The Retriever - Motorcycle Tow Trucks
By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti
AT field editor
As many of you already know I am a long time motorcycle rider/writer. Some year’s back I did several articles in AT covering the towing of motorcycles and the equipment used. As a sidebar I did a piece on how the Japanese used motorcycles as tow trucks. The article featured Japanese motorcycles with fold-down tow racks. Here is another more detailed look at this unique tow unit.
The vehicle is actually a heavily modified Honda Goldwing 1,800cc bike, designed by Coming Through, a Swedish company, and is appropriately named the Retriever.
The Retriever is a recovery vehicle based on a motorcycle. The superior agility of the motorcycle has been preserved in order to minimize the time immediately wasted as traffic thickens. The unit is easily transformed from a motorcycle to a recovery vehicle and is built to recover most types of passenger cars.
The Retriever can be equipped with a winch on the rear of the motorcycle. The winch, with a capacity of 3,300 lbs., can be used to pull a car on to the recovery unit as well as simplify loading and deployment of the unit on to the motorcycle.
When the Retriever is not used for recovery work, it can easily be ridden like any other motorcycle. Once it reaches the scene of a recovery, the operator can single-handedly transform the motorcycle to a recovery vehicle. The handheld remote control makes it possible for the operator to keep an eye on the traffic while operating the towing unit.
Once in position, the unit is easily deployed. As it lowers all the way to the ground, the car can effortlessly be rolled on to the unit or with help of the optional winch. The hydraulics will lift the car to a safe distance from the road where the unit and the car can be mechanically secured.
The Retriever is designed to minimize forces to transfer from the towing unit to the motorcycle. This is managed in an efficient and sophisticated manner by the patented brake and steering system. The systems works together to eliminate the transfer of forces, as the rider turns or brakes, the systems ensure that the steering and/or brake forces are, in largest possible extent, managed by the towing unit. The systems are operated fully with hydraulic and mechanical components and are independent of the motorcycle. This will result in the Retriever to be ridden like any other motorcycle even though it is actually recovering a car.
The GL1800s have been used as tow “trucks” since about 2005. Goldwings are indeed large bikes, but they have an amazing amount of torque and power, and when you get down to it an excellent braking system (even if it is a “linked” system). But they are still small enough to split lanes and can get to an accident scene before a normal truck could make it.
The Retriever’s towing rig carries the weight of the car on three wheels so the motorcycle can still be ridden normally. Since the motorcycle is only providing the torque necessary for towing and doesn’t have to carry extra weight, the vehicle is easily moved and a six-cylinder engine has all of the power you need. It can tow cars up to 5,500 lbs.
From 1979 till 2009 all Goldwings were built at the Marysville, Ohio, plant. They pre-built the 2010 and 2011 bikes there in 2009 then started building them in Kumamoto, Japan, in 2012.
The point here is not the country or the bike or the Japanese, it’s about the people who turned this bike into a tow truck that can get through stalled traffic to reach a breakdown that is holding things up, as well as other things a truck can’t do. The great benefit with the Retriever would be that it gets through traffic where conventional recovery vehicles can’t. The benefits of this are numerous.
On the reverse side, there are some who believe this unit isn’t strong enough to handle the job in the U.S. because of the load the weight of the car puts on the motorcycle drive train, which could mean death to clutches and gearboxes in no time.
One of my long-time riding buddies who was also a tower said, “The only motorcycle in production with an engine and driveline that could stand up to that might be a Boss Hoss and even then, braking would remain a nightmare. And when it comes to towing, even a Goldwing would be a dog with a car hooked behind it. Tractor-trailers can easily out accelerate a rig like that.”
Another friend said, “Even if the tow rig has brakes it won’t be enough to keep the weight off the brakes of the bike. Then there’s the width of that contraption: Like most tow dollies it is too wide to be safely pulled on anything smaller than an Interstate. And anyone who would drive that thing at Interstate speeds is a fool.”
Having spent more than 40 years on motorcycles and many years pulling trailers, towing and hauling cars and bikes, and even operating tow trucks in and out of city traffic, I can honestly say that this unit just may be a welcome addition to any company’s fleet for certain applications in certain situations.
Whether yeah or nay, you have to admit that this is a pretty damned cool idea. What do you think? Let us know. (Photos courtesy of XCar.com; thanks to Cork Peterson for alerting us to these.)
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. Recoveries used on TIW are automatically nominated for a Donnie Cruse Recovery Award, and may be selected to run in American Towman magazine!