Modern motorcycles may be more reliable and easier to start than their vintage counterparts, but this advancement in technology comes with a price. There are so many sensors and variables in the operation of a today's motorcycles, that it
is often hard to get them running again with out extensive knowledge or special equipment. For example: what are your options when your motorcycle doesn't start because of a dead battery?
Most of today's street legal bikes come equipped exclusively
with electric starters and very few manufactures even have models with an auxiliary kickstarter. While this makes for quick and easy starting, it's also makes traveling risky. A simple battery or electrical failure could leave you stranded and
exposed in the middle of nowhere.
Bump starting is the act of starting a motorcycle by pushing it. (Just like push starting a car with a standard transmission.) It used to be a common practice among motorcyclists but with the advent of electric
starters, has become a "lost art". Knowing how to do it correctly can get you back on the road instead of wasting time trudging to the nearest phone.
The goal is to push the bike in order to get it moving (a slight hill is very helpful here), then
simultaneously jumping onto the seat as you let out the clutch (the bump). The combination of the forward movement and putting the bike in gear will turn over the engine, and hopefully starting the bike. With a little luck and a little spark, you
can be back underway in no time.
There are two basic methods for bump starting; team and solo. The solo method is the most difficult because you have to push the bike as well as operate the controls. The difficulty is greater on heavy motorcycles
because they're harder to push. It's easier to turn over the engine on a small displacement bike or a multi-cylinder bike because there is less compression to resist ones' efforts.
Lighten the bike as much as possible. Remove saddlebags, even if empty,
they'll just get in the way and make the bike harder to push. Next, move the bike to where there are at least twenty to thirty yards of clear running and riding room, preferably downhill or level. Put the bike in second gear (or third on a low-geared
big single like the KLR 650). Turn the switch to "On", and set the choke and throttle just like you would if your starter was working. The next part is both tricky and dangerous, so acknowledge the risks and be especially careful. From the left
side of the machine, grab both handlebars and pull in the clutch. Now push the motorcycle from alongside until you're moving at a good pace. Then jump onto the seat with all your weight, ignoring the foot pegs. As you slam down onto the seat,
release the clutch. Hopefully the motor will turn over, and the bike will start. If not, try again. When the motor catches, pull in the clutch and nurse the engine to a healthy idle. Now re-pack and be on your way.