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  1. #1
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    Default Shovelhead Kickstarting Success

    I just wanted to report something I figured out about kickstarting my Shovelhead that might help someone else.

    This is my first kick-only bike, and I donít have any experience with kickstarting. So far, starting it has been hit or miss and mostly random. Sometimes it would start in one kick; other times not. I wasnít sure about things like when to turn on the gas, when to twist the throttle, how many priming kicks, etc.

    So, I sat down and started thinking about exactly what I was trying to do. This is what I figured out, and it works on one kick now. (Obviously, timing and carb tuning has to be dialed in first)

    I turn on the fuel, twist the throttle 3 times to squirt fuel into the intake, no enrichener , throttle 1/4 open, and give it two good priming kicks (ignition off) to suck the air fuel mix into the cylinder. Then, turn on the ignition, one more twist of the throttle, enrichener half way, throttle 1/4 open, one good kick and it starts.

    I think what I was doing wrong was that I wasnít twisting the throttle before my priming kicks. I thought the purpose of the priming kicks was for oil pumping. When I went to start it, there wasnít hardly any fuel in the cylinder to get compressed. When I went to start it (ignition on), I was bringing it up onto the compression stroke, then twisting the throttle, and then kicking it. So, there wasnít any fuel getting compressed. At the time I was twisting the throttle, the intake valve was already closed. The trick was to use the priming kicks to get the air-fuel mixture sucked in before I brought it up to the compression stroke and turned on the ignition.

    I realize that for many of you, I probably just stated the obvious, but maybe it will help a kickstarting noob like me.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2015
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    502

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    Weloome to the world of kick starting!

    I beleive if we can understand that every kick start bike is different, then that's a start: There isn't one start up combo that will work with every bike. Mechanical condition, (as you mentioned), type of ignition, carb, etc, will change what you do to kick start.

    My 60 Pan, with Mallory ign, OEM coil, SS E just takes pulling on the enricher and 3 kicks. Cold weather/hot weather, that's all it takes. But it is in great mechanical condition, with some thanks to what I have read on this forum. But I'm sure my start up procedure wont work with many others

    Sounds like a great bike you have. Stay on it with basic maintenance, learn about your make/model engine (A hard copy FSM will pay off HUGE) and you will have some great and fun road miles

    Enjoy

  3. #3
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    I'm also on my first kick only bike. This thread was great to read because I've been having trouble with my shovel build. Still messing with the timing but this helps reading about the process on how it works. Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Timing needs to be pretty close to being right-on or .....

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hello Karman line ....

  5. #5

    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Default

    I agree. Timing is key.............. As said, all motors are in different states of tune, mech condition, maintenance, etc: Its easy to chase around a starting problem. Low compression, poor spark, intake leaks, valve adjustment, carb adjustment are just some causes of poor starting conditions. There is no universal recipe in kick starting. The recipe is yours, and it sounds like you nailed it

    If you look at the forum, a lot of poor starting issues have allot in common: I just had "rebuild done, just installed this", etc, etc....... Poor rebuilding or maintenance over decades of previous owners, and half baked repairs is what makes some of our bikes poor runners

    Get a FSM and use it. Myself, I stay away from CDs: I use a hard copy with doc protectors in a binder

    Keep on the basic maintenance: It will give you many miles, and save you money in the long run

  6. #6
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    Congrats, there is a certain visceral satisfaction to kicking a bike to life. As has been stated every bike is different, in the case of my panhead there is a difference cold vs warmed up. When dead cold it needs priming twists, the enricher ( Super E carb ), a couple of priming kicks.

    When warm, I don't touch the throttle, just one prime kick, and then ignition on and away we go.

    Enjoy, you've earned it

  7. #7
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    I’m heading to the Fuel Cleveland events next weekend, so that means only one thing: I won’t be able to kick start it in front of all the other people. Just the way the universe works.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2021
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    It's interesting to see all the different kick rituals. I always see people giving the throttle a few twists then prime kicking, then start. I've never had luck doing that, I almost always end up flooding the super e. Mine seems to like two prime kicks, enrichner up, twist or to then key on, and it'll start second kick 8/10 times. Nice to know there are others out there learning this too.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomK View Post
    I’m heading to the Fuel Cleveland events next weekend, so that means only one thing: I won’t be able to kick start it in front of all the other people. Just the way the universe works.
    I find that mine is harder to start the more people that are watching. Most of the people in the Cold beer bar wondered out to watch one day and I never did start it. Slipped out a beer or two later and second kick started right up bout a quarter of the bar came out and laughed and shot me the bird.
    Dusty

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DustyDave View Post
    I find that mine is harder to start the more people that are watching. Most of the people in the Cold beer bar wondered out to watch one day and I never did start it. Slipped out a beer or two later and second kick started right up bout a quarter of the bar came out and laughed and shot me the bird.
    Dusty
    I understand that and have seen it many times..... I guess I'm damn lucky as all of my kick start bikes will crank first kick every time..... Even when it's cold depending on how long I've been at the bar, after the prime kicks that is they don't count...........

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