Photos by Heather Lewis
The clutch is one of the tools your bike is equipped with that few riders get the most out of. For some it is just for starting and stopping and others like to smoke them. But having excellent control of the clutch can really help your riding in so many ways. Here are some tips and drills to improve your control of the lever on the left.
1. Clutch adjustment is very important. Not only is the angel of the lever on the handlebar critical, the engagement or friction point needs to me adjusted so you hand can comfortably control the lever without compromising your grip on the bar or having the lever bump against your knuckles. Of course operating the lever by using only one or two fingers is the only way to have control when you really need it. And if there is any drag or friction in the operation of the lever, or drag from work or warped plates, that is like adding a delay to what you want the bike to do; Not good.
2. To test and practice your dexterity, with the bike at idle (no throttle) and on a slight incline use only the clutch to get the bike to roll forward and then slightly release it to have it roll back, then engage it to have it roll forward again. Doing this you should not make jerky or cantankerous movements of the lever. You smoothly control the forward and back roll of the bike with the clutch only.
3. High level clutch control comes into play not only when riding at speeds slower than first gear, this is the same level of control you’ll need when things get interesting at speed. The clutch can help to control the bike, especially the balance. You can use a pop, or burst of power, amplified through the clutch, to keep your balance and control the bike. You can practice this by coming to a stop and allowing yourself to lose balance and then using a burst of power, through the clutch, to get moving when you feel the urge to put your foot down.
4. The clutch is a power amplifier or a way to allow the bike to go slower than the gear you are currently in. It is not a power reducer. Slipping the clutch to limit the power to the rear wheel is how clutches burn up and how bikes overheat. It is a lot better to reduce the power with the throttle and use the clutch for the burst when needed as opposed to trying to control the power through the clutch lever.
Want to lean more ways to ride at a higher level? Check out www.jimmylewisoffroad.com.