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How To Easily Start Any Dirt Bike Hot or Cold

What is the easiest way to kickstart a dirt bike? Is there a difference between starting a 2 stroke and 4 stroke?

The cold starting procedure is different from when your bike is hot. If you want to know the best way how to start a dirt bike in any situation, then you’re in the right place. 

Even though many dirt bikes have electric start, most still have a kick-start (they are nice to have as a back-up if your battery dies). I’m here to tell you that most bikes are actually easy to kick-start, even if it feels hard to kick the starter over.

This is assuming your dirt bike is in good mechanical condition. Let’s look at all the scenarios you may run into when riding dirt bikes.

The Standard Procedure For Kick Starting A Dirt Bikes Is:

  • Turn the gas valve/petcock on
  • Press/turn on the ignition/key
  • Turn on the choke (carbureted bikes)
  • Get on your dirt bike
  • Don’t touch the throttle yet
  • Slowly kick the starter over to make sure the engine spins freely and to get it to TDC (more on this later)
  • Keep your weight on the kick starter
  • Kick all the way down with the weight of your body
  • Let the kick start lever back up and tuck it back in

Before You Try Starting Your Dirt Bike

In order to easily start your dirt bike there’s a few things that you must know and do. Wearing proper riding gear is important for safety reasons. Good dirt bike riding boots will also help your kick start your dirt bike because they are stiff and won’t collapse when kicking hard.

How To Kick Start A Dirt Bike How To Easily Start Any Dirt Bike Hot or Cold
How not to start a dirt bike

Is Your Engine Properly Tuned?

As far as your dirt bike goes, it must be in good mechanical condition. This means that the engine should be in good shape with enough compression and not worn out.

Your dirt bike also needs to be tuned at least fairly well. Proper carb jetting is extremely important, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just close enough to fire the engine up. Once you get it started then you could test and tune the jetting to get more power and efficiency out of it.

Don’t Use Bad Gas

Having fresh gas is crucial to getting it running properly. This is especially true nowadays because so much of the gas at local pumps is filled with so many additives that not only hurt performance, but the gas can go bad in a matter of weeks.

2 strokes also need a proper pre-mix ratio, depending on the size of your bike and how you ride.

How Well Do You Maintain Your Dirt Bike?

Keeping up on your maintenance is also important to keep your dirt bike running strong and for many hours or years. Doing regular oil changes, keeping the air filter clean, and any routine engine maintenance. This could be checking valve clearances on a 4 stroke, or inspecting and replacing a ring in a 2 stroke engine.

After you get your dirt bike started it’s also important to let it properly warm up. Premature engine wear and a cold-seizure are much more likely to happen if you don’t let your dirt bike warm up before riding it or revving the engine to high RPM.

How To Start A 2 Stroke Dirt Bike

2 strokes are usually easier to start because they generally have less static engine compression and are easier to kick over. With that said, some dirt bikes are more difficult than others. You also need to do it correctly so that you don’t potentially damage the internal kick start gears. 

Re-Mix The Pre-Mix

Don’t turn the fuel valve/petcock on right away. Since most 2 stroke dirt bikes have premixed fuel in the gas tank (unless it’s oil-injected), you need to shake up the fuel in case the oil and gas has separated.

Just grab hold of the handlebars while standing beside your bike and shake it back and forth. You can also hold the front brake while rocking it back and forth. 

Why The “Choke” Is Needed

Now turn the petcock to “On” and turn the choke on. The choke opens a valve to let more fuel in. More fuel is needed when the engine is cold to start it more easily.

A Nice Swift Kick

Once everything is on and ready to start, get on your bike. If the kickstand is strong enough, you can keep that down. Standing on the footpeg to start the bike will give you more leverage.

If the kickstand is too weak or the ground isn’t solid enough then you’ll need to fold up the kickstand and put your left foot on the ground.

Pull out the kick-starter lever and slowly push it down with your foot to make sure the engine spins freely. Once you bring your foot back up, keep the middle of your foot on the kickstart.

Now kick down with your foot and leg while using as much momentum from your body to aid in kicking it over.

What To Do Once Your 2 Stroke Is Started

You should not need to turn the throttle at all to start your dirt bike. After you get the engine started and it stays running, the engine idle will probably be fairly high.

You can turn it off after several seconds, but the engine may not stay running unless you give it an occasional small twist of the throttle.

Once the engine is idling smoothly you can start riding it at a gentle pace. Don’t be aggressive because the engine hasn’t fully warmed up yet. 

How To Cold Start A 4 Stroke Dirt Bike

There’s a wide variety of 4 stroke dirt bikes out there. This section will cover how to start a modern liquid-cooled 4 stroke, such as a motocross or high performance enduro bike. 

If you didn’t read the sections above, you need to turn on the gas/petcock, choke, ignition and get on your bike before trying to start it. Most high performance 4 stroke dirt bikes have an accelerator pump if they’re carbureted.

How To Use The Accelerator Pump For Starting

The AP (for short) shoots a small amount of extra fuel through the carb at low RPM throttle openings to increase throttle response, power, and to help prevent a “lean bog”. You can twist the throttle before you start the engine to give it a “primer” to help start it more easily.

This is only needed when the engine is cold because it needs more fuel than when the engine is warm to run properly. 

Two quick twists of the throttle should give it enough extra gas, then don’t touch the throttle until after the engine is started or else it may kickback extra hard when you try to kickstart it. The kickback can cause a door or leg injury if you don’t have proper dirt bike riding boots on.

Finding TDC To Start Easier

Having no routine and just kicking hard will often get most 4 strokes started, but I have found over the years that having a simple routine can make it easier to start your dirt bike. I am only 5’6″ and weigh under 150lbs and don’t have a problem starting a 250 or 450cc dirt bike with these techniques. 

What If I Need To Start My Bike Quickly?

On a side note, if you want to be able to start your dirt bike as fast as possible (important if you do Enduro/hare scramble races with a dead-engine start) then your best bet is to perfect and tweak this technique so that you can be ready to kick it over as fast as possible.

What Is Top-Dead Center?

Top-dead-center is when the engine is at the point of rotation on the crankshaft where the piston is at the highest point of stroke in the cylinder and furthest from the center of the crankshaft. 

Why Find TDC?

If the piston is at TDC then there will be less static compression resistance when kicking down on the kickstart lever. This will make it easier to spin the engine over faster, which in turn will provide a greater chance of starting it the first time you kick it over. 

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

To Find TDC when kicking your bike over, just go until you feel the most resistance. That is the compression stroke in the 4 stroke cycle. The compression stroke builds up the compression, and that is why there’s more resistance. 

If your dirt bike has a manual decompression lever, this is the time to use it. If not, then just slowly push the kick-starter just enough to get it past that strong resistance. Now the piston is just past TDC and will be easiest to start. 

How To Hot Start A 4 Stroke Dirt Bike

Starting a 4 stroke that is hot can be a pain in the butt, especially if it’s an older carbureted motocross bike. The procedure is similar to starting a cold engine, with the difference of a couple steps.

Using The Hot Start

Instead of turning the choke on, leave it off. If your 4-stroke has a “hot start” lever or knob then now is the time to use it. Older motocross bikes had a knob on the carb.

It’s similar to a choke knob but it’s red. Pull it up before you try starting the bike. If you have a hot start lever (on the left side of the handlebars just above the clutch lever) then pull that in and kick-start it. Don’t twist the throttle at all until after you get it started.

After you get the engine started, you can release the hot start lever (or push the knob back down/off if it’s on the carb).

If it won’t start after several tries then it may be flooded. The engine may have too much fuel in it to start. If that’s the case then wait several minutes for some of the fuel to evaporate and try again. To help prevent this from happening again you may need to tune the jetting in the carb if it’s too rich.

When It Still Won’t Start When Hot

If you still can’t get your 4 stroke dirt bike started then there may be other issues causing this problem. If it is consistently hard to start then the valves may be out of spec. Re-shimming to adjust the valves or new valves may be required.

How To Start An Old Air Cooled Dirt Bike

Old air cooled dirt bikes can be a little tricky to start because they are usually cold-blooded. It may take learning a certain routine to get it started when cold. 

The best way to start most old air cooled bikes is to turn the idle up, leave the choke on, find TDC, then give it a solid full kick. 

Dirt Bike Compression Test How To Easily Start Any Dirt Bike Hot or Cold
Kick Starting An Old Honda XR200

How To Start A Flooded Dirt Bike

The easiest way to start a dirt bike that has been flooded is to turn the gas off, remove and wipe off any gas on the spark plug, wait at least 5 minutes for gas to evaporate, then try starting it with the throttle wide open.

How To Start A Dirt Bike Without Kickstart – In Case Of Emergency

Maybe your electric start quit working, or your kick start isn’t cutting. Bump starting is more of a last case scenario, but it can work well if the engine is flooded, low on compression, or if the battery is too weak. 

Here Is How To Push Start A Dirt Bike In 5 Easy Steps

  • Shift into neutral
  • Push the bike as fast as possible (down a hill is best)
  • Hop on the bike
  • Pull in the clutch and shift up into 2nd gear
  • Stand up and then drop your weight on the seat as you let out the clutch

Follow these steps to bump start your dirt bike with great success. The reason for standing/jumping up and dropping your weight on the seat is to help keep traction to the rear tire. If the rear wheel just skids when you let out the clutch then the engine isn’t spinning and won’t start. 

Tip: If you have trouble shifting it quickly after hopping on the bike, try shifting it into 2nd gear before you start pushing. You will have to hold in the clutch while you push. 

If your dirt bike still won’t start then you may have some mechanical problems that need to be addressed. It could be as simple as a dirty air filter or fouled spark plug.

How to trail ride with confidence

If you want to become a better and safer rider, then you need to start with your riding technique. I want to help you get started so that you ride with more control and confidence to prevent crashes and injuries. Click here to get started.

andrew alcantara

Saturday 23rd of January 2021

my kdx 200 stopped running so I got the carb cleaned and got the jets cleaned. still no start any recommendations.

Kelley Fager

Sunday 24th of January 2021

Did you read my post on how to fix a dirt bike that won't start? What did you do to the bike before it stopped running?