Kick Starting a ’75-’77 Honda GL1000

Starters are very reliable on GL1000s, but it’s nice to have a back-up. The back-up kick start lever is found only on ’75-’77 models. Honda deemed this extravagant redundancy was unnecessary and dropped the feature on later models.  I’ve actually needed the kick starter on several occasions to make it home when some aspect of the very reliable electric starting system failed. I also use my kick starter for another reason: it’s a good test of your bike’s overall state of tune. If it will start with the kick start lever, then you have a well tuned bike! There are many maintenance operations (like setting timing) where the kick starter provides some nice convenience.


Kick Start Lever Storage Location


Kick Start Lever in Use

However, the early GL1000s have an ignition wiring quirk that makes using the kick starter more difficult than it should be. If you ever need to perform an emergency kick start on a ’75-’77 GL1000 for any reason, it’s much easier if you by-pass the ballast resistor. The ballast resistor is the white oblong, ceramic device attached to the left side of the coil assembly which can be accessed behind the left top shelter door (near the steering stem).

Simply remove the 2 wires that attach to the ballast resistor and reconnect them back to each other (effectively by-passing the ballast resistor). This will saturate you coils with full 12V nominal battery voltage for a much hotter spark (vs. the 7V or so they would get if the ballast resistor was left in the circuit).

The reason the stock coil / breaker point ignition needs a ballast is to make starting easier and allow longer service life for the points and coils. Full battery voltage for starting is routed directly to the coils whenever the starter button is pressed. Once the starter button is released, the voltage to the coils is routed through the ballast resistor (assisted by a zener diode) to make the points last longer and keep the coils from failing due to overheating. When the engine is running, battery voltage is regulated by the regulator to approximately 14.5 V (at normal cruise rpms…voltage is less at lower rpms). At 14.5 V battery voltage, the coils will receive about 9 volts through the ballast resistor. The point is simple: more coil voltage is needed when starting as opposed to when the engine is running…the ballast resistor is normally your friend!

So, if you’re not pressing the starter button (as in when you kick start) you won’t get full voltage to the coils unless you do this by-pass trick. I keep a short wire pigtail with appropriate crimped connectors on each end with the tool bag “just in case.”

Alternatively, some people disconnect the main cable to the starter and depress the starter button when they kick for the same effect. I find my method easier and quicker.

Important: Don’t by-pass the ballast for extended use, or your points and coil will suffer a premature demise. The by-pass is strictly a temporary aid to keep you from being stranded.


  1. Matt Higgins says:

    I have my eye on a 76 GL that has had a number of ‘useful ‘ updates including an electronic ignition. Do you have any recommendations about these units. I really like the bike, but haven’t ridden it yet as the carbs need rebuilt and synced, NOT a cheap fix!!! I’ll have to check if it has a kickstart lever.

  2. Steeve Lavoie says:

    Hi, I have a GL1000 1976 and it don’t have the kickstrater (NO lever and NO place to insert it? Have you ever see it ?

    Best regards


      Here is a video showing a guy kick starting his GL1000, there is a plug that is hidden behind the starter on the same side as the storage box with the kick start lever is stored (right side from sitting on the bike). Once that rubber plug is removed you can insert the kick starter and go from there.

      • Note that kick start lever is stored on RIGHT side storage box, but the starter and the plug for the kick starter lever is actually on the left side (when sitting on the bike) just behind the starter. Sorry I typed and hit reply too fast, and got that wrong. Kick start lever stored on right side, hole to insert kick start lever on left side, or just watch the YouTube video. It’s a little slow for me, but around 45 seconds into it he is actually inserting the lever and starting the bike with it.

  3. Robert Brooks says:

    Hi, I have just completed restoration of a 1976 K1 Executive (the first of 52 UK bikes sent to Rickman’s for modification and given away to winner of a spot the ball competition).
    I have a problem in that when I connect the battery, the starter engages without the ignition being on… Any help of what the likely cause is will be greatly appreciated.

    • Most likely: problem with the starter relay, starter button and/or ignition switch.

      • Maybe when the power is getting connected it is also connecting power to the starter switch lead. There is a heavy gauge wire that connects to the battery for constant power, then connects to the solenoid that jumps that power to the starter and turns the starter when the solenoid is engaged. There is also a smaller gauge wire that connects to the starter switch that gets power when the ignition is turned on and the starter button is pressed to jump the solenoid so the starter engages with the engine and turns the bike over. Those 2 wires connect in 2 different locations, and the smaller wire that connects to the switch can not be a constant power wire like the heavy gauge wire is that basically connects to the battery through the solenoid. If connecting or jumping that starter switch wire from the thick constant power wire to the switch side will cause constant power to the starter switch so it runs constantly. I would check all the connections are correct before you start throwing any parts at the problem. The most expensive way to repair any vehicle is by guessing the issue and then just start swapping parts out. Everything can be tested and / or diagnosed before hand to determine for sure where the issue lies. Don’t spend money replacing good parts unless you are sure that is the problem. Get a test light and check all connections. Does that starter switch wire have constant power at the solenoid or does it switch like it should when pressing the starter button on the handle bars? If constant power follow the wire further up and test it again coming out of the switch on your bike. If it doesn’t have power just after the switch then it is getting it some where else on the way to the starter you got to find. If it still has constant power at the switch then it is likely the switch that’s the issue. The switch is relatively simple and can be taken apart by a mechanic who is relatively competent. It is much like the horn and has power going into the switch, and a wire going out that gets connected when you press the switch and a spring compresses till the 2 wires connect the circuit. I have fixed a number of these switches by replacing springs or soldering bad connections. So it is something that can be taken apart and inspected to see if the spring or something has broken allowing the circuit to connect at all times keeping the starter spinning when ever the ignition is on. If the switch is functioning properly and there is no power going out till the switch is pressed then test is again at the solenoid, if the small wire going into the solenoid is switching with the button, but has constant power going out through the smaller wire then most likely it is the solenoid switch that has gone bad. Just make sure you are testing the correct wires, the 2 heavy gauge wires should be constant power from the battery, but the small gauge wire should switch power on and off with the starter button on the handle bars. Honda and other manufactures set starters up this way due to the fact the starter draws so much power on startup that to switch the heavy gauge wire would require a very heavy duty switch, much larger than the small starter switch on the handle bars. So what they do is connect constant power to the battery through the heavy gauge wire and leave that connected, then use the solenoid and a much lighter duty circuit that is easier to switch and control with the light duty switch on the handle bars. The whole starter circuit is very simple and straight forward, you just need to understand how it and other devices work in order to be able to test them and diagnose where the actual issues are. I would recommend taking a quality test light, the type you connect to the power and ground ahead of time, then as you test wires it will tell you which are power and which are ground. Do this with the ignition on and off and get to learn you bike and it’s electrical system, you will begin to see it is not that scary and you will begin to gain the confidence to diagnose and fix your electrical issues yourself.

        • My partner was looking over my shoulder and pointed out I need to amend that last message, I have to many bikes floating around in my head. The GL1000 starter is controlled by an external solenoid. So the GL1000 only has the single heavy gauge wire that connects it to the solenoid switch. So the solenoid controls the switching internally and sends the power out down the heavy gauge wire to engage the starter when the button on the handle bars are pressed. So that would be where the test is, the solenoid should have constant power on the heavy gauge wire going in, and the heavy gauge going out to the starter is switched by the solenoid when the button is pressed sending power to the solenoid thru the smaller wire. So none the less it can be tested, if the switched wire is functioning correctly when the ignition is on and the button on the handle bars is pressed, then it will send power out of the solenoid thru the heavy gauge wire to the starter. So the heavy gauge wire should be switched at the solenoid not at the starter like in my 1st message. Hopefully the moderator can edit my comments so they are less confusing I am clearly not a teacher. My first advice still holds though and get a quality test light and get to know your bike’s electrical system and how it works, it will make it far easier in the future when something goes wrong to figure out what it is and what needs to be done.

  4. Mike Sanford says:

    I just picked up a 1977 GL1000 and it turns over with the starter but the kick start won’t budge. What could be the issue?

  5. I’ve been working on my dads 1975 gl 1000 that hasn’t seen the road since 1990 . Over the winter I redid the carbs , breaks. master cylinders , timing belts along with a bunch of other things I have the bike running pretty well . The problem I’m having is that I can’t get the kick start to engage , when i kick it over there is no resistance at all I was just wondering if someone could point me in the right direction as to what the problem might be .

    • You have some worn parts (internal). Give up on the kickstarter and use the electric starter. The kickstarter is for emergency use only and not worth fixing.

  6. Douglas Sims says:

    1977 GL1000
    Just trying to get my ‘wing running after many years of sitting due to life.
    I’d like to turn the engine over before trying to start it. I’d really like to use the kick starter but mine is missing. Is there anything else I can use in it’s place? Or what other method should I use to rotate the crank?

  7. I’m sorry but I’m still a bit unclear on something: Is it the case that this kick start option is completely removed from post 1977 GL1000’s, or could one still could kick start a `78 or `79 if he simply had the kick start lever?

    • No. Kick starters were only supplied on ’75-’77 models. The rear case and other internal components are significantly different with the later ’78-’79 models.

  8. Morton Milne says:

    My starter is spinning without turning the engine over. So i bypassed the Ballast resistor and kick started it. Worked fine, but after a few minutes of running the bypass connection came apart. There was a small spark at the dislodged connection, the bike stalled and now nothing. Won’t start or even try to start when I kick it. What happened>

  9. Karl Entenmann says:

    Hey, that would have been nice to know 38 years ago. No wonder I could never get it to kick start when the battery was low.

  10. Brian Styles says:

    I am trying to locate where the kick starter goes in on my 1976 GL1000. It has a storage compartment for it on the tank cover….just cant figure this out!


    • The kick-start lever stows behind the right top-shelter door …near the radiator overflow bottle. Yours may be missing if you’ve never spotted it. Randakk

      • Glenn Clark says:

        Randakk…I think Brian was saying he knows where the kick starter is stored, and probably means he in fact has the kick starter. What he doesn’t know is where to install the kick starter when he wants to manually kick the engine over. Brian, look on the battery side of the bike and you will see a rubber plug on the side of the engine, ahead of the battery compartment. Pull the plug off, and install the kick start lever.

  11. Hello,
    I have a 76 gl1000 and when I kick start her it just start for about 4-5 seconds and die. And other times it just backfires. Any suggestion.

  12. Do you still have electric start on your bike? If so does it start when using it?


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