MC Safety safety

Righting a Wronged Motorcycle
Techniques to Lift A Motorcycle

by Pat Hahn

When you hurt the one you love, it’s instinctive that you set things right as soon as possible. Whether your pride and joy is the victim of fate, careless blunder, or deliberate flogging, there is nothing quite as upsetting as seeing your bike lying face down, in a state of shock, dripping gasoline. Today, Dr. Pat is going to tell you how to undo what you’ve done and maybe, if you’re really, really nice, your motorcycle will forgive you. It will probably still bear the scars of your indiscretion, though.

(CAUTION: Picking up a motorcycle can be dangerous and cause serious injury if done incorrectly or under poor footing. A simple back injury could wreck your life. Always, always, always try to get help first–and remember: you don’t want anybody else to get hurt, either. You need to think clearly, use common sense, and be in good physical condition. Keep your body and back straight, and lift only with your legs. Maintain control of the motorcycle and never twist your body while lifting. Check the motorcycle for damage prior to riding it again.)

Now that I have the liability disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about heavy lifting.

Just as the majority of motorcycling is mental and not physical, the majority of picking up a motorcycle is mental, too. Motorcycles are heavy machines. Think about how you want to do it first–if you were going to lift a 300-pound refrigerator, would you just run up and grab it and start muscling it around, or would you plan your attack? What would you do if you were going to lift an 800-pound refrigerator? Without proper planning, you can hurt yourself faster than a Harley owner can whip out an under-seat tool kit.

Step 1: Assess Yourself:
Take a few minutes to calm down. Seeing your bike on the ground can be a traumatic experience, but it happens to everyone. Your bike’s not going anywhere without you–spend a few minutes asking yourself questions and talking yourself through it. Are you hurt? Consider your age and the last time you exerted yourself. Would you be able to pick up your motorcycle in a normal situation? Do you even want to try to pick up your motorcycle? Is it safe to pick up your motorcycle? You have the rest of your life to pick up your bike; deliberately take a few minutes to relax and assess the situation.

It’s best to get help. My experience is that people like to help. There’s something about a motorcycle on its side that brings out the weightlifter in everybody. But remember: if someone helps you, warn them against touching the hot exhaust pipe, lifting by the turn signals, et cetera. Also, make sure they lift correctly. You don’t want some altruist getting hurt and sending their insurance company after you.

Step 2: Assess the Environment:
If you are in danger from other traffic, get away from your motorcycle and seek a place of safety. Allow the local constabulary to secure the scene before picking up your motorcycle. Take a look at the ground: do you have a solid surface to lift from? Is there gravel? Is the pavement wet? Are you right next to a ditch? You don’t want to slip and get pinned under your bike. Imagine the pathetic scene when years from now, hikers happen across the bleached skeleton of a rider trapped under the rusted hulk of a wadded-up LTD 1000.

Step 3: Assess the Motorcycle:
Turn it off using the engine cut-off switch or the ignition switch. Turn off the fuel using the fuel supply valve. Spilled fuel is typical, so use caution (though Hollywood insists otherwise, usually you need sparks, flame, or an ignition source to have a fire or explosion.) If the motorcycle is lying on its right side, put the sidestand down and put the motorcycle in gear. If the motorcycle is on its left side, note that you can’t put the side stand down or motorcycle in gear. You don’t want to pick up your motorcycle and then immediately drop it onto its opposite side. Helpers get less…helpful…when you do stuff like that.

Techniques to Lift A Motorcycle: Preferred and Regular Methods


Facing Away from the Motorcycle–For Large Motorcycles–Preferred Method for any Size

  • 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 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 sidestand and park it safely.



Facing the Motorcycle–For Small and Medium-Sized Motorcycles–Regular Method

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


2. 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.


3. 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.


4. Be careful you don’t lift the motorcycle up and then flip it onto its other side.


5. Set the motorcycle on its sidestand and park it safely.






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