Working in a courtroom for 27 years taught me to always wait until all the facts are in before making a final decision. Oftentimes things turn out exactly the way you expect, but sometimes new, unforeseen details show up that eventually change everything.
In the case of the EFM Auto Clutch installed on my V-Star 1300, so far things are turning out exactly like they’re supposed to. I’ve taken several day trips and purposely ridden through long stretches of Austin’s stop-and-go traffic — and it’s as if my left hand never left home!
I say “so far” the EFM Auto Clutch is turning out like it’s supposed to, because it’s easy for a new mod or gadget to work well on familiar day trips. The real test comes when you do a several-day, several-thousand-mile road trip. Touring has a way of bringing out unexpected, challenging situations, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. In June I plan to do this Lake Superior Circle Tour and that will be my final EFM test!
In the meantime, this review is an attempt to share my experiences with the EFM auto clutch after riding with it for a little under 2,000 miles. Of course, these are my personal impressions about the EFM on a midweight cruiser, and I can see how it could be different for other people on other bikes, especially dirt bikes.
EFM Auto Clutch — First Impressions gives some important basic information about the auto clutch and talks about my impressions after riding a few hundred miles.
New Year’s Solution gives an explanation of why I had the auto clutch put on the bike.
* Without a doubt, the hardest part about getting used to the EFM Auto Clutch has been giving up clutch-lever control during slow-speed maneuvering. There’s a reason Jerry Motorman Palladino emphasizes clutch control so much! I gotta tell you, it’s challenging to make tight U-turns on big ole Lizzie without it. I’ve been practicing slow-speed parking lot drills and am definitely improving; but, frankly, I wonder if I’ll ever reach the same skill level as before. I expect this clutch-lever-control issue may show up on the Lake Superior ride, especially if I have to deal with gravel parking lots (which I despise!), so ask me about it again in July!
* Back in December and January when I was doing internet research about whether or not to buy the EFM Auto Clutch, I read somewhere that you can feather the clutch for slow-speed maneuvering. I have not found that to be true.
* One thing that’s taken getting used to is that for smooth shifting, the auto clutch dictates when you have to upshift and downshift. For example, on the V-Star you need to shift from first to second at about 20 to 22 mph. If you shift at a higher speed, the bike will lurch or jerk. The higher gears are much more forgiving if you don’t get the mph exactly right, but they will let you know if you’re off too much. Because of that, I’ve had to break some old habits about when to shift. Not a big deal and I’ve gotten used to it. When you get it right, the shifting is smooth like buttah!
* When you come to a stop and you’re still in gear, the bike wants to creep forward, so you need to lightly apply the brake. It’s like when you come to a stop in an automatic car and you have to keep your foot on the brake to keep it from rolling forward. With the EFM, if you don’t want the bike to creep forward at a stop (like when you’re heading downhill!), a quick pull and release of the clutch lever does away with the forward pull.
On the other hand, I’m learning to use that forward motion to my advantage. For example, if I’m slowly inching along in stop-and-go traffic, I don’t have to use the throttle to move forward. All I have to do is keep one finger on the front brake and let the bike pull itself along. Couldn’t be easier! I used to go to great lengths to avoid rush-hour traffic because of the strain on my left hand, and this is a huge relief.
Another example of the forward pull being helpful is that taking off from a stop seems smoother and quicker with that little bit of pull. I totally get why an auto clutch is a major asset at the starting line of a race.
A third example of using the forward motion to my advantage is that I recently discovered that coordinating the forward pull with the rear brake sort of simulates using a regular clutch and throttle for slow-speed maneuvering. I need more practice with that technique, but I don’t expect it will ever be as good as traditional clutch control. I’ll give a better report about it after the Lake Superior Tour.
* When parking the bike, even though it might be in gear, it rolls like it’s in neutral, so you need to be able to set the brake when you park on a hill. I’ve been in that situation only a few times, but, fortunately, I was ready with some heavy-duty hook-and-loop tape from REI. The self-adhesive tape works well because you can easily lash it on with one hand while you hold the front brake lever with the other hand.
* Here is the worst thing I can say about the EFM. On a few occasions while taking off from a stop, I’ve heard a one-to-two-second loud rattling sound. It’s rare so I haven’t figured out a pattern, although it seems like it’s happened within the first ten minutes of riding. The sound is unnerving, but the take-off feels normal.
In conclusion, so far I’m very happy with the EFM Auto Clutch, but I won’t stake my reputation on it until I’m back from my long ride. Sure, traditional clutch control is a lot to give up, but that’s nothing compared to giving up the motorcycle! If my U-turns aren’t pretty, big deal. At least I’ll be riding, right?
Biketrash Holiday ride reports will begin on June 7th for the Lake Superior adventure, so check back for details. Weather permitting, I plan to take plenty of videos and pictures and hope to spend some time in North Dakota and South Dakota while I’m that far north. It’s gonna be a good one!
Peace on the Road!
Read about my final conclusions at EFM Auto Clutch — Final Review.
Discussion about a problem with the auto clutch and the solution in EFM Auto Clutch — One Year Later.