How to make your clutch lovely

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Nothing spoils your ride more than a badly-behaved clutch. Our nine easy steps will get everything spot on…

1. Cut some slack, but not too much

An essential with cable-actuated systems – you should have 5mm of movement at the lever tip. Fine adjustment is performed on the dial on your clutch perch. If you run out of adjustment here, find the adjuster in the middle or bottom of the cable. Wind the clutch perch all the way in, then out two turns. Then use the bottom adjuster to get the amount of slack in the ball park and fine-tune on the lever adjuster.

2. Get the cable running free

Cables are rarely lubed from new, and a cable running back and forth in a dry housing will grind and wear. Don’t use chain lube – it’s too sticky. A light oil is best. A simple, clamp-on oiler that allows an aerosol with a spray straw to be injected in is cheap and effective. Remove the top of the cable, attach the tool, and fire oil in until it drips out of the bottom. Wipe up the excess, refit and adjust the cable.

3. Worm-drive adjustment

Commonly found on Suzukis (under the front sprocket cover), this system works well – but is susceptible to dirt. Remove the clutch cable at the bottom, and the front sprocket cover. Use a heavy-duty degreaser to remove the worst chain fling, and carefully remove the worm drive, noting its position. Clean all dirt and corrosion, throughly grease, reassemble and refit.

4. Hydraulic problems

Fresh, quality and well-bled fluid is a basic. Aged hydraulic hoses diminish precision – replace if they’re over five years old. The slave cylinder (on the bottom end) needs to be clean, lubricated with a seal-friendly grease and fluid tight – replace the seal if damaged. On bikes over 10 years fit a master cylinder rebuild kit – all you need is a set of circlip pliers to do it.

5. Bad action? Check the oil

If there is slipping or dragging, then scrutinise your oil. Grade, level and condition are all important – if any of these are wrong, it can affect the delicate balance of the whole transmission. Make sure it’s all right – if the oil is heavily contaminated with fibrous goop/metal flecks or smells burnt, it’s also an external indicator of internal strife. Which brings us to…

6. Check the plates for wear

Lean the bike on the sidestand for 10 minutes to drain the oil away from the cover. Be sure you have a new clutch gasket at the ready before starting. Remove the cover, remove the pressure plate, and inspect the plates. Black, burnt or broken friction plates need to go in the bin. Steels should be flat, have no major heat marks, and a dimpled pattern should be visible.

7. Is it a basket case?

While you’re taking the plates out, inspect the two parts of the basket. The inner meshes with the steel plates, the outer with the friction plates. The tangs on the plates can nibble away at the alloy castings – light wear is OK, but deep grooves can cause the plates to snag and stop them moving smoothly. Light grooves can be gently rubbed down and flattened.

8. New springs needed?

If your clutch has coil springs, measure them while they’re out. Like any other moving part, there is a wear limit: over time, they compress and fatigue, exerting less pressure on the plates, which can cause slip and wear. Measurement is easy: use vernier calipers to measure the uncompressed (free) length. Your manual will give you a minimum value.

9. Fine-tune your lever

Bent or snapped levers are a no-no. Make sure the lever perch is fitted so the flat finger-grip area of the lever pulls back and aligns perfectly against the grip, and doesn’t foul the switchgear. Adjust lever height so your wrists are flat when seated in a normal riding position. Grease the pivot, and set the span adjuster (if fitted) in the position that offers the best control.

Photos: Joe Dick/Bauer Archive