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Kickstarting my Honda XL500S

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Hi everyone!

New to the site and off road/ trail bikes etc and would like some advice from you guys if possible.

I have just bought a 1980 XL500S which I am struggling to kickstart properly. I have never owned a kickstart bike and she has already severly bruised my ankle twice by kicking me back. It is taking the fun out of the bike as Im scared to even try now as it is so painful! How do I do this properly,? What is the best technique? How do I use the decompression lever etc.? Any advice would be appreciated, and many thanks in anticipation, Cheers,

Steve Billson

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First the decompression lever. Push down slowly on the kick starter until it reaches a spot that is harder than any other. You may need to kick it through more than once to reach this point. Then, with the decomp lever pulled in, push the kick just a wee bit more, release the lever and kick the starter through firmly but smoothly. NO GAS! The bike will be more prone to kick back if the throttle is open. Here's my procedure: Turn idle up a bit, full choke (when cold), no gas, find hard spot, pull decomp lever, push kick a bit more, release lever and kick through. Once the bike has warmed up and off choke, turn the idle back down. Oh yeah, wear boots. Don't give up. It'll be worth it!

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I fully agree with Gnarly's response. I worked at a Honda shop in the mid 80's the XR600R's were the same to kick over I had a few kick back on me until I learned the correct method.

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Hey, Steve!!!

Gnarly Sprockets gave you some good advice, that should help you immensely. But there may be a little that needs to be added to what he told you........

I'm fairly certain that your XL500 has a decompressor cable that's hooked up (and timed with) your kickstart lever, rather than a handlebar mounted lever like Gnarly Sprockets described. At least that's what my Haynes & Clymer manuals say that the bike should have, unless someone's removed it... :thumbsup: This cable has some adjustments that will make it a little easier for you to push that lever through.

To adjust this cable, you first must get your engine's piston up at Top Dead Center of the compression stroke. You can remove both of your valve covers, and the little covers with the large slots on the left side of the engine , to be certain you're at TDC. It helps to remove the spark plug, to be able to spin the motor over. You can spin the engine over counter-clockwise until the "T" mark on the flywheel aligns with a stationary mark there on the left side of the engine. These marks, & the nut you use to turn the engine over are accessible & seen through the little slotted covers you removed. When the engine is on TDC of the comp. stroke, the valve rockers will both have a little movement, or "lash" in each of them. If the engine is at TDC on the Exhaust Stroke, the front (exhaust) valves will be helpd down (open) by the cam/rockers, & you'll be able to see this through the front valve cover on top of the engine.

With the engine at TDC on the compression stroke, look at the end of the decompression cable on the right upper side of the cylinder head. The cable is attached to a lever just about where the exhaust valve's rocker is inside the head. This lever actually holds the exhaust rocker down, which holds the exhaust valve down, which lowers your compression, which hopefully, will make it easier to start the beast. :thumbsup:

This lever should have about 1-2 mms. of free play when the piston is at TDC, and your kickstart lever is up at the "normal/not being used" position. If it has quite a bit more slack, it probably isn't working to its full "potential", and not making it as easy to start the engine as it could be. There's a couple of locknuts you can loosen, and a cable adjuster that you use to get this cable where it needs to be.

Now having said all that, I'll tell you that on my '79 XR500 (which is also supposed to have this decompression cable, going from the kickstarter to the lever on the head/exhaust rocker), I start mine exactly like Gnarly Sprockets described. No throttle, choke on when cold. Push on the kickstart lever until I feel the resistance of TDC/compression stroke (or what's left of the small amount of compression my worn out motor makes... :bonk: ). Then, I pull on the handlebar mounted lever/cable setup I put on myself, and push on the kickstart lever a little bit more, to get the engine JUST PAST the compression stroke. I release the compression release lever, and give the kickstarter a full, hard, deliberate boot. When it's warm, I use no choke, and give the throttle a little bit of a twist as I'm kicking the engine over. This works pretty well for me & my bike. Either way, you won't go wrong by pushing your engine just past the compression stroke, then giving the boot in earnest. This will help keep them pesky kickstarter shafts from breaking on you, hopefully.... :bonk: Hope this helps you a little!

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Thanks for the advice! Ive got lots to think about while the bruising goes down! You have certainly prompted me to keep trying and hopefully I will master it cos I love the bike, its a dream come true! Thanks again and all the best, Steve

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I have the 79 model and it has auto decomp. don't use any throttle.

Just finished mounting mine in a 79 Husky 390 frame :thumbsup::thumbsup:

My mousetrap beater when finished. Ridden it once and it felt good.

Good luck

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I have a 79 motor in my 81.Decomp lever hooked to kickstarter.Full choke,when cold or not run in a few hours,no gas and one kick evry time starts her.It is a little trickier to do with a manual lever,but once you get the technique down the results should be the same.If tuned up and everything a-ok,she should start really easy..Keep Trying!

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Hi! I had one of these when they were new. Once you get the drill down, it will start very easy, well, if the engine is in decent tune.

Its VERY important to wear dirt boots with that bike due to the kick back. Oh I know! :thumbsup:

Gnarly had the drill down pretty good.

I remember trying to start my 500 with out the compression release, disconnected it. I just stood on the kick starter lever and jumped up and down. It would not move. And I was about 215 lbs at that time. And the bike was fairly new.

Hook compression release back up and it starts right up.

I did everything on that bike. Motox, trails, street rides. Mostly motox believe it or not. I was not the fastest in the rough stuff but once it smoothed out and straighten out I was kicking butt! :thumbsup:

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