Fun with Clutch, part fifteen thousand

OK, now that I’m out of the evil clutches of American Chopper, I may be able to update.

Like I said yesterday, the SVS was getting worse on the way to and from lunch. It stalled at lights twice on the way to the diner, and at almost every light on the way back. At the last light, I couldn’t get it started again until the third or fourth time, and it was making a pretty terrible noise. I parked in front of our house and played around with it for a few minutes: putting it into neutral and revving, downshifting into first while holding the clutch in, shifting back into neutral, etc. After a few minutes of this, I convinced myself that the current number one problem was some pretty nasty drag. It was hard to shift into neutral (and when it finally did shift, it made a loud and painful clunk), the bike was stalling all the time, and it wanted to creep forward in 1st gear with the clutch disengaged. When I downshifted into 1st to ride into the garage, it made one big final WHIIRRRCHUNKACHUNKA and wouldn’t start. At all. Pushing the starter would WHIIRRRRCHUNKACHUNKACHUNKA pitifully. OK, fine. I put it in neutral and pushed it up the driveway (which is just sloped enough to remind me that perhaps I haven’t been working out enough lately).

I took off the front sprocket cover and said hi to my good friend, the clutch release assembly. Annoyingly, the area back there was all gunked up again, so I busted out the WD-40 and soaked it all for a few minutes. You’d think that with the regularity that I’m messing with that clutch release assembly, it’d stay clean a little longer.

Once the area was freed from a week of chain gunk and road yuck, I noticed something pretty interesting. The wiring cluster coming from the alternator wasn’t in its clamp and was, instead, resting directly on the front sprocket. Now, my years of making bikes worse has taught me that wires and moving parts don’t really play well together. I went inside for a pile of Q-tips and painstakingly cleaned off each and every individual wire. Sure enough, the chain had eaten through the one wire’s insulation, exposing the wire itself.

I busted out the electrical tape and band-aided the poor little wire, then wrapped electrical tape around the entire bundle and put it back in its clamp. I don’t think that the exposed wire was causing any of my previous problems, but it definitely would have been bad had it gotten any worse.

Once that was taken care of, I went back to my good friend, the clutch release assembly. I’m pretty sure I could adjust that in my sleep now. Anyway, to make a long story short, I regreased the release assembly and made every attempt possible to adjust it perfectly. I even slipped the little luber-thingie onto the cable and gave it extra squirts of WD-40.

Once the clutch release assembly was adjusted, I went to work on the lever adjustment. Basically, I put the clutch where I’d want it in a perfect world, climbed onto the bike and started it (it was on the centerstand) and tried to shift back and forth between neutral and first. It wouldn’t shift into neutral. Off went the bike. I took out a tiny bit of free play and tried it all again. This went on until the battery died. Onto the battery charger went the SVS.

A few hours later, I went back out and kept at the lever free play. Eventually, I had it at the point where I had as much free play as humanly possible while still actually able to shift the bike. I took it around the block for a test ride, and man, there really isn’t much slack. The friction zone feels like it’s way out around my headlight somewhere.

It may just be time for a new clutch cable. There’s really no room to adjust it further, either at the lever or down near the clutch release assembly. Since I tend to like more free play than spec suggests, it makes sense that it might have stretched. I’ll call Redwood City Honda/Suzuki/Kawasaki/KTM/blah/blah tomorrow.

Anyway, the commute in today was just fine, once I got used to the new friction zone. I’m still doing interesting things with the clutch at slow speeds, but at least I haven’t fishtailed and wheelied yet, so I know the friction zone is still set in closer than Peter’s. 😉

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