You won’t find a single person who is interested in dirt bikes but doesn’t know about kickstarting. They almost go hand in hand. Knowing how to kick start a dirt bike is a prerequisite of a perfect start to your dirt biking session.
First, put your bike on neutral and turn on the gas. Pull the lever out from the side of the bike and push it down with your foot till the piston reaches TDC. Give it one last kick and vroom!
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than it looks. But don’t worry. I’ll walk you through all the teeny-tiny details to make kick-starting your dirt bike easy as the turn of a key for you.
Stay with me!
How does kick-starting work?
Before we learn how to kick start the dirt bike, we need to know what a kick starter is and how the kick start mechanism works.
A kick starter is a lever you can find on the right side of your bike. It’s a manual mechanism to start a bike’s combustion engine by pushing the lever with one’s foot. You have to pull it out and after using tuck it back in, flush with the bike.
The kick starter is attached to a spleen that has a sprocket hidden within the engine cover. The sprocket is connected to the crankshaft. When it’s pushed down, the crankshaft turns and the piston moves inside the cylinder.
When the lever is pushed all the way down, the piston reaches the top dead center, and the engine gets started.
Guide on how to kick start a dirt bike
Now that we understood the basics of kick-starting, and let’s explore all the steps to kick-starting a dirt bike
Step 1. Get the bike ready
You have to get your bike into a favorable condition before the actual mechanism kicks in [pun intended]. By doing the below-mentioned mundane-looking activities, you’re actually saving yourself from many inconveniences later on. So, please do the following:
A. Load up the fuel
First of all, you need to turn on the petcock to allow fuel to enter the engine. You can find it right behind the machine on the left side of your bike.
B. Turn on the bike
Insert your key and start the engine before kick-starting. Note that, not every dirt bike has an ignition, spark plug, or a start switch. So be familiar with what system you’re running.
C. Choke the bike
Pull up the small choke valve at the front of your engine to let more fuel in. This is important while cold starting the bike.
Choking is unnecessary if you’ve used your bike earlier that day (more on this later). Also, this is only applicable for carbureted bikes, so skip this if yours is fuel injected.
D. Shift the bike into neutral
Although you can start on gear, shifting the bike into neutral is essential to prevent it from jumping forward.
Pull the clutch on the left handlebar and push the shift lever next to the footpeg repeatedly. Then put your feet under the lever and slowly pull it up till you hear a click.
If your bike can move freely back and forth, that means it’s neutral. Once you master it, you can find the neutral easily by feel. Just don’t touch the clutch while starting to avoid accidental gear shifting. (For extra safety, you can hold the front brake while starting)
E. Crank it
For a 4-stroke engine, you need to Crank the throttle three times to Prime the carburetor. Just sit on your bike and twist the throttle towards your body and let it snap back into place. Don’t touch the throttle at all if it’s a fuel-injected bike.
And now that we got our bike ready to start, let’s move on to the fun bit.
Step 2. Kicking it!
You’re at the main point now. Everything is in tip-top shape and ready for a kick start! So here’s the main event:
A. Start pressing the lever
This is the most crucial part of starting your bike. Pull the starter out from the right side of your bike. Put the kickstand up, or you might lose your grip and fall.
Place the middle of your foot on the pedal to avoid slipping. Apply slight pressure to lock the lever in place, and now we start kicking. DO NOT JUMP THE LEVER; you might break it.
B. Find the compression zone
Place your left foot on the ground and start pushing the lever down slowly. Use your body weight to gently push it below rather than flexing your muscles. After doing that two or three times, push the lever down, and you’ll feel resistance. This resistance means the start of a stroke.
Let it come back up, and then push it down again. You’ll feel that resistance once more. When you feel the most resistance, it means the motor has reached the top dead center or TDC. Generally, TDC is at the top of the engine stroke when a piston approaches it. This is where the maximum compression happens.
C. Kick it for real
After finding the TDC, half of the work is done. It’s best to find this compression zone before ignition. This is the place from where you should push seriously. But you shouldn’t press the lever right away. Perform a pre-check for one last time.
Now, with some effort, give an explosive kick to get your bike started. Push the lever up, tuck it back in and you’re ready to go. Hot start or cold start if necessary.
What? You don’t know what they are? Relax, I’ll explain them as well…
Cold start and Hot start
Remember Katy Perry’s hit single “Hot n Cold”? Turns out, you can relate this song to your bike too. But in a dirt bike-ish manner of course! Here’s how:
Cold starting a dirt bike
As the name suggests, starting the bike when the engine is cold, is a cold start. If you don’t go for a ride for a while or because of a temperature drop, your bike engine might turn cold and take longer than usual to start. So, how do we tackle this?
For a carbureted bike, turn the gas valve and the choke on. The choke will let more fuel in to start the engine easily. Put the bike on neutral. Kick start the bike.
Two-stroke dirt bikes usually need a swift kick to get started but in the case of a four-stroke bike, roll the lever up and down till it’s ready for a full kick and then proceed.
Some Fuel-injected bikes have capacitors instead of batteries. They lose their energy if they are sitting for too long. You can recharge the capacitor by rolling the starter a few times.
After starting your bike, let it idle for a bit. Once it gets to the operating temperature after 10-15 seconds, turn the choke off and go. You can twist the throttle occasionally to keep the engine running. Just don’t rush while riding since the engine is still warming up.
Hot starting a dirt bike
If your dirt bike’s engine has been on the run regularly but still won’t start or suddenly shuts off, that’s a hot start. It can be very annoying, especially when you’re in a rush. But don’t worry. This problem is easily fixable too.
Hot starting the dirt bike is quite similar to the cold start. The difference is, instead of turning the choke on, you leave it as it is. We will use the “hot start” lever that we can find on the left handlebar.
Just pull that lever and the clutch in and roll the Kick starter to a full stroke. Release the lever once the engine is started.
Don’t touch the throttle before the engine starts. If it doesn’t start after several tries, the engine might be flooded. And twisting the throttle will make it worse.
And this brings us to our next topic of discussion.
How to fix a flooded engine
When too much fuel and gas enters the engine, it causes floods. Due to a flooded engine, the Kick-starter won’t work, and you won’t be able to start your bike.
To fix this, just hold the throttle fully open. This will allow air to enter the engine and clear out the excess fuel. But don’t go overboard with this. If you keep twisting the throttle, the engine will flood more.
Why use a kick starter on a dirt bike?
With electric dirt bikes being more and more popular, it’s a valid question to ask. The primary reason for this lies with weight. You need a motor for electric bike systems, and these motors need powerful batteries to operate flawlessly.
A good old-fashioned dirt bike doesn’t have such mechanisms, so such equipment doesn’t exist there. Many dirt bikers, which includes the professional ones, prefer to keep their bike as light as possible.
Because lighter dirt bikes are more manageable when it comes to motorcrossing. Have a look at my dirt bike weight guide if you don’t know what the ideal weight should be for a specific bike class.
Kick-start tips for your dirt bike
- Don’t jump on the kick-starter. Place your foot on the pedal and push it down. Stomping or jumping on it may break the lever, plus you can lose your footing and injure yourself.
- Finding the TDC would be the best thing to do when you want to start your bike quicker.
- Take the kick-start lever off and grease it when you can pull it out easily.
- Always put the kickstand up.
- Start the engine in an open, well-ventilated place to let all the gas out.
- Put on the proper gears. Never go riding without a helmet on.
- Practice your compression release
Kick-off in style!
Kick-starting your dirt bike might be complex and frustrating for you, especially when you’re a beginner. But with practice, once you master how to kick start a dirt bike, you’ll see just how much fun it can be.
So, get out there, be safe and keep riding.