Sunday, May 15, 2016

How to Kickstart a Vintage British Motorcycle

There are few things more satisfying than kicking an old motorcycle to life. Whether this follows a total resurrection of a once left for dead machine or after a momentary pause on a country ride when you just stopped to take in the scenery. That moment when the perfect combination of air, fuel, spark collide and explode never ceases to leave one with an ear to ear grin. Its one of those things everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime and completely contrasts the complete lack of emotion and effort involved in modern push-button ignition systems. Without going into great technical detail, what follows is a step-by-step instructions on how to start that old Triumph, Norton, BSA etc.

1. Shift the bike into Neutral (this is located 1/2 click between first and second gears). A good way to make sure your bike is in Neutral is to check and see if the bike rolls or the rear wheel turns freely without the clutch engaged.

2. Bring the bike outdoors or at least open the garage or shed door (Brit bikes are not emissions free machines and do create quite a bit of poisonous gas when running).

3. Make sure you have fresh gas in the tank. It is good practice to drain your tank if you plan on storing your bike for a while or at least add some fuel stabilizer to the gas to prevent it from getting stale. Stale gas typically has a very strong sweet shellac-like odor to it.

4. Turn on the gas. This is done by moving the petcock lever (located on the underside of the gas tank) from the horizontal position (off position) to the vertical position by pushing the lever downward.

5. Enrich your fuel mixture by actuating the choke lever, usually located near the clutch lever on the left side of the handlebar. If your bike has no choke lever there is a "tickle" button located on the outside of the carburator that can be depressed to release some extra fuel into the carburator (do this on both carbs if you have more than one.)  You want to tickle until a little bit of fuel seeps out of the button onto your finger.

6. If your bike has a compression release (not all do), actuate the lever or button. This will make the bike much easier to kick over. If your bike has no compression release, skip to step 7.

7. Flip out your kickstarter (typically located on the right side of the bike) and with a mild amount of pressure push it with your foot until you feel some resistance (you may have to push the kickstarter all the way through once and repeat to achieve this end.) This puts the bike on its compression stroke.

8. Turn on your bike with your key. Make sure your kill-switch is in the "on" position, if you have one.

9. With a moderate amount of pressure, kick the bike all the way through. When you hear the bike beginning to start a small twist of the throttle can help the bike start and begin to idle. Be wary of kickbacks, some bikes are known to bite you in the shin or eject the rider if not careful.

10. Turn off your choke and if the bike keeps on idling you are ready to roll. Turn lights on for safety. Congratulations you just kickstarted your bike.