Topic: Kick starting an ironhead?  (Read 562 times)

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Offline bblass

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« on: February 09, 2017, 09:21:25 AM »
I got a little too ambitious with my latest project and have discovered that my motorcycling forefathers were a hearty and resilient people.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a 61 XLH 900 in only slightly molested condition. I've always thought vintage sportsters were some of the best looking motorcycles ever made. This one was an inheritance item that sat in barn for many years and after a new top end job she purrs like a kitten when I can get her started. 

I've never ridden a bike with a magneto or manual advance before and while I understand the concept, I'm having difficulty applying it successfully.

Sometimes I kick clean through and almost hyper extend my knee, others I can stand on it and it will barely move. Once it fired back mid stroke and nearly took my foot off. It drew blood from Fencejumper09...

Googling this yields several different methods that almost always turns into an internet fight three posts into the thread. I've tried several of them and the only one that works reliably is rolling it down a hill and dropping the clutch.

Did anyone on here have an old kicker bike and can offer some tips on how to start it relatively reliably?

Many thanks!

~a confused millenial

Offline springer

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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 10:03:19 AM »
 PM member Sled, use to be Ironsled. He has owned several.

Offline springer

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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 10:04:59 AM »

Offline norton73

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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 12:09:24 PM »
It helps if you weigh more than 200lbs...

Last kick ironhead I had was in the late 70s,
Ease it through to just past tdc, retard the magneto. (it does still have the left twist grip hooked up?) throttle opening determined by experience as it will vary from bike to bike and dependent on what carb you have. Too much and the kickback will be damaging.
Return the kick start to the top, take a deep breath and push smoothly through the stroke. Don't jump on it, just firm push.

Also, there is a direct corollation between the number of onlookers and how many kicks it will take.
Loose nut holding the handlebars

Offline bblass

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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2017, 12:57:07 PM »
Thanks Springer! I'll shoot him a PM.

Much obliged, Norton! I've got the 200lbs part covered!

This had some mini apes on it originally so the advance is down near the points on the left side. It seems to work best with just a quarter advance and not fully retarded. It has an S&S super B on it now but it came with the original plus an old zenith. I've been trying to start it with the enricher on so it may be flooding after too many kicks. Also, the mixture is at three turns out so that might also be part of the issue.

I've been jumping on the kicker trying to start it and that's usually when it locks up and refuses to push through. Willing to bet this is the number one thing I've been doing wrong! Thanks for the advice!

Offline Slede

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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2017, 08:25:05 PM »


mine were always slightly molested  ;D

gas off key off
throttle wide open
kick through 3 times

gas on key off
throttle open*
kick through 3-4 times

gas on key on
throttle slightly cracked**
KICK through, with authority***

smile largely and laugh gleefully or start again and adjust slightly until large smiles and gleeful laughs are accomplished

* somewhere between 1/4 and full open

** somewhere between off and 1/2 open

*** if you half ass kick an ironhead it WILL hurt you. I've seen grown men fly through the handlebars and land in front of the bike they where just trying to start.


open offer, holler at me and i'll be glad to come by and help you figure out your specific combination. once you find it, the bike will start everytime without incedent, like magic.


the timing being set correctly has a lot to do with the success of kick starting a ironhead
« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 03:27:14 AM by Slede »
When in trouble, shower down on the throttle. It either fixes the problem or ends the suspense.

Offline IceCold4x4

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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2017, 09:57:56 PM »
haha, sounds like ya need to put on a few lbs.

how hard is it to retrofit an electric starter?

Offline Chitza

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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2017, 10:17:13 PM »
Bblass, I want to see you in a Batman suit for the flying through the handle bar bits. Let me know when and I'll have the GoPro ready.  ;D

I promise to cut away for the crying part.
Loud pipes make me hungry for Valium biscuits and scotch gravy. - kdtrull

Yeah....ham it up, crackers.   ;D -kdtrull
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Offline KevinB

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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2017, 11:25:03 PM »
Looks easy enough...


Offline bblass

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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2017, 08:15:52 AM »
Pee-wee made it look so easy! Must've been using a Honda as a stunt bike...

Chitza, that's a great idea! I can see the craigslist ad now - "1961 Harley XLH - rare motorcycle used in Batman TV show, Batapult kickstarter still works! Launch through the air dramatically as you BONK! criminals"

Slede, just shot you my info. Really appreciate it and looking forward to meeting you in person. Let me know your favorite beer and I'll have it in the fridge.

Ice, while I like where your heads at with donuts and magic buttons, this has become a personal vendetta... I will master the secrets of this bike that I'm too large to ever comfortably ride!

Offline IceCold4x4

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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2017, 05:55:41 PM »
Haha just "kick started"  the Kazuma with my hand so hell once you've got the carb and ignition right how hard can it be?

Offline bblass

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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2017, 06:04:10 PM »
Haha just "kick started"  the Kazuma with my hand so hell once you've got the carb and ignition right how hard can it be?


What ever the coefficient of an additional 750CCs and 50 years of technological advancements is

Offline Fencejumper09

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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2017, 08:41:08 AM »
The bump start seemed to work pretty efficiently! Time for a thinner tire!

Offline bblass

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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2017, 03:40:50 PM »
Yeah, I played with the pre-load a little after our inaugural ride. Helped some but not enough. A new tire is definitely in order!

Still have to get used to there being a shifter where I want the brake to be!