfire dancing across it.
I could bore you to tears with all the dimension specifics for each Sarasota Trailer model, so if you have the notion to tow some proven technology and perhaps capture some rare artwork, I suggest that you check out www.sarasotatrailers.com and www.cipradesign.com.
Drop in and see Ken and his son, Andrew, just north of Brockville, Ontario, off County Road 29, it’s a nice ride and the Moultons always have time to talk bikes.