Despite what your friends say, they’ve all dropped their motorcycles. It doesn’t matter if they’re new riders, long-time vets, or Valentino Rossi, it is a certainty they’ve slipped up, whether they were caught off guard at a stoplight, lost their footing on loose gravel, or went into Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas way too quickly and washed out. It happens to everyone, so let’s kill the stigma that they only fall over for inexperienced newbies who don’t know what they’re doing.
When that happens again, which it will, you’ll need to pick up your motorcycle and carry on your merry way. Most folks won’t consider the proper procedure of how to pick up a fallen motorcycle until it happens to them, which is a big mistake. You’re more likely to do something boneheaded in the heat of the moment, and you risk injury and damage not only to the motorcycle but to yourself.
(Disclosure: When Guides & Gear wanted to do a big series on motorcycle parts, riding methods, payload carrying, and a few other stories for two-wheeled lovers, Honda came through and sent us a 2021 Honda Ridgeline and a CRF450RX to play with. Look for more stories soon.)
Understanding the step-by-step procedure before you fall will not only aid you in reducing the need to Google “How to pick up a fallen motorcycle” alongside a busy highway, it will also reduce your risk of getting hurt. In the name of mitigating your risks, the riders of the Guides & Gear section put together this little how-to in order to show you exactly how you’re supposed to pick up a fallen motorcycle.
And oh yeah, we’ve got pictures.
Why Do Motorcycles Fall Over?
Gravity, baby! We’re all subject to its physical laws, and that includes motorcycles, whether you’re riding them or not.
Motorcycles are inherently unstable, especially when either stationary or moving slow enough that gyroscopic motion isn’t affecting its dynamics. Just like with crashing, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to pick up your heavy steed from the gravel, sand, or pavement.
Riding motorcycles is dangerous. Full stop. They’re heavy, unstable, and can be extremely hazardous to your health when ridden without the proper gear. The right equipment, even in a drill like this where you won’t actually be riding the motorcycle, is still necessary because your motorcycle is heavy and can fall on you. Be mindful of your surroundings and your own shortcomings. If you need help, get it.
The most important piece of safety information I can give you, however, is that if you feel the motorcycle falling, let it go and get out of the way. Don’t try and save it by sticking out a fully locked leg, meaning your knee and ankle fully extended. Why? Because that’s how you’ll break your leg, and that’ll mean months of not riding, plus hospital bills up the wazoo. Seriously, let it fall.
Here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don’t die, get maimed, or lose a finger and that you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless — hopefully.
Here’s How To Pick Up a Fallen Motorcycle
We’re going to make this a drill so you can practice in the safety of your own home. To do so, we need to lay down the motorcycle, and you will, too. You’ll need to be careful, however. Don’t just go full Idina Menzel and “Let It Go!” You can add a yoga mat or large beach towel on the ground so you don’t damage the bike. Let’s get after it!
Dropping Your Motorcycle
- Make sure your motorcycle is off. If you’re out in the real world and your bike falls over, this is step one. You don’t need an in-gear motorcycle running away from you once you’ve righted it.
- Keep the bike in gear, though, as this will ensure it doesn’t roll away from you once it’s righted.
- Place one hand on the handlebar and another on the rear of the bike and slowly lower the motorcycle onto the ground.
Getting Into Position
Once the motorcycle is on the ground, you’ll need to get into the proper position. This is the most important step of this process, so no shortcuts.
- With your back toward the motorcycle, squat down until you’re level with the bike’s seat.
- Place your left hand on the motorcycle’s handlebar that’s closest to the ground, the other on a rear handhold. The rear handhold can either be the rear fender, the exhaust — careful, it might be hot — a rear footpeg, a piece of the frame, or another hard-attached part. Don’t grab anything that’ll rip off under the weight of the motorcycle.
Picking Up Your Motorcycle
- Once you’re in position, focus on keeping your back straight. This is the most important part of this process. It ensures you don’t hurt yourself while picking up the bike. If you’re familiar with lifting weights, think of it as a combination of a squat and a deadlift. Keeping your back straight will help prevent injury and help isolate the strength in your legs.
- Next, put some weight onto your legs and slowly begin to walk backward while pushing up with your legs through your heels. You’ll feel the bike begin to lift off the ground. Do not try to push off with the balls of your feet or your toes.
- Go slowly and continue using your legs. Do not use your back.
- Continue until the motorcycle is upright.
- Put the kickstand down.
Inspect the Motorcycle
When you encounter a drop in real life, you’ll need to thoroughly go over your bike to make sure everything is in functional order. This obviously does not apply to our practice drills, but here’s a quick checklist of general things to look out for.
- Inspect your motorcycle for damage, cracks in the frame, or other things that would affect your motorcycle’s safe operation.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a cracked fuel tank.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a broken fuel line.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a damaged or broken brake line.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a damaged throttle.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a damaged wheel.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a damaged swingarm.
- Do not get onto a motorcycle with a damaged sprocket.
- Once you’ve picked up your bike in the safety of a practice situation, do it again until you’ve got the hang of the operation.
- That’s it. You’ve done it. Congrats.
Motorcycling Pro Tips
I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 17, and throughout the years I’ve picked up a few pro tips along the way. Here are a few to help you deal with fallen motorcycles, loading and unloading, and other instances when you could drop your two-wheeled steed.
- If you have a friend and you’re bike’s on the ground, use them. There’s no reason to work harder and not smarter.
- Make sure you don’t pull up on the motorcycle too hard and topple it over on the opposite side. Not only will you make more work for yourself, but you could damage the opposing side.
- Understand that the weight of your motorcycle will make things difficult. Despite the wheels acting as a fulcrum, weight and gravity are still factors here. The more your motorcycle weighs, the more force you’ll need to exert.
- If you’re payload loading your motorcycle, you face the risk of dropping it off the ramp. Pay attention and load slowly.
FAQs About Picking Up a Fallen Motorcycle
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. What if the motorcycle is still too heavy for me to lift?
A: You’re going to need to call a friend or call a tow truck. Sorry.
Q: So, what can I damage on my motorcycle if it falls?
A: Honestly, that’ll depend on how fast or slow you were going, or if you were standing still. If you were going as fast as I was when I crashed once, your bike is going to be heavily damaged. Fairings will likely break, along with handlebars, exhausts, footpegs and controls, and in some cases, your engine. If you were going slow or not moving, your bike might just see some minor damage in the form of broken mirrors, clutch or brake lever, and a road-rashed fairing.
Q: Is the process different for a woman to pick up a motorcycle?
Q: Is it normal to drop your motorcycle?
A: Everyone’s done it, so don’t feel too bad about it. If someone says they haven’t, they’re lying.
Q: Is it normal to feel nervous about getting back onto a motorcycle after you’ve dropped it?
A: Absolutely, and depending on the circumstances, it can feel downright terrifying. I went through this after my wreck. After a few months of healing and some long talks with my wife, I got back on. But it was and remains a deeply personal decision. I can’t make the decision for you whether you should or shouldn’t get back on. It’s not my life. You should, however, take it very seriously.
Talk and pictures are great, but we all know a video reigns supreme.
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