The three most common types of motorcycle clutch actuation setups are cable, hydraulic, and most recent, ride-by-wire. Since the majority of clutches, past and present, are cable-actuated, we here at Road Dirt thought a tutorial on clutch cable adjustment, or replacement, might be in order.
On a personal level, I’ve never felt confident in my clutch cable adjustments. No matter how many videos and tutorials I’ve viewed, how many diagrams I’ve perused, or how many descriptions I’ve read, I’ve never fully gotten the hang of it. Time for some personal growth.
I decided to consult our friend Jake McDonald of Flying Brothers Motorcycle Parts & Service to get his advice and coaching, using the old ’02 Suzuki SV650S that always seems to be a good “guinea pig” for our studies. Jake specializes in sport and motocross bikes, where clutch and clutch cable wear and tear are common repairs, so he was happy to oblige.
With both upper (at the handlebar and clutch lever) and lower (on the engine casing) adjustments, I’ve never been proficient at getting these right. Time to consult the pro.
Jake informed me that riders make two mistakes with clutch cable adjusting- if the cable is too loose, too much slack and freeplay, the clutch won’t properly engage/disengage as its designed to do. If the cable is too tight, not enough slack and freeplay, the clutch plates never fully disengage, and you are in danger of eventually burning up your clutch pack. That’s a more costly mistake than too much slack, actually. So there’s a delicate balance of proper engagement, and moderate freeplay, while undertaking the adjustments dance. Jake showed me a great method of setting this all correctly, and we shot a tutorial to aid ourselves and others in the fine art of clutch cable adjustment-
As you can see from the video, Jake’s method is very straightforward and easy to follow. I think I have the hang of it now, based on his explanation and demonstration. We hope you do as well.
Braided steel cable clutch lines are durable, easily adjustable, and are quite reliable. But they do require periodic care and maintenance. By keeping your cable in proper adjustment, lubing it occasionally, and understanding that over time clutch cables do eventually stretch out and require replacement, you can be better prepared to get maximum life from your clutch cable. You’ll also protect your clutch pack, and best of all, you’ll stay riding. And that, is the best reason of all to maintain your clutch cable.