How To Pick Up A Motorcycle © Brake Magazine 2017

How To – Lift a Motorcycle

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Presented-by-2.0How To… is kinda what we do.

Getting your bike off the ground and upright is lesson one of our Level One course. We like to build great skill levels from the base up by mastering basics and building confidence to make the hard lessons easy and your motorcycle riding more enjoyable.

You can find out what our courses can do for you by clicking here. 


Have you ever dropped you bike? For 8/10 people reading this, the answer will be yes. If you’re anything like the crew at Brake, you’ll have fallen off hundreds and hundreds of times. Sometime in a car park, or stopping at the gas station. Sometimes they were huge crashes where the bike was no where near us, sometimes we stalled while turning around. One thing remained consistent.


We had to get the bike upright again.

The Methods

When you do something repeatedly, you get better. Do 500 pushups and you’ll be good at push ups. Pick a bike up a lot and you’ll figure out how to do it with grace and finesse*. Over time good riders figure out techniques, so we went to see one of the best training schools on earth to ask their opinion. Si Pavey, aged, old back included, came out to give us his demonstration of the best ways to get yourself upright and moving again.


Picking your bike up from the prone position falls into to two main methods, both with elements that are good and bad about them. However, both methods are very good at getting your bike upright again, regardless of who you are.

*This is an exaggeration. None of us have grace.

Method One

The first method is Si Pavey’s preferred method. With each method we’ll outline the pros, the cons and how to execute it properly.


Mechanically the easiest methodRequires some mobility to execute well.
Less chance of making a mistake, more in control of the bike
Works on every bike, in every situation
Allows two people to lift the bike easily


You’ve just crashed. The bike is on the side. Step one is turn your bike off. They’ll run on their side if fuel injected so get it turned off. If you try and lift it with the engine still running, the chances are you’re going to pick up again somewhere else across the field.


The next step is to create leverage. We want to lift the bike using the point furthest away from the wheels. It’s high school mechanics in the real world. We achieve the this by working the handlebars so the front wheel is pointed to the sky. You may need a little effort to get it there but it’s worth it. Make sure the steering is against the stop. If the steering is pushed against the stop it won’t wobble. You’re then lifting a more stable object which requires less strength.


Now we do the lifting part. Lifting a bike well is mechanically similar to deadlifting in the gym or flipping a big tyre. Don’t know how to deadlift well? Watch this deliberately cheesy video. Essentially, you’re going to grab the lower grip of the handlebar. Face your body in direction of the front wheel. Place you feet shoulder width apart. Squat down with your legs and take hold of the bar. Tense your stomach to protect your back and drive upward with your legs. It’s important to keep your arms straight and use your legs. There are very few people that can bicep curl 60kg’s, unless you look like this chap.  The easiest way to think about this is to walk in the same direction as the front wheel is pointed. If you don’t have enough explosive power to lift the bike straight up, you can use you knee as a support. Stuffing it under the tank gives you some reprieve to catch a breath and get it up the last bit.


A major positive of this method is getting a friend in to help. Because you’re at the front of the bike, the rear is open to let some help with lifting. This literally halves the force required to lift the motorcycle up. Make sure you, as the person lifting do all of the above correctly or your friend’s force is wasted.


Method Two

If method one is a lift, method two is a push. The biggest difference between methods one and two is the direction you face the bike. In this method you pick it up with your back facing the bike.

Requires less mobility for good technique/lower back injury risk as a result.Requires good ground underfoot/easy to slip
Easy to drop bike on yourself
Easy to drop bike the other way
Difficult for people to help
 Less control over the bike in general
Less Mechanical Advantage/Leverage


The same as method one, you need to get your bike turned off. Especially as you can’t hold the clutch easily with this method. Now, you need to turn the handlebars so the wheel is pointing toward the ground. Getting them close to the steering lock is important, but less so than method one as they’ll naturally move as you lift. If you’ve crashed on the right, flicking your side stand out prior to lifting can help prevent a mishap but in general it’s not advisable to rely on the side stand for anything. It’s better to be in control.


With your back to the bike, squat down and grab the handlebar with one hand and the grab rail/back of the bike with the other. You a now going to try to keep your back as flat as possible and your arms straight. This will allow more effective power transfer. Now, take up the slack in the bike, so the wheels are touching the ground. Next, start driving yourself backward. If you’re struggling, get your bum against the seat to help hold the bike and let yourself walk backward in smaller steps.

As you get close to being upright, it’s import to be controlled. Being over explosive is an easily achievable side effect of post crash adrenaline. Take your time and make sure that as the bike comes close to vertical you take control of the handlebars again. There you have it, you’ve now picked your bike up.


Method Three


There is a third, advanced, fast method of motorcycle resurrection. It’s technical but definitely achievable. Rather than breaking it down for you, watch this video and if you understand, have a go. Also, we apologise for South African’s odd naming of things. We’re also not responsible for the wild riding that follows, but would appreciate some video…



How strong do I need to be?

There is no doubt you need a degree of strength to lift a motorcycle. You need deadlift power, to get the bike up and moving toward your goal but the amount of strength is lower than you’d expect. In our efforts to be good journalists, we embarked on some research by picking up weight, googling and doing math.


What we learnt, is that the strength required to pick a motorcycle up is a strength that 95% of the human population can achieve and should have. You can mathematically calculate the force required to lift your motorcycle off-flat ground but a reasonable number is the weight of you bike divided by 3.5. For a far more accurate scientific explanation of calculating the force required click here.


That means if you ride a BMW F 800 GS, which tips the scales 217kgs, you need the same force as you would to deadlift 62kgs. For most people, deadlifting 62kgs should be perfectly reasonable. We checked with two separate qualified fitness coaches and they both stated that a measure of reasonable amount of functional strength in life would be being able to deadlift your body weight. If you weigh less than 62kg, it’s still not unreasonable to be strong enough to lift well in excess of your body weight.


In Conclusion

Now you know how to pick your bike up, what’s next? Honestly, you should practice this. If you topple over and there is not help around, it’s a vital. Plus, at some point you’re going to want to hide a crash from your friends. The quicker you can be upright and riding again, the less likely they are to know.


We’re also big believers that method one is the best method for 99% of situations and that is the one you should be mastering. Why? It gives you the most reward for your effort and leaves in control. You can, with your hands on the handlebars, dominate the bikes, swing your leg over and continue your glorious ride into the sunset, bystanders blown away by your strength and skill.


Or something to that effect at least…


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