The dead engine starts is not common, if ever carried out, in Motocross or Supercross. Can you even imagine the 30 second card dropping and hearing...silence?
It would certainly alter the sport if widely instituted but we'll save that bit of interesting fun for an enterprising track promoter looking to shake things up. Nonetheless, the dead engine start is often used for off-road races like, for example, the Grand National Cross Country series, which enforces dead engines starts every round.
Briefly, according to the 2016 GNCC series rules, when the blue flag waves, riders must turn off their engines and wait for the green flag to be thrown. Starting an engine prior to the green flag brings a penalty.
Sometimes, though, the engine refuses to start leaving you literally in the dust of those who prepared properly for a dead engine start. So, how do you prepare for a dead engine start? Well, we'll tell you.
First of all, the dead engine start does not mean a cold engine start. Get the engine race-ready warm so the idle settles with the choke off. This is usually done in the pits just before the signal to line-up. Take this opportunity in the pits to review kickstarting the bike. By review, we mean go over what you practiced during the week(s) leading up to the event. Therefore...
Practice Dead Engine Starting
In all likelihood, you'll have no trouble getting your engine started when practicing in the comfort and stress free environment of your home. It's the muscle memory you want ingrained when it's go-time. So, practice rolling the kickstarter (pushing the kickstart up and down) with racing boot on and leaving it at the point where you'll get a full stroke when you kick. (For more information read How To Start a Dirt Bike.)
If the bike doesn't start check that the gas is on and the choke is off. Remember, you're practicing for a dead engine start therefore your bike should already be warm without need for the choke. If you're having a hard time starting the bike without the choke, you need to warm the engine more.
Next, figure out what gear your dirt bike prefers. This is especially true of privateers who don't have the luxury of factory rides along with the latest and greatest equipment. Ideally, you want to start your bike in second gear with the clutch pulled. But, dirt bikes, like cats, can be finicky. You might have to kickstart the bike in neutral - sacrificing time - but at least firing on the first kick. If this is your bike, practice lifting your plant (left) leg to the shifter and getting the bike into second gear.
Do this over and over until you can do it without giving it a second thought.
Day of the Race
When you hear the call to line up don't ride your bike to the start in high gear. This dumps unburnt fuel into the engine making it harder to start. Before you shut down, rev it a few times to burn off any fuel and clear the fuel lines.
Once on the race line you might be given the chance to warm the engine again so take it! You don't want to fuss with the choke plus it gives you one more chance to practice that kickstart. Let it idle until you're told to "shut 'er down." Rev it again before shutting down. Get the kickstarter ready just like you practiced, feeling for that compression stroke. Once you've found it, don't mess around with it. Be steady, have patience and get ready to ride.
Now, we know what you're thinking. I'll just get a KTM or Husky with their nifty electric start. Our experience has shown the electric start isn't always reliable and some models come with both an electric and kick start.
But, even if your KTM fires up lickity split, race promoters have a way to even the playing field.
What You Can't Prepare for in a Dead Engine Start Race
Place your hands on your head!
Hopefully you didn't just have a flashback of a forgettable moment in your life. To make it fun, tortuous or to keep the KTM guys honest, some races incorporate a variety of "obstacles" - fun for the spectators but probably a bit frustrating for the rider.
Don't be surprised if you have to remove a boot which gets thrown into a pile and when the green flag drops the race begins with a scramble to the pile as you look for your boot, put it on and get back to your bike. Other races require all riders to put their hands on their heads which prevents riders with electric starts from getting an edge. Still, we've heard of one race where riders had to stand behind their bikes and lift it off the ground by the rear fender until the green flag dropped.
Regardless of any implemented hindrances, nothing leaves you stranded at the start line, choking on dust and desperately kicking then not having the engine pre-warmed and you not practicing the kickstart so it's little more than shifting into high gear on a straight-away.