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.
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.
More recently, Harley-Davidson employees have been demonstrating the technique at their womens events held in Sturgis and Daytona Bike Week as well as at dealership Garage Parties.
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 youve been talked through how to lift a motorcycle, youll never fear dropping your bike again. Because fear of dropping it is mostly about how youre going to get it back up—as well as the damage youll do it.
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 explaining 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 whos 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.”
This is just one factor in the positioning of ones 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. “Its all in the legs, not your back.”
Is there a limit to what size motorcycle can be lifted this way? Its 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. Thats 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 its 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 Ive learned to the many women whove encouraged me to try. Now its payback time. I want to show women that they can do it.”
Its recommended you wear gloves and boots when lifting a bike. “Its all about confidence. “Sandals wont 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 engine cut off 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 cant access the shifter to put it in gear, the technique becomes more difficult because the bike could roll, but it can still be done. Youll 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.
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. Dont grab the seat. Its 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.
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, youll gain momentum to help you execute the rest of the lift.
9. Once you have the bike up, carefully put the kickstand down and lower the bike to it. If you cant 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.
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.
If you feel like there is no way this bike is going up like this, then move the position of your butt. If that doesnt 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 its made of paper. Adrenaline tends to push the bike over the other side if youre not careful.
To read more about Carol Youorski, visit PinkRibbonRides.com.
One Way to Avoid Dropping a Bike
WRN Beginners Guide
47 thoughts on Technique for Lifting a Dropped Motorcycle
I used this technique when I came home and found my Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 laying on its side. Worked like a charm!
I tried this with my Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited and could not lift it for anything. Oh, and I’m 5 feet 10 inches, 315 pounds.
There is a certain amount of leg strength required to be able to lift a nearly 900-pound motorcycle, Steve. Hopefully, you got some help to get that big beast up on two wheels again.
Great article. Thanks for instructions and pictures to help me visualize picking up my bike.
Thanks for showing the way to lift the motorcycle. Using this article I’ve helped many of my friends to lift a fallen motorcycle.
Excellent article thank you. My test is very soon and this information is just so valuable. I am fairly strong as I lift weights but nothing is better than the correct technique. I think this should be taught to all riders whichever country you’re in.Thank you!
Good luck on your test Sonya. You are so very welcome.
This should absolutely be taught in all riding classes. I wish I would’ve known the right way to do this when I dropped mine, years ago. I got it picked up by myself, but the muscles in my back, shoulders, and neck got messed up so bad I couldn’t even turn my head for about two weeks!
Now this should be part of the MSF class! This would have eased my worries tremendously! Thank you so much for the info.I’m going to try it on my Honda Shadow Spirit and the BF’s VTX.
Thank you for this informative article. My hubby and I are both disabled but love to ride. This will help us both.
This article is wonderful. My father always told me that he’d get me the class if I could pick up his full dresser. Well, in a manic state I felt I could wash it for him. Unfortunately, I did it at the side of the driveway and dropped it cause of that lip. I guess I did it sort of correctly because I managed to get it standing again. This article now gives me the confidence to be able to do it again if I have to.
Thank you for sharing. I am a new learner rider and have my own Honda 250cc Rebel and am just getting to know it on the open roads. My first ride without hubby with me on his bike was this weekend and of course I wondered what I’d do if the bike did drop.Thankfully, no dramas on my solo rides so far, but good to know the technique if it does happen. Thanks so much for sharing.
So I am new to riding and can’t really afford to take the riding course right now, but I have a bike that was given to me and have been practicing constantly on it. Well I got comfortable enough and took it out on some dead end side streets by myself and was doing great until I went to make a U turn and hit a small patch of tiny gravel and the bike slid to the side and just stopped, which then killed it and it completely caught me off guard and it started tipping over which I couldn’t stop a 550- pound bike. Thank goodness there was no damage to the bike, I did scrap and bruise my knee up pretty bad, but I stood up and the first thing I thought was how the heck am I going to pick this thing up? But luckily just last night I read the article about how to pick your bike up by yourself. I tried it and had my bike back on its tires in less than 10 seconds. I would have been there forever otherwise. Thank you so much for sharing and providing such great tips and advice. Will definitely be a regular on this page.
So glad to hear we helped! Thanks for sharing that with us.
Thanks for posting. I bought my first heavier bike just last week, a GSX650F (after having had a little Honda GB250 a few years ago), which I love but it is a little on the heavy side, which is taking some getting used to. Read your tips last night, and then needed to put them to use this morning when somehow I lost my footing easing the bike back towards a curb to park, went over on its right side and I couldn’t catch it. I was able to take a minute to breathe and then did everything just as described here and it popped up easy as anything. So yes this technique does work for a sportbike. My GSX weighs about 240kg wet and I’m 5-feet-7 and 62 kg so not exactly a heavyweight. Feeling much more confident now that I know I can get it back up if goes over. Before reading this I thought there would be no way I’d be able to.
Thank you very much for posting this. I laid down my Honda Helix this afternoon trying to back it up the driveway. I had to modify the technique slightly, but I was able to execute this without any problems on the first try! I was actually surprised at how easily it worked – I didn’t think it was working, and all of the sudden my scooter was upright!
Good to know! Dropped my Switchback pulling into a parking stall last night. Embarrassing!
Now try it with a sports bike with no panniers where the bike is parallel to the ground. No assistance from panniers and short drop bars.Tourers with large panniers don’t go beyond a certain point and are easier despite being heavier.This is misleading info regarding uprighting a fallen bike.
Alan,Our story is not misleading. You must have missed this part in the article: “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.”We clearly state that it is harder with a sportbike, or sports bike as you call them in your country. And we give advice on how to get the motorcycle up off its side to make it easier to lift using this technique. Thanks for reading Women Riders Now.
I completed my Riders Edge Course at the local HD store on a Wednesday. I attended the Ladies Garage party on the following night where they showed how to pick up a fallen bike. Being a newbie I had to give it a try so that in case of it happening to me I would be prepared. Well, needless to say it came into play the following Sunday. I was waiting for a truck to pull out of the local Cracker Barrel, as he began to move so did I, then he slammed on his brakes and in turn I came to a quick stop as well, which I did great until I put my left foot down into a slick puddle of water left from a previous rain. My foot went out and I lost my balance and well, down I went with the bike. Thanks to learning the pick up technique I had my bike (2014 Heritage Softail Classic) back up in less than a minute. I got back on and went and parked by my husband who had no clue that I had even dropped it. The truck obscured his view. He was amazed that I got the bike up all by myself (5 feet 5 inches I might add). So…yes it can be done.
Sorry to hear about your motorcycle dropping, but it happens to the best of us! So glad you were prepared and for sharing this with us.
I dropped my Harley-Davdison Softail Slim in a newly graveled parking lot. Going too slow and touched my front brake…newbie mistake! My husband came to help me and stood the bike back up. Glad to know I can do this when he’s not with me.
This technique didn’t work for me to upright a heavy Harley. I think if the bike has a crashbar and it’s higher off the ground but when the bike is heavy and laying flat on its side what do you do?
It can be done but you’ll need a lot more muscle in your legs to push back on the heavier bike. One thing you can do is to wedge in something soft like a riding jacket or a piece of motorcycle luggage underneath the back end of the bike to get it off the ground somewhat. The hardest part is getting the bike from completely lying on its side to about 8 to 12 inches off the ground. Wedging something soft— a rolled up throw rug works well—underneath it can get the bike up high enough whereas now you can lift it using this technique.
AWESOME! I’ve been riding for about eight months total; just bought my first motorcycle ever, a 2013 Road King Classic weighing in at a mere 831 pounds. I’ve dumped it every time I’ve ridden with the exception of this last Saturday. Each time, fortunately, I’ve been with other riders who all ran to my aide. I’m quite graceful about the whole thing now, never panic, just gently lay it on down and walk off; however can’t pick it up! I finally rode solo for the first time and didn’t dump it. ‘m going to test this at the house first, then hope my last obstacle for riding alone has been conquered! Thank you, THANK YOU for this long awaited information! WE NEED IT!
Wow – thank you so much! I’m 5 feet 120 pounds and just dropped my 500 Vulcan last night in a Canadian Tire parking lot, and a little old lady helped me upright it. This site is invaluable for smaller women in particular.
I dropped my bike at a low speed. My boyfriend was with me and told me to lift it up, which of course, I tried doing facing the bike and it didnt work. He picked it up for me, but I won’t always have someone around. I’m glad I found your site, as I just knew there had to be a better way for us women to pick our bikes up. I believe I will try it once on purpose just so I know how its suppose to work. Thanks.
This is a topic I’ve always wanted to know about as I dropped my Honda CB750 and I had to ask for help so I could lift it. I am only 50 kilo so, the bike is just too heavy. Thanks. Next time I know what to do.
Thanks! I am a new rider. It’s taken the place of riding horses — no longer able to do that, sigh. Had a good friend give me a ride on his Kawasaki Vulcan 1600. You got it, hooked. Took a rider safety course but they don’t cover lifting a downed motorcycle. At 50 with a lame back — the reason I cannot ride horses — I need a good, safe and practical way to lift my Vulcan 500 if (please IF) I ever down it in any fashion. I want knowledge of how before necessity. Thank you. I have printed this so I may study it at better length standing beside my motorcycle and get it in my mind. I’ll be overly cautious and put the copy somewhere on it to travel with so when panic hits I’ll be able to read it if I need to.
Thank goodness for this article. I dropped my Gold Wing in the parking garage at work and no one would stop to assist me. I thought what would I do if I was truly alone, which at this point I felt that I was. I used this technique and was able to upright my 900-pound beauty. I’m 5 feet 5 inches 166 pounds with a whole lot more confidence thanks to this technique.
Boy, this site has really helped ease my mind. I too, had a mishap with my BMW 1150 GS. Long story made short, bike was laying on its side and I was a bit upset. Adrenaline raging, I thought I could just heave the bike back to its upright position. In trying to do so, I strained my back and pulled ligaments in my left arm. Needless to say, very painful. Ever since that event happened, I’ve been extremely cautious not to have a repeat performance. Your site has now restored a enjoyable and carefree attiitude regarding motorcycle riding. Thanks and ride on!
I’m a new rider and I have a 2003 Honda Shadow ACE 750. I have dropped it a couple of times. My husband made me watch this technique on YouTube. I used it and it really works.
I am glad to have found this site. I have a R 1100 LT and dropped it more than I like to admit. Every time I was alone and it took every bit of strength to get it up and was lucky not to throw out my back. I am now retired and don't think I will be able to upright my bike the old way. This method seems to be so fundamental that I can't believe I never thought of it and, believe it or not, I am an engineer! Shows you that we don't know everything.
Thanks very much to the little lady – I always respect the women – they have a lot to give if we just give them a chance.
I tried to pick up my Harley Sportster that had fallen on its left side; you have to stand the bike straight up in order to get the kickstand down. A hair more and it will fall over onto the right side. I've been looking for a shorter kickstand or maybe altering mine. Any ideas?
I am a new rider, I just got my bike, an '06 Suzuki DRZ-400s, and have laid it down twice practicing u-turns and figure eights.
Hopefully I won't let it down again anytime soon, but if I do, I should be able to lift it up, and I'll be bringing a piece of two-by-four to prop up the frame.
Great Web site, great info!
Very good info. I hope I never have to use it.
Very useful information! I'm a new rider and have dropped my Sportster a couple of times (of course, in front of a bunch men). Now, I know how to pick her up without killing myself and show those men, I can do it myself. I will be sure to show all my girlfriends this article, too.
Thanks! I threw my back out last year trying to muscle a bike up. I managed to do it thanks to embarrassment and adrenaline, but then had to take the week off from work because I couldn't walk upright for days. Now that I have a bike that is twice the size as my old one, I'm glad to know how to do it right.
Thank you so much for this information.
I am a new rider, and my husband and I are rarely off work the same days for him to ride with me. I want to ride but am afraid to take my bike out alone for fear of dropping it, and having to wait for a good samaritan to come by and help me lift it. Once I practice your technique, I will feel free to go out on my own instead of waiting for hubby.
Having dropped my GS1150 twice in two days on Saturday and Sunday (I was gutted when I dropped it Saturday on the left hand side; imagine how I felt when I dropped it Sunday on the right hand side!) Just wish I'd read this article last week. I nearly put my back out FAILING to lift the Beemer. It took two of us big hunky men to lift it!
I'm glad I found this article to read! I am a new rider and am enjoying getting out there to ride. I have thoughts of dropping my bike, but try not to focus on them. It's good to know there is an easier way to pick up a downed bike, if ever the need to. I'm enjoying the articles I've been reading because they are about women and riding!
What an awesome article. Thanks Carol for making it look so easy with this step-by-step demonstration.
Holy cow, what a great article! I'm 5 feet and I own a Honda VTX 1300C, and this is pretty much the only thing I was worried about — how the hell would I get it back up if I drop it?
Now I know! I'm going to check around to see if any places in the area offer people the opportunity to practice this technique so the first time I try it isn't just after dropping the bike (which I hope doesn't happen in general but better to be prepared!).
I've been riding for about 18 years and I was always told, “If you can't pick up the bike, you can't ride the bike.” This is real important if you are like me and ride alone most of the time. This is not the technique I have used to lift my bikes, but I will try it at home and see if it's easier. Thanks for the education, we can never get enough of that!
This was an awesome article with being a new rider. I was wondering what I would do if….
Now I know and it's brilliant! Thanks for posting this article and, of course, for Carol Youorski for teaching us!