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How to Bump Start - and WHY you need to know

Posted by Brad Roberts on

What is a bump start and how do you do it? Simply put, bump starting utilizes forward momentum of the bike to rotate the rear wheel and turn the engine over, therefore staring it.  So why do you need to know this? Well, if your kickstart or electric start fails, it provides you with a way to get the bike started and get back to camp. In any case, here are 4 ways to bump start your bike.


Technique #1: The Downhill Bump

Downhill Bump Start

This is the most common way to do it. Of course, it requires you to have a downslope nearby, so if you didn’t stop at the top of a hill, you’ve got some pushing to do. Point your bike down the hill. Pull your clutch in and shift into gear. I recommend trying second gear because it requires less torque to turn the motor over. Less force means an easier start. If you’re on a slippery or loose surface and try using 1st gear, your rear tire may just lock up and skid. Now, with the clutch still held in, begin rolling downhill. Stand up on the pegs as soon as you can. Once you’ve gained momentum, drop your butt down onto the rear of the seat. This will compress the rear shock and provide more traction to the rear tire. As your butt touches the seat, release the clutch to engage the transmission. This burst of traction and quick release of the clutch will cause your rear wheel to transfer all of that forward rolling momentum into rotational energy. Your motor will begin to turn over and the bike will start up! It’s not always necessary to slam your butt down onto the seat. Sometimes simply applying pressure down onto the pegs provides enough traction to get the job done. It’s all based on how much speed you have, what gear you’re in, and how much traction the surface provides you. Don’t think too hard about it, just go try it for yourself and see what works.


Technique #2: The Pusher

The Pusher

No hills around? No problem. This way takes a lot more effort but it’s still a lot better than walking back. Stand beside the bike with both hands on the bars. I recommend the left side. Begin pushing the bike forward, building as much momentum as possible. Once you’ve got some speed, quickly jump up and land your left foot on the left peg. Swing your right foot over the seat and onto the right side peg. Repeat the clutch and body movement steps we went over in the downhill bump technique to get traction and start the bike. This all needs to be done in a quick and fluid motion. Every bit of time spent getting into position is momentum lost. This technique is pretty challenging and takes lots of confidence and coordination. It’s quite easy to miss the peg on the jump or lose balance and get tangled up in your bike. Be careful trying this! If the engine cooled down, or even if it’s still warm, the clutch plates will likely stick together just enough to add resistance even if the clutch lever is pulled in. This may make it hard or even impossible to make the bike roll forward when pushing. To get around this, put the bike in neutral when you begin pushing. Build up your momentum and jump on. Just before you start to compress the the rear shock, pull the clutch in and shift up to second gear. Quickly release the clutch once in gear and compress down onto the seat. This is why I recommend pushing on the left side of the bike. Naturally you will place your left foot on the peg first, which will enable you to shift into gear quicker. This adds a lot more challenge to the technique but it’s often necessary. Note that this way of bump starting is not going to work well in mud or deep sand. It’s too hard to push the bike up to speed.


Technique #3: The Swinger

The Swinger

Ride up behind the person and bike needing the bump. Position yourself on the brake side of the swingarm--you don’t want your foot getting caught in the chain! Place your foot on the rear of the swingarm. Confirm that the rider is ready and slowly begin pushing. It’s very important for the person pushing to sit far forward on the seat and extend their leg as much as possible. This will provide space between the bikes, reducing the risk of getting tangled up. Once the bike is up to speed, yell out to let the person know you’re about to release them. After the release, the rider being pushed can now perform the standard bump procedure used in the previous techniques. Remember that having the bike in neutral while trying to build momentum will make the pusher’s job much easier. I recommend starting in neutral and doing the upshift to second gear as I explained in the previous method.


Technique #4: The Tug

Very similar to the swinger method, but this time you’ll need a tow strap or rope to pull instead of push. Place the running bike in front and slightly to the side of the one needing the tug. Connect one end of the strap to the foot peg of the bike needing the tug and the other end to the opposing side footpeg of the other bike. Slowly pull forward and build tension in the strap, then begin building momentum. I’m sure you can figure the rest of the steps out on your own by now. Just remember that you’re connected to another bike for this one so don’t go wild after you hear the bike behind you start up! Best practice is to stop and unhook from each other…just don’t let the bike stall again!

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  • Loving these videos! I’ve been riding for years but your videos always teach me something new. Keep up the awesome work.

    Evan Stitch on
  • Loving these videos! I’ve been riding for years but your videos always teach me something new. Keep up the awesome work.

    Evan Stitch on
  • Knew that – but it was really fun to actually see it on video. And I am sure someone will use one of these techniques soon. thanks

    joe schleis SCHLEIS on
  • This looks soooooo great! The YouTube video is hilarious, too. 🤣 Your whole series is going to be awesome. Thanks for making such helpful content. 🤘

    Tiffany on

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