Get on your bike and get off … nothing more simple in appearance! At least for 90% of bikers and in 90% of situations. But for some people, with some motorcycles and / or under certain circumstances, it can be more complicated. Riding in the saddle, stopping well in balance, stepping over the bike to leave it with stability (and elegance if possible) is not always obvious.
A significant part of motorcycle falls occur at a standstill, due to loss of balance when the bike doesn’t move. These falls can be avoided. So in this article I’ll share the best ways to get on and off a motorcycle. By practicing the following tips you’ll master this essential skill beyond the level of more experienced riders.
Why it’s difficult to mount a bike and to get off
Getting on and off a motorcycle might seem obvious and therefore devoid of interest to most experienced riders, who almost all consider that refueling or driving on the highway does not pose any difficulty. Many have forgotten what it’s like to be totally beginner.
Maintaining the balance of the bike is a vital concept for the safety of people and equipment. This balance, this stability of the machine that both reassures the driver and allows easy handling of the bike to tilt, is easily felt from about 20 km/h speed. It is already a little more delicate below 10 km/h, when the small importance of the gyroscopic effect on the wheels, generated by the decrease of the speed of rotation of the wheels, makes the bike more unstable, more prompt to lose balance when tilting. And it’s even more difficult to stop, at 0 km/h, in the absence of any stability provided by the gyroscopic effect.
Without this stability, everything becomes more difficult to accomplish. The slightest inclination immediately makes the weight of the bike felt. Whether it’s a smaller motorcycle that weighs 100 kilos or a big GT motorbike of 300 kilos or more (a Honda 1800 Goldwing weighs in at 450 kilos), we are talking about a considerable mass that almost nobody can lift or hold at arm’s length.
While a motorcycle on the move, with a speed of more than 40-50 km/h, can reach an angle of 40, 45 or even 50 degrees of inclination, without this posing a problem of loss of balance, tilt of a motorcycle stopped by only 5 to 10 degrees from the vertical is enough to put most bikers in trouble. It’s because they’re unable to support more than a few seconds the weight of their motorcycle, which is irresistibly attracted to the ground by gravitation.
And if there is a phase where control of the balance is essential, it is the moment when it comes to getting on and off the bike. Obviously, it is considerably simplified by the fact that in general, the motorcycle is then crutched, in stable support on the side stand or central.
Still, there are a number of situations where these seemingly simple actions can be dangerous.
Your body could also be causing the problem
First case, more and more widespread: a more or less significant mismatch between the size of the rider and the size of the motorcycle.
People who probably would never have thought about riding a bike find themselves having to handle machines that technological progress is making heavier and heavier (with the gradual increase of the cubic capacity and increasing integration of electronic boxes that manage the various security technologies).
Whether women or men under 1.70 m, people over 50, 60 or 70 years old, drivers affected by health problems of varying motor disabilities … or simply people who are not physically strong or who have problems with balance …
In short, an increasing proportion of motorcyclists do not necessarily correspond to the cliché of the male biker aged 18 to 50, physically fit, tall and thin!
And we must recognize that a number of buyers of a motorcycle base their choice on aesthetic or mechanical criteria, instead of considering in the first place the accessibility of their future mount.
At the same time, we have a major trends with the development of road bikes with a long-travel capacity, which tends to increase the seat height.
We also find a growing segment of people confronted with motorcycles that are too high, on which it is difficult for them to climb directly over the saddle.
Another possible case: your bike is higher than usual or the seat less accessible.
- Because you put a big duffel bag or a passenger on the back seat, for example.
- Because the bike is on the wrong side or elevated (on a sidewalk, the top of a rut, with the front wheel elevated…).
- Because you have installed luggage, flexible or rigid suitcases that increase the width or a top-box or a soft-case that raises the rear of the bike …
Another case: you lack flexibility to move over the seat.
- Because you’ve donned your winter outfit, thicker, or any other gear that engages you more than usual.
- Because you hurt yourself, because of cramps or aches, of various and varied lesions, or a surgical operation, or the installation of a prosthesis (in the hip in particular)…
All these situations make it difficult to get on and off the motorcycle.
How to Reduce Difficulty of Mounting a Motorcycle
In any case, care should be taken to stabilize the motorcycle as much as possible. In particular by ensuring that it will not move back and forth.
The obvious solution is to operate the front brake and keep it tight, to stop the bike when it is time to get on or off. This, however, requires having arms long enough to keep your hands on the handlebars, even when you are next to the bike.
To make things easier, do not hesitate to turn the handlebars. Nothing obliges to keep it straight. Turning the handlebar to the right brings the right hand grip closer to your body when you are on the left side of the bike.
If you arrive with the engine running first, it is easy to operate the circuit breaker (the emergency engine stop) or the ignition key.
If you prefer to keep your hands on the handlebars, simply unfold the sidestand to stall the engine (provided of course that the sidestand switch is present and operational).
Solution that most riders will give you (and why it’s not necessarily the best):
The first solution is to use the footrests, to gain a few tens of centimeters in height.
The natural reflex of the rider, used to go up and down on the left of his bike, will be to put the left foot on the left footrest, both hands on the handlebars, with the handlebar right or pointing to the right, in home position. It is then sufficient to stretch the left leg with the help of the support on the handlebars to ride the bike easily, regardless of its height.
This solution nevertheless has a number of disadvantages.
The center stand provides great stability when used on flat ground.
But in many cases, if the driver is already embarrassed to get on his bike and fall as a result, it’s a safe bet that this will seem too complicated to pull off.
There are techniques for ridding immediately once in the seat without much effort, but they require a fairly advanced level of control which beginners lack.
It also depends on the motorcycle
On most motorcycles, the side stand is provided and properly sized to support the weight of the bike and a person.
However, this is not the case on sports bikes, for which the manufacturers are hunting the slightest weight removal to optimize the bikes performance on the road. So they install crutches that are very thin, sometimes aluminum (instead of steel), especially as these motorcycles are planned to ride lightly loaded, without passengers and without luggage.
Other models are known to be equipped with a fragile side stand, for example the Austrian brand KTM.
Moreover, if a right side stand can support a large weight, it is different when this side stand is of bent shape. It makes it more fragile.
Even a right kickstand, steel and solid has its limits: if the bike is already well loaded, it is obvious that the crutch will suffer, or more precisely its fixation which can run its course sooner as the result.
In addition, this method can tilt the motorcycle to the left if it is already very inclined, either because of a long side stand and offset, or because of a floor in a slope to the left, or both at the same time.
Furthermore, if you are crouching on soft ground (grass, dirt, sand, mud) or on soft bitumen (because of the heat), the risk is that the crutch will sink into the ground due to the extra weight, which could rock the bike.
This concern can however be avoided by putting under the side stand something sufficiently wide and rigid to distribute the weight of the bike over a larger area. As for example a wide and flat pebble, a small board, a lid of jar of jam, a crushed aluminum can …
For all these reasons, it is better to practice getting on the bike with support of the side stand … but on the right!
We are so used to climbing on the left side of the side stand. A purely cultural habit, inspired by the historical tradition of classic riding, which means that one always rides on the left on a horse (because of the sword, which was worn along the left leg).
The pioneers of motorcycles were inspired by many of the traditions of the cavalry and thus the manufacturers also agreed to install the side stand on the left.
But habits change! And nothing prevents you from riding a motorcycle by the right, with or without crutch.
Start with the side stand, the easiest method
Let’s start with the side stand, it’s still easier:
The general idea is simple: with motorcycle resting on the side stand, we put the right foot on the right footrest and push on the right leg to get up and step over the saddle of the left leg.
Problem if you try this without instructions or training is that you risk applying too much weight on the right footrest, which will straighten the bike. This will increase the risk of tilting to the right.
This risk is reduced if:
- you weigh very little,
- your bike is very heavy
- the bike is very slanted to the left, because of his crutch or a cant on the left.
If you don’t meet at least one of these criteria, the risk of tipping is real. That is what annoys many riders at the time of performing this maneuver.
To prevent this risk, a simple technique is to compensate for your support on the right foot by pressing on the left hand.
- Before riding, be sure to position both hands on the handlebars.
- To do this, steer the handlebars fully to the left, to bring the left handle closer to you.
- Firmly grasp the left handle and when climbing on the right footrest, press your left hand as far as possible.
- A simple way to generate this support is to lean far forward when climbing on your right leg, to send your head to the left mirror.
The weight of your body to the left will be enough to compensate for the support on the right leg.
- Then simply straighten the bike (by a triple action: push on the left foot, support on the right hand, traction on the left hand with the handlebar abutment) to rest on the right foot on the ground to go up the side stand.
Same technique to go down, it will be even easier:
- Stand on the footrests, keep the support on the left handlebars, straddle the saddle of the left leg and bend the right knee to get off the bike safely.
You will find that it is much easier to descend than to climb. So start by training to get off the saddle to feel the role of the support compensation, then practice to ride using the same principles.
Of course, you will certainly need to practice a few times before mastering this technique, which is not technically complicated, but requires good psycho-motor coordination.
For these practices, it is better to have a third party to ensure the safety of the bike.
We’ll see later how to get on the bike without a crutch, first off, then off, which will allow you to handle any situation. The management of balance that implies will also serve to better manage the rise and descent of the passenger. This will be the subject of a future article.
Need video instructions? Here’s a great video tutorial on mounting a motorcycle that demonstrates various ways to do it: