Safe Riding

Motorcycle Parking 101

Written by  August 31, 2005

Yeah, I know…you’re probably thinking, “What could be so hard about parking a motorcycle that could possibly warrant an entire article?”

If you’ve been riding for years and years and have never:
Tipped over while backing your bike into a parking spot.
Laid your bike over because you forgot to take that pesky disc lock off your front brake or because your foot slipped on loose debris or a wet surface.
Needed a little push into or out of a parking space.
Had your kickstand sink into the ground or asphalt.
Had your bike tampered with or stolen.
…then you should probably count your lucky stars, go buy a lottery ticket and skip ahead to the next article.

However, if you’re like most of us and have at one time or another encountered one or more of the above scenarios, this article might be worth taking a quick look over.

I don’t know about you, but depending on where and for how long I plan to leave my bike parked, I take different precautions to keep it safe and secure. For example, if I'm:
Fueling up and need to step inside the store for only a few seconds, I lock the ignition switch.
Stopping for lunch and I can see my bike from where I’m sitting, I lock the ignition switch and forks (never know when nature might call and you need hit the john).
Visiting my favorite watering hole and my bike will be out of sight for several minutes or possibly a few hours (if I’m really parched), I lock the ignition switch and forks and attach my disc lock.
Stopping overnight, I try to get a ground floor room near an exit so I can see my bike from the window of my room, lock the ignition switch and forks, attach my disc lock, secure my bike to another bike or solid object using my cable and place a weatherproof cover over my bike.

Depending on your own personal experience, the above examples may seem like overkill, and to some of you they may seem like I'm leaving my bike exposed to possible theft. To me, there’s a fine line between paranoia and precaution. I sure as hell don’t want my bike stolen, but at the same time I don’t want to be a nervous Nelly and go through the hassle of always locking my bike up tighter than a drum whenever I want to buy a pack of gum.

If I had to give any advice I’d have to err on the side of caution, because taking a little more time to properly secure your bike is one hell of a lot better than having your bike stolen and never seeing it again.

Surface Hazards:
You should always:
Watch for surface debris, loose and uneven surfaces and wet or potentially slippery spots where oil accumulates.
Be aware of surfaces where you could lose your footing.
Take care that your tires and feet do not become contaminated with fluids when entering or exiting a parking space.

Sloped Surfaces & Stability:
You should always:
Park on level ground whenever possible.
Leave your bike in first gear to keep it from rolling.
Park with your front-end facing uphill so your bike doesn’t roll forward and retract the kickstand.
Turn your handlebars to the left to increase stability.
Place a small piece of flat metal or other solid object under your kickstand when parking on hot asphalt or wet ground. In a pinch, you can use a crushed beer can…oops…I mean soda can.

Parking Spots:
You should always:
Park off the street in a parking lot whenever possible.
Find out if there are local parking restrictions.

Parallel Parking:
You should always:
Pull into the parking space and maneuver within its boundaries.
Take your time positioning your bike once you are safely inside the parking space.

Diagonal Parking:
You should always:
Back in rather than pulling in forwards for easy departure.
Park near the back of the parking space so other drivers see your bike before pulling into your spot.

Mechanical Arms:
You should always:
Move quickly through mechanical arms that control access to parking lots.
Wait for any vehicles in front of you to pull ahead and watch for mechanical arms to lower prematurely if your bike is lost in the detection “loop.”

Parking at the end of a Row:
You should always:
Leave plenty of room for vehicles to be able to make the turn.
Place your bike near the back of the parking spot so drivers can see your bike before pulling into your spot.

Never thought there was so much to consider when parking your bike, huh? A few simple precautions can go a long way toward insuring your parked motorcycle is safe and will be there when you return.

By Mike Schweder