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posted on February 17, 2010 13:28
One of the key fundamentals that all of our riding skills out on the trails revolve around is our throttle and clutch control and coordination. This really relates to our ability to “put the power to the ground”. Poor execution of this fundamental is a huge restriction on your ability to conquer the more advanced trail situation. With not being able to put the power to the ground adequately means you may be severely limiting your ability to gain the necessary momentum and/or acceleration required to clear all trail obstacles.
The first thing that we need to understand is where the clutch friction point is on your motorcycle, or you could say how far the clutch level needs to move for the clutch to be engaged and disengaged. A lot of riders actually pull the clutch lever towards the handlebars much further than it is needed to and the big negative in doing this is not the extra energy expended in doing so, but the fact that you cannot be nowhere near as precise with your ability to apply the power to the ground, especially in the more advanced trail situations. Without this precision you really increase your chances of stalling or spinning out, or not gaining the necessary momentum that is required to loft the front wheel over the large log, to make it to the top of the steep hill, etc.
Your clutch lever should be set with the correct amount of free play, which is about a ¼ inch of “free” movement at the end of the lever. With this setting you should be able to pull the lever towards the handlebars with one or two fingers to totally disengage the clutch before the lever makes contact with the knuckles of your fingers that are still wrapped around the handlebar. If this is not the case then your clutch is not adjusted correctly and needs to be remedied. With the engine running you will be able to determine exactly how far you need to pull the clutch for it to fully operate. Whilst in the stopped position you just slowly start letting the clutch out until you feel that the bike is beginning to move. This is the “friction point” and the start of the clutch beginning to be engaged. By determining where the “friction point” is you can become much more precise with your clutch operation. There is no reason to pull the clutch lever any closer to the handlebar than where the friction point is unless you plan to be stopped without movement for a long period of time. The friction point on nearly all motorcycles will be slightly different than the others, even if just due to differing free play settings, but once the rider determines where it is then you just apply the same clutch engagement movement to the varied friction point of different motorcycles.
The key reason that we focus on only pulling the clutch lever in as far as necessary (for some/most trail situations this may only be half way, or less, to the start of the friction point) is that when we need to reapply the clutch and start letting it out again the appropriate amount for that specific trail obstacle, well it requires less movement of the clutch lever to coordinate with your throttle application to gain the desired result. To better understand this lets think about it in a very exaggerated example and decide which situation would not only be easier to perform and coordinate but allow you to be much precise with your application; one where you were required to let the clutch lever out 1/16 of an inch to get the correct clutch engagement or one where you were required to let it out 5 inches.
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