How To Pick Up Bikes | Street Savvy

Picking up a dropped motorcycle is more about technique, not strength

By Jerry Smith, Illustration by Rich Lee

Gravity always wins. Some riders learn this lesson when they overcook a corner, others when they put a foot down on an oily spot at a stoplight. No matter if it happens in front of dozens of witnesses or alone in the middle of nowhere, when you drop your bike, adrenaline and embarrassment push rational thought aside, and it’s easy to make the situation even worse as you struggle to pick it up. Take a breath, take it slowly, and you’ll be back in the rubber-side-down club almost before anyone notices you were gone.

Before you tend to the bike, assess your own physical status. Were you hurt in the crash? Did you pull a muscle trying to prevent the tipover? Then check your surroundings. Are you in traffic? In the middle of a blind corner? Get yourself to a safe place first, then worry about the bike.

Turn off the ignition and, if possible, the fuel supply; injected bikes will take care of this for you. If the bike is on its right side, put the transmission in gear so it won’t roll, and put the sidestand down so it’ll stop you from pushing over center as you lift. Don’t worry if there’s gas leaking out of the tank unless it’s pouring out of the open cap and flowing toward hot metal parts. If it looks like a barbecue is about to erupt, get away from the bike, pronto. Look at the ground around the bike. You won’t have much traction on oily pavement or gravel-strewn dirt; both your feet and the bike could slide out from under you. If you’re on a slope, trying to pick up the bike might just send it sliding farther down. Wait for help.

Now you’re ready for the main event. Turn the front wheel so it’s pointing at the ground, leaving the low-side handgrip close to the gas tank. Plant your butt and lower back against the seat then grab the handgrip with one hand and something solid—a grab rail or a luggage bracket—with the other. Don’t try to lift holding the seat or a hot muffler. Wear your gloves if it gives you more grip. Put your feet out in front of you, about a foot apart, with your knees slightly bent. Lock your arms and take small backward steps, using your leg muscles to lift the bike, keeping your back straight. Lift slowly, especially if you don’t have a deployed sidestand waiting for you on the high side. If you get impatient and go over center, you’ll have to do it all again.

Once you’re back on two wheels, roll the bike to a safe spot and look for damage that could prevent you from riding away, like bent levers or pedals, oil or coolant leaks, a tweaked fork, or mangled handlebars. The engine might not fire up right away until fuel flows back into the carbs or the fuel-pump pickup. Then give yourself another once-over to make sure you’re uninjured, and take some time to calm down enough to ride. Before you go, check out your surroundings and replay the sequence of events leading up to the tipover to see if you can pinpoint why you dropped it. Learn from your mistakes, or risk repeating them.

Watch this 15-second video demo that shows how Associate Editor Zack Courts picks up a 600-pound motorcycle:

Quick Facts

Fuel-injected bikes have a tipover sensor that cuts the fuel pump if the ECU believes the bike is on its side. This sensor is supposed to reset automatically once the bike is righted, but some bikes have them mounted in such a way that they could come adrift. If the bike cranks but won’t actually start, locate the tipover sensor and confirm that it’s plugged in and properly oriented.

By Jerry Smith
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The other day I was riding my R1 down the road, when I passed some guy on one of those giant road hog Harley's.  He had managed to drop the bike at a stop sign, waiting to turn into traffic in the same direction I was traveling.  I hung a U-turn to see if he needed help with his behemoth bike.  When I got to him, 3 guys from the local bar had run out and got it upright.

The author's suggestion of an oil slick where you put your foot down is the best possible explanation for why he dropped his bike.  I simply couldn't figure out how someone drops a bike they are sitting on at a stop.  Now I think he was probably drunk while stepping on an oil slick.
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