How to Pick up a Motorbike Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Pick up a Motorbike

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A recently-acquired motorbike, together with the necessary licence, is a wonderfully liberating experience. What they don't teach you on direct access1 courses, however, is how to pick up a bike should you have the misfortune to drop it.

Motorbikes are big and heavy, and have little stability when not moving around. This is a particular problem if you come roaring up to a junction, slam on the brakes, stop dead, then forget to put a foot out, or put a foot down on gravel, oil or other slippery stuff. There comes a point when there is nothing you can do that will keep the bike vertical and between your legs, and the safest thing to do is to let it down.

How to Drop a Motorbike

Two tips here:

  • Let it down as slowly as you can so the damage to the bike is minimal (slightly scraped clutch levers or scratched indicators).

  • Don't leave any portions of your anatomy under the bike as it touches down. Foot pegs and gear/brake levers can gouge large holes in feet or legs given the 200+ kg of weight behind them.

Next, switch the engine off using the cut-off switch or ignition. The chances are the bike was in gear as it went over - this is good. If not, try to get first gear engaged.

And How to Pick It Up Again

What follows assumes the bike is on its left side, with its brake levers up in the air.

Turn your back on the bike, and grab the left handlebar in your right hand. Pull up as though you were turning the handlebars to the left, and the motion of the front wheel should start to lift the front of the bike. With your left hand, grab the frame just under the seat, the grab rail, or whatever's convenient. Put the bit of your back just above your bum against the seat, and use your legs to start to move the bike upright. It gets easier the further up you go, but for heaven's sake don't go too far and push it right over!

If the bike is on its right side, reverse the above instructions left-to-right and get the side-stand down (unless you've got a bike with a spring-loaded side-stand, in which case, tough).

Note: use your legs, not your back. Use your back and you may get the bike upright, but you won't get yourself upright for quite a while. The reason is that you run the risk of slipped disks and ripped muscles. So - use your leg muscles to do the work. If you can get a friendly (and muscular) bystander to help, so much the better.

Apparently an 80-year-old granny can get a Honda Goldwing upright using this technique.

1One of the ways of getting a full bike licence in the UK. Visit the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions for full details.

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