At times, dual-sport riders encounter situations where laying a bike on its side becomes a necessity. Whether for maintenance, transportation, or specific riding situations, knowing when and why you might need to prop your two-wheeler this way will help you make informed decisions and ensure your bike’s longevity.
Can you lay a dirt bike on its side? It is possible to lay a dirt bike on its side; however, you should drain fluids beforehand to avoid leakage.
This article will cover everything about laying a dirt bike on its side. It will address transportation, essential safety precautions, and damage-prevention techniques. We’ll also provide insights into the reasons behind this practice and its impact on bike components (among other things).
So stay with me — by the end of this guide, you’ll have gained a clear understanding of when and how to lay your dirt bike on its side.
Why Riders Do It
Laying a dirt bike on its side serves various purposes, encompassing repair and addressing specific riding challenges. It also enables riders to access different components for maintenance, inspection, and customization. Among the primary reasons owners would have for tilting their dirt bikes this way is when transporting the two-wheeler. With that in mind, let’s delve deeper into these purposes:
Laying a dirt bike on its side is essential for routine maintenance tasks. This position allows for easy access to various components, making tasks such as oil changes, chain adjustments, and the installation of aftermarket parts more manageable. It’s a practical way to ensure the bike remains in optimal condition.
Properly aligning the axle, chain, or brake disk (view on Amazon) becomes significantly more manageable when you don’t need to lift the entire weight of the wheel while maneuvering these parts. This eliminates the need for the somewhat cumbersome procedure of hoisting the bike on a stand — particularly those with rounded skid plates — and securing it with ropes to prevent tipping.
When transporting a dirt bike, especially for long distances or off-road adventures, laying it on its side within a truck bed, trailer, or the cargo area of a van or SUV can maximize space and secure the bike during transit. This technique helps ensure the motorcycle remains stable and secure during transportation.
Some Considerations when Transporting the Bike on Its Side:
Ensure the bike is securely fastened to prevent shifting and damage during transit.
Protect the Plastics
Use padding, suspension blocks, or straps to protect the plastics from potential stress and damage.
Be Cautious of Leakage
Be cautious of fluid leakage and contamination while in transit, and consider draining fluids beforehand.
Turn off the Fuel Tap
In some cases, fuel can seep into the airbox and the crankcase vent, leading to fuel entering the engine.
Use a Stick to Prevent Leakage
If your bike has an aftermarket fuel tank with an older-style vent tube, insert a smooth stick into the end of the rubber hose to prevent leakage during transport. Remember to remove the stick when you return the bike to an upright position.
Check the Venting Systems
When transporting an Enduro-type dirt bike like a KTM 690, Inspect the crankcase breather and fuel tank venting systems, as both can potentially permit gas and oil to escape while the bike is tilted. Also, you’d want to tip your dirt bike in the opposite direction of where the crankcase breather is.
Remove the mirrors for taller bikes so as not to damage them. You may also need to take off the rear brake or shifter of your two-wheeler, depending on the side you intend to lean it towards.
Use a Trailer Hitch
Tip from Narkive: If you plan to use an SUV for hauling, it’s advisable to equip it with a trailer hitch receiver featuring a 2-inch female insert and a Harbor Freight 3-ball hitch. The latter includes 1 7/8″, 2″, and 2 5/16″ ball options for compatibility with various trailers.
While out on the trail, unexpected issues like a flat tire, loose bolts, or chain derailment can occur. While not always mandatory, laying the bike on its side can facilitate quick and effective trailside repairs. The action can provide better access to affected components, making it easier to address minor issues and get back on the trail.
Customization and Restoration Projects
When undertaking extensive restoration or rebuild projects on a dirt bike, laying it on its side is often necessary. This position simplifies disassembling, repairing, and reassembling various bike parts, ensuring the restoration is thorough and meticulous.
The same goes for customizing bikes with unique parts or modifications. Laying the bike on its side aids in this process, allowing easy access to different components to install custom parts or modifications. It ensures that the customization is precise and meets rider preferences.
For tuning suspension settings to match the terrain, having the motorcycle upright is ideal. However, suppose you’re installing aftermarket rear suspension linkage (view on Amazon) or making significant adjustments to the rear shock. In that case, it’s more convenient to have the bike’s rear wheel elevated, which could involve putting it on its side.
When maintenance or tire changes are required, laying the bike on its side can simplify the removal of wheels. In certain situations, this provides a stable and accessible position for wheel removal, enhancing safety and efficiency. However, the norm for wheel removal is that the dirt bike should be in an upright position.
Aftermarket Parts Installation
Laying a dirt bike on its side is generally unwarranted when installing aftermarket parts. Most aftermarket parts can be installed with the bike upright. However, there may be exceptions depending on the specific part and the installation process. Here are a few of them:
- If the aftermarket part involves significant frame modifications or welding, a dirt bike may need to be securely propped up or placed on its side to access certain areas.
- Sometimes, installing a full aftermarket exhaust system can require the bike to be laid on its side for better access to the exhaust mounting points or for easier removal of the stock exhaust.
- When installing internal engine components or making extensive modifications to the engine, you may need to disassemble the engine and lay it on its side for better access to certain parts.
- When fitting custom or highly specialized frame parts on your two-wheeler, it might be necessary to have it on its side to access and modify specific frame areas.
In exceptional emergencies, such as freeing a trapped rider or bike, laying the dirt bike on its side can be a practical approach. It may be necessary to create leverage or free the bike from a challenging situation safely. This technique can assist in resolving emergency scenarios effectively.
Now that we’ve gone over when a dirt bike can be laid on its side, it’s time to delve into the nitty-gritty of the topic. Since propping a dirt bike (or any two-wheeler) on its side isn’t customary, it’s best to be aware of the safety precautions.
Switch Off the Engine
Before laying the bike on its side, turn off the engine and remove the key. This prevents any accidental throttle engagement, which could lead to sudden movements and injuries.
Wear Proper Protective Gear
If performing trailside repairs, wearing gloves and protective clothing should be a given since it’s how motorheads normally head out. Otherwise, you should be clad in these when working on or moving the bike. Protective gear helps safeguard you from potential injuries in case of accidents or mishaps while the bike is on its side.
Secure and Inspect the Area
Wherever you have to lay your dirt bike on its side, ensure that the work area is clear of obstacles. Choose a flat surface or a stable one (if the former isn’t possible). Taking this extra precaution minimizes the risk of the bike falling over, rolling, or getting scratched during maintenance, reducing the chances of damage and accidents.
Manage Fuel and Oil Properly
Ensuring that the gas tank isn’t full when you lay the bike on its side is one of the most important things you have to consider when propping the bike on its side. Why? Because doing so reduces the risk of fuel spillage. Moreover, be mindful of the oil level and placement so it doesn’t spill onto hot engine parts. Lay the dirt bike on the side opposite the location of the oil reservoir.
In many cases, the oil reservoir is situated on the right side of the dirt bike — although this isn’t a universal standard. The placement of the reservoir can vary due to factors such as the bike’s design, engine configuration, and manufacturer preferences. Hence, it’s essential to consult your service manual to know the exact location of the oil reservoir.
Disable the Battery and Other Electricals
Disconnect the battery if necessary to prevent electrical issues or sparks during maintenance tasks. Especially for non-maintenance-free formats, disconnect the battery and secure it to prevent acid leakage. Faulty electrical connections can lead to accidents, so proper precautions are crucial.
Support the Bike
If the bike needs to be propped on its side, use appropriate support tools or a dedicated stand to ensure stability. Avoid makeshift supports to prevent the bike from falling during maintenance.
If working indoors, a common support method is using a sturdy and clean surface, like a designated workbench. Placing soft padding, like a towel or foam, on the surface can also help protect the bike’s frame and components. By gently lowering the bike onto its side with care, you can maintain balance and prevent unnecessary stress on the handlebars, levers, or other parts that might come into contact with the supporting surface.
Not all two-wheelers are created equal. So, for heavier bikes, it’s safer to have you and a buddy handle the tilting process. This minimizes injury risk due to the bike’s weight or losing control while laying it on its side.
How Long Can a Dirt Bike Lay on Its Side?
Timing is another crucial safety precaution when laying a dirt bike on its side. However, I opted to discuss it separately since it’s one of the most debated factors when deciding whether or not laying a dirt bike on its side can and should be done.
The duration a dirt bike can lay on its side depends on various factors, such as the two-wheeler’s make and model, environmental conditions, and specific situations. To give you an idea, here are some rough estimates:
|Maintenance||Extended period (a few minutes to a few hours)|
|Transportation||Duration of the journey (several hours or more)|
|Trailside Repairs||As needed to fix the issue (15 minutes to several hours)|
|Restoration Projects||Days or weeks, as necessary to complete the project|
|Customization||Several minutes to a few hours, depending on complexity of mods|
|Adjusting Suspension||Relatively short duration (15 minutes to a few hours)|
|Wheel Removal||Relatively short duration (a few minutes to an hour)|
|Aftermarket Parts Installation||A few hours to a full day (depending on the complexity of the installation, rider’s experience, and type of parts involved)|
|Emergency Situations||Varies widely based on the specific circumstances|
When transporting a dirt bike, it should be bone-dry. A dirt bike loaded with a full gas tank or reservoir isn’t just heavier but can also leak during transport, creating slippery, unsafe conditions. Fluids may slosh around, leading to potential damage.
There’s also weight distribution to consider. Reducing the dirt bike’s weight by emptying fuel and fluids makes it easier to handle and secure during transport.
There isn’t a 10-step cookie-cutter process to laying a dirt bike on its side correctly. After all, the possibility of having it in this orientation ultimately hinges on its design, weight, and duration you intend to have it tilted. Plus, not all dirt bikes are like the Honda Z50-J, which is designed to be transportable while laid on its side, as evidenced by its fuel cap equipped with a sealing switch.
Here are a couple of tips:
- #1: Consider Fluids Draining Order. When propping the bike on its side, ensure fluids are drained in a specific order to prevent hydraulic lock and contamination. This applies to transporting the dirt bike, servicing it, and doing maintenance work.
- #2: Tilt at an Angle: Veteran owners and mechanics advise titling the dirt bike on its side at an angle (keeping it from laying flat at 90°). For instance, they recommend leaning the dirt bike so that the handlebar rests on the bike stand (say, for clutch work).
Pros and Cons
Lastly, we have the highlights and drawbacks of laying a dirt bike on its side. These lists aren’t exhaustive but should give you a good idea of what’s at stake when propping your motorcycle in this manner, as well as what bike components and systems may be detrimentally affected:
- Laying the bike on its side can make it easier to access various components for maintenance, inspections, and repairs.
- Transporting the bike is often more manageable on its side, making loading onto a truck, trailer, or vehicle smoother.
- This orientation can facilitate on-the-spot repairs when faced with minor issues like a flat tire, loose bolts, or a chain derailment during a ride.
- For comprehensive bike restoration or rebuilds, having the bike on its side can help access and work on multiple components.
- Installing custom parts or making modifications becomes easier.
- Taking off wheels for maintenance or tire changes can be more straightforward.
- Removing the sump plug and using an extractor (a.k.a. pig’s cock) to dislodge it could be pretty challenging without tilting the dirt bike on its side.
- In emergencies where a rider or the bike is trapped, laying the bike down can free them without causing harm.
- It’s virtually impossible to remove all fluids from your dirt bike, so there’s still a good chance that fuel or coolant may seep into the crankcase and contaminate it.
- There’s a risk of fluid leaks, particularly from the fuel tank breather, carb float bowl, and crankcase breather, which may result in fuel and oil escaping.
- For bikes with conventional lead-acid wet cell batteries, laying the bike on its side can cause acid leakage through the vent, potentially leading to damage.
- Oil can accumulate on one side of the engine, potentially leading to air entering the oil pump instead of oil.
- The bike’s weight can put pressure on the plastics, potentially leading to cracks and damage.
Conclusion — Can You Lay a Dirt Bike on Its Side?
Some dirt bike riders believe “any risk related to laying the bike over is better than not fixing the flat at all.” Meanwhile, others firmly advocate against propping two-wheelers this way, as the machine’s design inherently dictates an upright position for repairs and maintenance. At the end of the day, your preference will always prevail. Just know that with proper safety precautions and care, laying your dirt bike on its side is possible.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.