Picture this: A summer day as a 10-year-old kid speeds down the sidewalk in the suburbs on a 26″ bicycle, ball glove swinging from the handlebars. The target is the rider’s front yard and a soft landing. As the rider jumps off, the bike is still moving. After his dismount it continues on its path for several yards on autopilot, before listing, and finally succumbing, to the forces of gravity as it rattles to a halt and lands on its side, wheels still spinning, laying helplessly with a little bit of the front lawn jammed into the front wheel axle nut.
Maybe you’ve been that kid. But when you started riding motorcycles, chances are you gave up the quick dismount in favor of bringing your motorcycle to a stop, then deploying the kickstand so it’s ready to use the next time you need it. Imagine for a minute what the world would look like if we all jumped off our motorcycles and left them laying in the front yard with our ball gloves swinging from the handlebars. Jeepers, Mr. Wilson; that’s no way to treat an American legend!
Kickstands are wonderful things. I do miss bikes with center stands, but since they have fallen out of favor we are left with side stands, or “jiffy stands” for The Motor Company faithful. Side stands are so great that once in a while people try to ride off without putting them up. I’ll confess I’ve done that once or twice myself. I’ve also stood and watched as I realized someone else had done it, knowing that it’s almost impossible to warn them they are about to become a pole vaulter if they don’t notice it.
Since the advent of the kickstand safety switch, incidents of riding off with the kickstand down have tapered off, I suspect, but what cure have we developed for the inverse and much more embarrassing parking without putting the kickstand down?
I didn’t even realize this was a problem, never having done it or even seen it myself, but during a recent bull session at Rich Shira’s garage the subject came up. Imagine getting off your bike and watching as it tips away from you and helplessly settles on its side, just like that bike at the beginning of this column, except a lot heavier and not on purpose. According to Shira, this has happened to more than one rider he’s met. Now we need a beeper warning us to put the stand down, he said in jest.
As if that’s not bad enough, there can be a “when motorcycles attack” component to the kickstand process too. It seems riders can also get their pant leg caught on that little loop on some jiffy stands—the helmet lock loop—while in the process of putting the kickstand up. This often leads to an unpleasant and embarrassing end result. The best-case scenario is the rider is left on one leg with an 800-pound motorcycle unexpectedly leaning against him, awkwardly conflicted between hoping he can save it before anyone notices and hoping someone will notice and help him out. Worst case is the motorcycle eventually wins the struggle, leaving the rider horizontal beneath the machine and getting three points for a takedown, possibly even winning the match by a pin. While there are several classes and methods for picking up your fallen iron pony, there are exactly zero tools teaching the art of humbly asking someone to help pick your bike up off of you in the parking lot! I can envision the method. Step 1: Raise a flag so people can see where the cries for help are coming from. They aren’t expecting you to be on the ground because it’s supposed to be a safe time. You haven’t even left yet.
Laying on top of its rider is probably the least desirable position for a motorcycle, at least from the rider’s perspective, and I hope that I never find myself being one with my machine to that degree.
A key component to this kickstand takedown seems to be the jeans many of us wear. You know the type; too long so they cover your ankles when riding, with a frayed hemline from being, well, too long. The helmet lock loop goes into the cuff or frayed hemline, and from there it’s a matter of hoping for a semi-soft landing.
For many runs or rides in our area the term “kickstands up” is used to describe the actual departure time as in, “Kickstands up, 9:00 a.m.” I know that from now on I’ll be paying closer attention to see what goes down when the kickstands go up.