By September 23, 2009

Random motorcycling tip #01: the dismount

As you ride, you learn from your mistakes — and thanks to the Internet, the failings of others. Here’s an installment of random motorcycling tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Learning to park a motorcycle isn’t as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong … like say, GRAVITY. Most “0 MPH crashes” I’ve read about, saw, or :cough: experienced can be prevented if you follow a few basics. Today I’m going to discuss dismounting a motorcycle and using the side stand.

You should have a routine for getting onto the bike. You should also have one for getting off of the bike. Mine is:

Let’s break down why each bit of the dismount is important:

  1. Turn off bike via starter button. Shutting the bike off before I futz with the gear or extend the side stand keeps me from stalling the bike. I’ve never had an incident with stalling the bike at a stop, but it is possible to jump a motorcycle into an unbalanced angle and drop it.
  2. Put the bike in first. My only drop — and my only incident on a motorcycle in almost four years of riding — has been due to the bike rolling off of the side stand in neutral.
  3. Allow the bike to slide forwards or backwards until the transmission is locked. This further aids against the bike rolling off of the side stand.
  4. Put down side stand. Believe it or not, folks get tired and forget to put down the side stand. Prime locations for a no-side-stand oops are the gas pump and your own home after a long day of riding.
  5. Turn handlebars FULLY to the left. This will help you remember to put down your side stand. The weight of the bike as you turn the front handlebars will transfer onto the side stand. Don’t be nervous if the side stand foot moves and creaks.
  6. Turn the ignition key fully, which locks the steering. This will help you remember to turn your handlebars to the left, which reminds you to put down the side stand. 😉 Locking the steering doesn’t do much in the way of preventing vandalism or theft, but it makes me feel better. I’ve read that insurance companies may give you a hard time if you don’t lock the steering and your bike is stolen, but I haven’t confirmed that.
  7. Grab the front brake. I learned this in my Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. With the bike in gear and the transmission set, I am not sure what engaging the front brake will get me. But I do it anyway, because it’s part of the routine. Make your routine, and stick to it.
  8. Dismount to the left side. I’ve seen some people dismount off of the right side, and this makes no sense to me. The bike is already leaned over to the left. The seat is lower because the motorcycle is sloping away from you. The angle makes it easier to get off from the left hand side; why make extra work for yourself by going to the right? Furthermore, you could hit the bike with your leg on the way off the right side and knock the bike over.
  9. Take the key out. One morning I spent a lot of time searching for the key to my FZ6. Turns out I left it in the ignition overnight. Good neighbors. 🙂

I’ve seen or read about some pretty sad drops. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I watched a sportbike rider park his motorcycle on a very steep asphalt hill — perpendicular to the hill. I watched in horror (as did he) as the bike rolled off of the side stand. The bike fell onto its left side and slid down the asphalt. His friends just laughed. I can still hear the plastic fairing scratching against the rough surface.
  • Hungry hot tar can “eat” the side stand. When it is particularly hot (about 90°F here in Virginia), the surface of a parking lot or road can become soft enough that the side stand sinks. It is possible that the side stand can sink low enough to cause a tip over. My FJR1300A has sunk about 1/4″ into the work lot without a tip-over, but it still makes me nervous.
  • Avoid engaging your side stand on loose gravel or sand. The surface may not be packed enough to support the side stand. There are plenty of photos at where people parked their motorcycles at a nice location, only to have the bike fall over before they could take a scenic snapshot.
  • Turning the wheel to the right and then leaning the bike to the left on a slope = broken left turn signal, clutch lever, and scratched fairing.
Posted in: motorcycling

5 Comments on "Random motorcycling tip #01: the dismount"

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  1. Ric says:

    WRT 7, even with the bike in gear, there’s slop in the transmission so it can move a little, and that translates to the front wheel moving further (because the front wheel is at an angle to the long axis of the bike). Holding the front brake on stops that movement.

    You can buy small plastic plates expressly for the purpose of putting under side stand feet on soft surfaces. e.g.

    They’re often given away with bike mags in the UK.

    Do you follow the entire routine for fuel stops even?

  2. drfaulken says:

    Hi there! I don’t follow the same thing at fuel stops, because I don’t get off the bike. I stand up and support the FJR with my legs.

    I do follow the routine every time I get off of the bike, though.

    I’ll have to double-check the play in the transmission when I get to work this morning. I have never noticed that the bike moves after I put it in gear and allow it to slide forward or backwards.

  3. Tomax says:

    @WRT Those side stand plates work great until you leave it in the gravel parking lot of a lake about 300 miles away from home :P.

  4. Ric says:

    I always dismount for fuel stops. Between a foot sliding on a patch of spilt fuel, and the hose slipping out of the tank or failing to cut off and dousing me, I don’t like the failure modes.

    The bike won’t move much, but it will feel much less secure without the front brake applied.

  5. Cap'n says:

    First, kudos for pushing the formation of good habits. When you’re tired (ride enough and you will be) they are the ONLY thing that will save you.

    Second, while I have supported the bike at fuel stops before, I decided somewhere along the line that it was extra unecessary risk. So I’ve started putting her on the sidestand, but I still pump and pay while on the bike, or with the left foot on the ground. Also, after having watched Ewan McGregor get gas in his eyes not once but twice on The Long Way Round, I’ve started flipping my visor 95% shut as I pump the gas, leaving it a crack open so I don’t get too hot or foggy, but shut enough to take a splash instead of my eyeballs.

    And third, I have only had one drop on this bike, and it was also at 0 mph. I was loaded for camping, and tired, and I pulled into a park to check for sites. I stopped, threw down the kickstand, shut the engine off, and pushed it over to the left with what *I thought* was enough force to send it over onto the kickstand as usual. But it wasn’t enough, and the bike began to gently, slowly, tip to the right instead, which I was not expecting. Before I realized what was going on, it was past the point where I could win the fight, and down she went, gear and all. I say all this to reinforce the mantra that it’s when you’re tired that sloppy habits will come back to bite you. I’ve been 1000x more routine-ized and careful since.