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2021 CanAm Spyder RT
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Maybe I look even older than I really am, but I have been riding since the early '80's, so I'm getting closer to 40 years of riding (I was 40 when I started riding). But the other day while filling up with gas, a really old guy came over to look at my Goldwing, and asked if I had ever owned a bike that used a kick starter. He said his old Indian sometimes was a challenge to get started with its kick starter. While I am familiar with what a kick starter is, I told him that no, even my first bike had an electric starter. Made me think that there probably are not too many folks around riding street bikes that have ever had to use a kick starter. I guess 40 years from now there might well be new questions being asked of old timers, like "did you ever have a bike with an internal combustion engine?", or "did you ever have a bike with a manual transmission?" or even "did you ever own a bike that wasn't self balancing, where you had to learn to keep it upright instead of it doing it automatically by itself?". Times are always changing.
 

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Used to be that a the electric start was unusual... First bike was an EL Harley -- pure kick (actually was by kid-brothers, but we rode it back and forth). All my Nortons were kick-start, as well as a very independent minded Ironhead (magneto -- had to retard the mag to start unless you wanted to go into low-earth orbit about every fifth kick or so), but starting with the electro-glide it was weenie-button, except for a few of the Shovelhead Superglides had both weenie-button and kicker , never owned one -- rode my boss's -- but all my later bikes have been sans kicker... I think a CX500 Honda I had for several years was the first all-electric I had... then it's been weenie-button all the way...

-- Larry
 

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On The Road Again!
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I still have one pure kicker here, my '77 Honda Trail 90.
And I have three more with both kick and electric.
Only my '99 Goldwing is electric only.

Waaaay back when I was young, my second bike was a '67 Honda 305 Dream, which had both kick and electric.
One day I started it up in a parking lot and an old timer walking by looked up in amazement and said, "Wow! It's got a SELF STARTER??"
Electric starters were still something new then and he had never seen one like that before.
 

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'66 FLH...kicker. 77 Iron Head Sporty (my new arrival) ...kicker. Does my 75 Vespa Rally count?...kicker. Every bike I've ever owned was a kick start or kick/electric, until recently. My Nighthawk and GS1000 are electric only. I'm waiting for the day when some kid walks up to me, points at the funny looking lever on the side of the engine and says 'What's that?'

Another item that is long gone is the compression release. Came in pretty handy on the big high compression engines.
 

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I had a couple of kick start bikes in the late 70's. Electric start was one of the best improvements of motorcycles in my lifetime.
 

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I've been riding since kick start was the only option, and I think electric start is a great improvement. It has one downside, in my opinion, and that is that it has spawned motorcycles that are too powerful and too large and heavy. However, it has also attracted a lot of new riders, particularly women, and that's a good thing.
 

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As far as I know, the first bikes with electric start were the early Hondas around 1959 or 1960.
Harley's first was the '66 Electra Glide which is where the name came from.
BMW's first was in 1970.
If there was a bike with a electric starter earlier than the Hondas, I don't know of it.

The first bike, that I know of, that had ONLY electric start and no kicker would be the '77 Goldwing.
 

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I started riding on a 1970-something Honda 350 of a friend, and it had both kick and electric. My friend owned it for about 2 or 3 years, practiced kicking it regularly and that practice saved him one time when the battery went bad. Next, he owned a Norton 750, and I remember the kickstarter but not whether it had electric, too. Then, there have been a few trail bikes thru the years that I have ridden. But the four bikes I have owned, starting back in the '80's, have been electric start only. Two had carbs, the current two have fuel injection, and I can give you pluses and minuses on both of those systems, too.
 

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When I first started riding, it seems like all the dirt bikes had kick starters. Most street bikes had kick starters. Using the kick starter to turn the engine over on to the compression stroke, then jumping as high as you could and stomping down as hard as you could on the kick starter was just part of learning how to ride. Anyhow, that's how a tall, skinny kid got a bike started. :)
Fat boys didn't have so much trouble. :)

Seems like some bikes just had to have the throttle cracked just the right amount, with just the right amount of choke, then a good kick would get it started.

Funny how I was always so much younger back in the "good ole days".
 

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My first had both kick and electric. But the 6v electric was too feeble to start it cold. Once warm it was fine but I still only used the kicker.
 

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I still have my Honda CB400 T1, kick start only. When I bought it, I was a little younger, and liked the idea of bare essentials kick start. Now I wish for a little electric help sometimes.
 

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I had several in my old riding days. Two were YZ400 dirt bikes with monster compression. I could not kick it without boots on. I'm also left footed so I had to kick it and then get on the bike. If I killed it, I had to get back off to kick it again.
 

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Hahaha! I remember some of those high compression thumpers. Trying to start one while wearing your high top tennis shoes could be painful. There was no rubber pad on a lot of those old kick starters. I remember having a second person hold a small piece of a board across the thing, then stomping down on the board. Don't remember if that ever worked though.
 

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When I started riding, it was kick start or roll it down a hill start, which is what the guy at the top of the hill did mostly with his Sportster, after it nearly sent him over the bars. Sometimes, he would push it back up the hill :D
 

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In the earlier years, electric starts were derisively called the "electric foot." I even heard of a "kick-thumb" once. I ran a mutt pan-shovel for a lot of years (Harley, aftermarket cases, no discernible year, panhead bottom end, trans and frame, shovelhead top end). It was kick-only. That, coupled with a six-volt system, left me stranded more times than I can count. I have a '76 shovelheard with both kick and electric, but the rest ('03 HD, '17 HD, '95 BMW) are all electric-only. Having a fully wrecked and barely tolerable right knee, I thank God every time I hit that button and that baby fires up.

HDs haven't had kick-starters in over 30 years. My thoughts: embrace technology and all the wonders it has for us.
 

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All my dirt bikes were kick start, so were the Nortons, BSA, and probably some I can not think of. The track bikes were push start. Now they use an electric roller on the rear wheel. One guy uses a cordless drill, on the crank I think.
Most street riders, would never get a 2 stroke 250 road race Yamaha started.
I have forgotten if the early Guzzi's had a starter motor. I will check next time I see one.
My 79 XS1100 has an electric start, and a shaft for the kick starter.

UK
 

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The kick start on the Harley's I'm familiar with added some spice by making you retard the timing just so-so before stomping. Every bike seemed different. Some you gave just a touch throttle, others absolutely none. Memory fades but seems like I had to fiddle with the choke manually. Too many years and beers.:grin: :grin: :grin:
 

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I remember blowing apart a tinny shoe trying to start the YZ one time.
 

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I had three of the 60s vintage BMWs at one time. They were kick only.
And they were ridiculously easy to start.
Tickle the carbs, turn on the ignition and a gentle push on the kick starter and they were running.
 
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