Common Tread

How to turn your bike on the sidestand

Apr 09, 2018

Motorcycles are nimble little boogers. When they’re moving, that is.

Have you ever tried to turn a motorcycle around, especially in a confined area? Just thinking about it causes me to conjure images of Mike Myers pulling a U-turn in a golf cart as Austin Powers. Fortunately, there is another way: the sidestand turn. It’s helpful in cramped garages, when a goober parked you in, or just to save a little time. New Guy Andy and I took a moment to demonstrate exactly how to do this. Like many things in life, there are lots of ways to skin a cat. This is mine.

Before we start

Changing a motorcycle’s direction can be hazardous to both motorcycle and motorcyclist — just like riding a motorcycle. And in that same vein, some motorcycles are more easily spun than others. This is easy to do if you are strong. It’s much harder if you are not. Sidestand construction matters, too. Robust steel sidestands? A-OK. Long, spindly cast aluminum stands? (coughKTMcough) Not so much. Stands that lock positively in place trump the ones that fold up real easily. Bikes with rear grab handles are way easier to perform this maneuver with than bikes with a little strap across the pillion pad. Bikes with stands that are not near the center of the weight distribution point (looking at you, cruisers) make this move difficult or impossible.

Your location matters, too. This can be done in, say, a showroom or shop with smooth floor, but A) you are likely to damage it and B) it’s gonna be ultra-slippery. Proceed with caution. Similarly, this move doesn’t always work well in soft off-road scenarios. Note that because of the extreme pressure placed on the sidestand foot, it’s highly likely you will damage relatively soft macadam. If you want to do this in your driveway, recognize you very well may dent the asphalt or possibly punch through it.

Long story short: This works with some riders and some bikes in some places. Don’t hurt yourself, your bike, or your floor.

Set up

You can perform this act with the trans in gear or out. If you’re somewhere kind of slippery (polished concrete, very smooth asphalt, or other slick surfaces), you may want to leave it in gear to prevent the rear wheel from sliding on slippery or loose ground.

Foot position.
Position your feet. RevZilla photo.

I think it’s usually easiest to perform this little trick swinging the bike to my right, so I’m gonna give my directions in that vein. Step up to the bike, and put your left foot behind the sidestand to help stabilize the stand and keep it from folding up. I also like to use this as my “pivot foot.” Doing it this way means your body pivots more or less where the bike will pivot as well. Spread your right foot out to where it feels comfy. Think “athletic stance, ready to throw a spiral.” Your feet will likely be a touch wider than your shoulders.

Cock the bars
Cock the bars. RevZilla photo.

Use that handhold on the back. Attack it with your right hand.

Grab rail
Hang on to the grab handle, too. RevZilla photo.

You’ll want to be very close to the bike. My right hip is usually up against the saddle or bodywork. Next, turn the handlebar all the way to the right, up against the steering stop. Grab the right grip with your left hand. Use that handhold on the back and, attacking it with your right hand. You’ll want to be very close to the bike Now you’re ready for the moment of truth.

Upsy-daisy

I generally pull backwards, and the weight distribution of most bikes causes the front tire to come up first most naturally. I like this, because the front wheel can pivot directionally; the rear wheel can not. As the second wheel is the part that becomes precarious, you want the less-laterally-mobile wheel in the air last.

Don’t baby this. Get it up in the air quickly, even if you are nervous. Repeatedly bouncing the bike’s tires up and down off the pavement by loading and unloading the sidestand is a recipe for a broken sidestand, dropped bike, or injured rider. As you flip it back, you will find you probably naturally fall into an even more athletic position — now think “linebacker making the tackle.” Your ass should drop a little bit, and your knees will bend a bit. This can help when you are maneuvering the bike because it does take some balancing. Your butt, now sticking out farther away from your body, will help you counterweight the heft of the motorcycle. You might be asking how you can stick your butt out and still keep your hip on the bike. As the bike falls to you, it also should drop a bit, leaving the top of your thigh able to support most of the weight of the bike.

Your arms are not doing any lifting here. Your thigh is sharing the weight of the bike with the sidestand. Your arms are just helping balance the bike and giving you a way to push and pull your body against the bike to use your weight to keep things balanced. 

Spin
Spin it around and set it down. RevZilla photo.

Dead or Alive

Spin it right round. If the bike is light and you are strong, you may be able to pivot on your left foot and wheel the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle around with right foot hops. The stand will likely push against your outstep, so repositioning or breaking the 180 degrees into two 90-degree turns might get the job done.

Set it down

Reverse the pickup. Let the rear wheel drop and plant, then let the front point of the triangle drop. Reposition the handlebars, make sure all is well, and then carry on with your life. If there are bystanders, feel free to take a little bow. Many people — even other riders — haven’t seen this little trick, and even ones who have are likely to be impressed when they see it executed well.