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Video: How to Bump Start

by The "Professor" Gary Bailey

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Most riders think they know how to bump start a motorcycle, but how many have really given it any thought? Is there another way or a better way to bump start? Is it the same for four strokes and two strokes? How about for different size riders? How about if you are in mud, in sand, and whether it is dry or tacky? Do you bump start in first gear or second gear? Do you jump on the seat or not? Do you use the throttle or not? Each of these things can make it a little easier or a lot harder to bump start a motorcycle and these things may also change the technique.

So, why is this important? Why does it matter whether you know how to bump start a motorcycle?

One reason you need to know how to bump start is in case your bike will not start when you try to kick-start. Motorcycles are moody and sometimes they are just hard to start so having an alternative way to start a stubborn bike can be a very helpful.

Another reason is to save time and energy if you fall during a race. It just makes sense if you are on a hill and can bump start by rolling down the hill and letting the bike start. If you crash in a race while you are tired and hot, bump starting will save precious energy and time by using a small down hill. How many times have you been in a race, or seen a rider in a race, fall and recover quickly only to lose positions while desperately trying to kick-start their bike?

So here is what you need to know to learn how to be a good bump starter.

Two Strokes
First, let’s talk two strokes. Most of the time second gear works well on a two stroke. But forget about that big jump on the seat you were taught to do decades ago. Most riders do not need a big jump on the seat to bump start unless the rider is very light weight and needs more traction.

Riders like to challenge me on this one and try to tell me they must do a big jump on the seat to bump start. I remain unconvinced because I have gotten riders of all sizes to bump start without jumping on the seat. The determining factor of which gear to use and how much of a bounce you need is what kind of traction you have.

Learning to bump start requires a little practice. You want to practice so that when you need to bump start you will know what works best for you. Practice on different parts of the track and in different situations so when the time comes you won't have to think. You can simply react and get back to racing as quickly as possible.

To practice, find a little hill and practice bump starting your bike in different gears; first and second. If the hill is small, start your roll in neutral, then pull in the clutch, put the bike in gear quickly and let out the clutch. Because you are on a two stroke, a little throttle is needed when you release the clutch.

Your goal is to practice this enough and get the timing and technique down so that you can bump start your bike on the smallest hill or bank, like the backside of a berm. If necessary learn to bump start on a larger hill, but keep practicing until you can bump start on a smaller and smaller hill.

Four Strokes
Ok, now for the four strokes. If you bump start a four stroke in second gear and bounce on the seat you are not alone. I have worked with quite a few top pros that were still using second gear and bouncing on the seat to bump start their four stroke. That is until I told them they were working too hard and showed them that most four strokes will start in first gear and at a very slow speed.

Try this next time you ride. Be sure you start with a big enough hill that you can get a little speed. Start your roll in neutral, pull in the clutch lever, pop your bike into first gear and DON’T turn the throttle until the bike starts. This is the same as when you kick start the bike; don’t use the gas until the bike starts.

Now keep working on this technique on smaller and smaller hills and learn how quickly and how small of a down hill you can bump start the bike. If you get this right you can bump start a 450 four stroke in less than a bike length and you don’t need much of a hill to do so.

Learning to bump start your motorcycle can help you get going quicker and with little to no effort. Effective bump starting is just another racing technique to put into your bag of tricks to pull out and use when you need it like at the end of a race when you crash and don’t have the energy to kick-start your bike.

All I can say is try it you’ll like it and maybe it will help you win a big race one day! Or if you aren’t a racer, at least you can bet your buddies that you can bump start your bike in one bike length and make some change at the track.

Thank you for checking out this article. Other similar articles can be found in the archive section. I hope all of my articles help you become a better, safer rider no matter what your skill level. Because I am in semi retirement after 43-years teaching full-time, I only do private one-on-one coaching or with a small group of riders. Most of my time is spent in Virginia, however, if you are on the west coast I do spend some of the winter months in California visiting my kids and grandkids. If you are interested in scheduling a coaching session shoot me an email gbmx@kimbanet.com or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    mxguy94 November 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Dude is just awesome!! More Bailey please

  2. Gravatar
    Peter November 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    If you need to bump start your bike when it cold, you need to get it checked out.

  3. Gravatar
    Greg Marino November 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    ...and if you don't have a hill, find one, push your CRF to the top and proceed as the professor instructs. OR...keep a garage full of KTM's as I do. Ain't nothing better folks! Hill or no hill or deep sand up to your crotch, think Florida MX or Hare Scrambles. Just push the button! Thank you Gary!

  4. Gravatar
    Mark Dean November 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Sometimes you have to bounce the seat or you wont get any traction.

  5. Gravatar
    Brad November 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I agree it is definitely possible to bump without the big bounce on the seat most times, but why not add the extra traction and improve your chances of success?

  6. Gravatar
    Damian February 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I am glad I'm not the only one who realizes that seat bouncing creates more traction. I've bump started enough time without the seat bounce to realize it greatly increases your chances of getting traction and getting the bike fired up again.

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