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How to Lift a Fallen Motorcycle

There are few things more stressful than the sight of your motorcycle lying on the ground. Although Clutch and Chrome can't help with that sick feeling in the bottom of the stomach, we can guide you through getting the bike back up on two wheels.

It’s a gut-wrenching sight for a motorcycle owner, you’re pride and joy lying on its side. Whether it came to be in this position from a vehicular mishap or the ground didn’t prove to be as solid as you had thought, the first thing on your mind is getting the bike upright and checking for damage.

Between the bike’s weight, hot surfaces and sheer awkwardness, picking up a motorcycle can be dangerous and cause serious injury if done incorrectly or under poor footing.

The first rule of picking up a fallen motorcycle is to find a few people to help. The second rule, if you don’t find any help the first time, look or ask for assistance again!

Ideally, the people offering to help should be riders themselves or at least have some kind of knowledge about motorcycles for a few reasons. Obviously, you don’t want anyone else to get hurt, but with the motorcycle already laying on the ground you certainly need to avoid any further damage.

In an ideal world, you should practice lifting your bike in a training environment and under the supervision of a qualified professional who can evaluate and coach the lifting technique.  But like my Uncle Steve used to say, 'if wishes were fishes, the world would be an ocean'. You'd be hard-pressed to find many riders who have taken the time to learn this little-used technique. Indeed most bikers with any type of experience with lifting a motorcycle comes from either lifting their own or a friend's ride after some sort of mishap.

  • So there you are, far from home, maybe a little banged up and not in the best moods looking at your motorcycle lying on its side. Before any attempt is made to lift the bike some personal preparation and understanding of the steps are needed;
  • Make sure you’ve calmed down, thinking clearly, understand what needs to be done and physically able to lift the bike. As with any type of heavy lifting, the golden rule is to keep your body and back straight, and lift only with your legs.
  •  Prepare the motorcycle itself by extending the kickstand and putting it in gear. One gives the motorcycle a way to stand on its own while the other stops it from moving when it has been lifted.
  •  Maintain control of the motorcycle and never twist your body while lifting.
  •  Check the motorcycle for damage prior to riding it again.

 As you’ll see as we go into more detail on these steps, the technique of lifting a motorcycle is mostly mental and methodical. Not only are motorcycles heavy, but awkward shapes with pieces that move and parts that can be hot.

Don’t panic!
The very first step as you’re looking at your baby on its side is to breathe. Breathe again. Take a few minutes to calm down. It could help to tell yourself that this happens to everyone at some point in their years of riding. There's a reason biker's have the saying 'Its not if a rider will lay his bike down, but a matter of when'.

Quite frankly, the motorcycle isn't not going anywhere and unless you or your bike are located in a dangerous area there’s plenty of time to pick it up. Spend a few minutes to assess the situation: Are you hurt? Are you able to pick up your motorcycle under normal circumstances? Do you want to pick up your motorcycle? Is it safe to pick up your motorcycle?

Realizing that your attention is focused on the motorcycle lying helplessly on the ground, take a moment to understand where you are and what’s going on. Are you and the bike in danger from other traffic? If there was someone else involved in the accident make sure they’re busy looking for insurance information and not the quickest way to escape. If the motorcycle isn’t in the flow of traffic and you've been involved in an accident it may help to leave it on the ground until law enforcement arrives on the scene.

If the motorcycle ended up on its side from a series of unfortunate events involving only yourself; Do you have a solid surface to lift from? Is there gravel? Is the pavement wet? Are you right next to a ditch?

You’ve just dumped your pride and joy, the last thing you need is to end up slipping and getting pinned under your bike. That would just be a cherry on an embarrassment sundae.

Check out the motorcycle
Although it sounds like an obvious point, in stressful times like this you may just forget to turn off the engine. If you can, turn off the fuel using the fuel supply valve. Although spilled fuel is common, don't panic and remember that a spark is needed to ignite it. But if you smell gasoline, work with caution around the motorcycle.

Note which side the bike fell on. If the motorcycle is lying on its right side, put the sidestand down and put the motorcycle in gear. This is important since you really don't want to pick up your motorcycle and then immediately drop it onto its other side!

Get help

As mentioned earlier, it's best if you can get help preferbly from fellow riders. Last thing the situation needs is someone burning themselves on hot pipes, or even worse, snapping off your indicators or other protruding, but not so sturdy parts of the bike.

Just as you know to keep your body and back straight, and lift only with your legs, double check that the new-found help understands this too.

Time to lift!

Larger motorcycles
Facing Away from the bike turn the handlebars to full-lock position with front of tire pointed downward.

Find the "balance point" of the two tires and the engine, engine guard, or footpeg. The motorcycle will be fairly easy to lift until it reaches this point because it's resting on its side. Once you start lifting from there, you are responsible for the most of the weight of the bike.

"Sit" down with your butt/lower back against the motorcycle seat. Be very careful to keep your back straight and your head up. Put your feet solidly on the ground about 12 inches apart, with your knees bent slightly.

With one hand, grasp the handgrip (underhand, preferably), keeping your wrist straight.

With your other hand, grip the motorcycle framework (or any solid part of the motorcycle) being careful to avoid the hot exhaust pipe, turn signals, etc.

Lift with your legs by taking small steps backwards, pressing against the seat with your butt and keeping your back straight. On slippery or gravelly surfaces this technique probably won't work. On inclined surfaces this can be very dangerous.

Be careful not to lift the motorcycle up and then flip it onto its other side! If possible, put the sidestand down and the bike in gear.

Set the motorcycle on its side stand and park it safely.

Small and Medium-Sized Motorcycles

Turn the handlebars to the full-lock position with the front of the tire pointed skyward.

Find the balance point of the two tires and the engine, engine guard, or footpeg. The motorcycle will be fairly easy to lift until it reaches this point because it's resting on its side. Once you start lifting from there, you are responsible for the most of the weight of the bike.

Stand very close to the handlebars. Plant your feet about shoulder-width apart with the lower handgrip in between them. Use both hands to lift. Keeping your back straight and your head up, lift carefully, keeping the handgrip close to your body. Use your leg muscles for power, and not your back muscles.

Be careful you don't lift the motorcycle up and then flip it onto its other side. Set the motorcycle on its sidestand and park it safely.

The information given as a benefit for those with an interest in riding motorcycles. Our intention is to further discussion and enhance individual safety and skill. We disclaim any liability for the views expressed. Every motorcyclist is responsible for his or her own safety and that of their passengers. We do not accept any duty or responsibility toward any individuals. We urge all those using the information and views presented on this site to use their own critical judgment. When you may have any doubt about a safety or skill issue, we urge you to seek clarification and information from sources you trust, and to proceed with caution to ensure your safety.

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