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Old 03-02-2013, 10:49 PM   #1
rkalapat
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Default Burned out my clutch control

Hello everyone ---

I had a good learning experience today, and I really please want some tips from anyone on how to prevent this again in the future.

I went on a beautiful ride for 250 miles today (I'm the one that posted about my upcoming trip to Los Angeles in another post). Much better experience today, than my last 200+ mile trip. I should have stopped when I had enough fun for the day. But, I took it a step too far (I guess that's my nature).

I'm sure you've all heard of Lombard Street in San Francisco, as it's the crookedest street in the world. Well, on my way to that street, the other side of Lombard street is a very steep uphill (this was my 1st time up Lombard street on a motorcycle). There was a lot of traffic congestion on the uphill part. What ended up happening was that I was working my clutch & my throttle; but because there was so much traffic in front of me on the steep uphill, I had to give it a lot more throttle than usual to keep myself from rolling downhill. What ended up happening was that I took the throttle too far, and I started smelling smoke. At that point, my clutch didn't engage anymore. And, I was suddenly screwed in the middle of the hill. I shut my engine off and tried to maneuver my motorcycle at an angle to try to go downhill, but I had difficulty because of the weight (the Sporster Superlow weighs about 560 pounds, and I weigh 150 pounds) & I ended up tipping over & falling on Lombard street. Luckily, I wasn't hurt, and I have an engine guard. I had a few scratches on my hardcase saddlebags. Nothing major.

It looks like the mistake I made was giving too much throttle without engaging the clutch enough. I would have engaged the clutch more, but there was a car ahead of me that was rolling backward a little each time it was trying to go forward. That made me panic a little, by keeping my throttle high but not letting the clutch go enough.

If anyone has any thoughts on what I should do different next time, please advise. Thank you.

RK
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Old 03-02-2013, 11:10 PM   #2
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Don't go on the weekend. I have been up that hill on the approach to Lombard street.

Give yourself more room with the car in front and don't try to stay right behind him. You will have to slip the clutch but don't use so much throttle (easy to say hard to do)

Is the clutch totally gone or did it come back when everything cooled down? I would get it checked anyway.
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Old 03-02-2013, 11:14 PM   #3
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Critter -- Sorry, I forgot to complete the rest of the story.

The clutch was totally gone; I waited an hour for it to cool down, and I got nothing. So, I had it towed to my Harley dealership. Apparently, several of the technicians said they've seen many motorcycles burn out the clutch control up that hill (hell, if I would have known that upfront, I wouldn't have gone there!). But, I guess that's how we live and learn!

RK
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:22 AM   #4
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The MSF Basic Riders Course does not address using a clutch to start on a hill as an excercise. It is discussed briefly in the classroom. We teach two methods

1) Hold the rear brake with your right foot as you ease out the clutch and give the bike a little throttle. Release the brake when the bike starts moving.

2) Hold the front brake with your right fingers as you also roll on the throttle. Release the brake when the bike starts moving.

We do not teach to hold the bike in place on a hills using only the clutch.

Method two works best for my motorcycle and me. YMMV.
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Old 03-03-2013, 12:53 PM   #5
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Motohorseman --- The towing fee was $150; not bad for San Francisco, given that the tow guy also dropped me off at home; a one-way taxicab ride from the dealership alone would have cost me $50. $150 for towing it & dropping me home is nothing.

They gave an estimate for the repair bill of 2 hours-labor ($119 per hour, total $238) and the parts ($160). So, everything will be about $550. It is what it is, and it's OK. It won't break my bank. My philosophy in life is that if I don't fail from time to time (not just in this, but in anything I do), I'm not pushing myself hard enough. Failure is a part of the path to success.

ralphlong --- I do recall those. I actually started doing #1 at the bottom of the hill, but I got fatigued as I just came back from riding 250+ miles. I should have just gone home, but I pushed myself a little too much. Oh well, lesson learned.

RK
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Old 03-03-2013, 01:32 PM   #6
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OK motohorseman.

ralphlong --- Since it sounds like you teach a course -- If you don't mind, let me just go back to basics for a minute & write out my thought process on what I should do on a steep uphill at a red light with 20 cars ahead of me. For me, option #1 is better. And, please critique me where my technique is incorrect, especially on the order of things. It's embarrassing to write this, as I should know this by now, but I'm going to put aside my pride & just take it all in.

As I'm approaching that steep uphill on a red light:
1. 1st, I should downshift all the way to 1st gear on my approach.
2. Then, at the actual stop, I should hold the clutch all the way in with my left hand (while staying in 1st gear), while my left foot is on the ground, and my right foot is on the rear brake.
When the green light comes:
1. I should simultaneously ease out the clutch with my left hand while giving it a little throttle with my right hand.
2. Then, my right foot should ease off the rear brake.

Did I get that correct, especially the order of things? Please advise. Thanks!

RK
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Old 03-03-2013, 03:24 PM   #7
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motohorseman ---

I agree with your neutral part -- I go to neutral too when I'm sitting for a long time. But, (at least for me), on a very steep hill, it's hard to go from neutral to 1st when I lift my left foot off the ground -- while my right foot is still on the rear brake, and simultaneously working the clutch with my left hand and the throttle with my right hand. I know I'm over-thinking it & all of these little steps should happen automatically/subconsciously without even thinking about it, but on a flat surface, I don't have a problem with that. The pull of gravity on a very steep hill (like Lombard Street) just makes it that much more difficult to do 4 things at once in that split-second. The routine minor hills (like on Geary boulevard, O'Farrell street, Fulton street, Divisadero, Stanyan street, Fell street, Van Ness avenue) aren't a problem for me. I bit off more than I could chew yesterday.

RK
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:37 PM   #8
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Another thing my cramp buster helps with. My hand is not large enough to hold my front brake in and also give throttle while letting off of the brake smoothly. The cramp buster allows me to push down on it with the heel of my hand, thus giving it gas, while letting off of the brake. Does that make sense? I hope so...
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:06 AM   #9
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MONI --- I've never even heard of something called a "crampbuster". I just googled it. Wow, I'll have to order it & try it sometime. Thanks!

RK
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:20 AM   #10
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I paid less than $10.00 for mine and love it. It rates right up there with my windshield IMO. Without it my right hand cramped so bad after 50 miles or so and I had to stop... and after that it got to where I'd just about be crying in another 30 or 40 & just kept getting worse. You have to make sure to get the one that fits your throttle as apparently there are 2 different sizes. But as I said above, it also helps to be able to use the front brake on a hill & take off.
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:25 AM   #11
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I did get the narrower one so that I could have my full hand on the throttle and it would be off to my right. Not often, but sometimes you want to just hold the throttle...
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:27 AM   #12
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MONI -- Thanks!
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:34 AM   #13
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Hey I hope it helps you too. I have ridden 500 mile days since I got mine and my hand never gets to hurting anymore. Plus it really does help on the take off thing...Good Luck to you and I hope you get your bike fixed soon.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:31 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkalapat View Post
OK motohorseman.

ralphlong --- Since it sounds like you teach a course -- If you don't mind, let me just go back to basics for a minute & write out my thought process on what I should do on a steep uphill at a red light with 20 cars ahead of me. For me, option #1 is better. And, please critique me where my technique is incorrect, especially on the order of things. It's embarrassing to write this, as I should know this by now, but I'm going to put aside my pride & just take it all in.

As I'm approaching that steep uphill on a red light:
1. 1st, I should downshift all the way to 1st gear on my approach.
2. Then, at the actual stop, I should hold the clutch all the way in with my left hand (while staying in 1st gear), while my left foot is on the ground, and my right foot is on the rear brake.
When the green light comes:
1. I should simultaneously ease out the clutch with my left hand while giving it a little throttle with my right hand.
2. Then, my right foot should ease off the rear brake.

Did I get that correct, especially the order of things? Please advise. Thanks!

RK
Correct. The only thing I would be add would be to practice, practice, practice in a low stress (I.e. no traffic) situation so that you will ready for when you need to to do it for real.
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:08 PM   #15
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Good info!

As a noob, I'm having similar issues with smooth clutch control, especially starting on an incline. This is very helpful...
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:28 PM   #16
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OK everyone --- Just got my motorcycle back.

Parts: $234.80
Labor: $196.35
Tax: $21.11
Total: $452.26
My towing bill last week was $150.
Total cost incurred for my stupidity: $602.26

The tech showed me the burned out clutch; it was horrible; all black, and the smell was nasty. They replaced all new parts. Minor scratches on my hardcase saddlebags.

I was so lucky to have gotten out of the way just in time last week as it was tipping over. $602.26 may seem like a lot to some people, but a broken leg or arm would have cost a hell of a lot more than that. I feel blessed/fortunate to have avoided any injuries.

Very good lesson learned to not have too much fun in a day. Next short-term goal: keep quiet & behave until I leave to my scheduled trip to Los Angeles next week.

Thank you all for your support. It really helped to chat with people here.

RK
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Old 03-09-2013, 12:10 AM   #17
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keep taking short rides up until the time you leave. Take some small hills, just leave the monsters alone.
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:58 PM   #18
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Muir Woods, now that would be a great ride once you were over that little bridge you have to use to get there from SF
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:37 PM   #19
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Per your suggestions, I've continued to practice on small hills since Saturday. It's been good. No problems.

--- I've been using technique #1 as user "ralphlong" has suggested. Since I'm right-handed, the key thing I have to remember while I'm on a hill is to pay attention to my left hand more & let out the clutch in time as I'm accelerating with my right hand & letting off the rear brake with my right foot.

--- The other thing I'm doing is if I'm coming up on a hill, I'm just psychologically planning to keep moving up the hill as much as possible --- as opposed to taking my own time like before. I'm just saying to myself "keep moving, keep moving".

--- As far as the clutch, I'm practicing an "all-or-none" state as much as possible. Meaning, either I let the clutch out all of the way, or I hold it in all of the way. I'm limiting the amount of time the clutch is between full engagement or full disengagement, which I guess is what "riding" the clutch means. I'll admit I got very lax in the past 1-2 months with riding the clutch as my mechanism for preventing myself from rolling backwards while on a hill, instead of using my rear brake more.

Thanks everyone.

RK
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Old 03-13-2013, 11:53 PM   #20
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RK, it sounds like you are doing what you need to do to become proficient at taking off on hills. All or none on the clutch is how I was taught. I NEVER hold myself on a hill by slipping the clutch or using the friction zone. If I am stopped, my clutch is in and I am in 1st gear, hill or no hill. If the traffic is moving very slowly I get myself moving and again pull the clutch in if need to coast along. Keep up the good work.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:13 AM   #21
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MONI --- Since I'm being honest here, I'll give another full disclosure, which I haven't mentioned so far on this post:

After I took the standard Motorcycle Safety Course at the end of 9/2012, I went and took a 3-hour private lesson from a local motorcycle tutor in early 10/2012. I did it because I was having a lot of problems with even the minor hills & I was stalling a lot (I was panicking because cars were honking the horn at me whenever I stalled on the top of a hill).

Maybe I misunderstood his teaching or maybe he taught me incorrectly (I'm not blaming him, it is what it is) --- but I learned from him that I could use the friction zone to my benefit to prevent myself from rolling backwards on a hill. And, now looking back, I think that was an incredibly BAD technique that I picked up from him (or, maybe I misunderstood him). Because, I've been using that technique ever since, and that's what probably contributed to my clutch really burning out on Lombard Street; Lombard Street was literally the last straw that broke the camel's back, as it likely represented a culmination of repeatedly using that bad technique since 10/2012.

So, I'm basically forcing myself to unlearn that bad technique now, and to stick with the all-or-none clutch approach.

RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:23 AM   #22
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One more thing, MONI.

I think part of what has also confused me is that if you look in the MSF Basic Rider course handbook (Edition 7.1, Second Printing on August 2007, page 36), it says:

"Keeping the clutch in the friction zone can hold the motorcycle in position until you are underway".

So, I think where I misinterpreted this is that I could keep my clutch mid-way between all-or-none in order to hold myself up on a hill. I don't know if that's an error in the MSF course book, but that's how I read it. And, since the friction zone is technically a "region of partial engagement" (page 20 of that book), I was using the friction zone to start out on a hill. And, most likely repeated use of that technique lead me to burn out my clutch.

RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:04 AM   #23
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I will try to find my book tomorrow & see what all it says.
That might be ok for a very short hold time...Like at a stop sign or flashing red light where you are not staying stopped long. Sometimes at those I don't even need to put my feet down. But I would not hold my bike at a stop light with my clutch.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:35 AM   #24
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MONI --- Here is the whole paragraph from page 36 on the topic of "Hills" in the MSF Basic Rider Course booklet. (You can download the PDF version on-line at:
http://www.msf-usa.org/CurriculumMat...ndbook2009.pdf

"Just as it is important to match gears to road speed on level terrain, a rider must determine the best gear for riding in hilly country. A lower gear should be used for steep grades, both in ascending to maintain power and maneuvering speed, and in descending to use engine braking to help control speed. Total stopping distance increases on a downgrade, so allowing extra following distance is appropriate. Special skill is required to start out on a hill. A good technique is to apply a brake to prevent the motorcycle from rolling backward while you move the clutch to the friction zone. Often the rear brake is used; but, if you need to keep both feet down for balance, you could use the front brake while easing out the clutch into the friction zone until you can release the brake and apply some throttle. Keeping the clutch in the friction zone can hold the motorcycle in position until you are underway. It may be helpful to use more throttle than when starting on a level surface, and you may have to hold the clutch in the friction zone longer to get moving."

So, you can see the sentence "Keeping the clutch in the friction zone can hold the motorcycle in position until you are underway". From my experience, this should be a definite no-no, because it confused me to actually use the clutch to prevent myself from falling back downhill.

ralphlong --- I'd be interested in your thoughts, since you actually teach a course. From your 3/3/2013 post, you said "We do not teach to hold the bike in place on a hills using only the clutch."; but, the book taught me that I can use the clutch in the friction zone to hold myself in position on a hill.

RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:41 AM   #25
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And, just FYI to anyone reading this, I'm not blaming anyone for my mistake. I'm just trying to analyze & think out loud how I picked up this bad technique of riding on the clutch. It looks like it's a combination of what I read in the book + what I learned from that private lesson.

I don't know who's in charge of the MSF textbook at the national level, but clarifying that one should try to use the clutch in an "all-or-none" manner as much as possible would really help out a newbie like me who is absorbing every single thing about riding a motorcycle like a sponge.

RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:54 AM   #26
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"Often the rear brake is used; but, if you need to keep both feet down for balance, you could use the front brake while easing out the clutch into the friction zone until you can release the brake and apply some throttle. Keeping the clutch in the friction zone can hold the motorcycle in position until you are underway. It may be helpful to use more throttle than when starting on a level surface, and you may have to hold the clutch in the friction zone longer to get moving."

If you read both of these sentences together, in my opinion...it means that you could use the front brake (to hold the bike) while easing the clutch into the friction zone...once in the friction zone you should be trying to get underway...meaning you are taking off. I think Ralph will agree but also anxious to see what he says.

Either way, You are not using the clutch & friction zone to hold the bike in place on hills any longer...right? Don't want to burn another clutch up...
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Old 03-14-2013, 09:11 AM   #27
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Exactly, MONI. No longer using the clutch & friction zone to hold myself in place on hills. I don't need to waste another $600.

Thanks!

RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 09:21 AM   #28
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motohorseman --- I'm not worried about the $600; I'm in a fortunate profession that I can afford it. That's not the issue.

The issue for me is to learn the proper technique 1st and foremost.

Thanks. --- RK
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Old 03-14-2013, 01:53 PM   #29
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I can definitely understand why you would have misinterpreted that information. The way I read that phrase from the msf course is that you can use the clutch to keep the bike from rolling backwards after you release the front brake, and then you start rolling on the throttle, getting the bike moving, and releasing the clutch.

What they don't clarify is that time after releasing the front brake is a second or milliseconds. You have to remember that the booklet is designed for a new rider, so everything is broken down step by step. When you become proficient, starting on an incline is one continuous action. When I start out on a hill, I'm releasing the front brake and picking my feet up all while rolling on the throttle and putting the clutch in the friction zone. It's more like one action, but it has to be broken down step by step for a new rider.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:26 PM   #30
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RK thanks for this thread.. i finished my MSF course about 2 months ago.. and i was also under the same impression from the teachings.. i am never in neutral (Escape Ready) and i am always using my friction zone to hold the bike in place ..

This thread has me re evaluting that.. thanks

Edit: as a side note i was actually told during class not to worry about pulling the clutch all the way in , or letting it all the way out.. stay in the friction zone while doing slow moving manuvers and stops.

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Old 03-14-2013, 02:31 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motohorseman View Post
Good information.

Destroying clutches is a common mistake for new riders.

Can be an expensive mistake.

I'm still stunned at how many hold the clutch in at a stop signs (bad bad bad)
we've had this discussion before and I'll keep my bike in gear at a stop with the clutch pulled in every time. I'd rather be able to move out of the way of a car failing to stop behind me thanks. Leaving the bike in neutral isn't a good way to get started in a hurry if you need to.
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:47 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motohorseman View Post
And that is your right, it is bad for the bike, and you know it.

I'm not a paranoid rider, not a lot of riding drama here in St. Joe -

And I keep an eye on what is going on, so no concerns on my part.

Freaks me out a bit you are so worried about being hit, you do know what the odds are, right?

For example, the odds are that you will commit suicide before you get killed in a motorcycle accident.
looks like I'm not alone.

http://www.motorcycleforum.com/showthread.php?t=84791

also, I'm not talking about holding the bike in place with the clutch. Clutch lever fully pulled in and rear brake is holding the bike in place. But yes, I'm not sitting in neutral unless there's already a car stopped behind me and it's a very long light.

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Old 03-14-2013, 04:00 PM   #33
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I think the difference of opinion here is related to the fact I'm more concerned with my personal safety and not being hit while on the bike than I am about a mechanical part or a repair bill.

2012 Ninja 650, feel free. I'm not calling you a prick btw, I disagree with you because I feel that advising a new rider to leave the bike in neutral isn't a safe thing to do at a stop light with the large amount of distracted drivers on the road. I'm very very used to people here rolling up to a stop at high speeds only to slam on the brakes at the last moment and end up less than 3-4 feet from my rear wheel (or bumper when in the car)
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:10 PM   #34
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I must admit I drive differently around home, which is very rural, than I do when we drive in the suburbs of St. Louis. I refuse to drive downtown in St. Louis. I will drive on the interstate bypass, but NOT in that city. But in the suburbs I will watch what is going on behind me much closer. Around home lots of times my husband & I are the only vehicles at the light. That makes a big difference. I still watch behind me but not as critically. Still, I'm in 1st gear with my clutch pulled all the way in.
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Old 03-14-2013, 05:21 PM   #35
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comments like that when read make me think you're just trying to start something. So 77 out of 95 people believe they're safer sitting in gear at a light with the clutch pulled in, but that means 77 out of 95 people can't ride? When someone's coming at you and likely to hit you, would you rather have 1 second to react or 2 seconds? I'd rather have as much time as possible to make a move and get out of the way. If trying to ride safely means I don't know how to ride, then kudos to you. I wasn't calling you a prick before but with responses like that, rather than address the safety aspect, certainly make you appear to be one.

thought you were going to tell me how i was damaging my 650?
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Old 03-14-2013, 07:26 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motohorseman View Post
You made it clear that you do not give a crap about your bike and are far more concerned with safety.

I've got a few moments to log into the dealer site and pull the information, I'll be back shortly.

I could download the factory service manual for you at the same time, but that does not seem applicable at this time.
I have the factory service manual. And I fully believe from talking with the dealer and other motorcyclists, the "damage" you are speaking of is extremely minor wear and tear, which hardly seems worth risking the extra time to not be prepared to move out of the way of a collision. That being said, I'm certainly not a mechanic, so I'm curious to see how much value you put on a replacement part over your health and safety.
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Old 03-14-2013, 09:27 PM   #37
Islesfan91
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39, not made of money, practical about my approach to safety on the bike. I'm curious, are you a mechanic? Because my mechanic, along with a host of others have all told me that what you're claiming is overblown. Direct quote: if the clutch lever is fully pulled, there is no friction on the plates and it would be doing as much damage as sitting in neutral. So of all the people I've talked to today, you're the only one I've seen insisting this is bad for the bike. So what do you base this on?
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Old 03-15-2013, 09:51 AM   #38
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interesting. So I'm now looking at over 30 responses to this question, and have yet to have one that agrees with you that this damages the clutch.

In fact, of the 4 mechanics that have replied (I'm including you in this number, although at this point I wouldn't let you near my bike), you're still the only one who suggests this. It was downright hilarious to two of them.

You don't have to worry about buying my bike, we're not in the same area. By that token, I'm glad I'll never have to worry about you working on it.
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Old 03-15-2013, 10:30 AM   #39
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This debate between motohorseman & Islesfan91 has been interesting.

As with nearly everything in life, there usually isn't one definitively correct approach. Neither of you is totally correct, and neither of you is totally wrong.

There are times when I feel like holding my clutch in all the way & using my rear brake (now I'm doing that more on a hill), and there are times when I go to neutral at a stop (because traffic is going nowhere & I don't feel like fatiguing my left hand for 10 minutes by holding the clutch in all of the way).

So, it's a judgment call & it depends on numerous factors at that moment (fatigue, traffic, how steep the road is, etc...) Heck, a few weeks ago, the Chinese parade took place in San Francisco; you know what I did when the police was hand-directing traffic at Market street & told everyone on the road to stop for 15 minutes while the parade was passing through? I actually SHUT OFF MY ENGINE right in the middle of the road while the parade was passing through; I'm not going to sit there holding my clutch.

Thank you for this interesting debate. We're all trying to learn here, and there is no need for any animosity between users here. Neither of you is totally correct or totally wrong.

RK
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Old 03-15-2013, 10:53 AM   #40
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just for extra info, a few of the responses I've gathered to the question:

The clutch will not wear appreciably when fully disengaged at a light. Even over a 20 year lifetime of a bike... you'd not have to replace the clutch due to this practice. A single race/aggressive start will wear the clutch a thousand times more at least.

Most people seem to agree: stay in gear, wait till you have a nice safe buffer of cars stopped behind you if you feel the need to rest your hand/posture.
****

Worried about clutch wear ?

What kind of idiot worries about clutch wear ?

The guys mind must just about explode worrying about gasoline wear and tear as the fluid level drops. Then there is Key wear every time you have to open the tank cap , not to mention tank cap hinge wear and tear.... The stresses of riding must really be hard on some. (this is from a mechanic who owns his own shop)

****
I'm always in gear with right hand flashing brake light. I've never worried about clutch or had issues in two hundred thou kms.



- as to RK above, the reason this bothered me enough to ask others and debate it is that he is advocating what I believe to be an unsafe practice for a new rider, as this is in the new riders forum. Maybe he's in a place that isn't as busy as mine with traffic, and I know he's been riding for years longer than I, there's no question there. I would rather see new riders being taught safer practices rather than worrying about whether or not they may need to replace their clutch slightly sooner.

I would also suggest the damage a new rider does by riding the clutch will be a lot more than holding it in while waiting for a stop light.

Last edited by Islesfan91; 03-15-2013 at 10:56 AM..
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