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  1. #1

    Default How to convert your Evo chop to kickstart

    The intention of this Thread is to explain how to convert Evo powered chops to kickstart. Most of the information in this thread I have learned first hand and it cost me ample time and money. Hopefully this will help reduce some of the unnecessary spending and hassle for others interested in doing this conversion ,and pool together all the info necessary to do this conversion instead of the constant forum diving. This thread applies to all Evo's, Sportys and Big Twins alike. The ignition aspect of it applies to all Cone Shovels and most but not all Ironheads as well. To do this conversion you need to accomplish two things. First install a kickstart mechanism ,and second install kickstart friendly ignition.


    First we will talk about the kickstart mechanism. First thing you will have to decide on is weather or not you are going to keep the 5 speed or switch over to a 4 speed, if you have a Big Twin Evo. Sporty's obviously will retain the stock transmission. The 4 speed conversion can actually be cheaper than tricking out a 5 speed to kickstart.
    If you choose the 4 speed option most of them already have a kicker on them and you open up a whole new world of options if you choose to go to an open primary down the road. The conversion is far from simple as you will need to fab up new trans mounts and accommodate the different style clutch able and shifter linkages. There are many threads dedicated to this topic so I will not dive into too much as I have not dealt with it first hand. Just know that mounting a transmission requires ample knowledge of drivetrain alignment and obviously your welds better be up to the task. Also as most of already know 4 speeds did come with there share of problems, particularly oil leaks where as the 5 speed is usually considered to be a bit more robust and leak free. When its all said and done they both have a 1:1 gear ratio in top gear so both transmissions will ride very similarly.
    Now the 5 speed does have a few aftermarket kicker mechanisms available for it. Revtech, Custom Krome, Baker, and several other forigen companies to name a few. Rivera Primo used to offer them but have since decided to redesign there product and are currently unavailable (there are still many units available that are just old stock). I would HIGHLY recommend avoiding all of these except for Baker's if you intend to go kick only. Baker's is by far the most robust design, will last for a very long time, and is very user serviceable. If you are only looking to use the kicker as a back up the foreign units should suffice. Installing these mechanisms can be complicated especially the Baker unit. I would not recommend attempting it without a factory service manual as you will have to pull the gear set out completely (Baker sends great instructions with the unit but it does refer you to the factory service manual quite a bit). This also requires a special bearing puller from Harley that is available for purchase online. All of the other units do not require pulling the gear set, so the special bearing puller is not needed and is much easier to install.
    For the Evo sporty crowd it's pretty strait forward. There is only one company I am aware of that manufactures a kicker mechanism for you and that is Led Sleds. I have never seen or installed this unit but I'm sure it requires the disassembly of the transmission and is a complex processes.
    So in summation if you find a great deal on a 4 speed and can fabricate transmission mounts yourself go that route as that transmission was designed to kickstart and can handle that abuse no problem. If you decide to keep the 5 speed and are going kick only spend the money and buy the best unit available ,but don't take my word for it please do product research before purchasing. If the kickstart is merely for looks/backup you can skimp here and buy a cheaper unit.

  2. #2



    Now let's discuss ignition. All Evo's from the factory come with electronic transistorized ignition with a vacuum advance (VOES). This ignition system uses a vacuum switch to determine when the ignition advances and it is preset to allow the engine to turn over 3 full revolution before the spark plugs begin to fire upon start up. This is referred to as dead revs. When we kickstart a scoot we need our plugs to fire on the first rev and we need them to fire precisely and powerfully. So needless to say stock ignition is out of the question. You have several options to fix that.
    First option is buying an aftermarket electronic transistorized ignition module (most of which mount completely in the nose cone for a clean look) that is programmable to eliminate dead rev's. These are not a bad option, they are fairly inexpensive, several name brand companies manufacture, and most have killer warranties. They are however hit and miss. Most of the micro processors they have are made in china and are very sensitive to heat (we all know how hot the nose cone can get) and the quality control is terrible on the processors. Usually if you get one and it runs great for the first few hundred miles you got lucky and have a good unit. If it craps out early on, don't get too discouraged as the original manufacturer understands, and will usually provide you with another unit no sweat. This type of ignition is not the most kickstart friendly however. Yes it will work BUT it uses a magnetic trigger to know when to fire the plugs. If you don't kick fast enough the triggers won't activate and you will not get spark. Lastly these bad boys need plenty of battery power to fire. Most require a minimum of 11 volts to get spark at the plug when kicking.
    The next option would be to convert over to a points style ignition. You can simply buy a points conversion kit or find some at a swap meet that came off of a cone shovel. You will need the complete points plate assembly, the fly weights, and a 5 ohm coil. This option does allow you to ditch the vacuum advance since your new ignition's advance is activated by the new fly weights. As most of you already know this option is a little maintenance intensive since you will need to lubricate the fly weights and service the breaker points periodically. Points are far more kick friendly, as they require very little voltage to make the plugs fire, and they obviously do not dead rev since there is no micro processors involved. So long as the points are in good working order she will kickstart no problem as this was the ignition of choice for years in the days of kickstart cone shovels.
    There is also a bit of a hybrid ignition type that falls in between electronic transistorized ignition and points ignition. This would the "breaker-less" ignition modules. Again there is a slew of name brand companies that make these i.e. Accel, Mallory, Dynatek (Dyna S). These units still require the use of flyweights for ignition advance and a 5 ohm coil but do not use breaker points. Instead it uses a magnetic trigger similar to the ones used in the transistorized modules. However these modules are far less sensitive to the heat since there is no microprocessor involved and the trigger is much smaller and more sensitive to rotation and does not require the kicking speed the transistorized modules want. They do still want battery power but at a more modest 10 volts.
    The last option is the infamous magneto. With this ignition we are no longer dependent on a battery. Mags aren't much different than our points ignition. They still use breaker points and a coil. However most of them do not advance the ignition curve. They are simply referred to as fixed advance. In other words the bike will be running in full advance all of the time. This requires your bike to idle a little higher (around 1,000rpm's) but will still run similarly to stock once you're in gear and moving. The only exception to this that I am aware of is Joe Hunt's H4 automatic advance mag. This mag utilizes fly weights similar to that of the ones in a points set up. This allows the bike to idle lower and have better fuel economy/bottom end performance. Now kickstarting a mag bike can be a bit tricky. Since most mags are always in full advance it's damn difficult to kick them over without kickback (the more advanced the ignition is on start up the more kickback, the more retarded it is the easier it is to kick). Most mag manufacturers recognize this problem and have installed a manual retard switch on the cap. This is a simple little tab off the edge of the cap that you manipulate with your hand. It retards the mag's ignition curve plenty enough to kick your scoot to life. Once it's running you simply move the tab back to full advance and she is running just fine. Another aspect that can make kicking a mag bike over difficult is the fact that the mag has to make its own electricity to charge (or saturate for you all smarty pants) the coil. Inside the mag there is essentially another generator, who's soul purpose is to do just that. As you kick the bike over that little generator spins and as a result charges the coil. That coil however is also constantly dumping that charge into plugs. So we still need a considerable amount of kicking speed to charge our coil. Now there is one mag on the market that helps alleviate this problem. The Morris M5 has a mechanical wind up spring essentially (works similarly to the recoil pull start on your push mower) that will "snap" the mag forward, giving that little generator we talked about a quick little spin providing ample power to our coil and thus our plugs. There is no need to retard the ignition what so ever with this feature as that snap is so effective.
    Final summation on kickstart friendly ignition is this. If cost is a major factor and you really don't mind spending time with your bike in the garage you can't beat points or breakerless ignition. It's cheap and worked for several decades for our Shovelhead brothers. If you want the best performance and mpg, you can't beat the electronic transistorized ignition. It's not the easiest to kickstart but it can be done, and once you get a good functioning unit it'll last for years and you'll always have rock solid customer support if not. Not to mention this option isn't that bad on the wallet and requires ZERO maintenance. If you're interested in ditching your battery, and killer looks go for the mag. Yes we all know these cost an arm and a leg ,but if you can justify it and reach for a few more dollars and purchase an m5 you will also have IMHO the easiest kickstarting ignition known to man kind. Mags will never offer the best bottom end performance or mpg but they can offer some of the hottest top end sparks if you're into that kind of thang. They still require some servicing on the breaker points but you don't have to mess with any fly weights (Even on the Hunt H4 as those are not user serviceable).

    Happy kickstaring guys. Sorry this thread is long winded, doesn't have any pictures, has terrible grammar/spelling, and sounds a little like a product review. Please feel free to post questions or supplement/correct this information.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2013


    Piss on Custom Crap and their relatives. Fucking bubblegum ratchet gears gave me my first kicker-related injury in decades of riding. Their bendy kicker arms and pedals suck too.

    Took CC advice and went with Baker gears/arm/pedal since the cover isn't critical. However it DOES stick out quite a bit. I eventually used an OEM Harley folding kicker arm (cheap NOS on Ebay) for leg clearance on my FXR but that kicker will remain backup only so the round pedal isn't a major gripe.

    Starter motors have evolved so there isn't much need for a kicker, but if you run one use genuine HD parts if you can find them or just cough up the money for the impressively machined Baker pieces. Even my jaded toolmaker machinist friends like them.

    The 5-speed Baker kicker kit is very expensive, so consider replacing the whole transmission with a Baker unit.

    I run points and don't spend shit for time on them as there's little to spend time on. I'm fundamentally lazy and points suit that fine. It's cheap enough to keep a spare advance/points/condensers on the shelf.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2014


    Nice write up and tutorial. I do not agree with it other than the spirit of wanting a kickstarter. Take an Evo BT and add a kicker, upgrade the ignition to a Dyna-S and then I like it. I agree with your best of both worlds scenario of the Baker tranny w/ kicker and a Morris m5. This makes no sense to me. read that? <--- to me. A good running Dyna or Softail can be had for $5000. A brand newbie baker frankentranny is $3400 and the Morris m5 is $1795. OUCH!
    I do like the spirit of it but I wonder what a 1984 softail tranny or a 1985 wideglide tranny are going for nowadays? Those are the last moco factory kickers that I know of. Correct me if i'm wrong.

  5. #5


    Nope you're correct 84 softy's came with kickstart 4 speeds ,and yes that would be the most ideal situation throwing that trans in instead of tricking out a 5 speed or fabing new trans mounts for an older ratchet top 4 speed. However those transmissions were only in production for a few years and are hard to come by. A Frankentranny is VERY expensive and I wouldn't recommend that since 5 speeds are pretty bullet proof stock. The kick start kit from Baker is like $1200 still more expensive than a used 4 speed. However you're more than likely looking at a rebuild on a used 4 speed since all the HD ones are at least 30 years old. That's still not even getting into the fact that you will have realign your drivetrain to accommodate said 4 speed. Like I said above if you can score a 4 speed cheap go that route. Learn a new trick and realign that drivetrain. If you don't have the resources to help you with that though you're looking at some costly mistakes and may have been better off sticking with the 5. Adding a kicker to a 5 is complicated but it's mechanical work, much easier to learn that in the garage than trying to teach your self how to weld and align driveline. With the ignition I've found it's a total crap shoot. They all work and they all break down go with what you want/can afford learn how to service it and keep trucking.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2013


    For someone going the Baker transmission route, if you have the older tapered shaft tranny, they won't add the kicker to it (at least as of several years ago). So, if you want the Baker, and want the kick, you have to order a later splined version. Not a big deal except that it now requires a later splined clutch hub, different primary, and different electric foot components. Also, I had to do some cutting/filing on the starter housing (bolts to the inner primary) to clear the Baker housing.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2017


    84 and 85 Softail and Dyna still had kickers stock, I owned 1984 FXST. So I can confirm this.Click image for larger version. 

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