How to carry out a hill start on a motorcycle
Hill starts have always been a problem for riders with little or no confidence. But there really is no need to be worried about doing a hill start, it is a normal pull away but you are facing uphill.
There are a few things that need to be done differently to cope with the gravity of the hill to prevent the bike from rolling backwards;
- Put the clutch to the biting point
- Do not release the rear brake too early
- Use a bit of throttle to raise the engine revs
In many cases, riders who have problems doing a hill start panicking before they have even attempted it, or use the wrong sequence or method to pull away. A common fault is having both feet down to stabilise the bike and not having full control of the throttle. This is because the front brake is being used to prevent the bike from rolling backwards.
Find a quiet road
To practice, hill starts you should find a quiet road and locate a safe place to stop. Make sure you stop about halfway up the hill and not at the base of the hill and not near the crest for obvious reasons.
The hill should not be too steep, it should be a gradual gradient and not an excessive incline, to begin with. You need to learn and master the technique first before you find steeper locations.
To perform a hill start you need to be confident at using three main controls, Clutch, Throttle and Rear Brake. You must become familiar with and comfortable using these three controls in tandem.
The main aim of the throttle is to prevent the engine from stalling and to give enough revs to use the clutch bite. Be careful not to under or over rev.
Underuse of the revs will mean the bike does not have enough energy and the bike may stall whilst pull away. Over-revving may sound very noisy and if you release the clutch too quickly, the bike could accelerate away too briskly. This will mean you do not have full control (you may even pull a wheelie inadvertently, or worse still, fall off!)
The clutch should be used as per a normal pull away. Use the clutch bite as normal to allow a smooth take-up of drive. You will need to stay on the biting point longer and release it a little more slowly.
As you feel the bike wants to start to move, maintain the clutch position and remain on the biting point for at least two bike lengths as you pull away. This helps to prevent the machine from cutting out and stalling.
Do not worry about burning out the clutch. Many riders try to release the clutch far too quickly when it is necessary to use it for longer periods of time. This situation dictates that clutch bite control is necessary to prevent stalling.
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The Rear Brake
Use the rear brake to stop the bike from rolling backwards. A common fault is keeping the bike stationary on the incline with the front brake. This means you won’t be able to use the throttle correctly and with full control.
When you feel the clutch is at the biting point and the tone of the engine starts to change. Lift the foot from the rear brake very slightly to ensure the bike will not roll backwards. As the bike starts to move forward, release the rear brake fully by sliding the toe to the right away from the brake lever.
If the bike does start to roll backwards, either move the clutch out to the biting point to prevent this or reapply the rear brake and start again.
Stay near the kerb
Make sure you stay near the kerb and do not try to pull away at an angle towards the middle of the lane.
There should not be any steering movement on the handlebars when pulling away. This is because if you stall the bike you will have to control the weight as it lunges forward, you may drop the bike if the steering is too severe, if you stall, you will now be in the middle of the road.
Staying by the kerb to pull away means that if you do stall, you are still in a safe position near the kerb. You will not have moved out into the lane causing any issues to other vehicles if you stop. As you are still near the kerb, simply restart the bike and begin the process again,
If you did stall the bike whilst steering out you would need to manoeuvring the bike back to a safe location near to the kerb.
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Written by Simon Hayes