Beginner Motorcycling

Information on Motorcycling for Beginners

How to Start a Motorcycle

motorcycle controls drawing

Basic Motorcycle Controls

In one of our recent articles we explained the basic motorcycle controls for modern motorcycles.  Now, we’ll go over the basics of how to start a motorcycle.

First, you will need to insert the ignition key and turn it clockwise to the ignition position.  Next, you will need to make sure the motorcycle transmission is in Neutral (most modern bikes won’t let you start the bike in gear with the kickstand down).  If you don’t know how to find Neutral, we will cover that in our next article on shifting a motorcycle.

Next, make sure the engine cut-off switch (or “kill switch)  is in the “run” setting, not in the engine “kill” setting.  At this point, if your motorcycle is fuel injected you can start it by pressing the start button.

For motorcycles with carburetors, before you press start you will need to make sure (1) that your fuel supply valve (if you have one) is turned to the on position; and (2) that you adjust your choke/enricher (usually either near the clutch lever, or somewhat near the fuel supply valve) to get extra fuel in the mix to start (many bikes need half-way or none on warm days, full way on cold days, but each one is different).  Once you’ve done all that you can start it by pressing the start button or using the kick starter if you have one.

Let the engine run a bit to warm up. On a carbureted motorcycle, after you’ve let it run with the choke out a bit you’ll want to push it back in before you start riding.  If you start pushing the choke in and the engine sounds like it might die, pull the choke back out and let the engine warm up a little more.  Most fuel injected motorcycles will start out automatically with a richer fuel mix, and will automatically go to a normal mix after warming up — you’ll be able to hear a change in the sound of the idling motorcycle engine.

Now the engine is on and warmed up.  I recommend that on any motorcycle you are not used to that after you sit on the bike you should do this exercise to feel how the bike throttle and friction zone of the clutch work: (1) sitting on the motorcycle with your gear on, pull the clutch lever all the way in and shift to first gear; (2) keeping your feet on the ground, feel the friction zone of the clutch by slowly letting out the clutch a bit (without giving throttle) and then pulling it back in before stalling; (3) again keep your feet on the ground, and feel the throttle response by doing the same exercise with a small bit of throttle; (4) put the bike back in Neutral (Neutral light should illuminate) with both feet on the ground and start to push forward and check that the front brake will stop the motorcycle, and do a quick check on front and back brakes separately in the first 20 yards or so after starting out on your motorcycle.

Hope you find this helpful.  In our next article about how to ride a motorcycle, we’ll cover shifting in more detail.

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