How to Kickstart a Motorcycle

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If your motorcycle has a kick starter, being able to start it in as few kicks as possible is key.

A properly tuned motorcycle in good condition should be easy to kickstart.

If things are out of tune or beyond serviceable limits, it may take you a few kicks to get it started.

There are two main different times you’ll need to kickstart your bike:

  1. When the engine is cold.
  2. When the engine is warm.

A cold engine will typically take a few extra steps to get going. See tips below.

Motorcycle Kickstart Technique

You can kick start a motorcycle by standing next to it or standing over it (with a little practice).

To properly kickstart a motorcycle:

  • Put the bike on the side stand.
  • Turn on the petcock to the on position.
  • Turn the kill switch to run.
  • Turn the kickstarter pedal out from its collapsed position.
  • Place your foot on the kickstart pedal.
  • Give a strong downward push on the pedal to the bottom position, following all the way through.
  • Pause at the bottom until the engine fires up.

On some bikes, you may also need to blip the throttle or use the choke as you use the kickstarter.

Remember, movements on your motorcycle should be smooth.

Don’t jam on the kick starter or repeatedly kick it if it won’t start. Take a minute and try to figure out why.

Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of causing bigger problems than you started with.  

How to Kick-Start a Cold Engine

To kick start a cold-engine:

  • Kick it over a few times with the ignition and fuel off to prime it.
  • Turn on the fuel valve and ignition switch.
  • Turn on the enrichiner and twist the throttle.
  • Give it a kick.

How to Kick-Start a Warm Engine

If your bike is already warmed up, you should be able to kick start it with one or two kicks.

Simply make sure the petcock and kill switch are in the correct position, put the bike in neutral and kick it alive.

How Does a Kickstart Motorcycle Work?

Most modern bikes, except a handful of the modern retros and enduros, do not have a kick start mechanism anymore.

However, before the electric ignition and even after its introduction, the kickstarter was a common feature on most bikes.

Your motorcycle’s kickstart mechanism typically consists of:

  • A pedal.
  • Spring.
  • Gears.

The kickstarter works by engaging the clutch and crankshaft gears to turn the engine when it is kicked.

As the engine turns, the ignition points are engaged sending a spark to the plugs, and igniting the fuel/air mixture that was introduced to the cylinder when the engine was turned.

Once the spark ignites, the cycle continues and the motorcycle roars to life.

Happy riding!

If your kickstart won’t work, you’ll want to make sure the bike is properly tuned. This includes:

If all else fails, check out some more tips on things to check if your motorcycle won’t start.