How To Kick Start A Dirt Bike

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Motorcycle manufacturers are always trying to make motorcycles more user-friendly, and this has also translated to dirt bikes which are usually for more rugged and off-road experiences.

One of these improvements is the addition of the starter switch, a handy button that you can simply press that turns the engine on and allows you to move the bike.

However, before the days of the starter switch, bike riders had to manually engage the engine using kick-starting. Kick-starting is fairly simple but may require some preparation if you want it to happen smoothly.

In this article, I will go over how to kick start a dirt bike and have listed the steps you must carry out below:

  1. Inspect All Components Of The Dirt Bike
  2. Turn The Dirt Bike On
  3. Make The Preparations
  4. Shift Into Neutral
  5. Prime The Carburetor
  6. Pull The Kick Starter Out
  7. Activate The Starter Lever
  8. Kick The Starter Back In Place

Along with explaining these steps in-depth, I will also go over a few tips and other relevant information, so read the whole article.

What Is Kick-Starting In A Dirt Bike?

Get the guide of my dirt bike kick start guide

Kick-starting in a dirt bike is starting your bike’s engine via the starter lever located at the side of the motorcycle.

This is done by applying a downward force to the lever, which causes the engine to roll over and the bike to start. Since their inception, this has been the primary way to start the engine for most motorcycles.

However, motorcycle manufacturers are now slowly making this an optional feature instead of pushing a starter switch instead.

While a starter switch is much simpler to use, replacing the kick starter can lead to various issues, which I will discuss below.

Why Should You Kick Start A Dirt Bike?

Since the starter switch is an electrical component of the dirt bike, there may be a possibility that the starter switch could eventually stop working due to a defect, manufacturing error, or simply due wear and tear.

Another reason you would prefer a Kickstarter over a starter is to save on weight, as starter switches require a huge battery to function and a motor that can increase the weight of your dirt bike.

This will make it so that you simply cannot start your dirt bike, and if you do not know how to kick start a dirt bike, or worse, do not even have a kick-starter, you will be forced to visit the mechanic to have it fixed.

Reasons Why You Cannot Kick Start Your Dirt Bike

If you find yourself unable to turn over the engine while using Kickstarter, there could be a myriad of reasons why you are not able to do so.

The reasons can include:

  • Dead battery
  • Not enough force to the kick starter
  • Seized Kick starter
  • Dysfunctional electric starter

These are just a few reasons why your dirt bike may not be starting via the kick start. Try applying more force to the kick starter to see if lack of force is the problem.

If you think you are applying enough force to the kick start and believe there is an issue with the dirt bike, it is best to go to a professional and check it.

The mechanic should be able to identify the problem and fix it for you for a price.

8 Steps To Starting Your Dirt Bike

I will now explain how you can kick start a dirt bike if you do not know how or if there is a malfunction in the starter switch. Companies today are moving away from ancient mechanisms such as the kick starter lever.

However, with the number of electrical problems that can occur with the starter switch, it makes little sense to remove the starter lever entirely.

If your starter switch does not work, you should be able to turn your dirt bike on via an alternative method, i.e., kick starting.

Step 1: Inspect All Components Of The Dirt Bike

Before you can even think about starting the dirt bike, you should be well aware of all the dirt bike components that go into starting it.

These components include the throttle, the clutch lever, the starter lever, and the shifting lever.

You should be able to identify these components and know where they are located. The throttle is located near the right handlebar.

The clutch lever is at the left handlebar, the starter lever is located at the right side of the bike, close to where your feet should be, and the gear shifting lever is at the left side of the bike.

You should get a feel for these components and know exactly where they are and how they work before attempting to kick start your bike.

Step 2: Turn The Dirt Bike On

Whether or not you consider dirt bikes that require keys real dirt bikes, they are called dirt bikes and should be treated like them.

Regardless of whether it requires a key to start, it probably has a kill switch near the right handlebars. Make sure that this switch is set to on so that you can start your bike via the kick start.

Once the switch is on, insert the ignition key if your dirt bike requires it and turn it on.

Since the kill switch makes it possible for you to start the dirt bike as it controls whether the battery can supply power to the engine to make it work.

Step 3: Make The Preparations

Before proceeding any further, you must also make the proper preparations to ensure that you have a safe journey while riding your dirt bike.

This includes wearing safety gear such as:

  • Helmets
  • Dirt bike boots
  • Knee/Elbow Pads

Now that you are ready, make sure the is too. Check the gas line of the dirt bike and see whether it is in the right position. You should be looking for a metal dial and if it is not, set it such that it is pointing down to the fuel line.

This means that the fuel should be able to enter the engine. Depending on the last time you rode your dirt bike, you should pull up the choke if you are cold-starting the dirt bike.

This should be a black choke valve located at the front of the dirt bike’s engine. Simply grab the valve and pull it upwards.

This step is only necessary if there has been a substantial time since you have used the dirt bike, and there shouldn’t be any reason to do this if you ride your dirt bike daily.

Step 4: Shift Into Neutral

While certain motorcycles can bypass this rule, it is mostly recommended and set that you should start the motorcycle when it is in neutral gear.

This is also the case for dirt bikes. Make sure that the dirt bike is set to neutral gear. You should be able to confirm this if you can rock the dirt bike back and forth while it is turned off.

If this is not happening, then your dirt bike is in another gear, in which case the best scenario is to shift down to the first gear and the upshift once to set it to neutral.

Step 5: Prime The Carburetor

Now that most of the preparations for turning the dirt bike have been made, all left is to prime the carburetor. All you have to do is pull the throttle towards yourself as if you were revving the engine when the bike is on.

Turn it back and then let it go back to its original state. You should do this 2 to 3 times, making it easier for you to start the engine if it is a 4-stroke. You don’t need to do this if it is a 2-stroke; however, it doesn’t hurt if you do.

Step 6: Pull The Kick Starter Out

Since you won’t be able to switch the bike on with the starter switch, if you have one, the only option left is to get ready and use the starter kit. For this, you must first get the starter lever into position.

The starter switch is usually tucked beside the dirt bike on the right side near your foot for safety purposes.

Simply use your foot to pull it out, and it should be perpendicular to the dirt bike, such that you can easily place your foot on it. You should not be able to activate it.

Step 7: Activate The Starter Lever

To activate the bike via the starter, place your foot in a suitable position on the starter lever. Placing the foot in the middle should give you more room to push but might require more effort.

Placing your foot at the edge should make it easier to force the lever down but risks your foot slipping off the lever.

Regardless of how you decide to push the lever down, make sure that you apply enough force and weight to it that it goes down.

You should feel it press down and then back up, locking itself into position. This should force the engine to roll over.

If this does not happen, you are probably cold starting your dirt bike, in which case you should attempt this a couple more times, and it should work.

Step 8: Put The Kick Starter Back In Place

Now that you have successfully started your dirt bike via the kick starter, you would naturally think you can just shift to first gear and drive off; however, you might forget that the kick starter is still sticking out of the bike.

This could lead to an instance where the kick starter can collide with objects and other vehicles, which could cause it to break apart.

Make sure you tuck the kick starter back in by simply pushing it towards the side of the bike, the opposite of how you got it out.

You should be able to do this with your foot; however, using your hands is also a good alternative if you are having trouble.

3 Tips On Kick Starting Your Dirt Bike

1. Do Not Jump On The Kick Starter

The kick-starter of the bike is fairly durable, but it can in no way handle the entire weight of a human. When applying force to the kick starter, make sure that you do not apply too much force; otherwise, you could just snap the kick starter off.

This may, however, be the lesser of two bad outcomes as you can also always slip off of the bike and injure yourself, which can be costlier and more painful than having to get your kick-starter fixed.

Always apply an adequate amount of force such that once the engine rolls over you, the kick starter pops back up.

2. Find The TDC

The TDC is short for Top Dead Center and is the point of rotation on the crankshaft. At this point, the piston is the highest and furthest from the crankshaft’s center.

Finding this point is necessary as it allows you to kick-start your dirt bike much faster. It allows you to spin the engine over much more easily and quite a bit faster.

It also allows you to turn the engine over on your first try, saving you the trouble of constantly kicking the starter lever to turn your dirt bike’s engine on.

3. Wear Proper Shoes

You may not think of this at first, but your choice of footwear can also have a huge effect on your capability to kick start the dirt bike.

Wearing proper boots and other shoes can give you a much bigger grip on the kick start than you would get from wearing casual shoes.

This will reduce the times your foot might slip from the kick start and allow you to properly kick the lever downwards to get the engine to turn over on the first attempt.


With all of this information, “how to kick start a dirt bike” is a question you should no longer be asking.

You should be fully capable of kick-starting your dirt bike, but you should also be able to assess and figure out the reason, if any, why your dirt bike may not be turned on via a kick start.

By following the steps above, you should have little to no trouble; however, if you do end up having some difficulties, there may be issues with your dirt bike, in which case it is best to go and visit a mechanic.

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