View Full Version : Kick Start

5th Feb 2009, 18:37
This is a request put to the knowledgable.

The expression "kick start" is used constantly in context of the economy. Another metaphor is "prime the pump", but that is for another thread.

I am always sceptical of metaphors. The "economy" is sluggish/stagnant/dying/dead and the implication is that if we but plug in a Keynesian dollar or two they will "kick start" it into glorious life.

My own experience of kick starting derives from British motor-cycles of a by-gone age. The first was a 125 cc Royal Enfield ("RE 125") two stroke, then a BSA C.11 250 cc four stroke, then a Royal Enfield 350 cc four stroke.

Here is what you do with the RE 125. You prime the carburettor then straddle the machine and ... Yes! ... kick start. Nothing happens. Repeat the process until weary. Then mount the machine on the centre stand, go to the right hand side, and with the right foot resume the kicking. Again, of course, nothing happens. There are incidentals like twiddling the throttle but these are mere distractions. They too have no effect. On each kick, the engine does turn over, but does not fire. That is not the objective.

A fair degree of the fault I do believe was electric, British design of the period assuming that the spark plug was a mere decoration that required no spark.

Now pay attention. The RE 125 had a hand change mechanism for the gears. The next step is to go back to the left side, open the clutch, engage second gear, tilt the machine off the stand, and move forward at a smart trot, pushing the machine, clutch still open. As the oxygen disappears from the lungs, let the clutch lever go and in the same split second heave the right buttock on to the saddle. Sometimes the engine will fire. If it does, on no account let it stop, because the bastard will never start again. Just leap on to the saddle with the speed and grace of one of those chaps from the Spanish Riding School.

The C.11 was not too bad.

The RE 350 was heavier, and it had a "decompressor" or "valve-lifter". To use either the straddle or the on-stand-nip-round-to-the-right method without recourse to the decompressor was to court the "back-fire", in which the right leg was tossed upwards towards the lower mandible which was in danger of smashing through the upper.

Unlike the RE 125, which never started on the kick-start, the RE 350 occasionally did, though usually after inflicting grievous bodily harm.

That is just to set the scene. Two questions.

1. The RE 125 was marketed as being War Department surplus. The tale ran that these useless swine were dropped by parachute to expectant paratroops
who were impatiently awaiting motorised transportation, to wit: the RE 125, the better to tackle the Hated Hun. If that really was true, God help them, given that I was not there to instruct on the three methods.

Does anyone know if these things ever were used in action, and if so what was the experience?

2. Given the general uselessness of the kick-start in the motor cycle, what are its chances of success with the economy?

Finally, there was the hand-crank used in British motor cars of the same period. This is a wee extra, only marginally relevant here, but I just remembered that with the hand-crank the hazard was the smashed wrist, and with cars so equipped (e.g., the 1949 Rover 75) the alternative trick was always to park on the downward incline of a hill, clutch out, engage 3rd gear, set off at a brisk coast, and let the clutch in.

5th Feb 2009, 18:43
Kick Start.......could break an ankle if you got it wrong.

Try kick starting the old Triumph 500 single cylinder. (Fire extinguisher on stand-by of course)

Hand Crank......could break a wrist if you got it wrong.

Try cranking a Gardner.

Jimmy Macintosh
5th Feb 2009, 18:56

Excellent musings, thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am saddened that you may be correct. I believe the second kick is just being passed through congress.

I wonder what a bump start to the economy would look like?

Mac the Knife
5th Feb 2009, 19:09
Some years ago, Tartan Gannet (of JB fame, alas, no longer with us) compared sex with a a red-haired Scottish lassie of his acquaintance to "...trying to kick-start a large single cylinder motorbike without using the valve-lifter..."

Still makes me grin.


5th Feb 2009, 20:33
For the mechanism to re-act to the kick-start it does require the correct mixture and quantity of fuel and air, and then something to light it. With regard to the economy we appear to have run out of the fuel!

5th Feb 2009, 20:55
And there's no spark either. :}

I seem to remember there was a large single cylinder dirt bike kick start of some sort that could either break your leg or launch you into orbit if you didn't get things quite right. Seems an oddly appropriate metaphor for the current economic situation.

henry crun
5th Feb 2009, 21:08
"the 1949 Rover 75" Snap.

Windy Militant
5th Feb 2009, 22:39
I thought Kick Start was Ogri's dog:confused:

5th Feb 2009, 23:51
Personally, I think the current morass is so deep that any "kick start" is premature... :(

A "kick start" based on current statistics may be out of date tomorrow... :suspect:

In the mean time, we just get on with it, :ok:

6th Feb 2009, 00:05
I would think that the effect of dropping anything with Lucas or Wipac electrics would be to assure a resolute defence by preventing retreat.

After an excellent landing you can use the airplane again!

unstable load
6th Feb 2009, 11:20
That would be Yamaha's XT500 if you got the decompression sequence wrong. Launched a 6 footer 120kg bloke right over the bars in front of me one day.


Loose rivets
7th Feb 2009, 07:46
For those that take the risk of being launched skyward, make sure that your saddle is affixed.

I have an enduring memory of seeing the frame of a bike - sans saddle, from a'norribly high view-point. Missing the pegs on my return Earthward, was not an acceptable option.

7th Feb 2009, 10:40
I was in High School in America in the Sixties, when we had the "Greasers" for real, along with the first wave of the "Hippies" and, of course a majority of "Squares" including many males with drip-dry white nylon shirts c/w with pocket protectors sporting an assortment of writing implements and thick glasses repaired with wads of Scotch tape (cellophane tape).

One of our greasers had a Harley, an old chopped Hawg. These machines sport a curious, old-fashioned feature, a spark advance controlled by the left-hand twist grip. There is no centrifugal advance but just this twist grip you must rotate in the same sense as the throttle.

McDonalds had not got going then but we did have a similar drive-in restaurant the kids would gather at. Mr Grease would put in an appearance in his black horsehide leather jacket with the twinkly silver studs, his DA (Duck's Ass) haircut, his jeans with rolled-up cuffs, his engineer boots and his Hawg even though, really, he was just a fairly scrawny little Italian-American kid from "the wrong side of the tracks" who had picked this way of keeping up appearances.

So having had his burger, fries and Coke with his greaser buddies, all very intimidating to the squares there gathered, he walked over to the Hawg to blast off. He got it all right except for forgetting to retard the spark so that he gave it a big kick, the Hawg kicked back and he sailed over the bars to land out in front of it in a heap on the parking lot. Nobody laughed but I think they wanted to!

Another time I watched in bemusement at another drive-in as one of these ruffy-tuffies tried to fire up his Hawg fitted with a 2-inch S.U. carb off a junked Jaguar. (There was no air-cleaner, just this big, shiny carb sort of grafted on in place of the usual dinky Tillotson Harley used.)

He kicked and caught a backfire that set fire to the carb! He had to dismount, get down on this hands and knees and blow the flames out with everyone watching. Poor thing, he obviously expected that big, manly "Flob-a-DOP, VAH-room! Potato-potato-potato..." and got "Foof, foof, foof..." instead.

I really wanted to ask him if he had remembered to make a wish there but then physical violence is really just not my thing...

9th Feb 2009, 15:12
Had the same thing happen to me many years before the XT500 came along. In my case it was a 500cc Ariel scrambler that launched a weedy 60kg 15yr old almost vertically, waited till I crashed to earth alongside, then fell over on top of me. Ho ho.

Had a friend with a 500 Velo who used to have to go through the whole vintage ritual whenever he started it: If cold (usually because it had failed to start previously) it went
1.flood carb.
2.close air lever
3. retard ignition fully
4. hold in valve lifter
5. crank over a couple of strokes.
6. ease it just over compression
7. open throttle 1/8th inch
8. give almighty swing on kickstart --and pray...

if unsucessful, repeat from 4.