motorcycle 101 guides

How to Lift a Motorcycle for Maintenance

How to Lift a Motorcycle for Maintenance

Despite being smaller and lightweight, motorcycles are more difficult to lift than cars. If you do not have the required tools, you may damage your motorcycle while trying to lift it. Most motorcycles have low ground clearance, which makes it more difficult to perform maintenance tasks like removing the wheels, changing the tires, and tuning the suspensions. You have better access to a motorcycle’s parts to perform maintenance and repairs when it is lifted off the ground. There is no other way to lift a motorcycle without specialized tools. Having a motorcycle lift can help you save labor costs since you don’t have to outsource basic maintenance and repairs. However, most motorcycle lifts are not universal. You cannot lift a sports bike with a lift designed for a cruiser. Read this article to learn how to lift a motorcycle for maintenance.

1. Why Do You Need to Lift Your Motorcycle?

There are several reasons why you need to lift your motorcycle. Not every motorcycle comes with a center stand and it is difficult to perform even basic maintenance tasks on a motorcycle leaning on a side stand. A motorcycle must stand upright and be level to ensure better access to its parts. If you can lift a motorcycle to a certain height, you will have better access to the engine, chain, sprockets, suspensions, wheels, and tires. This will also allow you to replace and repair the tires, wheels, brake rotors, and wheel bearings.



  • Before using a motorcycle lift or jack to raise your motorcycle for maintenance, make sure to check the motorcycle owner’s manual to confirm if the process you are using is safe.
  • If you want to lift your motorcycle to remove the wheels, make sure to loosen the axle nuts while the motorcycle is on the ground. Do not remove the axle nuts completely by pulling them out. Give them a slight jerk using a wrench.
  • It is safer to loosen the axle nuts before lifting the motorcycle as doing it after can cause the motorcycle to lose balance and fall off the lift or jack.

2. How to Lift a Motorcycle for Maintenance

How to Lift a Motorcycle for Maintenance - infographic

3. How to Lift a Cruiser for Maintenance

Most cruisers and touring bikes are heavyweight motorcycles that require a lot of force to lift. You can lift them using a scissor jack or a hydraulic lift. Both tools are almost identical in how they function. However, the hydraulic lift is more secure and reliable to lift a motorcycle.

3.1 Using a Hydraulic Lifter

Using a Hydraulic Lifter

Photo Credit: @Taurus Legend

Hydraulic lifts are heavy-duty, heavyweight, and reliable mechanisms for lifting and mounting motorcycles. Hydraulic lifts come with large handles to make them easier to move and a foot pedal to apply hydraulic pressure to raise the lift. They have hooks and straps to tie down your motorbike securely even when both wheels are removed.

While placing the hydraulic lift under your motorbike, make sure to place it securely against a flat surface along the belly to avoid damaging any parts. After placing it below the motorcycle, start pressing on the foot pedal on the lift to raise the motorcycle. To ensure safety, do not lift the motorcycle to the maximum height. Using the straps, tie down the motorcycle to securely mount it in place. Make sure the hydraulic lift or the straps do not scratch the motorcycle and that the vehicle is perfectly balanced and level.

3.2 Using a Scissor Jack

Using a Scissor Jack

Photo Credit: @Handy Industries

A scissor jack is a handy and lightweight tool to lift cruisers and touring bikes. It is a small lift available in a rectangular box shape with a rubber pad to lift the motorcycle from the bottom without damaging its belly. Despite being simple and small, it has a maximum lifting capacity of 1,200 lbs and can lift an object to a maximum height of around 13 inches. The scissor jack comes with a detachable handle that can be rotated to lift the motorcycle. You can also attach a hex bolt to the handle to lift the motorcycle with ease. The motorcycle can become unbalanced and fall off the scissor jack if the bolt is rotated inconsistently or violently. Make sure to keep a hand on the motorcycle while rotating the hex bolt and use the other hand to secure the motorcycle.

Note: Scissor jacks and hydraulic lifts are only used to raise motorcycles with flat bottoms. Some motorcycles have exhaust pipes running down the engines that can become damaged if you try to lift them with hydraulic lifts or scissor jacks.


Video Credit: @Auto Gear

4. How to Lift a Sports Bike for Maintenance

Before working on your sports bike, make sure the workspace floor is flat and smooth. Sports bikes usually do not have center stands, so if you want to make them stand upright while you perform maintenance tasks, you will need a sports bike paddock stands or a lift.

If you want to lift both wheels on a sports bike, you will need a swingarm spool to stand for the rear wheel and a forklift stand for the front wheel.

4.1 Lifting the Rear Wheel of a Sports Bike

Using a Swingarm Spool Stand

Using a Swingarm Spool Stand

Photo Credit: @Pit-Bull

To securely mount the swingarm on a swingarm spool stand, small covers or knobs are attached to the swingarm bolts, providing a secure mounting position to lift the rear wheel. The U-shaped bents on the rear stand can be fitted to the knobs. Apply force downward using the lever on the stand to lift the rear tire.

4.2 Lifting the Front Wheel of a Sports Bike

Using a Forklift Stand

Using a Forklift Stand

Photo Credit: @Wood Craft

The forklift stand uses a slightly different mechanism to lift the front wheel. The U-shape bents on the rear stand are replaced with two gear wheels on both sides, lifting the bottom of the fork wheel while holding it between them. For wheel removal, the fork lift stand is not ideal as it blocks the access to the axle bolts.

Using a Headlift Stand

Using a Headlift Stand

Photo Credit: @Honda CBR 600RR Forum

Using a headlift stand to raise the motorcycle’s front end for maintenance is the best option if you need to remove the front wheel or the front suspension. It lifts the motorcycle’s front end by fitting inside the hole in the steering stem of the triple clamp. The pin that goes inside the steering stem is available in different diameters for different sports bikes. It allows better access to the front wheel, suspension, and axle bolts.

Video Credit: @RevZilla

5. How to Lift an Adventure Motorcycle for Maintenance

5.1 Hydraulic Lift

Adventure bikes are heavyweight and bulky motorcycles that require a heavy-duty lift to raise them for maintenance. Hydraulic lifts are the best and safest options if you want to lift your adventure bike. However, you need to make sure that your adventure bike has a flat bottom. A frame rail or a skid plate are good surfaces to position your hydraulic lift underneath. Some adventure bikes have exhaust pipes running along the bottom and they are not designed to bear the force of a hydraulic lift. You can also tie down an adventure bike using straps on a hydraulic lift for safety.

5.2 Lifting the Rear Wheel of an Adventure Bike

Using a Single-Sided Swingarm Lift

Using a Single-Sided Swingarm Lift

Photo Credit: @Motea

There are several motorcycles, including adventure bikes, with a single-sided swingarm. They do not have a center stand or a flat bottom. You can lift the rear wheel of such motorcycles using a single-sided swingarm lift. They are available in several pin sizes to fit your vehicle’s rear wheel axle to lift the rear wheel. You can fit the pin into the axle and push the lever down to lift the rear wheel.

5.3 Lifting the Front Wheel of an Adventure Bike

Using a Forklift Stand to Lift the Front Wheel

To lift an adventure bike’s front wheel, use a forklift stand.

Video Credit: @RevZilla

6. How to Lift a Dirt Bike for Maintenance

6.1 Using a Static Stand

Using a Static Stand

Dirt bikes and enduros are lightweight and do not require heavy-duty lifts to raise them for maintenance. Lightweight and simple static stands are used to park dirt bikes at a comfortable height to change out the wheels and perform other maintenance tasks.

Place the static stand on a level surface and lift the dirt bike’s rear end slightly to place the skid plate on the stand.

7. How to Lift a Dual Sports Bike for Maintenance

7.1 Using a Lift Stand

Using a Lift Stand

Photo Credit: @Dirt Rider

Dual sports bikes are slightly heavier than dirt bikes and enduros and cannot be lifted easily using a static stand. Therefore, a lift stand must be placed below the flat bottom of the engine. After placing the stand, use the paddle to lift the motorcycle to a comfortable height.


Photo Credit: @RevZilla

8. Conclusion

Lifting a motorcycle is mandatory to perform several maintenance tasks, including changing the tires, removing the suspension, and changing the sprockets. Lifting a motorcycle provides better access to its parts. You can also save some money if you take the wheels to a shop for new tire installation instead of taking your motorcycle to a mechanic. Motorcycle lifts are useful machines to have in your garage. There are different types of motorcycle lifts available in the market, depending on the type of motorcycle you own. Make sure to be careful while using lifts and check your motorcycle owner’s manual to avoid any damage. If your motorcycle does not have a flat bottom, do not use the scissor jacks or hydraulic lifts to avoid any damage to the engine and exhaust system.

If you own a cruiser and want to make it suited for long-distance rides and touring, Viking Bags has got you covered. You can find a variety of good-quality aftermarket parts and luggage options to install on your motorcycle for ideal touring performance. These include crash bars, backrests, fairings, sissy bars, sissy bar bags, saddlebags, and tank bags.

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