How to clutch/push/roll start a motorcycle
Author: Ellaspede Date Posted:4 June 2015
Clutch starting a motorcycle is a useful skill all riders should know. Sometimes called roll, clutch or bump starting, it involves rolling a motorcycle, engaging a gear and letting out the clutch to turn the engine over and start the bike.
It's often used for starting bikes with a flat battery, starter motor issue or if they're hard to kick start. Almost every motorcycle rider will need to clutch start a bike once in their lifetime, so it's handy to familiarise yourself with the basics.
Step 1: Check common errors
The first thing to check (and usually the most common error) is for anything else which might stop the bike from running. Things like ignition on with the kill switch on 'run' are the main offenders. Check these few items below before trying to clutch start your bike, it might save you or your mates some serious pushing!
- Is there fuel in the tank?
- Is the fuel tap petcock turned to 'ON'? (for non-EFI bikes)
- Is the kill switch set to 'RUN'?
- Is the kickstand up? (selected bikes)
- Are you in neutral?
Step 2: Position the bike to get it rolling
Clutch starting your motorcycle requires the bike to be rolling before you engage a gear to turn the engine over. You'll need get the bike in a position to roll, this will depend on your surroundings and if anyone else is with you.
- The easiest method is to push your bike up a small hill and let gravity get you rolling back down.
- If there are no hills, find a nice flat area and round up a mate to push you.
- If there are no hills and you're by yourself it can still be done, just find a nice flat area and get ready to push the bike yourself before jumping on.
Step 3: Put the bike in 2nd or 3rd gear
DO NOT USE 1ST GEAR. This is a common error and can lock up your back wheel causing a crash. ALWAYS USE 2ND GEAR, or 3rd if you can select it.
Too many 'how-to' guides recommend using 1st gear and we've seen a heap of failed attempts and rear wheel skidding because of it. Most engines will have too much compression to turn them over successfully in 1st gear.
So you've got the bike ready to roll down a hill or on a flat for pushing, click it into second gear and now we're ready for the fun part!
Step 4: Hold the clutch in and start pushing
Pull the clutch in so that you can begin to roll the motorcycle, ensuring it is still in 2nd gear.
Push off from the top of a hill or get your mate to start pushing you on the bike. Make sure your mate keeps pushing until the engine starts!
You want to get the bike rolling as fast as you can to give it the best chance of starting, but the pace of someone jogging is usually fast enough.
Step 5: Once rolling, release the clutch
Once you're rolling at a reasonable pace, release the clutch so that the spinning rear wheel begins to turn the engine over. This is exactly the same as using the starter motor, except you're using the momentum of the bike instead of the battery.
With the clutch out and the engine turning over give it a little throttle and when you hear the engine start (not just turn over) pull the clutch back it and rev the bike up a little to keep it running.
Step 6: Rev and ride
Now that you've got your bike started you want to keep it running. With the clutch in again build some revs to ensure the engine doesn't choke or die.
The bike might run poorly because of the starting troubles or some other issues, so its important to keep it running once it starts up to avoid having to clutch start it again. Revving the engine will also begin recharging your battery, provided your charging system isn't at fault.
Now that your motorcycle is running again it's important to think about why it wouldn't start in the first place. If you left your lights on for a short period of time then a good ride should recharge your battery to a useable level. If the issue is more serious it would be worthwhile heading for home or to your nearest mechanic to sort out your issues.
- When releasing the clutch it can be useful to slightly stand up on the foot pegs and 'bump down' with your weight on the seat to help the rear wheel gain traction and begin turning the engine over. This is especially the case when trying to start a motorcycle off road or if the engine has very high compression.
- Sometimes it can be necessary to clutch start a bike 2 or 3 times before you can get the engine running.
- For bigger engines to get the motor turning over it can be helpful to try hitting the starter button at the same time as you release the clutch.
- For older bikes, if the engine is not warmed up it can be useful to use some choke to help the clutch start.
Great write up!By: Smallpackage on 2 May 2022I’ve bump started cars before, but when my buddies Harley touring back had a weak battery on a cold morning I was able to roll down hill and get it going following you advice. Thanks a bunch!
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