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ADV PreppingQuick Tips: How to Pick Up a Dropped Adventure Motorcycle

Quick Tips: How to Pick Up a Dropped Adventure Motorcycle

Proper lifting techniques can help you avoid fatigue and injury riding off-road.

Published on 06.18.2015

If you haven’t dropped your Adventure Bike yet, then it is not a question of IF but WHEN it will occur. We all fall at some point, whether riding too fast or just a clumsy tip over after a long day. It can require a great deal of effort to lift a fully-loaded adventure bike and it’s easy to hurt yourself if you don’t use proper lifting techniques. Here are a few helpful tips for getting your bike upright again more efficiently when those inevitable falls do occur.

Assess Before You React: Typically, your first reaction after a fall is to jump up and deadlift your bike, giving no thought to proper lifting techniques or form. This is a great way to hurt yourself. There is no award for being the fastest person ever picking up a motorcycle. Obviously, if you are at risk of being hit by another motorist you will want to move a little faster. Otherwise, take a deep breath, evaluate the situation and formulate a plan for getting the bike back on its wheels.

Check For Injuries: Adrenaline is not an ally to be trusted. It can mask the pain of a serious injury and make you do foolish things. Before hurrying to lift up your fallen machine, take a few seconds to check yourself out to avoid making any possible injuries worse.


Hit The Kill Switch: A spinning rear tire might make for a good spectacle but it’s not safe. Also, your engine’s internals may not be lubricating properly while the bike is laying on its side and you could be losing valuable fluids. Hit the kill switch as soon as possible to stop the engine.

Put The Bike In Gear: Nothing is worse than getting a bike half way off the ground just to have it start rolling and go down again.

Remove Any Extra Weight: It might seem like a pain to repack after the bike is righted but removing excess weight will make your life much easier while you are lifting the bike.

Extend The Kickstand: If you happen to drop the bike on it’s right side, extend the kickstand before picking it up to ensure momentum doesn’t push the bike back over the other direction.

Accept Help: Save energy by performing group lifts (when possible) so you can avoid making more mistakes later while riding fatigued. If a nice passerby or a riding buddy wants to help you lift your bike, then let them. No sense in risking hurting yourself or expending extra energy if you don’t have to.

Use Proper Lifting Techniques: It’s critical that you use good lifting technique to conserve your energy and avoid injury. What you want to avoid is the vicious cycle of dropping your bike repeatedly because you are tired, then expending more energy picking it up each time. It can be especially draining when your technique is bad and there’s no one there to assist you with lifting the bike.

Common Adventure Bike Lifting Techniques

Squat Press: Butt on the seat in a low chair like position, one hand with a good grip in the hind section of the bike, your other hand on the handlebar with the bars as close to the bike as possible. Look up to get your spine in proper alignment. Use your legs to walk the bike back to a vertical state.

How to pick up a motorcycle with the Squat Press technique

Picking up a motorcycle using the Squat Press

Picking up a motorcycle using the Squat Press

When performed properly, the Squat Press method works better than you might expect. It is probably the most commonly used technique for lifting an Adventure Bike. However, we’ve found it’s a bit more difficult to succeed with this technique when the fallen bike is on an uneven or loose surface, or if there is any sort of incline or decline. On flat ground though, this is an efficient way to lift your bike.

Handlebar Lift: The first version of the handlebar lift starts with the handlebars turned so the front wheel is pointed down toward the ground. In a squatted position at the base of the handlebar (on the downed side of the bike), lift in an upward motion with both hands on the grip using your legs for upward thrust and NOT your back. Concentrate on keeping your back straight, your head up and letting your legs do the hard work. Keep the bike close to your body and gradually shift the weight of the bike forward pushing with your hips and driving with your legs.

handlebar lift how to pick up a motorcycle

handlebar lift how to pick up a motorcycle

handlebar lift how to pick up a motorcycle

Another variation on this technique is to turn the handlebars in the opposite direction with the wheel pointed up at the sky. You can perform the handlebar lift with the wheel pointed in either direction and both lifts use similar body mechanics. Which version you choose will depend on what feels more comfortable for the situation or the direction the wheel ends up pointing after the fall.

handlebar lift wheel pointed up
A variation of the handlebar lift shown here with the front wheel pointed upward.

It is important that you use proper body mechanics when performing this lift because it is extremely easy to hurt yourself if done improperly. The handlebar lift technique requires a lot of caution but we’ve found that it is the best method for picking up heavy bikes on hills or uneven surfaces.

Deadlift: Hands in the same positions as the “Squat Press” except with your body facing towards the bike. From a squatting position you lift by pushing forward into the bike driving with your legs. Make sure your back is straight and not overly arched or hunched.

deadlift how to pick up a motorcycle

deadlift how to pick up a motorcycle

deadlift how to pick up a motorcycle

This approach tends to be more of a brute strength technique and should be reserved for special situations when the bike is in an awkward position that make the other techniques less comfortable for you. The Deadlift technique may be your best option for getting proper leverage when your bike falls on uneven/loose ground rather than flat ground. It’s harder to get under the bike to get the lift started, so if the bike is already tilted upward, you can use it to your advantage.

Practice Before You Go

It’s a good idea to practice these methods on soft ground or in your driveway. If you have good crash bars, laying your bike down gently on its side shouldn’t cause any damage. But you can also use cardboard if you are concerned about scratches. It’s better to have a few scratches on your bike and be prepared for these types of situations than to be caught in the rattling moment when you and your bike meet the ground, with no practice or practical knowledge to fall back on.

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.

Author: Spencer Hill

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14 thoughts on “Quick Tips: How to Pick Up a Dropped Adventure Motorcycle

  1. Mr. Spencer, your first method of picking up your downed bike is not the choice I would consider. You do not have the control of the bike and if done wrong, you’ll just lose control and drop it on the other side. As a Law Enforcement Motorcycle instructor, I only advocate two methods. The best is using your hip and legs to lift the bike, while you’re facing the front of the bike…. While covering both the clutch, in case you need to allow the bike to roll forward or backwards slightly and the front brake, to keep the bike from moving.

    The other method that I teach would be the handlebar lift, but I normally wouldn’t use it with a heavily loaded bike and semi fragile handlebar mounts, like my Honda ST1300ABS. You could break off or damage the handle bar mounts.


    • Jeff, I don’t know what kind of bar mounts the ST1300 uses, but I’ve wrenched my BMW R1200GS up with stock, Rox, and another set of risers dozens of times using the handlebar technique. Never broke them yet. Same goes for the Flexx bar mounts on my KTM 950 Super Enduro.

      My argument against the first technique is that it almost never works on the trail if you don’t have that big opposed twin jug (BMW R-bikes) or a hard pannier holding the bike up. The squat is too deep, the terrain is canted, the ground is too loose, etc. Best to work on your handlebar/squat technique, which is more realistic in probably 90% of my dirt naps. Matter of fact, I can’t think of one time I’ve done butt-to-seat successfully, outside of practicing in a nice field.

    • One could argue losing control picking up a motorcycle using any technique would result throwing it to the other side. If this is happening, the operator is not keeping their eyes on the horizon and not realizing they are picking it up beyond upright/balance point. First technique is best for energy conservation/avoiding muscle injury in my humble professional opinion.

      Utmost respect for mounted LEO’s, except for the short sleeve shirts and half helmets (in many states)…WTF guys

  2. Pics of the first technique show the elbows bent, which defeat the purpose of using your leg strength (arm/shoulder/chest muscles exerted trying to keep the arms bent). Make sure your arms are dead straight, like a rope.

  3. I have had the best luck lifting my 500 lb adventure bike when I am alone and not on a paved surface by digging a hole under each wheel and rolling the bike up as the wheels drop into the holes. The wheels in the holes then support the bike while I start it and ride it out of the holes.

  4. Last Saturday, whilst seated on the bike with the side stand folded in, I was checking some thing on my Honda Africa Twin RD 07 (1993 model). After a few minutes, assuming incorrectly that the side stand was folded out I laid the bike on it’s side and it promptly went down on it’s left side. The surface was gravelly and slightly sandy.

    My initial reaction was to dead-lift the bike, facing towards it..but my mate pointed out that I should practice what I preach, since I had been circulating this same article to my friends! I am 50 years of age, 70 kgs in weight and 180 cms tall (in other words, skinny!) and my Africa Twin with half a tank of fuel is around 215 kgs!

    So, declining any assistance from my mate I adopted the “Squat Press” technique and with a bit of effort managed to right the bike, in one single lift! I must mention that I have a “bad” lower back. I used my legs and knees to maximum effect and managed to lift the bike without difficulty, but I must admit I felt the weight on my back. Today, 05 days after the lift, my back feels sore slightly but is not an issue.

    Now I know beyond any doubt that I can lift my Twin without assistance, which is very comforting, since I do a lot of solo riding in the back woods of this beautiful tropical island called Sri Lanka, where I was born and live!

    Thanks AdvPulse for your invaluable articles!

    Udaya Karunaratne
    Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    2015 Sept 03.

  5. Picking up a fallen motorcycle can be deceivingly difficult, especially if your upper body strength isn’t very good, but using these techniques should really help you out. My grandfather taught me to do the handlebar lift when I was a child, and that’s what I used ever since. This one is really nice because it’s easy to get your lower body helping you keep it from going back down.

  6. Pingback: How to lift a fallen motorcycle - Page 2 - Honda CTX700 Forum

  7. Most motorcycles are designed for a rider who is of average height, 5′ 8″. and thus would technically have mechanical advantage to life a downed motorcycle in any of the methods suggested. However, as I soon discovered during my motorcycle training course being over 6′ tall and having longer legs that I have no mechanical advantage when crutched to lift a motorcycle. My legs are folded up to the point that my button is touching my calves and if I where a professional dead lifter I might have a chance of lifting to the tip up point but this isn’t essentially possible with a ACL tear in my left knee. So there needs to be a much better way to left a motorcycle with riders of my height so they do not run the risk of tearing out a knee.

  8. I would only add that a little loop of velcro to lock down your front brake lever can make the whole thing a lot less dicey. And the little dohickey rides nicely on your handlebar, next to your brake lever, handy at the moment of need.

  9. Pingback: Why An Off-Road Motorcycle Is Essential When The Grid Goes Down – Outdoor Pro


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