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Starting and stopping!

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

These are the two areas of scootering here I see people new to bikes have the most problems with. The problems are then compounded by bad advice from others I see online, little more informed but that like to give some opinion. This is just mine also but as a qualified mechanic and experienced rider I'd like to think it offers some value.

STARTING YOUR ENGINE: The starting procedure can vary between bikes and certainly between carburetted and fuel injected bikes but whichever you have a few similarities apply. To start and run the engine requires four elements. Fuel, Air, Power and Pressure. Here's a few tips to help lessen the likelihood of starting issues and get you away to mechanical assistance.

FUEL: Don't run your fuel tank level lower than a quarter. The fuel can be quite contaminated here and many contaminants float. Those that don't will be caught in a filter or work their way through the system. Those that float will accumulate so by not running your tank right down you lessen the likelihood of fuel system blockages. Take the fuel line off and blow back into the tank. If the carby or fuel rail isn't blocked it may get you started and to a garage.

AIR: Air filter elements are one of many things neglected here by many mechanical workshops. A partially blocked air intake will cause the bike to run rich at any time which most won't notice but certainly makes starting more difficult. A tell tale is increased fuel consumption. The big problem is when the dirty filter element gets wet riding through floodwater or possibly pressure cleaning and the dust becomes mud. At this point the air intake can be completely blocked so the engine isn't going to start. Running the battery down turning the engine over at this point isn't going to help. Quick fix is to remove the air cleaner element and bin it. Wipe the airbox dry and if that's the only issue the engine should start as normal. Important to replace the element as soon as possible.

SPARK: While we're on floodwater or water in general a strong spark is also required for reliable starting. If moisture has found it's way to the electrical connections in the starting system, the spark plug particularly, your engine won't fire. A spray lubricant like RP7 on the electrical connections is the quick fix for this.

COMPRESSION: Unlikely without a major engine failure you'll lose compression but if riding through floodwater deep enough for water to enter the exhaust pipe you may get a hydraulic lock up. At this point the engine won't even turn over and there's no quick fix. It's off the the workshop and professional assistance for sure.

STOPPING YOUR BIKE: The number of brake levers I grab that pull straight to the bars here blows me away. There's lots of carnage but really I'm amazed there's not more. Mostly back brakes out of adjustment but at times front too. Despite any advice you've been given to the contrary your bike has a front and rear brake for good reason. They are required to be used together for efficient braking. If yours are not both fully operational amend that immediately. Scared to use the front brake? The number of customers that have brought their bikes to me with the back brake totally out of adjustment in a few weeks is incredible. Straight away I know they are not using the front but hauling on the rear ONLY to slow down. The rear brake stabilises you under brakes your front is far more efficient and what stops you. In an emergency braking situation if your habit is to only use the back brake you quite simply will not stop in time. When you realise this and grab the front in a panic because the tyre hasn't been loaded your most likely to slide the front tyre out and down you go. LOADING THE TYRE: As you apply the brakes the tyre, provided the tyre pressures are correct, will flatten out on the road creating a far larger contact patch. That then provides the added grip necessary for heavy braking applications without the front wheel skidding out. The rear brake in conjunction with this provides stability and maximum braking efficiency. If braking heavily where possible stay in a straight line.

HOVERING OVER THE LEVERS: Reaction time in an emergency or even a heavy braking application is the difference between stopping and impact. I tend to ride with at least my index finger over the brake levers. On a scooter which requires more lever pressure to brake heavily than a motorcycle middle finger also on the front at least.

TURNING, POT HOLES and METAL PLATES: When braking to avoid holes in the road and metal plates particularly in the wet, take off as much speed as you can before the hazard and then get off the brakes, grip the bars tightly and ride over the hazard in a straight line. Under brakes or trying to turn over these hazards severely compromises the bikes stability and even experienced riders may be left licking their wounds.

There's a hell of a lot more to braking techniques but I hope these basics help a few to stay upright and betadine free.

Ride smart, ride safe and keep the rubber side down people!

Trevor Long

General Manager

Saigon Motorcycles