Although we use it every time we ride, most riders rarely think about their bike’s clutch. Even though we may do the right thing by adjusting and lubricating the cable occasionally, or perhaps flushing the hydraulic fluid according to the factory maintenance schedule, do we ever consciously think about the daily abuses our clutch undergoes each time we pull away from a stop? Never. That is, until something starts to go wrong.

The reality is that your bike’s clutch wears every time the plates slip over each other as the clutch is engaged or disengaged. An aggressive launch increases the strain exponentially. Consequently, at the first sign of clutch failure, you should replace it. Don’t wait until your clutch fails completely, stranding you miles from home and possibly taking more expensive engine components with it. The signs of clutch wear include: slipping under power, loss of clutch “feel,” grabbiness, or some other marked change in clutch function. While you might be able to get away with only replacing the clutch’s fiber plates, riders who want to be certain their bike is performing at its very best, however, will replace all the plates and springs at the same time. Motorcycle clutches are typically the multi-plate type, but a few BMWs and Moto Guzzis have used single-plate clutches. Wet-type clutches, which reside in an oil bath, are most often used in motorcycles; dry clutches are less common.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Thank you for the helpful article.

    The soaking the plates step in oil is important. I know of a guy who did not do that and the clutch released so much fiber and junk that it clogged his oil screen and badly damaged his motor. As shown by the article, this job is not rocket science, but it does need to be done correctly.

  • Old MOron

    Thanks, Evans. I hate working on my bike for at least two reasons.
    1. I’d much rather be riding than wrenching.
    2. It takes me for bloody ever. I don’t trust myself, and I wind up triple checking everything I do. I suppose ultimately that’s a good thing, but I still hate it.

  • JMDonald

    One can expect to become one with the universe doing their own maintenance. I have a Clymer manual if I feel the need. A well done synopsis. Become one with your clutch. Something in your heart wants to know.

  • DickRuble

    Good article. Hopefully more of these in the future. Next ones could be: How to check and adjust valve clearance. How to install steel brake lines.

    Before carbon fiber or Kevlar, what was the material for friction plates?

    • Evans Brasfield

      Asbestos was used but has discontinued for obvious reasons. Other than that, I don’t know.

      • DickRuble

        Upon researching it, one class of modifiers still used is comprised of “organic and mineral fibers” bonded by resin, with some friction modifiers. Asbestos was part of this class, which is purportedly suitable for low to moderate power and torque, with frequent engagement and disengagement of the clutch.. Several classes of material exist for various applications.

        source: http://www.dwclutch.com/D&W/D&W%20Clutch%20&%20Brake%202/Friction%20Materials.htm

  • Jon Low

    Roll the clutch pushrod on a sheet of plate-glass. If it is perfectly straight, it will roll very smoothly. If it is even slightly bowed it will wobble along, and then it’s best to get a new one, as it is near-impossible to bend it straight, and a bowed pushrod wrecks the smooth action of any clutch.