Date reviewed: October 2019 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £453.95 | abbastands.co.uk
Made entirely in the UK by family-run business Abba Motorcycle Equipment, the Sky Lift on review here is a versatile alternative to using a ramp to elevate your motorcycle in the workshop. With easily-swapped adaptors for almost any bike, I’ve been using it for a full year to work on a Honda MSX125, Yamaha MT-10, Kawasaki ZZR1100, Yamaha Niken and a Kawasaki ZX-6R…
Abba was formed in 1992 by Alan Burdett – pictured here with son Steve. Alan started by carrying out specialist bike repairs like frame and fork straightening, and the original Abba stand has developed over the years to become the current Superbike Stand. Steve developed the Sky Lift on test here, perfecting it over a period of about six months. And if you’re wondering… Abba in an acronym of Alan Burdett Bike Accessories
Weighing 39kg, the Sky Lift is delivered in three large parcels, with all the parts very well protected inside. It’s great to find a full-colour, well-presented instruction book included, while the parts are colour coded, so it couldn’t be simpler.
Allen keys are supplied, but you’ll also need a 19mm spanner or socket, as well as two 22mm and two 24mm. I had no real problems putting it together, besides the hydraulic ram’s foot pedal needing to be tapped into place as its hole was slightly misshapen. Also, the plastic of the thumb wheel on one of the adjuster bolts was split, but Abba has an excellent help-line, and the part was very quickly replaced.
Everything bar the hydraulic ram is made in the Essex-based factory
Every single part used in the construction of the Abba Sky Lift is available direct from the factory, and everything the company makes comes with a three-year guarantee. The only part of the Sky Lift that doesn’t is the hydraulic ram – as Abba doesn’t make this itself, it has a one-year guarantee. Not that you need to worry though – the ram is designed to lift three tonnes. The Sky Lift can hold bikes up to 450kg, so the ram isn’t working hard at all. And when the bike is raised, the weight is taken off the ram with a locking pin. If somehow there was a problem with the ram outside of warranty, Abba will sell you a replacement at cost price.
The factory is in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex – as long as you call ahead to confirm stock and opening hours, you can pop in to collect any purchases or even to try the Sky Lift with your own bike if you want. Otherwise, delivery of the Sky Lift is a very reasonable £11.95, with smaller items only costing £3.45.
The Technician’s Kit shows the range of fittings available – there are over 150 combinations, so most bikes are catered for
When buying the Sky Lift, you’ll be asked which bike you want fittings for; the price of these will depend on the motorcycle, but they vary from around £11 to about £25. These adaptors simply slide into the carriers on the Sky Lift – it’s worth popping some grease on the backs of them as it helps make them stay in the Sky Lift and not in your bike when it’s removed; it’d be annoying to miss one and have it get lost while you ride.
The swingarm pivot is the usual location to attach the Sky Lift to your bike
If you already have the excellent Abba Superbike Stand (a great alternative to a paddock stand), the bike adaptors that fit this are compatible with the Sky Lift; a lot of thought has gone into Abba’s designs, and this is just one of the excellent details.
If you’re likely to be using the Sky Lift with a variety of different bikes, a Technician’s Kit is available for £148, which has all the adaptors needed to work on pretty much any machine.
Once you have the two correct adaptor fittings in the Sky Lift, you might need to adjust the height of the main arm, where it connects to the ram; this isn’t hard, and I’ve only had to do it to lift the Honda MSX125 (Grom in America). That bike is so small that even with the arm at its lowest setting, the motorcycle needs to be sitting on a couple of blocks of wood. But it works. Abba doesn’t list the MSX125 on its website, but if you have one, give them a call – a handful of bikes might not be listed but are often supported by Abba; the team just wants to be able to explain a potential limitation (like having to raise the tiny Honda a little before it’ll attach).
Your bike can be supported horizontally, in a wheelie position or in a stoppie
The sky lift simply rolls up to the bike, its legs tucking underneath (you might have to raise the side-stand). Raise the ram with the foot-pedal until the adaptor is lined up with the bike’s swingarm pivot, then slide it fully home. You can now lock the Abba’s two wheels nearest to you, then move around to the other side, where the upright arm can be slid onto the Sky Lift and located in the opposite end of the swingarm pivot. Lock the arm off with the Allen key that’s conveniently attached to the arm, as well as the thumbscrew, then the bike is fully secured.
If you raise the bike like this, it will lift with the front wheel on the ground – the stoppie position – which is ideal for working on the rear suspension.
A spindle is fitted to the bottom of the sky lift – if you attach the supplied strap to this and the back of your swingarm, the bike will rise in the wheelie position; brilliant for exhaust work, though the height you can reach will be determined by the ground clearance of your bike (the bottom of the exhaust eventually touches the Sky Lift’s cross-member). The strap can be secured around your bike’s swingarm or paddock stand bobbins. If that’s not an option, a bobbin adaptor is available for between around £6 and £12, depending on the bike – this will either screw into the fixing points for paddock stand bobbins, or pass into the rear axle. If you’re using the screw-in type, make sure you tighten it fully, and remember to remove it before riding off (only because it’s quite long, so could damage the swingarm if you crashed).
The most common way to lift the bike is with it horizontal – an arm is inserted to follow the ram as it raises, and the strap attached to the spindle here. Only one spindle is supplied, and it’s a simple job to swap it between the base and the rising arm, but for convenience, I fitted an extra one as it only costs £6.95.
The bobbin adaptors that hold the strap fit into the rear axle or paddock stand attachments, though if you’re removing the rear wheel, you won’t use the axle as the tether point
Abba claims that pumping the bike up to its full height takes about 35 seconds, and as you can see from the video, it took me exactly that to get the 1999 Kawasaki ZX-6R from the floor to fully up and locked in place.
A hefty pin is held in clipped to the side of stand, ready for you to insert at any one of four positions – doing this locks the height, then you can release the pressure from the hydraulic ram. You can leave a bike on the stand indefinitely – if you’re not going to ride over winter for instance, it’s a great way to avoid flat-spots on the tyres.
Getting the bike in place on the stand takes a little confidence, especially the first few times you do it; you need to hold it upright while locating the adaptors. In practice it’s a lot less daunting that it sounds. I’d suggest you have someone with you for the first try, then once you get used to it you’ll have no problems at all.
Two of the stand’s wheels can be locked off
There are four sets of double-wheeled castors on the Abba Sky Lift, two of which can be locked off. On my smooth garage floor it’s really easy to move any bike around, though small stones that have fallen out of the fairing can make it harder. I’d like to have seen slightly larger, rubberised wheels to keep things a little smoother and quieter, but Abba has more than 25 years of experience behind it, so I’m sure Alan and Steve have chosen the best solution.
Outside it’ll depend on the surface; with a block-pave drive it’ll work, but the gaps between bricks make it a lot harder to push. Gravel is of course out of the question, and while a slight incline is manageable, it’s best to have the bike just off the ground when rolling it on anything more than the tiniest of slopes.
The hydraulic ram can carry three tonnes, and the lift is locked off when in use, so your bike is very safe
While the bike has a little bit of movement in it when it’s up in the air due to flex in the solid construction of the stand, it’s completely and utterly safe. Even with the big Niken on it, there were no issues at all. I’ve stripped the ZX-6R right down while it’s been on the Sky Lift, and it’s more confidence-inspiring than using a ramp as there’s no way the bike can get pushed over.
With a maximum capacity of 450kg, there’s you’ll not be able to overload the Abba stand – the only slight risk is in the bike rotating around the swingarm. I haven’t yet removed an engine with the bike on the stand, but it’s possible that removing this mass from ahead of the mounting points could cause the bike to tip backwards if the rear wheel was still in place. It’s be easy to strap the front if this seemed likely.
The Abba Sky Lift can be quickly broken down to tuck out of the way, then easily reassembled with just an Allen key
I’ve had two incidents in the 12 months I’ve been using the Sky Lift and both were down to my own stupidity; the first was when working on my brother-in-law’s ZZR1100; I hadn’t located the mounting pins in the swingarm pivot correctly, and only after working on it for about half an hour did we notice. It was still secure, but I now make sure I double-check I’ve done it correctly.
The other time was when undoing the MT-10 rear-wheel nut; the torque required meant that I pulled the back end of the bike down enough to let the strap come off the paddock stand bobbin. When I released the pressure, the front of the bike dropped down into the stoppie position. There was no damage, but it’s worth making sure that the strap that keeps the bike horizontal or in the wheelie position doesn’t come off.
The swingarm removal adaptor is screwed into a footrest mounting point
A swingarm removal kit is available for £20.50 and comprises a pair of adaptors that screw into the footrest hanger bolts, leaving the swingarm spindle accessible. These are M8, and compatible with most Japanese and European machines, though it’s worth checking your bike or calling Abba if you’re unsure.
Extras like this tool tray are a really handy addition to the Sky Lift
Because two of the legs can be quickly removed from the Sky Lift, it packs away against a wall really easily. That makes it far more versatile than a ramp, which takes up a lot of space in a garage when it’s not in use (and really hurts when you trip over it. Again).
There are accessories available too, like the £29.95 tool tray, which can hold parts and tools on any one of the five horizontal sections of the stand.
The Sky Lift won’t put your bike quite as high as a ramp can, but for most jobs it’s high enough – lower engine work will mean you need to squat down still, or sit on a short stool, but working on a bike supported by the Sky Lift is still a far more pleasant experience than with it on the floor.
Being able to move the bike out of the way between jobs is incredibly useful
Besides the ability to lift the bike in any of three orientations – which makes it so much easier to get at parts like the shock or downpipes, even if all you’re doing is cleaning – the fact that I can move the bike around is a huge advantage. With limited space in my garage, I can push the machine to the left wall while working on the right side, then quickly scoot it across when I want to deal with the other.
And for long-term projects it's fantastic; the ZX-6R is being used for a series of How To features on Bennetts BikeSocial that will take me several weeks – between jobs I can easily tuck the bike out of the way so I can get on with other things, regardless of what state of disassembly it’s in.
I can honestly say that I couldn’t do a lot of the work I carry out on my bikes without the Abba Sky Lift; it truly transforms both the maintenance experience, and the space you have available to you. For most home mechanics (and some professionals I know), it’s one of the best investments you can make for your workshop.
Abba offers discounts at many bike shows, so it’s always worth seeing if they’re attending. You’ll also be able to try the lift for yourself.