Dear MOby,

My new-to-me 2000 R1 clunks really hard when I drop it into first gear in the morning, and it only gets worse after it’s warm. It’s also kind of juddery all the time when I’m leaving from a stop. What’s the problem? The odometer says 18,000 miles.

Not Feeling Fresh
San Diego


Dear Fresh,

Sounds like it might be time for a new clutch, but let’s eliminate a few other possibilities first. Make sure the clutch cable is correctly adjusted so that the clutch is disengaging all the way when you pull in the lever. With the oil warm and the clutch pulled in with the bike in first or second gear, the bike should be easyish to push on level ground.

If your cable adjustment is good, have you changed your oil lately? Sometimes it’s as simple as fresh oil of the proper grade your R1 manual asks for, and don’t just look at the 10W-whatever, look at the letters too; oils labelled MA and MB mean they will work with your R1’s wet clutch. Also, there are tons of people online who claim some of the more expensive motorcycle-specific oils really improve their bike’s shifting.

If none of that helps, you probably just need a new clutch, which in fact means replacing the stack of alternating fiber and steel plates which, when pressed together, transmit power to your rear wheel. They are a wear item, and some riders and usages definitely wear them out faster than others.

032717-ask-mo-anything-clutch-diagram

Lots of people get away with just replacing the fiber plates (#9 above), and replacing the steel ones (#10) every other clutch job. You can do that if you’re certain the steels are perfectly flat (place them on a piece of glass or granite to ensure they are precisely flat) and if they’re not burnt up/discolored, but maybe you shouldn’t if the bike is new to you. Our man Redpath at MotoGP Werks says a really big clunk when shifting into first often means a warped steel plate, especially if the bike creeps when you rev it with the clutch in and in gear. At 18,000 miles, if money’s not super-tight, you may as well replace the steels too.

According to Yamaha’s fiche, you need seven friction plates and six steel ones. Most places sell them for about $12 each. Get a new clutch cover gasket while you’re at it. If you lean the bike over on its right side a bit before you get to work, you can just leave the new oil you put in there, in there.

If you don’t have a manual, pay attention as you take things apart and put the new discs back in in the same order. You may need a dental pick type tool to pry a plate or two loose since the oil makes them want to stick to each other, but none of this is rocket science.

Oh yeah, soak the new fibers in oil overnight before installation. And good luck.


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  • Andrew Chukavin

    Should’ve just said “it’s Yamaha, it’s supposed to do that”.

    • john phyyt

      Agreed. Does Clutch slip when high torque levels are applied? If not. you can “live with it”..

  • CookedDragon

    My 2007 R1 has always done a big clunk, from 7,000 miles when I got it to the 45,000 it has now.

    • José Rodrigues

      I’ve got a GSX 1250 FA who clunks every time I change to first, since when she was brand new out of the dealer. Also, my old Kawasaki ER-6n did clunk a bit too; not quite as loud as the Suzie, but it was noticeable.

    • john burns

      Maybe it needs a new clutch? Wild guess…

      • CookedDragon

        It doesn’t slip, doesn’t need a clutch.

  • Douglas

    If an H-D DOESN’T clunk into 1st, there’s something wrong with it. OTOH, both my Kawis (05 Concours & 07 Nomad), with hydraulic clutches, offer a barely felt “snick” into 1st, but you hafta time the 1-2 shift perfectly or suffer driveline lash. But the H-D’s will tolerate sloppy shifts and you virtually never feel it…..the hyd’s seem to either fully engaged or not at all. I remember also my Virago was smooth as silk always….

    • Paul Zysk

      I LOVE that ‘clunk’ into first on my Rocker : )

  • Johnny Blue

    The judder when using the clutch is a sign of warped plates, or worn out clutch basket/clutch boss. If the latter is the case, new plates won’t fix it.

    http://motorcyclebaby.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/IMAG1940.jpg

  • JSTNCOL

    Check the chain.

    • Ashley Hardy

      with the bikes I’ve had in the past, its been a slack drive chain that has caused the 1st gear to clunk.. start with checking the chain then move onto the clutch if adjusting the chain tension doesn’t solve the problem.

  • Terry Smith

    “If you lean the bike over on its right side a bit before you get to work, you can just leave the new oil you put in there, in there.”

    Surely you should lean it to the left, given the clutch is on the right?

  • JMDGT

    BMW boxers with dry clutches clunk. It’s a feature not a bug.

    • Tinwoods

      As did my wet-clutch BMW K1200R.

  • JohnnyS

    IIRC, there is a cush drive in the rear wheel hub. If so, that could be worn out. If the rubber dampers in the cush drive are worn out, you can get a clunky first gear engagement. Also a loose chain or really badly worn chain/sprockets can make it worse.

  • Hot Stuff

    Overheard at the dealer: “They all do that”

    • Tinwoods

      And many do. I’ve owned over 30 bikes, and flipped (fast sell, not looped) many more than that. Many bikes do this with nothing wrong with the clutches at all.

    • Andre Capitao Melo

      They all do that. It’s the gear dogs clunking in their place when you select 1st gear. The primary shaft is rotating, due to wet clutches tendency of “grabbing” alittle, while the secondary is stationary.

      http://aperaceparts.com/resources/transmissions/undercut.gif

  • John Ehrhart

    A friend and I have 2012 R1s in our dirt track race cars. They both have a terrible clunk when put in gear and they are adapted to a driveshaft. His eventually broke 1st gear, so we go to 2nd when putting in gear for the first time, and then go to 1st.

  • notfishing

    Even with my Moto Guzzi’s the reason is simple, I’m not waiting long enough for the gearbox to spin down when I pull in the clutch. My 1980 agricultural V50 “snicks” if I give it 3-5 seconds after I pull in the clutch before I toe down into first. I only get the “clunk” when I don’t give the tranny enough time to slow the rotating mass.

    Give it the “pause” before shifting into first and see what happens.

    • Andre Capitao Melo

      Your bike uses a dry clutch, right? On a wet clutch this doesn’t work, as the viscosity of the oil keeps the primary axle spinning.

  • Jason M.

    My 2012 Street Triple has always clunked into first, as well as many other bikes I’ve owned/ridden.

  • W/C

    Why has nobody mentioned the cush drive?

    • Douglas

      Maybe nobody knows what it is…..what is it? I know about CVT’s, but….tush drive?

      • W/C

        CUSH drive. C-U-S-H Drive. It is the rubber damper inside the rear wheel hub that cushions the sprocket hub from the wheel hub.

        • Douglas

          Oh….sorry

  • major tom

    The clunk is most likely normal, as some one here said the driven and driving gear dogs are not turning at the same speed. Juddering however is another issue, most likely the clutch, either the plates or the baskets have indents like some one here depicted in a wonderful picture!

  • Bill D805

    Many decades ago, using relatively heavy Castrol oil, my Triumph did that. I then learned to let it warm up for a minute or so and then pull in the clutch and rap the throttle from idle to enable inertia to help break the plates loose from each other. Then back to idle before engaging gear. It’s such a habit that I haven’t tried doing it any other way with “modern” bikes. It might work with the R1.

  • Steve McLaughlin

    I have a good friend with a Victory. You can hear the CLUNK of him shift gears down the highway a 1/4 mile away.

  • patrick Callahan

    May want to check chain tension as well, sometimes a sloppy chain is part of the “clunking”