How to start your dirt bike using the kick start and how it works
For anyone that’s not used a kickstarter on a dirt bike, this article is to guide you through this process.
How a dirt bike kickstarter works: A dirt bike kickstarter works via a lever that is pushed down with you leg. The kick start lever is connected via a spline to a sprocket, which is engaged with another sprocket that’s connected to the engine’s crankshaft. When the kick start lever is pushed down, this turns the engine over and the engine should start.
The benefit of having a kick start on a dirt bike instead of an electric start is the bike will be lighter.
What is a kick starter on a motorcycle?
Before explaining how a dirt bike kickstarter works, I thought it best to first explain what a kick start is.
A kick starter is one way you can start a dirt bike, which is a manual mechanism, which is usually on the right side of the bike.
The kickstarter method was at one stage the only way to start a dirt bike. Apart from bump starting it. But with the advent of the electric starter, the kick starter became less popular. Some dirt bikes have both a kick start and an electric start too.
The kickstarter itself is a lever that is connected to the engine. This lever is manually pushed down using the foot.
When the kick start is not in use, it is stowed away and is flush with the bike. But to use the kick start, it’s a matter of swiveling it out so that you can put your foot on the lever itself.
The spline that the kick starter lever is attached to has a sprocket on the end that’s hidden within the engine casing. This sprocket is geared to the crankshaft sprocket, so that as the kick starter is pushed down, the crankshaft is turned. As the crankshaft is turned, the pistons move up and down inside the cylinder bores, whilst at the same time the spark plugs spark.
With a supply of fuel (by turning the throttle) and with the pistons creating compression within the compression chamber, the engine should start.
To return the kick start to its starting point, each time it’s kicked down, there’s a coil spring that does this.
Why do dirt bikes still use kickstarters?
When dirt bikes have electric start technology, you may ask ‘why would a dirt bike still have a kick start?’ A perfectly valid question.
There are two answers to this good question. The first answer lies in weight saving.
With an electric starter, there’s a requirement to have an electric starter motor, a more powerful battery to power the starter motor. Plus a system to effectively recharge the battery when the engine is running. All of this extra equipment adds significant weight to the overall weight of the dirt bike.
There are many dirt bikers, especially the professional motorcrossers, who prefer to save as much on weight as possible. The lighter the dirt bike, the faster they’ll go.
The second reason for having a kickstarter is as a backup for if the electric start fails. Not all dirt bikes have both, but if they do and the electric start fails or the battery is run down, the kick start mechanism is a fail-safe backup.
How do you kick start a dirt bike?
There are a few steps you should take to start your dirt bike safely when using the kick start. These steps are as follows:
- Put the bike into neutral first – this avoids it from jumping forward when you try to start it in gear.
- Hold the front brake – the front brake is the right lever on the handle bar.
- Pull the kickstarter out from the side of the dirt bike (usually on the right side) – the kick starter is on a pivot and it should easily swivel out from the close position.
- Don;t touch the throttle before you kick the bike over, but see tips below.
- Put your foot on the kick start lever and push it until you feel resistance.
- Next, using an explosive kick, push the kick start lever all the way to the bottom.
- If the bike doesn’t start on the first kick, kick it again. Continue to kick until the engine sparks into life.
Kickstarter tips for your dirt bike
There are a few extra tips for you when using a kick starter for the very first time.
Kick start tips include the following:
- Don’t jump on the kick starter – when using the kickstarter, you should always press the lever until it reaches resistance. This resistance is the beginning of a stroke.
- If the pivot on your kick starter is difficult to pull out, it needs to be greased. This is an easy DIY exercise. But it means taking the kick start lever off the bike to clean and re-grease.
- For a dirt bike with a carburetor, prime the engine with fuel by turning the throttle three times. Whereas for fuel injected dirt bikes, don’t touch the throttle at all.
- If you flood the engine, this can usually be cleared by holding the throttle fully open. But don’t keep turning the throttle open and closed, as this will simply flood the engine even more with fuel. By holding the throttle fully open, this allows for the air to flow through the engine and clear out the excess fuel.
- To start your bike quicker using a kickstarter, you are better to find Top Dead Centre (TDC) on the engine. TDC is when the piston is near to the the top of the engine stroke. This can be found by gently pushing down on the kick start until you feel most resistance. The extra resistances means that the piston is nearing the top of the cylinder where it creates the greatest compression.
- If the engine is hot when you’re kick starting the engine, push the hot start in, which is usually a lever on the handle bars. The hot start lever allows extra cool air to flow into the engine, which makes starting an engine when hot easier. Make sure the hot start lever is let off once the engine has started, otherwise the engine will not run properly.
Do you need a battery to kick start a dirt bike?
Dirt bikes that only have a kick start,and not an electric start also,don’t need a battery at all.
What a dirt bike with a kick start has instead is a Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) instead. The CDI is needed to create the electricity to create the spark from the spark plug. The spark from the spark plug is what ignites the fuel in the engine. This is why a dirt bike with a kick start doesn’t require a battery.
I hope you enjoyed this article about how a dirt bike kickstarter works
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of dirt biking in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your cameras or videos from your Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions about dirt biking (or specifically about how a dirt bike kickstarter works), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about dirt biking for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport and hobby.
Have fun and be safe!