How To Start A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle: Step-By-Step Process


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How To Start A Harley Davidson Motorcycle

Are you a beginner who has bought a brand-new Harley-Davidson, but doesn’t know how to start a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? Don’t worry, it isn’t a big deal. The big deal is that you’ve finally got your hands on a stunning Harley-Davidson. 

Starting a Harley-Davidson motorcycle will involve the use of a clutch, gear, and the start button. If you cannot start your bike the traditional way, there is also a bump start method.

In this article, you’ll get to know all about how to start a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as well as a handy alternative method. Continue reading to know more.

How to start a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and ride it for the first time?

As long as you know where the clutch and gear shift are present, you’ll be able to start your bike with ease. Insert your bike’s key into the ignition of your motorcycle and pull the choke all the way out, unless your bike had been running previously. Then, turn the bike’s key in the ignition to an “on” position. Do this while making sure that the kill switch has been set to “run”. Check to ensure that the motorcycle gear shifter is set to neutral. Then, squeeze the motorcycle clutch lever using your left hand all the way to the grip.

Press the “start” button using your right thumb and allow the motor to turn over until the engine fires up. Once it does, release the start button. After a few minutes, gradually push the choke in once your Harley-Davidson bike’s engine warms up.

The engine has been warmed up, and you have shifted into first gear. Then, you’ve let the clutch lever out and pulled back the throttle. Your bike will start moving. Accelerate as needed, and you’ll be able to put your feet on the pegs. Once you let out the clutch and roll the throttle, you will start picking up speed. If you want to take a break, simply pull in the clutch lever. Slowly engage the front and rear brakes simultaneously. Your left foot should be used to steady the bike as it stops. Once you’ve come to a halt, you’ll be able to put your right foot on the ground as well.

Turning is pretty simple to do, and you should trust yourself once you start driving your new Harley-Davidson bike. The way your bike’s steering will work is, once you’ve hit 10mph, lean in the direction you want to turn. You should turn while you’re pushing the corresponding handgrip away from you. If you wish to go right, you’ll have to lean right while pushing the right handgrip away from you.

For shifting gears, you will have to use your left foot. It will take some practice to cycle the gears, especially finding neutral. You will know that you are in neutral if the green (N) lights up the gauge. Some Harley-Davidson bikes can be shifted without even using the clutch. However, it is recommended that you should use the clutch each time you’re shifting. Pull the clutch lever, shift gears, and then release the clutch lever slowly. Shifting gears this way will be a fairly smooth transition. You shouldn’t over-rev in each gear and never shift before the engine starts working too hard.

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How to bump start your Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

If you’re unable to start your Harley-Davidson bike, a low battery might be the reason it isn’t firing up. As an alternative, you can bump start your Harley-Davidson bike. This will get you up and running in case the starter has died.

1. Find a hill or some assistance

One way that Harley-Davidson bikes are different from other bikes is the sheer size and weight. Unlike lightweight sports bikes, running with a Harley-Davidson and hopping on to bump start will be very difficult.

A downhill slope will make it a whole lot easier for you. You will be able to get the needed momentum to bump start your bike. Even small Harley-Davidson bikes weigh a hefty amount, so this will take serious physical effort. If you are driving a bigger touring bike, your chances to bump start your bike will be pretty low.

2. Turn on the ignition

This may seem obvious, but if you’re flustered with why your motorcycle isn’t starting, you might have forgotten the ignition. Turn on the ignition and do not forget to have the kill switch in the “Run” position.

3. Shift your motorcycle into the 2nd/3rd gear and hold the clutch

You shouldn’t bother trying to start your Harley-Davidson bike in the first gear. In most cases, it will lock the rear tire. Instead, you should use the second or third gear while holding the clutch in.

4. Get pushing

This will take a lot out of you. If you can find a hill, roll down the hill with the ignition turned on. If you cannot find a hill, you will need a friend or two to assist you in pushing the bike. Further, you should do this while having the motorcycle in second gear and the clutch in. After building enough speed, you should pop the clutch quickly. You shouldn’t let it out slowly, otherwise, it will act as a gentle brake.

Group Of Men Pushing Harley Davidson Bike To Start

5. Pull the clutch right away

If it fails to start in the first attempt, ensure that you pull back the clutch as quickly as possible. You’ve made so much effort to build up speed, try it a couple of times before starting all over again.

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6. Keep the bike running

If you managed to somehow get your Harley-Davidson started this way, you shouldn’t let it die. If you do that, then you’ll have to start the process all over again. Make sure that you pump in some gas in case it is stumbling when trying to idle. 

In case you’re back to riding again, you should ensure that you are clutching it before coming to a stop. This will give the RPM’s ample time to drop the idle and in case it stalls, you can still use your momentum to bump start it again when riding.

Can you start your Harley-Davidson bike with a dead battery?

If you know that your Harley-Davidson bike isn’t starting because of a dead battery, you’ll have a couple of options. It will depend on how “dead” the battery is. There are instances when the battery cannot be saved regardless of the charging you give it. In case the battery has a dead cell, it cannot be used.

If your battery has some life left in it, you can simply run it down accidentally (by leaving your ignition/radio/lights on). You will need to find a way to give the battery a charge. You can easily keep a mini booster pack with you wherever you’re going. Having a small booster pack will allow you to be self-sufficient while giving your motorcycle running without any help. 

Further, you can rely upon the help of strangers, but they’ll need to have jumper cables. A motorcycle can be easily boosted by a 12V battery. A good phone call to a friend or a work buddy will save the day.

If your Harley-Davidson bike isn’t starting and the battery is completely dead, the only choice left is to replace it. You can go to the nearest local dealer or any store and look for either a Harley-Davidson bike battery or a 12V lawn mower battery. As long as the batteries can fit properly, they’ll get you home. Remember, you can replace the battery with another one for your motorcycle if needed. Hopefully, you can even return the temporary one back to the store.

Have fun riding your Harley-Davidson bike once you’ve it

The best way of having fun riding your new Harley-Davidson is to have a safe drive. This is the case because driving safely will improve the quality of your riding experience. Moreover, it’ll also make you feel a lot better when driving. Here are some of the driving practices you should follow to enjoy riding your new Harley-Davidson bike.

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Keep your heels in

If your Harley-Davidson has metal plates near the footpegs, you should press your heels in. If there is another system, you can plant your foot firmly. This will make you feel a lot more confident and in control of the bike. If you want to test the difference, simply go a week with your heels in and then go a week without your heels in. You will notice that your feet are just hanging during week two.

Loose on top and tight on the bottom

When you’re driving a Harley-Davidson bike, you should grip your bike with your thighs and ankles. It’ll keep you glued to your motorcycle in case you hit a bump or a pothole. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t grip the top of your motorcycle so hard that you aren’t able to control it. Instead, you should be loose enough to be able to wiggle your elbows. Remember, riding a Harley-Davidson bike should feel graceful and effortless.

Don’t brake during a turn

You shouldn’t be looking to brake when doing a turn, as your bike will begin to straighten up. Instead, you should start to brake before getting to a turn. As you’re in the final moments of the turn, slowly start accelerating to resume the speed.

Man Riding Harley Davidson Bike

Look through the turns

When you have to take a turn, you should try to look as far ahead as possible. Do this instead of just looking right in front of you. This makes turning less scary while allowing you to see what is ahead and helping you make turns efficiently.

Keep the visor closed

This is an incredibly important point that cannot be iterated enough. You should always protect your eyes and face. Harmful UV rays and debris flying should be avoided as they can distract you and cause accidents. Not just that, you can also avoid the effects of sunlight by simply wearing a visor and keeping it closed. If you need ventilation, simply raise it an inch or two.

Assume that you are invisible

Bikes can be hard for others to interact with, so you should assume that no one can see you. This way, you can drive as safely as you can. The maneuverability and speed of the bike will help you get out of many jams.


Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know all about how to start a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Starting a Harley-Davidson bike is pretty easy as the clutch, gear, and the start button will play a key role. If you need an alternative, you can always go for the bump start method.

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