Motorcycle Lifts: The Basics
Motorcycles are notorious for requiring more maintenance than their four wheeled counterparts. The novice motorcycle rider will bring in the bike to be serviced for the simplest of jobs: oil changes and basic cosmetic cleaning. However, the expenses saved by owning a motorcycle, i.e. lower insurance, less gas, and less total cost, are nullified by the high maintenance costs. Yet there is hope for the novice rider in the form of the motorcycle lift.
The lift, which is similar to a carjack is designed to elevate the bike, making it easier to work on. The motorcycle lift is a type of lift table that is designed to raise and lower items with a scissors mechanism. Given that most lifts can elevate the bike several feet off of the ground, you no longer have to crawl underneath it or hunch over in uncomfortable poses. Motorcycle lifts are built for ease and comfort, facilitating work on hard to reach areas. This is why they are so common in bike mechanic shops where mechanics are constantly adjusting motorcycles.
Before we delve any further into the components of a motorcycle lift, let's discuss first the properties of what you will be lifting; a motorcycle. Most models are under one thousand pounds, and can be lifted off the ground with minimal help if you open to knock it over accidentally lay it down. This means that a motorcycle lift doesn't need to be as powerful as a car jack. Considering the off-balance nature of stationary two-wheel vehicles, the lift will include measures to secure the bike; a front wheel lock, for example, or straps.
What You Need Out of Your Lift
The most basic of models will simply raise and lower your bike securely. However, depending on your lifestyle and your expertise with motorcycles, you may want to consider additional features. Most lifts are made of steel, though other metals such as aluminum are becoming popular. Whatever the material, the lift must be durable. Most models are capable of lifting upwards of one thousand pounds. This will cover a majority of motorcycles, however, if you own a large cruiser, make sure the lift can handle its immense weight.
The design of a lift can vary from a basic jack to a fully loaded lift bay. Again, depending on your bike, a small lift may suffice. I recommend a large lift with side and front extensions if your bike is larger, or you do all the maintenance yourself and can afford the extra room. The larger lift models are also capable of handling other recreational vehicles, such as a boat or ATV.
You may be asking yourself, how does the lift work? Do I need to do any of the heavy lifting (if you will pardon the pun?) The lift elevates the bike with a simple lever that is most often hydraulic and it will require almost no muscle on the operator's part. In fact, many lifts are operated by a foot pedal. Also, an approach ramp can be added to wheel the bike up the lift with ease; simply place the bike in neutral and walk it up until it is secure.
Once the bike is in the lift, there is the possibility of scratching or denting the bike if it's not lifted properly. Some lifts feature additional items to protect the bike such as rubber saddles, which will ensure that the frame of the bike is not dinged or scratched.
Another use of the lift is to raise the wheels from the ground, preventing tire rot, which can be a potential safety hazard, or flat spots when stored for long periods of time.
Do You Really Need a Lift?
I can praise the glories of the motorcycle lift from now until kingdom come, but I also want to deter you from frivolous spending. You would not be the ideal candidate if you are intimidated by bike work and you never intend to learn. Most likely, the motorcycle lift will accumulate dust in your garage and your mechanic bills will continue increase. Though it behooves all riders to learn how to troubleshoot and repair basic motorcycle issues as well as keep them maintained in tip top shape.
Another factor is the space needed for the lift and to work on your bike. If you don't have a workspace or garage, maintenance at home may prove to be a challenge, in which case there is no reason to purchase a lift. Those who are new to working on motorcycles, but have decided to maintain there bike themselves, should still consider bringing into a professional shop at least once a year for a tune up. This gives an experienced mechanic a chance to spot any issues that need to be addressed which you may not have noticed yourself. Sometimes a serious maintenance issue can arise from a small matter left unattended for a long period of time, resulting in more costs at a later date.