Sunbeam S7 / S8 Starting Procedure


All old bikes have their own little quirks and preferences when it comes to starting them and, ultimately, consistent success depends on learning how to deal with them. But while that learning process is under way, there are some basic techniques that I have found work for most Sunbeams, most of the time.

Cold starting – I don't find that the procedure differs much between summer and winter. If it is very cold, I sometimes close the choke but most of the time I don't find it necessary. Incidentally, when starting, the choke is only effective if it is lowered to its fully closed position. It has no effect at all if it is only partially closed owing to the small throttle openings used for starting. Once the bike is started, I open the choke within a few seconds. Whether the choke is used or not, the procedure is pretty much the same in other respects.

These bikes like a very rich mixture for cold starting, so I always tickle them until fuel bubbles out of the top of the float chamber. Some people object to tickling on the grounds that it might wash the residual oil from the bores. However, evidence for that is scant and the kick-start mechanism on these bikes is a bit delicate so I regard quick starting as more important than the rather theoretical slight damage to the bores. However, excessive tickling should be discouraged – it wastes fuel, increases the risk of fire, damages painted and powder coated surfaces and stains aluminium castings.

Here is the procedure that I use:

  1. Make sure that the bike is secure, preferably on its centre-stand;

  2. Turn on the fuel tap;

  3. Tickle the carb until fuel just shows at the top of the float chamber;

  4. Turn the engine over with the kick-start a couple of times with the throttle just off the stop, so that you can hear air being sucked through the intake;

  5. Tickle the carb again;

  6. Turn on the ignition, open the throttle a tiny bit more and turn the engine over with the kick-start – it should start on the first or second kick but, if it hasn't been run for a while, it might need three or four;

  7. Hold the engine on a fast idle for a few seconds and then open the choke (if used) and let the engine settle on idle;

  8. Ride away within a minute or two of starting.

If the bike doesn't start with a few kicks then there is something wrong. Don't keep kicking it again and again in the hope that a miracle with happen. Stop and investigate the cause before trying again. The use of the word “kick” to describe the turning over of the engine is misleading on these bikes. It is more like pressing than kicking. Repeated forceful kicking of the lever with damage the kick-start quadrant and wear it out rapidly. It is made of soft phosphor-bronze and it is very expensive to replace but it will last a long time if it is treated fairly.

Don't leave an engine idling for a long time, particularly during the running-in period. It will tend to get rather hot if you do.

Hot starting – I never use the choke for hot starting, whatever the weather but, in other respects, the procedure varies, depending on how long the bike has been left. If you have stalled it at the traffic lights and it is re-started immediately then a little bit of throttle and a gentle push on the starter is all it should take. A slightly longer stop, perhaps to fill up with petrol, may require the slightest amount of tickling but I always try it without first.