How To Use A Motorcycle Lift

How to Use a Motorcycle Lift — Better Safe Than Sorry!

No matter how much my attempts to joke while writing fail, our editor knows I am hardly discouraged.

But there are some topics I am absolutely serious about.

Lifting a motorcycle is one such.

When you’re lifting the bike to change a tire, you need to do it right. Otherwise, you can damage the bike, or most importantly, injure yourself.

And struggling under a fallen cruiser bike like a crushed beetle is not my idea of a fun afternoon.

That means you need to know this: how do motorcycle lifts work and what’s the safest way of using them?

So, let’s get busy.

What is a Motorcycle Lift Table?

Man demonstrating how to use a motorcycle lift

A motorcycle lift is a large metallic table operated by hydraulics or pneumatics. You roll the bike on it and it lifts the entire unit.

The lifts come with different weight capacities and height settings. They have a foot pedal for activating the lifting mechanism for height adjustment.

These lifts are larger and heavier. They will also cost you more. But they offer the best safety and stability for the bike.

What’s the difference between a motorcycle lift and a motorcycle jack?

Both are devices that allow you to lift the motorcycle. If you want to lift your motorcycle off the ground safely, you need either of these devices.

But jacks are more compact. They roll under your bike and lift it up.

However, while they are considerably cheaper, jacks aren’t the safest option.

The reason is, without a lift table, the lifting surface is much smaller for large motorcycles. A small shift in balance can send a $23,000 machine crashing to the ground.

And for modest people like me, that’s going to hurt.

It’s even riskier if you’re lifting the bike without a jack.

How to Use a Motorcycle Lift Table

The first thing is, you need to use a lift that has a higher capacity than the wet weight of your motorcycle.

For example, take the Harley Davidson XL 883 Sportster. Its wet weight will be around 565 lbs. Considering a reasonable safety margin, the weight capacity of a lift table for this Harley should be around 900 lbs or more.

Once you have chosen the right lift, here are the steps you need to take to use the lift table. Safely.

  • Place the lift on a flat garage floor and unfold the ramp. Most lifts come with castor wheels that make them easy to move. Lift the bike on the ramp.

    (A quick note here. I have seen many users bumping their bike frames on the edge between the steep ramp and the table floor. That can damage the bike and also the ramp. Take care of this point while rolling the bike up.)
  • Once the bike is rolled up, make sure it touches the front stopping plate on the lift. Some tables come without it. If not, I’d suggest that you install a stopping plate.
  • Now, you can lock the front wheels by using the front clamp on the table. The front clamps are a great way to keep the bike stable. Here’s another pro tip: put your front tire as close as possible to the fixed side of the clamp. That will make the clamping process much safer.
  • Now that the bike is fixed, remove the ramp to prevent any chance of the bike sliding down. (Or you tripping on it.)
  • Next, it’s time to strap down the bike to make it fully stable. I suggest using two straps on both handlebars and tightening them up evenly. Most lifts come with tie-down points for attaching straps.
  • Once the bike is secured safely, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for raising or lowering the lift. Do it slowly to prevent any chance of an accident.
  • The next important step is to lock the platform at the height that you have fixed. All manufacturers provide a mechanical locking device that releases the load on the hydraulic cylinder. Unless you engage the lock, the lift will come down if the hydraulic seals inside the cylinder fail.
  • Once that is done you can work on the bike, or use a table jack to lift it further. For lighter sports bikes, you can also use a paddock stand. Most lift tables come with a rear trap door that makes it super easy for removing the rear wheel.
  • After the work is complete, it’s time to lower the lift table. Make sure that nothing is under the table frame while you are lowering it.

Now that you know how to use a motorcycle lift, remember one thing. Safety is critical while using a bike lift table.

So always pick a reliable lift table that offers top-notch quality and reliability.

Note, you can also build your own motorcycle lift. But that’s not the best idea if you aren’t an experienced DIYer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who makes the best motorcycle lift table?

Some of the best motorcycle lift tables are made by APlusLift, and Black Widow. If you’re in the market, check out our guide to the best motorcycle lift tables.

How do you attach a motorcycle to a lift table?

The lift table should have clamps to lock the front leg. In addition, you can use soft ratchet straps to further stabilize the bike.

How much is a motorcycle lift table?

A top-grade motorcycle lift table can cost anywhere between $700 to $1800.