Friday, March 28, 2008

Speed Comes from your Left Hand.

One of the things that I really wish my MSF instructors would have gone over is just how important clutch control is. The clutch is your do-it-all control on any bike. Consider the dreaded figure-8 box: It may be counter-intuitive, but it's easier to control the power to the rear wheel - and thus the handling of the bike - by judicious clutch application than by trying to use the right amount of throttle.

Had I figured that out during the class, I probably wouldn't have blown the figure-8 on my test.

The clutch isn't only good for low-speed maneuvering, however. You can accelerate a lot faster, and more smoothly, by gradually releasing the clutch than by letting the clutch go and grabbing a handful of throttle.

Case in point: Say you have a limited amount of space to get to freeway speeds. Metered on ramps during rush hour are a good example. To get the bike moving with a quickness, give it enough gas to get into the powerband (it kicks in around 7,000 RPM on my bike, and really picks up at 10k), and ever so gently release the clutch while applying a little more gas proportionally to how much you release the clutch.

The first time you do this, you'll likely find the way your lips peel back disconcerting. Don't worry, you'll get used to it.

Repeat for each shift, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you reach super-legal speed. I can almost reach freeway speeds in first gear, and I expect most motorcycles of the sport persuasion can as well. Keep an eye on your speedo, or count to four-one-thousand, to know when to stop accelerating, unless you like explaining why you were going so fast to officers of the law.

If you really want to improve your riding, pay attention to your clutch.

10 comments:

Mr. Motorcycle said...

Does it work with an American made v-twin? - 'Cause I'm gonna give it a try.

Thanks Chuck!

Mr. Motorcycle said...

Sorry, Meant Lucky.

Der_General said...

The figure-8 is the trickiest part of the skills test, and you're right - clutch control is key. That, and swivel your head around like Linda Blair. .The body follows the head. I was repeating it like a mantra the whole time. It worked.

Lucky said...

Mr. Motorcycle - Well, it worked with my japanese v-twin. The key is keeping the bike in it's powerband. V-twins make their power in a different place than an inline four, but the principle is the same.

der_general - Yep, keeping the head up is key as well. I goofed on how much power I needed, and dabbed the ground with my left foot. Oops!

Wyckedsin said...

for the F-8, remember to weight the OUTSIDE peg. With a torquey motor, you use the REAR BRAKE to control your speed while using a smooth throttle. Clutch control is good, but with the F-8, it can be your downfall. You want applied power all the way through the turn. It's easier to drop the applied power using your clutch then it is to drop the applied power when you use the rear brake to stunt your speed.

When I took my test initially, it was on a CB350, then again on a FZR400, then on a Seca650. All of them were cake with clutch control. Having to pass the F-8 on a Sportster, and then an XB Buell...it was all about the rear brake control.

Lucky said...

wycked - thanks for weighing in. In the interest of science, what's the strategy for high speed acceleration from 0 mph on a v-twin?

Wyckedsin said...

To many variables to weigh in on that one Lucky. Sporty VS XB VS Big Twin Barcolounger VS etc etc etc...

But if you want it there fast...Nitromethane with a blast of NOS should git r done!

Desert MotoRat said...

Seems to work pretty good with my Sportster 1200. I wonder how long my clutch is gonna last though?

Lucky said...

motorat - A clutch is a normal wear item anyway. ;)

irondad said...

For what it's worth, it's not one or the other. In other words, it's not clutch OR rear brake. During low speed maneuvers it's head turns, friction zone, and dragging the rear brake combined.

Most wet clutches won't hardly feel it. Dry clutches, on the other hand, get hot after prolonged use like this. Fortunately, most riders of dry clutch bikes don't ride formations all day long!