Side Stands

What could possibly be said about side-stands? In my opinion motorcycles should have a ‘walk around’ performed before every ride. During these quick checks you will see the obvious: low tyre pressure, damaged tyres, dripping oil, open luggage, and the like. (You might also get in the habit of checking your oil level.)

Bike-on-stand

Don’t! Just don’t!

Depending on how frequently you ride, I suggest that a ‘touch everything’ (literally) check should also be done regularly where such things as loose windscreens, loose spark plug wires, loose mirrors, etc. are discovered before they become problems. But one part of our machines tends to get overlooked by most during our casual checks and that is the side-stand.

First, let’s look at what can go wrong with them.

The most obvious is a weak or broken lock spring. With either you can end up dragging the stand as you ride, or it will fail to ‘lock’ the stand into place when you lower it leaving your bike on its left side when you dismount.

Bike Up, Side Stand Up

Bike Up, Side Stand Up

Newer bikes have an interlock switch that kills the ignition if you put the bike into gear while the stand is down. That switch can fail. If you rely on it and don’t bother to check that the stand is up before you drive away, that first left turn can easily send you bouncing over to the right and result in total loss of control.

Older bikes have a rubber ‘finger’ extension at the tip of the stand that will wear over me. The purpose of that little ‘finger’ is to grab the road surface before the metal part of the stand itself does and ATTEMPT to pull the stand out of its locked position before it hits. There is a wear marker on these rubber extensions and when yours gets worn to that point it should be replaced because it no longer reaches the ground before the metal part of the side-stand.If, when parked on a level surface, your bike is not leaning heavily on the side-stand you should adjust the side-stand, if possible, so that it does. If it is not possible for you to adjust the side-stand sufficiently, any welder can easily do so in a matter of minutes.

Assuming that your side-stand is fully functional, there are things you should not do in order to keep them from turning dangerous.

You should never take a bike down from its centre stand while the side-stand is down. To do so risks potenal damage to the frame and engine mounts (from shock) and can easily result in tossing your bike over onto its right side.

Situations that increase the risk include your shocks being low, heavy luggage, a road slope to the right, or coming down slightly off centre.

You should never simply kick the stand down at your destination and climb off your bike without visually checking that it is extended all the way and ‘locked’ into place.

You should never have your shocks so low or luggage so heavy, or stop on an uneven surface that you have to lean the bike to the right in order to get the side-stand all the way down. If you have to do so, the bike will not be leaning heavily on that side-stand when you leave it and you cannot, as a result, trust that your bike will remain standing when you return to it.

You should never allow a passenger to mount or dismount your bike while the side-stand is down (or you are off the bike, or you do not have both feet on the ground, or you are not in neutral).

Compressing/decompressing shocks can result in the side-stand pushing the bike over onto its right side.

Small enough to fit in your pocket

Small enough to fit in your pocket

You should never rely on the side-stand to support your bike by itself unless you are parked on a solid surface. While sand and grassy areas are obviously not ‘solid’, neither is tar when the temperature exceeds 40 degrees in the sun. Placing a plastic or metal ‘foot’ under that side-stand is usually all that is required to keep your stand from punching a hole under it and sending your bike onto its left side.

You should never leave your bike unattended in neutral gear with the side-stand down if you are parked facing down (OR up) a hill. Putting the bike in gear will ‘lock’ the rear wheel and your bike will still be standing when you return to it. Being ‘in-gear’ is the closest thing on your bike to having a parking brake!

Use your side-stand wisely or go to the gym, you are going to need the strength to pick your bike up sooner than you think; to say the least.

Hein Jonker

Founder of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa
Editor in Chief of Bike Talk South Africa
Chief Instructor of Bike Talk Motorcycle Rider Academy
Motorcycle Safety & Skills Expert for Arrive Alive South Africa

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