Getting stuck far from home with a dead battery can be a demoralising and expensive experience.
Honestly, we can’t recommend an inexpensive, portable jump-starter enough.
Given our dependence on phones these days, having a portable charging station that’s small enough to fit under your seat which doubles as a jump-starter is a no-brainer.
But there are a few alternatives if you get stuck.
Portable Jump Starter
See our full article on portable motorcycle jump starters.
This is the simplest and most reliable way to get you back on the road. A portable jump-starter should be an essential piece of kit on any solo ride. With today’s inexpensive units coming in a bit larger than a smartphone, storage isn’t an issue like it once was. It’s also nice to have an option for recharging phones and cameras on the go.
You should always follow the instructions from the manufacturer of your particular jump starter, but the following are the general steps necessary to get you back on the road.
1. How To Jump Start a Motorcycle With Jump Starter
Note: Both your motorcycle and jump-starter should be powered off before you begin.
#1 Connect the jump-starter to the battery
- Some units ship with a variety of attachments but the traditional clip types are almost universal and easy to connect to motorcycle batteries
- Connect the positive clip (red) to the positive terminal (marked “POS” or with a +)
- Connect the negative clip (black) to the negative terminal
#2 Power on your jump-starter
- Some units are rated to jump start much larger vehicles than motorcycles. In this case, you may have to adjust the voltage so it’s correct for your bike battery. Most bikes use a 12V battery and this is the right setting for 99% of motorcycle jump-starts
#3 Start your motorcycle
- Jump-starters work by giving short pulses of electricity, so holding down the ignition button for a long time is unlikely to work and may burn out the battery in your jump-start unit – use short bursts!
- Wait a couple of minutes between attempts.
- If you can’t get it started after a few tries, your battery might be fully dead
- If it does start, always remove the negative clip (black) first then the positive (red)
- Ride around revving the hoopla out of your bike to charge that battery! (Skip this step if you intend to replace the battery)
- Plug in and recharge your jump-starter
2. How To Jump Start a Motorcycle With Another Motorcycle
This works similarly to jump starting a car so should be familiar to most people. Like with cars, it requires at least one party to have a set of jumper cables. Thankfully, many car drivers carry a set with them at all times, and people are mostly decent.
There’s usually a set of jumper cables to be found somewhere.
#1 Both bikes must be switched off and in neutral
#2 Connect the cables
- Motorcycle batteries are usually accessed under the seat
- Attach one positive clip (red) to the positive terminal (POS or +) of the good battery and attach the other positive clip to the positive terminal of the dead battery
- Attach the negative clip (black) to the negative terminal of the good battery and attach the other negative clip to a non-painted metal surface of the dead-battery-bike
#3 Start the good bike and give it a few minutes to make sure its battery is at max.
#4 Try starting the bike with battery trouble.
- Like with a jump-starter, give it short bursts and if it doesn’t start after the first few attempts, the battery might be completely dead.
- If your bike starts, ride it around for 15-20 minutes to recharge your dead battery. If you intend to replace the battery, you can skip this step and just ride to your mechanic.
#5 Remove the jumper cables in the same order you put them on, starting with the negative terminal on the bike that’s been having trouble
3. How to Jump Start A Motorcycle With A Car
This method can get you home or to the mechanic in a pinch but it does carry a risk of damaging the bike’s battery and/or electrical system. Car batteries have a much higher amperage than those in motorcycles, so we only recommend using a car to jump-start your bike in an emergency.
It’s also worth pointing out that using this method could possibly void the warranty on your battery and/or some electrical components of your bike. As we said, this is some last-ditch, zombie movie type advice.
Note: Both motorcycle and car should be switched off as you begin.
#1 Connect jumper cables in the same order as with jump-starting from another motorcycle – attach the red, positive clip to the positive terminal of your dead battery and attach the other red, positive clip to the positive terminal of the car battery.
#2 Connect the black, negative clip to the negative terminal on the car battery and attach the other negative clip to a bare, metal surface on your bike.
#3 Keeping your car switched off, try starting your bike. Your car battery should be able to handle powering your bike without any trouble, but trying to start the bike with your car running could fry your battery and electrical system.
- There’s plenty (too much) of power in your car battery to jump start your bike and if it doesn’t work after a couple of tries, it’s likely that the battery is completely dead or not the cause of your problems
#4 Disconnect the clips in the opposite order to how you put them on – starting with the negative clip on your bike.
#5 Drive around for 15-20 minutes to get your battery fully-charged
- If you plan on replacing the battery, you can skip this step
4. How To Push Start Your Motorcycle
Push-starting seems intimidating at first – because it is.
Watch a couple of videos and/or have a friend show you how to do it for the first time.
Starting the process on a hill is usually a bit easier as you have gravity on your side. A young, powerful niece/nephew/neighbour is also a welcome addition to the team for this one.
It’s also worth pointing out that a dead battery is a minor inconvenience relative to getting squished by an eighteen-wheeler, or even dropping your bike and denting the tank – only try to push start your bike if the conditions are safe!
You’ll need a clear stretch of road in predictable conditions to try this.
- Turn the key in the ignition and check that you’ve got the kill switch in the correct position.
- If your bike has a manual choke, put it in the position used for starting on a cold day.
- Click into 2nd gear (maybe 1st on a sports bike) and keep the clutch held in.
- Holding in the clutch, get going as fast as you can, either by sprinting alongside the bike, being pushed by your lovely assistant, or rolling down a hill.
- When you reach top speed, jump on board your bike. I do this by placing my left foot on the peg and throwing my right leg over the saddle while maintaining balance with my hands on the bars. But be careful to keep the clutch held in during this step. Releasing it too early will create drag, slow you down, and possibly send you crashing to the ground.
- Once you’re seated and going fast – pop the clutch out. Don’t feather it like you would if you were really going from neutral to first – snap it hard by just releasing the lever. If you usually have to rev your bike to get it going then do it now. You want to pop the clutch out then quickly pull it back in quickly – giving you several attempts at getting the engine started.
- If the engine catches, warm it up like you usually would – keeping the choke in if necessary.
As you can probably tell from our multiple warnings and qualifiers, the easiest and safest bet is to use a dedicated tool – in this case a portable jump-starter.
It takes all the hassle out of the equation and once you’ve done it once, it’s simple.