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Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle

How to upright a downed bike

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor

Most of us have witnessed this scenario at least once in our motorcycling life: someone drops his or her motorcycle, and three or four people scramble over to help muscle it upright. But have you ever seen someone actually upright a motorcycle alone? It can be done.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Sign
Quite an attention grabber!

Carol Youorski, a BMW rider from Atlanta, is arguably the first woman to demonstrate how she can lift a downed motorcycle. For years, she traveled to rallies around the country showing people how to do it.        

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More recently, Harley-Davidson employees have been demonstrating the technique at their women's events held in Sturgis and Daytona Bike Week as well as at dealership Garage Parties.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Sportster
Natalie Pedersen (left in orange shirt) from Harley-Davidson talks through the steps of lifting a bike with a woman who volunteered to try the lift taking place at the Femmoto event in Las Vegas in October 2007.

The presentation is not only an attention grabber, it is a huge confidence builder for all motorcyclists. If you have an opportunity to be part of a demonstration jump at it. Once you've been talked through how to lift a motorcycle, you'll never fear dropping your bike again. Because fear of dropping it is mostly about how you're going to get it back up -- as well as the damage you'll do it.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Gold Wing
Carol getting ready to demonstrate her lift of a Gold Wing.

As soon as Carol, a 5-foot-3-inch 118-pound woman, gets into position beside her downed 2000 BMW GS 1150 (one of motorcycles she uses in her demos), a crowd gathers. How can this tiny woman possibly lift a 600-pound motorcycle all by herself? Carol proceeds to show the curious onlookers how she does it explaing that anyone can do it regardless of size. "Height and weight are only factors in where you place your body on your motorcycle," Carol says. "For example, a person who's taller has to put the center of his or her rear-end more into the middle of the seat, whereas a smaller person has to be more on the edge."


Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle
Carol Youorski getting ready to lift her BMW GS 1150.

This is just one factor in the positioning of one's body enabling him or her to upright a motorcycle. Also important is feet have to be close together and arms must be as close to the body as possible when executing the lift. Then, instead of one "heave-ho" type of a lift, Carol says baby steps work better in pushing the motorcycle up to its correct position. "It's all in the legs, not your back."

Is there a limit to what size motorcycle can be lifted this way? It's not so much about size, but more about whether the motorcycle has a low center of gravity (this makes it easier) and if it has saddlebags. Some sort of bag or bar on the side of the bike preventing it from being completely over on its side makes it easier to upright.

Surprisingly, sportbikes are the hardest motorcycles to lift this way. That's because they tend to have a high center of gravity and do not have anything between the pavement and frame. If a bike like this falls over, try to slip a piece of wood, a bag, or something that can be shimmied under the side of the bike to get if off the pavement a bit. Most big touring motorcycles have hard or soft bags so they are easier to lift this way.

When Carol does her "dropped bike demo" at rallies, she first shows how it's done, then asks for volunteers to give it a try. She likes using people of different sizes to explain how the lift is modified for each body type. She particularly likes demonstrating to women. "I love to encourage other women that it can be done. I owe so much of what I've learned to the many women who've encouraged me to try. Now it's payback time. I want to show women that they can do it."

It's recommended you wear gloves and boots when lifting a bike. "It's all about confidence. "Sandals won't give you the confidence you need to lift the bike," Carol says. She also suggests using this method as a last resort. It there is help around, ask for it.

10 Steps for Picking Up a Fallen Motorcycle
These steps are for a bike that has fallen on its left side.

1. Hit the kill switch. Make sure the motor is off.

2. Turn the gas off using the petcock on a carbureted bike if fuel is leaking.

3. Make sure the bike is in gear if you can get to it. If it is not in gear and you can't access the shifter to put it in gear, the technique becomes more difficult because the bike could roll, but it can still be done. You'll have to have find the balance point of the motorcycle between the two tires and leverage it as you lift.

4. Standing with your butt toward the seat, stoop down, and with your right hand grab the left grip.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle BMW
Carol grabs the left handlebar with her right hand, and the frame with her left hand and gets her butt into position for the lift.


5. When you grab the grip, pull it until it is as close to the tank as possible. With your left hand find something sturdy to grab hold of under the seat. Don't grab the seat. It's too flimsy to support the weight of your lift. Grabbing the bike by the frame is the best bet. The closer your left hand is to your body, the better.

6. Place your butt midway on the edge of the seat. This is crucial. The placement of your butt too high or too low on the seat will not give you the leverage angle. You are pushing the bike with your butt and upper legs. You will have to pull up with your arms a bit, but mostly you will be pushing the bike up with your legs.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Harley-Davidson Sportster
Midway through the lift, you can see the woman is using mostly her legs and butt to push the bike up.

7. You must have good traction under your feet or they will slip. If there is gravel under your feet, sweep it away with your boots. Same for grass.

8. Start pushing your butt against the seat using baby steps to force it upright. The hardest part will be the beginning. Once the bike starts to lift off the ground, you'll gain momentum to help you execute the rest of the lift.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle BMW GS 1150
Carol midway through the lift. Notice the position of her feet. She uses small steps backwards to execute the lift.

9. Once you have the bike up, carefully put the kickstand down and lower the bike to it. If you can't get the kickstand with the heel of your boot, turn your body carefully toward the front of the bike and grab both grips, then put the bike on the kickstand or center stand.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Harley
Since the woman is lifting the bike on its right side, the kickstand is already down on the other side so she can easily set the bike over on it.

10. The process is the same if the bike is on its right side. Your hands are reversed of course. It is easier to get it into gear. Remember to put the kickstand out first so that you can ease the bike onto it once it is upright.

Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle Carol Youorski
Another successful bike lift demonstration.

If you feel like there is no way this bike is going up like this, then move the position of your butt. If that doesn't work, try changing the flex of your knees. Carol says she tries not to flex her knees too much to begin with. Often when you get the angle just right the bike goes up like it's made of paper. Adrenaline tends to push the bike over the other side if you're not careful.               


To read more about Carol Youorski, visit PinkRibbonRides.com.

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