It's as easy as the turn of a key.

You know, starting a dirt bike.

OK, actually it's not. Dirt bikes don't have keys. You've got an electric start* or kickstart, in other words, the push of a button or the kick of a pedal.

But it's not that simple.

Because there's a difference between starting a dirt bike and properly starting a dirt bike. Whether it's a hot or cold bike, you hang around the track or ride the trails long enough, eventually you'll see someone exert all their energy just trying to turn the motor over. To no avail. So, take a deep breath and let's first tackle the Cold Start.

Cold Starting a Dirt Bike

The cold start is simply starting a dirt bike when the engine is cold. Basically the first time you set out to ride for the day. OK, you've probably done this yourself and watched a friend kick over and over as obscenities spill out, then swear something is wrong with the bike until someone says, "Did you turn the gas on?" Therefore, when you're just starting out follow these steps to enjoy an easy kickoff to your day free of swear words.

  1. Is the gas tank full and if your bike has a petcock did you turn the gas ON?
  2. Pull the choke or starter valve, if applicable
  3. Put the bike in NEUTRAL
  4. Hold the front brake and clutch levers in
  5. Kick start the bike

When kickstarting a 2-stroke dirt bike the full, but swift kick is the most common method to getting started.

However, on a 4-stroke roll the kickstarter (gently crank the engine by slowly pushing the kickstarter up and down) until you feel the engine ready to make a full stroke (you can feel it in your foot on the kickstarter) then proceed with a full kick. Don't waste your time with short kicks, the bike likely won't start.

Some of the newer model fuel injected bikes don't have batteries, rather a capacitor that stores energy like a battery to operate the fuel pump and injector. The capacitor loses its "energy" when sitting for long periods of time, therefore, much like a dead battery, the bike won't start. Solve this problem by rolling the kickstarter a few times which charges the capacitor and gives the fuel pump and injector the power needed to supply the engine with fuel.

  1. Now that you've started the dirt bike let it idle and get to operating temperature
  2. Turn off the choke or starter valve
  3. Go ride

Hot Starting a Dirt Bike

Once the bike is running and the engine shuts off whether from a crash or mishandling the clutch this is where many riders let the expletives fly. Because the bike won't start.

It is needless rage but understandable. Panic sets in as the competition races by and your podium dreams slip away or frustration mounts while you're stuck (seemingly) in the backcountry as your friends ride circle eights around your petered out 250.

Just relax. Seriously, relax because that's what everyone forgets. Impatience takes away focus and you don't realize you're starting the bike wrong.

  1. Relax
  2. Use the hot start - not the choke. Read How to Use a Hot Start
  3. Put the bike in NEUTRAL
  4. Hold the front brake and clutch levers in
  5. Roll the kickstarter to a full stroke on the compression stroke
  6. Don't twist the throttle over and over - this is what happens when you're mad which just floods the engine
  7. Kickstart the bike

Are you that guy who can't get his dirt bike started forcing your riding buddies to turn around and wait?

In the heat of battle all of this feels like it takes five minutes but in reality it's probably about five seconds. You probably do it correctly every day it's just you throw everything out the window when you want an instant restart. The hyper panic hasty kicking takes lots more time, if it ever works at all, and if you flood the engine then you'll need a time out. Your bike too.

*Most bikes equip the kickstart but if you ride a KTM or Husky with the electric start then feel free to read something else. Like this all-inclusive article: Help! My Dirt Bike Won't Start. It happens to the best of us.