Motorcyclists: Harley kickstarting question

I got curious about bikes, and when was the last time you could buy a Harley with a kick start. In wandering the web, I found that the last year appears to be around the mid 80’s (late 70’s for the Sportster). Okay, close enough. Anyway, I noticed the presence on YouTube of videos of guys demonstrating kick starting.

Wait. What? Why are all of these guys starting their bikes while standing on the right side of the bike? Are all of those biker movies wrong? You know, the ones where the guys start their bikes while straddling the seat like you’d expect. WTF?

Help me out, Dopers on bikes…

I’m guessing it is because of the kickback. I never had a Harley, but I used to own one of these
They can be started while straddling, but it takes some skill and timing (Which I didn’t have). Its easier to put in on the stand, and use your non-dominant foot for balance, while kick starting.
The angle seems better when you are standing up, and usually it required lesser effort.

Also, to get some power into the kick, you have to almost stand up (if you are straddling the bike), and a sudden back thrust is really hard on the knees.

Found one!

Observe how unbalanced he seems, and it seems to be putting a lot of stress on the stand too.

I have a 1998 Ural with a sidecar. No starter, just a kickstart.
Easy as pie…
Then we have fun:

And I can change a tire without stopping, how about ya’ll?

You can buy one now, it’s available as an aftermarket part for almost all models and you can have the dealer install one prior to taking the bike home. The image of someone straddling the bike to start it is something that you usually only see on the older models which had much lower engine compression, making it easier to kick them over. Newer model bikes have higher compression engines and if it’s high enough they can be nearly impossible to kick start without shoving your knee and hip up through your abdomen, so it’s not as popular as it used to be. Most of the time when you see a kicker on a newer bike they’re chopper or bobber models that either use an older motor or were designed to be low compression models.

I have had a lot of buddies that ‘ride’ tell me that the higher compression nowadays makes it a true PIA to kick 'em over manually. Been there and done that myself - ouch! As an example, I once rode around on a Suzuki 400cc single-cylinder that had a pretty high compression to it, and it came OEM with a ‘compression release’ lever which allowed you to do the kick-start MUCH easier. I only used that when I was tired & lazy, having trouble starting it, and/or or when no one was looking. :wink: I could even hand-kick to start it with that lever engaged (which I did for a couple weeks when my ankle was injured, fwiw).

I have no idea how common it is for larger-bore engines to have such a release available.

Harley and it’s aftermarket parts people make them, so you could buy a newer higher compression motor and have them install both the kicker and the compression release valve, but after thinking about the cost of parts and labor to do it, that’s probably not worth it, and it wouldn’t surprise me that it would void your warranty anyway. You’d probably be better off just installing the kick lever and hitting the starter as you pretended to kick it. That way you get the look without the hassle, but then again that’s kind of lame.

Heh, another foilhead on the dope. Mine is a 2002, among the last of the CSMI 750s. It has an very effective electric leg, but I usually kick it. The electric start is very nice if/when I kill it in traffic though.

Related to the OP, the easiest way to to start a Ural is to stand with your right foot on the left foot peg, and kick with your left leg. The lever swings outward, 90’ to the travel on most other motorcycles. Due to the sidecar, you can’t tip the bike to bring the lever down for an easier reach, and the lever travel direction is awkward if you are astraddle the bike. I see BMW /2 owners (similar starter lever setup) normally start them when standing to the side as well.

And speaking of Urals:

For a while there was a Hitachi (I think??) combined starter/generator available for ducati’s flavor of 650 Ural. Like a toaster/oven it wasn’t much good at either starting or charging the battery. It was pretty common for folks to “help” the electric starter with the foot lever.

I don’t miss the kickstarter. Then again, I’m one of those people who can make even pushing a button look ineffably cool.

Kick starting is a pain. Google “sportster knee”.

To start with you must have the three importent things to start with , fuel at the correct amout ,compression and spark at the right time. Various electrical systems work in different ways,points will work as low as 6 volts whereas eletronic systems need all 12 volts and lower voltage within 10 seconds,so kick quick! Best way i have found is to straddle bike,bring piston just thru compression,( choke/enricher on)and stand on the pedal with as much force as possible,this way you have some bend in your leg,its worked for me for over 30 years and yes its my left knee giving troublenow not my kicker leg!

It all depends on which side the kickstarter is, and how coordinated the rider is so that s/he can “catch” the compression stroke and kick it over without dumping the bike or themself in the process.

My first motorcycle, a 1983 Yamaha XS650SK Heritage Special, had its kickstarter on the right. It also had an electric starter but I almost always kick-started it. I put 49,000 miles on it before selling it in Lawton, OK and used the electric starter maybe a total of 10 times. Once you get “the trick” of it, it’s easy and straightforward.

Other bikes also had the reputation of being hard to kick start.

Back when I bought my first Harley, it was older than me and came with a kickstarter. I was taught to kneel on it with my left leg and use my right leg to kick it over because of the kick back that sometimes happens with cold bikes.

It looked really stupid, but it worked.

However, I wanted to look cool, so I always kicked it while standing astride.

Until the day that I was trying to start it cold and in front of some guys I really wanted to impress. I kicked it a twice to build compression, then it kicked me back on the third time. I’m a small woman, so it tossed me into the air, I hit my head on the low rafters, fell to the ground and then my bike fell over on me.

I did impress them. I’ll bet they still laugh about it.

My brother was a dyed in the wool HD enthusiast. He had a '79 Sportster and always kick started it. He said if you can’t kick start 'em, ya don’t belong on them. But he was a rare dude.