® The Harbor Freight lift

The later version of this 1000-lb, lightweight Harbor Freight lift is a surprisingly good product. But beware of putting anything over 500 pounds on it.

In the 1990s I worked in a high performance shop run by a 1970s NHRA and IDBA record-holder. It was an interesting place. Built ZX-11s, hot-rod GSXRs, knarly pipe V-Maxes and big-inch Harley Evos were standard fare. Installed in the shop in a dedicated room and sunk into the floor was a Dynojet dyno, the ninth one made in fact. I'm sure I spent between 500 and 1000 hours in that room. In my work area I had a really cool air-over-oil lift, a well-engineered unit made in Italy by a company called Grazia. Grazia made different models of lifts. Their least expensive model had a foot pump and it was this product that came to define the company.

In the early 2000s I was attracted to and bought a copy of the Grazia pump lift from an eBay seller for my own use, which turned out to have been extremely poorly made by a Chinese outfit. All the pivots were out of alignment causing the table to lurch and tilt and more than once I thought it was going to throw my bike onto the garage floor. Ended up junking it. Fast-forward ten years and I am running my own business and looking hard at the Harbor Freight lift. It looked like a carbon copy of the foot pump Grazia, and I mean copied exactly. Bought it. Now I have four of them and if I had the room I'd have two more.

The timeline as I see it is, a handful of Chinese companies produced these, with various quality. Harbor Freight eventually chose one of the better vendors. Even so, the earliest Harbor Freight lifts had poorly made pumps that leaked badly. These early Harbor Freight lifts also lacked a restriction valve in the lowering mode causing the lift to fall like a stone. A training school actually got into a liability situation over it. Subsequent Harbor Freight lifts had revised lowering but still lowered a bit abruptly. However the current crop of lifts lower very sedately.

Harbor Freight's 1000 pound rating is very optimistic in my view. More like 500 pounds, maybe 600 max. The Italians never made really heavy bikes so the Chinese copy does not exceed the original in capacity.

The most widely used lift in shops of all kinds is the Handy originally made in the midwest but now in Oregon. Very massive and heavy lifts. Extremely sturdy. Handy was originally a long-established family business. Their sheet metal supplier bought them out some years ago and is continuing to make the fine product. Four or five copycats of the Handy design can be found now. I have used Handys (even purchased them when I managed shops) but I still prefer the late model Grazia/Harbor Freight style.

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