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New Starter System For Old Farts

Electrics Solution For Old 4-speed Kickers

Story and Pics by Shortcut, edited by Johnny Humble
6/11/2010 12:53:41 AM

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When ya need to get away quick, and ya can't rely on your kicker, here's a solution.

We all look for advice and experience where we can get it, right? Here is another tech by one of our faithful readers who took it upon himself to improve on an earlier design without breaking the bank. All of you nostalgia guys will enjoy this tech on turning a 4-speed kicker-only style bike into a starter without redesigning everything behind the motor to do it. Russell Peterson, known on Bikernet as Shortcut, definitely did his homework when designing this kick ass new system called the RSES, or Right Side Electric Start.

Winter still hangs on out here on the plains but I did get a chance to document some of the R & D going on with my 4- speed right side electric start(RSES) and I now have a PATENT PENDING.

This RSES unit spent last summer starting a 93" Pan with compression releases that were used when the motor was cold. For further testing I swapped the unit to my 86" 1956 Panhead with no compression releases. I used a small, cheap, sealed battery (250 cold cranking amps, CCA) that I stood on end in my 6-volt aftermarket oil tank. This battery won't fit an OEM 6-volt tank, but the starter will fit under a kick start tank (it is tight), which saves buying an electric start oil tank that has useless primary side clearance and loss of capacity.

The clearance issues with this design are with the rear fender, if you have original sheet metal, I would hang it on the wall and get the clearance with an aftermarket fender. If your flat or custom fender hugs the tire you are ok.

PHOTO 1-My pan was equipped with the hydraulic clutch I built in 1985 so that simplified the swap.

PHOTO 2-I removed the kicker cover, throwout bearing, and rear fender (needed a dimple to clear XL starter). You will see that I had to cut the corner off of the old style transmission plate to clear the starter motor. You can't use the old “V" shaped rider peg stand with this setup anyway, which is why I don't refer to this starter as a bolt-on. I like to say that "bolt-on parts never do."

PHOTO 3-I install a heavy flat bearing and oil slinger.

PHOTO 4-RSES on my bench under the CNC production model.

PHOTO 5-The battery I stood on end in my 6 volt tank. Girl Scout cookies are optional.

PHOTOS 6,7,8-RSES bolted on trans and fender replaced. Bleed clutch and add oil.

PHOTO 9- another look at the CNC production model.

I am not revealing the inner workings at this time to prevent foreign copycats.

After this install I rode a seven-stop poker run with demo starts at all stops. The 250 CCA battery did a great job.

The RSES does not care what you run for a primary and has a lot fewer moving parts than the factory design. Electric start conversion should be half price of the old way. As word spread of my conversion the older bikers would walk up on the left side and look puzzled. What electric start?? Then they check out the right side.

Everyone was amazed at how quiet and quick it fires the bike.

The XL pinion gear is always engaged and does not bang and grind as it does on a ring gear.

The best comment was from Vern, a second generation biker like myself, who said, "I WANT ONE FOR MY DAD'S KNUCKLE--HE CAN'T KICK BUT NOW HE CAN RIDE."

Successful testing will lead to Fall production of this rigid version and a swingarm frame version is on the drawing board.

I am 50 years old but plan on putting my kicker back on. Kick while you can, but when you can't or don't want to -- THIS IS THE ANSWER!!

Thanks for spreading the word Bandit. This is about keeping old iron on the road.


For More info: send an e-mail to: cnc56pan@hotmail.com

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Owning a genuine Harley Davidson has many benefits and rewards that we as riders and owners enjoy. I personally love to jump in the saddle an hour before dawn and ride a good 50 or 60 miles just to clear my head. There is something surreal and almost spiritual about riding a bike as the sun just begins to break the horizon and the new day’s birth arrives. I also love riding 200 miles just to have lunch at my favorite diner just south of Dallas. After lunch, I make the ride home just in time to help my kids with their homework and enjoy dinner with the family. The ride soothes my soul and washes away all the bullshit pressure and stress of everyday living in an extremely plastic and sanitized world.

After a while, at least for those of us who have been fortunate enough to buy new bikes, the new bike begins to take shape as an extension of ourselves. You can tell if someone is just a weekend rider or if they put on serious miles by checking two things: 1) their bike, and 2) what they wear.

I have met quite a few yuppies the last few years who “claim” to be riders, but it is quite obvious when you listen the noise emanating from their mouths that they are full of shit. To tell you the truth, they amuse me most of the time. I especially laugh when I see these “R.U.B.’s” at the rallies wearing their shiny leather chaps, doo rags, and jackets in 90 degree heat.

Their bikes are usually more comical and yet beautiful at the same time. I have never witnessed as much chrome on bikes as I see today. I love chrome! I love the way it sparkles in the sunlight and done with class, can extremely improve the look and aesthetics of a bike. However, we have many riders who obviously have more money than sense.

On the other hand, you occasionally run into a true biker. One who not only rides every day, but one who wrenches his own shit. It’s really not that hard for me to maintain my 2005 Springer because it’s still new! I only have 30,000 miles on it. But sometimes you run into a true rider whose bike is over 30 years old. These guys are the ones to listen to. They are now the old guard, the teachers, the true bikers. We here at Bikernet are blessed to have many true bikers as readers. Not only are they faithful subscribers to the sight, but they also contribute chapters of knowledge and experience which we here are privileged enough to publish on the web.

Recently, Shortcut informed us of a Right Side Electric Start for older bikes. The design will help many of the “older guard” to convert their vintage iron to a more convenient and no less reliable system. He was blown away by the reader response and recently sent us this update to the new RSES as well as a new invention. Check it out and feel free to let us know what you think!

(shows electric start side, Shortcut on the right, Titanium Bob -an ex kick starter on the left.)

Shortcut recently sent this frantic e-mail:

“I woke up in a cold sweat as I remembered an omission to the RSES article! The old trans plate clearance removes the old trans adjuster bolt!! My dumb ass forgot this, and I wrenched on these for many years. I went belt drive years ago, so it is set it and forget it. But it is not fair to say the RSES does not care about the primary side. One can easily pry the trans back to adjust the primary chain without this bolt; but an old chain will require moving the trans, (and the starter), into MORE fender interference.

The best cure is a belt drive (the enclosed-in-tin narrow primary works great), or any other as they typically require the trans far forward.

The RSES is for those that put on lots of miles and most of those bikes have tossed the primary chain for a belt anyhow.

I hate to restrict the market but THIS IS NOT A BOLT ON PART, I want to inform the consumer of all the details.

Thanks again for the exposure and testing continues successfully. I’ve had great response.

To try to make up for the screw up, I want to expose another part I developed for my Panhead to modernize the drive line. See what ya think.

Tired of the primary chain and repetitive trans, rear chain, mechanical brake adj. scenario that eventually makes your trans bottom studs leak!! By the way, NEVER use nylocks here. I bought a cow pie trans for my pan and put in a short mainshaft. Originally I pulled the primary case studs out and ran it like the old system, but I kept pulling the main seal out as no bearing support and the Torrington style main bearings are sloppy.

I wanted a belt support plate like a Shovelhead, but there was no room for the bearing on the short shafts. Stubborn and not wanting to extend the motor or trans shafts, I built the plate shown. Remember, I am a machinist. Not without sacrifice, but here is what I did:


I removed the last bit of the clutch hub taper to make room for the shovel bearing. The bearing race does not catch full shaft diameter but enough to support. Note the short hub key. Of course this requires a trans case with studs but this setup aligns the belt and strengthens the drive line. It has held up well for a couple of years. No burnouts, but I do ride this 86 inch pan hard at times.


Some will say I weakened a weak point, but I lapped my hub to the mainshaft for contact and have not sheared the short key. In my experience, at the drag strip 20 years ago, I saw these hubs on four speeds take way more horsepower than my stroker puts out!

If some of the readers are interested, they can email Shortcut at: cnc56pan@hotmail.com

P.S. SHORTCUT is not a reference to my mechanical habits, I just enjoy the back roads!

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Reader Comments

Hello, I have become a old fart and need to install a started on my '47 rigid frame with a Revtech 4-speed powered by a cone 80 shovel . Do you think your system will work for my set up? What is the cost?


penticton , BC, Canada
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editor Response Hey Jeff,

Did you find the info? I have another source. Can you send me a couple of shots of your bike? You have several options.

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