Starting your motorcycle

Before you start riding your motorbike, make sure that you understand what the gauges, indicators and warning lights on the instrument panel mean. If you’re not sure about any of them, check your motorbike handbook.

Warning lights

The warning lights let you know when there’s a problem with your motorbike. Knowing what these lights mean and what to do when they are lit will help you protect the engine and other equipment from damage.

The lights will vary from one machine to another but these are the most common ones

  • ignition
  • oil pressure
  • engine management
  • neutral light
  • indicator repeater
  • anti-lock braking system (ABS).

Red warning lights show a fault that affects safety and needs immediate attention.

Some motorbikes have on-board diagnostic systems that tell you when there’s a problem with your motorbike. They differ from one machine to another. Check your motorbike handbook to find out more about the diagnostic systems on your motorbike.

Starting your bike

In general, you’ll need to take the following steps to start your motorbike, although you may need to tweak the process slightly to suit your machine.

  • Make sure that the gear selector is in neutral (the neutral light on the instrument panel will glow when the ignition is turned on).
  • Turn the fuel tap to ‘on’.
  • If the engine is cold, move the choke to ‘on’.
  • Make sure the engine cut-out switch is in the ‘on’ position.
  • Turn the ignition key to the ‘on’ position.

The next step depends on whether your motorbike has an electric starter or a kick starter.

  • With an electric starter, press the starter button. Release the button as the engine starts.
  • With a kick starter, fold out the kick-start lever. Put your foot on the lever and tread down sharply. Let the lever return to its upright position. Repeat this until the engine starts. When it’s started, fold the lever back to its resting position.

Whichever starter your machine has, you should open the throttle to give a fairly high engine speed when you’ve started the engine. As the engine warms up, move the choke to ‘off’.


Unfortunately, motorbikes can be quite easy to steal. They usually have a steering lock that’s turned off when you put the key in the ignition. When you leave your motorbike, make sure you lock the steering and take the ignition key with you.

You can use other security measures too, such as

  • using a high-tension steel cable or chain with a high-quality padlock, ideally to attach your motorbike to an immovable object or another motorbike
  • having an alarm fitted
  • having your motorbike security marked with its vehicle identification number (VIN).

Back to top