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
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
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
And if you don’t have a compressor, well, that’s fodder for
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
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
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.
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! -
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
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
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).
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
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”
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!