Is It Bad To Hold In The Clutch On A Motorcycle?


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There are many times when you may want to hold in the clutch on your motorcycle. This could be as you are sitting at a light, as you are coming up to a stop, changing gears, taking a corner, etc. But you may be wondering if it’s bad for your motorcycle if you are doing this constantly.

Is it bad to hold in the clutch on a motorcycle? It is not bad to hold in the clutch handle on a motorcycle as long as you are pulling in the handle all the way to ensure the clutch is fully engaged. A partially engaged clutch will cause excessive heat and burn the clutch plates.

The clutch on your motorcycle is an essential piece of equipment that needs to be taken care of properly. This article will teach you all about your clutch and how to make sure you’re operating it correctly so it lasts a long time.

Why It Is Not Bad To Hold In A Motorcycle Clutch

To understand this, you need to understand what is going on when your clutch is engaged. We will go into this in a little further detail later, but for now it is important that you understand that your engine is connected and disconnected from your transmission through the clutch.

During normal operation, the clutch plates and friction plates are sandwiched together. When you pull the clutch lever, you are un-coupling the clutch plates from the friction plates, allowing the engine and transmission to be disconnected. The clutch lever pulls a rod, and that rod releases the pressure between the plates, uncoupling the engine and transmission.

As any object that experiences friction, the result is wear and heat. As the name infers, the point of the friction plate is to create friction. This is what actually couples the transmission to the engine. This friction is only really present when the clutch plates and the friction plates are just starting to engage. At this point, they are coming into contact but still spinning independently. This causes wear and heat as they rub against each other.

Once they are fully engaged, they do not slip anymore, and this removes the wear from rubbing. As a result, you only really experience major wear and heat just as the clutch is engaging and just as it is dis-engaging. This is often referred to as the “friction zone”. When the clutch is fully engaged or fully disengaged, wear is minimal. 

This is why it is not bad to hold the clutch lever in. The only time this becomes a problem is if you hold the clutch right in the friction zone. This will cause much more wear and heat. If you fully engage the clutch, there are no real concerns with holding the clutch in at all. Feel free to do this whenever you are at a light, in traffic, or coming to a stop.

How The Clutch Works

I’ve replaced many motorcycle clutches since I owned a motorcycle restoration business for a while. I’m going to nerd out and explain how they work in simple terms.

The clutch on your motorcycle is a device that allows you to stop the engine from driving the transmission. This will prevent power from being output to the transmission and your rear wheel. This is absolutely necessary, because if constant power were being applied, you would be unable to do things like shift gears.

You also would not be able to stop the motorcycle as the engine would continue to want to drive it at an idle. Shifting to neutral would be the only way to stop.

This critical function is performed by your clutch. Clutches can be quite expensive as well. For this reason, you will want to be sure that you are not causing any excess wear to your clutch. This is why the question of whether holding in your clutch is bad or not always seems to surface.

There are people who will tell you that you should always shift to neutral and let the clutch out when stopping or waiting at a light. The fact is, this is not totally necessary as you are not causing excess wear with the clutch engaged.

Clutches are relatively simple mechanisms, and they have not changed much over the years. Your motorcycle clutch operates much like a car or truck clutch does, except for the fact that you use a lever to engage the clutch rather than a pedal. So how exactly does a clutch work?

As the rider, when you pull the clutch lever, this “engages the clutch”. What this means is that it uses a rod to push what is known as a pressure plate. This plate’s whole purpose is to be able to apply and remove force from the rest of the clutch components. As this pressure plate is pushed, it will push against a series of springs.

This will move until the pressure plate is actually slightly offset from the clutches clutch plates and friction disks. As a result of the offset, the clutch plates can now slip against the friction plates. When the pressure plate is fully engaged, these two spins together.

When the pressure is decreased, they can spin independently. This allows for the transmission input shaft to spin independently of the engine. By engaging the clutch, you have essentially disconnected the engine from your transmission.

Now when you let go of the clutch lever, all of the same things happen but in reverse. The rod will begin to retract allowing the pressure plate to move back to its original position. This will provide more force on the clutch plates and friction plates. As this force increases, these two plates will become coupled from the friction of the friction plate. This re-connects the engine to the transmission.

The Most Efficient Way To Use The Clutch On A Motorcycle

Your motorcycle’s clutch is very forgiving. It can take quite a bit of abuse without any issues. Regardless, you will want to take the best care of your clutch as you can. Following these steps will allow you to maximize the life of your clutch.

Whenever you are pulling the clutch lever, be sure to pull it all the way. Only pulling it a portion of the way could result in you shifting gears while the clutch is not fully engaged. This can damage the clutch and even your transmission.

Once the clutch is fully engaged, you can shift gears however you need. As you let the clutch out, you do not want to just drop the clutch. You do not need to let it out slowly, but you also do not want to just quickly drop it. Dropping it will cause much more wear to the clutch.

If you need to apply throttle while letting the clutch out, do not rev the engine too high before letting the clutch out. This will increase the speed of your engine which will force the clutch to adapt very suddenly when it is disengaged. This will also cause more wear.

As long as you are doing those things, you should not see any premature wear of your clutch. Feel totally free to sit with the clutch held in. This will not cause any excess wear to the clutch. A properly taken care of clutch will last you for years without any issues.

How To Tell If The Clutch Is Bad

The first thing you will need to do is listen to the motorcycle and how it revs. If you have a clutch that is wearing out, the bike will rev higher than normal. This is a result of the clutch taking a lot longer to actually re-couple the engine and transmission. You will also see the results of this in your fuel economy. As the bike is revving higher and therefore working harder, your fuel economy will drop.

The second sign is slightly more obvious. You will need to pay close attention to the way that your motorcycle shifts. As the clutch wears out, you will notice that the shifts are a lot harder. If the bike jerks hard at each shift and you may even hear a metal clank with each shift, this is an indicator that the clutch is wearing out. In this case, the plates are so worn that they are not separating enough when you are trying to shift. 

If you notice the motorcycle starting to shift hard then the first thing to do is adjust the tension on the clutch cable. If your clutch cable has been adjusted all the way then it’s time to change out the clutch plates and friction plates.

You may also notice that your clutch lever sticks. This is a sign that there could be something wrong with your clutch cable or the clutch itself. Also, if you cannot get your bike into gear at all, the clutch could be the culprit. If you notice any of these signs, take a look at your clutch as it may be going out on you.

For more signs of a bad motorcycle clutch, you can read our other article by clicking here.

Conclusion

Occasional use of the clutch for brief periods, such as during gear changes or when maneuvering at low speeds, is generally acceptable and part of normal riding practice. By striking a balance between clutch usage and proper riding techniques, riders can optimize their motorcycle’s performance, prolong the lifespan of clutch components, and enjoy a smoother and more enjoyable riding experience overall.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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