What Is an Electric Start on a Motorcycle?

by Heydon Park
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The handle of management of movement of a motorcycle image by Aliaksandr Zabudzko from Fotolia.com

A motorcycle electric start system is a great convenience that allows the rider to start the motorcycle by pressing a small button on the handlebar. This button is connected to the motorcycle's battery-powered electrical system that spins the starter motor, which engages an internal starter clutch. This is in turn spins up the engine, bringing it to life.


On most motorcycles, the electric start button is normally black or gray in color and is located on the right handlebar, within easy reach of the rider's thumb and is most often below a toggle "kill switch" labeled as RUN-STOP.


When pressed, the electric start button signals the battery to provide power to the starter motor. The starter motor then spins an internal starter clutch which is connected to the engine, thus starting engine operation.


In earlier times, many motorcycles did not come with electric start and it was not until the late 1960s and 1970s that it became a common feature. Previously, most motorcycles used "kick start", a foot-operated lever that would manually spin the engine and fire it. This was not an entirely reliable starting method. However, electric starters on motorcycles are not all that new. It was a feature that appeared, if rarely, all the way back in the early part of the 20th century.


Electric start systems on motorcycles are now proven and reliable and it is rare to see a new motorcycle without this feature. The system is similar to the one used in cars and trucks.


If you are using an electric start on a motorcycle, remember to keep the bike in neutral while starting it. If it is in gear and you inadvertently release the clutch, the motorcycle may lurch forward causing a mishap.

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