• Learn to push start your bike!

    Push starting is like crashing a motorcycle, sooner or later you're going to do it. Like it or not, it might be function that may save you from the side of the road. Last week I helped a guy push start his bike, and it dawned on me how simple it is, but yet people don't know the basics.

    So first, this will likely not work on a bike that is super cold/been sitting. The starter does a few things to motorcycles along with turning the motor. So, now you know.

    * Turn on the choke if it's cold, turn the fuel to PRIME if you have it. That will get fuel going even if you have a vacuum operated petcock.
    * Ignition on!
    * Put the bike in SECOND gear and hold in the clutch
    * PUSH! Get the bike up to 5-8 mph if at all possible. Use any hills or grades to your benefit.
    * Drop the clutch like its hot. DO NOT FEATHER IT. The torque will slow you and stop you if you feather out the clutch.
    * Give it some throttle a la dirt bike style (think braap braaap braaaaap)

    Hopefully you've gotten the motor to crank a few rotations and it's catching. Make sure you have good balance because it can be a rough ride when that motor catches. I've had to do it to goldwings over the years and it's never fun, but it can keep you from being on the side of the road.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. OBX-RIDER's Avatar
      OBX-RIDER -
      Good stuff ... I think if you ride long enough you will have occasion to use this..

      ...unless your bike is fuel injected and the battery is zero. You have to have enough electric power in that case to get the fuel pump running. The 2012-2016 KTM 500 EXCs have a kick start (in addition to the magic button) ... but if the battery is dead ... it's useless ...

      I have bump started a FI bike (VFR800) when there was not enough battery to crank ... but enough to just barely run the fuel pump ...

      It is much easier, in any case, to have a couple of helpful friends/strangers push you than to do it solo ...
    1. AZridered's Avatar
      AZridered -
      Most of my push starting experience has been with starter-less race bikes. I definitely favor third gear.

      Also, a recent push staring experience with a colleague's Aprilia led to the discovery that some bikes with back-torque limiting (slipper) clutches cannot be push started in anything but first gear.
    1. Sorg67's Avatar
      Sorg67 -
      I have bump started the DRZ a few times. And my son has bump started the CB500X. However, my mechanic told me that it was not a good idea to bump start the CB500X.

      It seems plausible that an old tech carbureted bike like the DRZ would be more conducive to bump starting than newer EFI bikes. Do you risk any damage to the electrical system bump starting EFI bikes as long as you have enough juice to run the fuel pump as OBX points out?

      Bump starting cars, I have generally gone with second gear. Is third better on motorcycles as AZridered suggests?

      I was thinking of putting a kick start on the KLX. Is that hard to do?
    1. OBX-RIDER's Avatar
      OBX-RIDER -
      I'll start with the kick start on the KLX. Why? This year on the 2017 KTM 500 EXC they did away with the kick start lever. There are tons of 500 owners who have never kick started their bike. My own suggestion is keep a fresh battery in it and be diligent about turning the key off. I almost never use the kill switch for that one reason.

      On my DRZ which I ride way back nowhere solo I have Shorai battery that is "oversize". One hell of a lot easier and lighter than adding a kick start.

      I've always done second gear ... maybe because it's easiest ...

      The 2012-2016 KTM 350 and 500 EXC are EFI and have kick start. Some of the guys carry a tiny battery to energize the fuel pump if the battery is completely dead (see leaving key on above) so they can kick them alive. I have bump started both my VFR800 and ST1300 (I had help nearly always ... except one time when I was on a hill) when the battery was too low to crank the engine.

      Did your mechanic tell you "why" it was a bad idea to bump start the CB500X? There may be a perfectly good reason I don't know of ... or maybe not. I have been told things by both motorcycle and aircraft mechanics that turned out to be pure BS ... (I was told by more than one mechanic to "never use the front brake ..." )

      There are some truly great mechanics around ... and there are some who are at best, parts replacers ...
    1. asp125's Avatar
      asp125 -
      I've bump started my SV650 (EFI) a time or two, when I used to leave the heated grips on; sure way to kill a battery. I've had to bump start my Ducati 750, when the starter motor went out. And yes, it's easier in 3rd or 4th gear, especially on a twin.
    1. AZridered's Avatar
      AZridered -
      The harder the engine is to turn over (higher compression, more displacement) the higher the gear needed to bump start. Higher gears give the pusher more leverage at the expense of lower revolutions. It is a trade off.
    1. NORTY's Avatar
      NORTY -
      I've "bumped" virtually every motorcycle I've ever had, except 2. (Well, 3, actually.)
      1980 XL500S,
      1983 XL600R,
      2016 FXDL.

      First 2 Hondas don't "allow" bump starting. I tried every gear, down a 30% concrete slope, 2-up, and the wheel locked like I was applying the brake. Something internally won't let it happen...Oddley though, they were kickstart only...

      The last one is a Harley, and they're programmed to not fire until the 3rd revolution (ok, 6th revolution of the crank.) Something to do with minimum rotation speed and the compression release. Because of this, a kicker is out of the question.

      The old Harley bumped very easily. Must have been the Crane cam holding the valves open longer or sumpthin'. It would fire on the 1st available rotation. Always wanted to put a kicker on this bike. Just to mess with people!
    1. Mad Matt's Avatar
      Mad Matt -
      I accidentally bump started my bike while riding in a trials event last fall. I stalled at the top of a hill with just enough momentum to start coasting down the other side. Popped the clutch and got it started again before the bottom.

      Technically it's still 5 points for stalling the engine, but I felt pretty good about recovering without putting a foot down.
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