Owning a motorcycle also means owning a motorcycle stand.

Most car owners have a jack to lift their car (in fact new cars often include a jack) even if they have little plans to work on the car themselves. Therefore, think of the motorcycle stand as a jack which offers an easy and rather simple means of lifting a motorcycle off the ground even though you don't need to get "under the hood" of your ride.

Rear Motorcycle Stand using axle spools

And like a car jack that lifts one side of the car, the most popular stand for motorcycles lifts just the rear. You can also use a front stand but never without the rear stand. Either way, you have a pretty solid selection of rear stands that use different lifting techniques but most stands require the correct axle or swingarm spools for the make and model of your motorcycle which act as the mount point. Once you have installed the spools (which you leave in permanently), position the rear tire as instructed by the stand manufacturer.

Mechanic's Tip: You have to buy the swingarm spools separately so when choosing a rear motorcycle stand grab a set of swingarm spools specific to the make, manufacturer and year of your motorcycle or you will not be able to use the stand.

Rear Motorcycle Stand lifting from underneath the swingarm

Several variations on the motorcycle stand exist but all pretty much function by using a handle that lowers once the swingarm spools are in place on the stand. Other rear stands don't require the use of spools and support the bike using pads that fit under the swingarm (no scratches!) or you install hooks on the swingarm and this stand uses its own spools to lift the bike.

Rear Motorcycle Stand with forward lift

While most rear stands feature a rear handle lift system, some stands use a "forward" handle version. Riders without a second set of hands for assistance find this version easier to use as you can stand right next to the motorcycle and hold the handlebars as you lift. Lastly, single sided swingarm stands use a pin specific to the make, model and year of your ride.

Front Motorcycle Stands

Front Motorcycle Stand lifting from the triple clamps

Secure the rear of the motorcycle first prior to applying a front stand. A front stand, if used, works similar to the rear stand but lifts from underneath the forks (see photo below) without the spools or a front "head lift" stand (see photo above) uses a pin specific to your motorcycles MMY that fit under the triple clamps and lift from there.

Front Motorcycle Stand lifting from the forks

This leads us to the big question: Why do you ever need to lift a motorcycle?

Why Use a Motorcycle Stand?

In order to safely work on a motorcycle you want it "grounded" and the only way to do that is by lifting it off the ground using a rear motorcycle stand.

But motorcycles have a kickstand which keeps it from falling over so why bother lifting the bike?

You don't want to work on a motorcycle that can topple over on you. Though kickstands prevent a motorcycle from tipping over the amount of weight leaning on the kickstand combined with you tugging, pulling, loosening and tightening usually ends up in disaster.

Think of it this way - do you want a 500-plus pound machine falling on top of you? Kickstands generally give way pretty easily when kicked to the side. So, even a slight forward movement of the motorcycle resting on a kickstand can cause enough force to slip the kickstand into the upright position resulting in the motorcycle falling over.

Therefore, when performing general maintenance like oil and filter changes or frequent upkeep like cleaning and lubricating the chain you want to use a motorcycle stand which secures the bike and prevents it from falling over while you work "under the hood." Additionally, you cannot remove the wheels, if needed, without a stand so depending on how involved you get on the maintenance side of your motorcycle a stand allows for safe and easy access to work on the wheels, tires and brakes.

A common rider should always consider a rear motorcycle stand as mandatory equipment but a front stand lets you work on the front wheel, front brakes and forks. But most owners leave this to a mechanic, therefore don't bother with a front stand.

Lastly, if you ride seasonally and take winters off, lifting your motorcycle off the ground using both front and rear stands helps preserve the tires and prevents flat spots.

A Word about Center Motorcycle Stands

Center Motorcycle Stand

Center stands come in last for use but growing in popularity. The center stand lifts the entire motorcycle off the ground eliminating the need for a rear and front stand. These stands also attach permanently to the motorcycle allowing you to lift your ride whenever parked.

Like the rear stand, a center motorcycle stand allows for safe, unencumbered access to your motorcycle while performing maintenance and cleaning.