Surface sensing in bacteria is a precursor to the colonization of biotic and abiotic surfaces, and an important cause of drug resistance and virulence. As a motile bacterium approaches and adheres to a surface from the bulk fluid, the mechanical forces that act on it change. Bacteria are able to sense these changes in the mechanical load through a process termed mechanosensing. Bacterial mechanosensing has featured prominently in recent literature as playing a key role in surface sensing. However, the changes in mechanical loads on different parts of the cell at a surface vary in magnitudes as well as in signs. This confounds the determination of a causal relationship between the activation of specific mechanosensors and surface sensing. Here, we explain how contrasting mechanical stimuli arise on a surface-adherent cell and how known mechanosensors respond to these stimuli. The evidence for mechanosensing in select bacterial species is re-interpreted, with a focus on mechanosensitive molecular motors. We conclude with proposed criteria that bacterial mechanosensors must satisfy to successfully mediate surface sensing.