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Handy Motorcycle Table Lift

Motorcycle Table Lift

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by Chris B. for webBikeWorld

If you’ve ever considered purchasing a motorcycle table lift for working on your bike then you need to take a look at the units made by Handy Industries.

Handy has been building profession shop equipment for over 40 years.  These are the same lift tables you’ll often find in both the independents and the dealerships. 

Their lifts are very well made of solid steel and are available in electric air powered versions. 

Now I know that Rick prefers the electric screw type, but I’ve worked with air powered lifts and tools for the past 35 years as a professional Auto Tech and have no reservations about air powered equipment.  Besides, if you’re doing your own work, chances are you’ve already got an air compressor, so why pay the additional cost for the electric?

And if you don’t have a compressor, well, that’s fodder for another review.... 

I do all of the service and repairs on my BMW K1200LT with few exceptions.  The motorcycle now has over 88,000 miles and after all this time, I finally decided that I had enough of crawling around on my hands and knees and lying on the floor on an old carpet to perform the required maintenance.

I realize that motorcycle table lifts are not inexpensive, but once you’ve used one you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.  How do you justify the expense?  The same way we justify all the rest of the goodies for our bikes!

Depending on the amount of work/repairs that are performed and the number of miles you rack up, the money saved by doing it yourself would cover the cost of the lift in just a couple of years.  It goes along with the thinking “If I just had the tools, I could have done that myself and saved the money for something new to put on the bike”.  At least that's what you can tell your significant other! 

So much for the justification... In my case, I had sold my other bike and had just enough money left over, after replacing our lawn tractor, to cover the cost.

The Handy motorcycle lift table that I purchased is the SAM 1000 model.  One reason for picking this model was because of the longer 84" length.  Owners of long cruiser or touring bikes will enjoy that extra length and probably find that it's necessary. And don't forget that a shorter motorcycle will fit on a longer table, but not vice versa.

Rear wheel drop out on back of tableHandy also has a 13” extension for the front end should you need even more length.  Another option is a drop-out panel at the rear of the table.  This allows the rear wheel to be more easily removed on motorcycles that don’t have a single-sided swing arm like my BMW  (see photo, left).

I don’t necessarily require the drop-out on my LT, but I bet it would come in handy (no pun intended) for anyone that has a bike with a full rear fender that makes getting the rear wheel out a real pain (Yep, like the '99 Thunderbird Sport, which doesn't even have a center stand! - Editor).

Just position the rear wheel over the drop-out panel, support the bike, remove the panel and you’ll be able to lower the wheel out the bottom. I figured that as long as I was going to spring for a lift, I may as well get one that has all the bells and whistles to make my life that much easier.

The surface of the Handy lift table is 84” long (213 cm) and 24” wide (61 cm).  The surface of the table is only 7” high (18 cm) when fully lowered and 30” (76 cm) at the maximum table surface height. 

There are six other horizontal positions available in between fully lowered and fully raised.  These are set with the table locking mechanism for a total of 8 possible heights.  Once the table is set to the desired height, it is lowered down onto the locks and the air line can then be disconnected for other uses when the motorcycle is being serviced.

The table is raised and lowered with a foot pedal.  It is rocked one way to raise the table and the other to lower the table.  This leaves you with both hands free should you need them.  The required air pressure is only 90-100 psi with 100 being the maximum allowed. 

Handy claims that any compressor that develops the required pressure will be adequate, since it requires very little volume to raise it.  I’ve got a 5 hp compressor with a 60 gal tank, but the lift table should work fine with any small portable compressor that’s capable of producing 90-100 psi.

I did notice that when lowering the table, the air escaping was a bit loud inside the garage.  I’ll have to see if I can put some sort of muffler on the exhaust outlet.  At first the table seemed to raise and lower in a jerky motion, but it turned out to be more me operating the foot control too quickly and it smoothed out with a slower movement of my foot.  The SAM 1000 has NO problems lifting my 870 lb. (395 kg) BMW K1200LT.  The table lift is rated for a total weight of 1000 lbs. (453 kg).

Motorcycle table lift front wheel viseThe table has a clamp that is designed to hold the front wheel steady when the motorcycle is on the table.  But the BMW K1200LT is both heavy and it has a high center of gravity. 

My feeling is that the LT is too wobbly for me to be comfortable when working it with just the front wheel held in the vice.  I usually put the bike on its center stand and clamp the front tire as an extra safety precaution.

The optional CV-17 Cycle Vise wheel vise ($90.00)  has a nice feature for motorcycles with a center stand.  The front stop of the vise comes off after removing a pin, and the motorcycle can be rolled beyond the center of the vice so that when it's pulled back on to the center stand the front tire will be centered in the vise. This is a nice feature!

Two eyebolts are also included with the CV-17 Cycle Vise.  They can be secured to the table top in a couple of locations for tying down the motorcycle if additional stabilization is required.  The front wheel vise is an option, along with a few other neat gadgets which I’ll go over later, but my feeling is that the vice is a must have option!

The goal is to make it easy to work on the motorcycle when it's on the table lift.  That's all well and good, but first you’ve got to get the bike up onto the lift!  I was a bit nervous, to say the least, the first few times that I used the lift to raise my big BMW. 

At first, I'd start up the bike and walk alongside it while it was in gear, slowly releasing the clutch in the friction zone until the bike slowly pull itself on to the table.  I can also push the motorcycle up on to the table by myself, but probably the safest way is to have an assistant. 

One idea I’ve heard about and have been thinking over is to build a pair of platforms for each side of the lift table so I can ride the bike up and have somewhere to put a foot down.  My son brought his “Gixxer” over and we gave that a try which was a snap compared to the LT.

So now that it’s on the lift, what’s it like?  Heaven!!!  It's a real pleasure to be able to stand next to the bike  while servicing it or to set the table at a height where everything can be reached while I'm sitting on a roller seat.  No more crawling around with my head against the floor to change the oil, either. 

I can also secure the bike safely for those big repairs.  I only wish I’d gotten one sooner.  It's my understanding that the lift also works nicely as an additional work bench, a dog grooming table, to lift a riding lawnmower or for many other uses.

There is one factor that has to be considered if you’re going to get a motorcycle table lift: where to store it.  I’ve got a fairly large garage, but with a truck, a car and a motorcycle inside there’s not a lot of floor space left over.

I’ve heard of some owners that just ride their motorcycle up onto the lift and use it as their parking spot.  I wasn’t too keen on that idea, but after some measuring I found that when the table is lowered all the way down, it will fit under the rear axle and bed of my pick-up.  This is a nice place to store it so that it’s out of the way until it’s needed.

Now, about those options: Handy makes some really neat accessories for their lift tables to make them even more versatile.  The table extensions that I mentioned earlier make the tabletop longer by 13” (33 cm) or wider by either 8” (20 cm) or 12” (30.5 cm) on each side. 

This gives a theoretical overall length of 97” (246 cm) and width of 48” (122 cm).  If you’ve got an ATV, a lawn tractor, a snowmobile or other toys that have a wide wheelbase, an extension an extension may be necessary to fit them on the table.

The table lift weighs about 300 lbs. (136 kg), so Handy also sells a dolly jack to use to move it around the garage.  I was considering one but the sales representative Wildasin Enterprises in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where I bought the table, talked me out of it.  He showed me how to move it when there’s nothing on it by raising it up and just lifting up the table at the end without the wheels and rolling it like a wheelbarrow. 

Optional tool tray on table lift sideI used the money I "saved" to then get the option I like the most: a tool tray that clamps onto either side of the table with a slick single lever clamping device and which holds a 39 ˝” X 8 ˝” (100 x 21.5 cm) plastic insert with various sized sections that can hold tools, parts or whatever ($75.00 each). 

I liked this option so much I bought two, one for either side.  This keeps the tools and parts from collecting immediately under the bike.  Sometimes it seems like I end up with almost every tool I own out of the box, but at least now I’m not tripping over them. 

It is possible to leave the trays on when lowering the table to its lowest setting, but I had to play around to find the spot where they don’t foul the scissor mechanism and then I marked that spot for easy reattachment.

Conclusion
If you have the space and you do your own maintenance and repair, you’re going to love having a table lift.  The table lifts made by Handy, though a bit heavy and space hungry, are strong, well built, simple to use and should last a lifetime.  They require only a periodic drop of oil and shot of grease as maintenance. 

Sure, there are some table lifts that are lighter and more compact, but when I work on my bike I want something that’s solid, sturdy and versatile.  And if I can demonstrate that it can be used for other purposes, it’s easier to sell to the Mrs.  If the cost is a stumbling point, you could do like I’ve done in the past and go in with some friends on the cost.  Just be sure to lobby real hard to get it to reside in your garage!

Note:  For informational use only.  All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011.  All rights reserved.  See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page.  NOTE:  Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions.  Always check before purchasing.  Read the Terms and Conditions!

Product Review: Handy SAM 1000 Motorcycle Table Lift
Available From:  Handy Industries Suggested Retail Price:  $789.00 (air); $1,024.00 (electric).  Options extra.
Colors:  Gray/Red Made in:  U.S.A.
Product Comments:  Well made motorcycle table lift that is often used by professionals and in motorcycle dealerships and repair shops.  Many options available.  Can lift up to 1,000 lbs. (453 kg).

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