Introduction: How to Push-Start a Motorcycle

We've all been there. You've been waiting all week to meet your buddies for that group ride you've been looking forward to. You go through all of the trouble to put on your riding gear and pack up your bike with all of the necessities only to discover that your motorcycle won't start. Dead battery. Or you go to check out a used motorcycle for sale and the battery is dead from sitting in the guy's yard for who knows how long. If you are a motorcycle rider, chances are pretty strong that your battery has probably given out on you, and it usually happens at the most inconvenient times possible.

How Do You Start a Motorcycle With a Dead Battery?

Did you know that you can start a motorcycle with a weakened or dead battery? It's true. The simple strategy is called push starting or bump starting. It works in much the same way that WWI pilots used to turn the prop of their airplanes by hand to start their engines. The turning of the prop forces the cylinders in the engine to move, eventually starting the engine. Likewise, by pushing a motorcycle while it is in gear, this forces the pistons in the engine to move. And if done at the right speed with a combination of clutch control, the engine will start. Photo by Wayne Truong via wikimedia commons.

Step 1: Ignition

The ignition needs to be in the “On” position. This completes the circuit that controls the flow of electricity to the spark plugs, fuel pump, and other essential components. If it is in the “off” position and you try to push start the bike, the bike will not start regardless of how much effort you put into it. The ignition must be in the “On” position for the push start method to work. Photo by Usien via Wikimedia Commons.

Step 2: Gear Selection

Using the clutch, put the bike in second gear. Second gear is required to get the engine moving fast enough to allow the self-sustaining combustion cycle to begin. This mimics the actions of the electric starter. Photo by Trent Schultz via Wikimedia Commons

Step 3: Time to Push

Get ready to push! Stand on the left side of the motorcycle and hold in the clutch while pushing the bike as fast as you can. Make sure you have a good grip on the handle bars. Once the bike starts you don't want to lose control and have it fly out of your hands. Photo by Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons.

Step 4: Acrobatics

This is where it gets a little tricky. After pushing the bike as fast as you can for a few feet you will need to be able to jump on the bike and get in a seated position while the motorcycle is rolling with your left hand still holding the clutch in. Photo by Bengt Nyman via Wikimedia Commons.

Step 5: Popping the Clutch

Once securely on the bike, release the clutch quickly and give it some gas. The engine should roar to life almost instantly. Once the engine starts be sure to quickly pull the clutch lever back in so the engine doesn't stall. After all, It is in second gear and the bike is probably only travelling a couple of miles an hour at this point. If the bike doesn't start you may have to try a few times until you get the hang of it. Photo by Oyoyoy via Wikimedia Commons.

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