THE LEARNING CURVE: In the Clutch
As we discussed in our previous installment, covering the controls shortens reaction times and quickens the corresponding riding actions. The difference between the time it takes to make the decision to input brake action and actually squeezing the lever may be a fraction of a second, but that translates into a significantly shorter braking distance, as shown in the below video.
Likewise, covering the clutch lever while riding will also make for quicker downshifts. Pulling in the clutch keeps the engine from stalling when revs get too low for the load. Downshifting also enables the use of engine braking and keeps the bike in a low gear so there will be power on tap for a quick getaway should the driver behind you not see you stopping.
Like the brake lever, a rider can also cover the clutch lever with just two fingers instead of using all four fingers. A properly adjusted motorcycle clutch is fully disengaged at about 1/3-lever pull. Pulling it all the way is unnecessary and can lead to jerky shifting. Using just the index and middle fingers on the lever, the clutch will be disengaged before the lever touches the fingers still on the grip, maintaining control of the handlebars.
Downshifting while blipping the throttle or slipping the clutch elicits smooth engine braking. The technique is tricky, though, and it takes much practice to master. When done wrong or at too high a speed, the back wheel can chirp, skid or lock up.
Covering the clutch is only necessary when downshifting is imminent. On upshifts, the clutch is only required on short shifts and on the first-to-second gear exchange on some bikes. It is handy when approaching a curve or entering sketchy traffic scenarios, though.
Covering both the brake and throttle with two fingers each will have you ready to manipulate the controls with split-second timing and keep you safer as you ride, but the risk in motorcycling is ever-present. From motorcycle helmets to boots, jackets or gloves, 1MOTOSHOP.COM has the safety gear you need should a sticky situation spiral out of control.
Do you cover the controls when you ride? Is it worth the trouble, or does it unnecessarily complicate slowing the bike? Tell us what you think in the comments section.
In the below YouTube clip, off-road riding instructor Jimmy Lewis explains two-fingered clutch operation.
Can’t decide whether to blip or slip on downshifts? In this article: Proper Downshifting, Sport Rider’s Lance Holst tackles the subject, and provides detailed instruction for performing each technique.