Tag Archives: auto clutch

So Long, Old Friend

12 Feb

I did the unthinkable. Now I need to confess, so let me come right out and say it.

I traded in Lizzie, my beloved V-Star 1300. Lizzie is the loyal friend who took me on all the adventures you see in the right sidebar. Yes, I do feel like a dirty, rotten traitor!

Here’s the thing. At 725 pounds (unloaded), she was becoming too much to handle. During the 64,000 miles we were together, not once did I drop her or even bump her into anything.  Let’s just say I ain’t gettin’ any younger and the time was coming. . . .

I was vaguely aware of all this a year ago, but refused to admit it.  A strong desire to avoid reality is the real reason I didn’t ride much in 2012.  You see, to me, she was never “just a machine.”

This is one of the last big adventure shots of Lizzie, taken in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2011. She’s at her best here — dependable, loaded, and raring to go with an easy turn of the key. Totally sweet ride!IMG_1997

I traded her in at Whiteside Motors, a longtime neighborhood business down the street. They treated me well and were glad to take her, even with the EFM Auto Clutch. In fact, one of the guys at Whiteside has ridden with an auto clutch and thinks they’re great.

I thought long and hard about replacing her with a smaller motorcycle and installing an auto clutch, but decided to go with a maxi scooter for a few important reasons. 1) An auto clutch is a bit pricey to have installed; 2) no clutch lever on a maxi scooter; 3) for my purposes, a maxi scooter can do everything as well as a motorcycle; 4) a maxi scooter is extremely easy and fun to ride; 5) you don’t feel engine heat on a maxi scooter; and 6) you don’t get pummeled by updraft on a maxi scooter.  The only real negative is that I hate the term “maxi scooter”!

For more information on the EFM autoclutch, I review my experiences in this series of articles.
EFM Auto Clutch — First Impressions
EFM Auto Clutch — Almost-But-Not-Quite-Final Impressions
EFM Auto Clutch — Final Review
EFM Auto Clutch — One Year Later

I’m now the owner of a pearl white 2009 Suzuki Burgman 400. (Don’t let that “400″ fool you into thinking it can’t handle highway speeds.) At 450 pounds, it feels like nuthin’ to move around. Major relief! While the change has been painful, it’s for the best.

So far my only out-of-town ride on “Pearl” was to the Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City with my friend, Byron. Here she is with Byron’s 1992 BMW K75RT.

IMG_3253

So there you have it. I feel much better, having confessed. Now to get that Burgie set up for some long rides!

Peace on the Road!
BT

EFM Auto Clutch — One Year Later

12 Mar

It’s been a little over a year since the EFM Auto Clutch was installed on my V-Star 1300. 

Since then I’ve tried to objectively share my impressions and what I’ve learned in three previous reviews.  Those three reviews are:

EFM Auto Clutch — First Impressions
EFM Auto Clutch — Almost-But-Not-Quite-Final Impressions
EFM Auto Clutch — Final Review

More people than I ever imagined have shown an interest in the reviews, so I want to continue writing about my experiences with the EFM – good, bad, or neutral — in the hope that others will find it useful.  This article talks about some symptoms that developed with my clutch assembly and the solution to that problem.

Last July I left off by saying in Final Review that the EFM Auto Clutch occasionally made a loud rattle/grating and gronking sound on take-off and that sometimes I couldn’t shift from second to first without pulling in the clutch lever.   Over the next several months, both of those issues became increasingly more frequent.  

Later on, the forward pull described in Almost-But-Not-Quite-Final Impressions suddenly seemed to take on a life of its own, and I experienced a few scary butt-pucker moments while stopping the bike.  In fact, in those butt-pucker moments, the clutch pull was so strong I was afraid I might not be able to reign her in.

With the “runaway” clutch pull, I took the bike to Jennifer at Austin City Powersports.  After inspecting and measuring the clutch plates and clearances, she tried varying the spacing washers within the recommended range of clearance and also varied the amount of spring washers.  Garry, from EFM Auto Clutch, suggested making some more adjustments with the spring washers.  Any and all small adjustments were either too much or not enough, and it was impossible to fine tune the adjustment so it worked properly.  None of that worked to her satisfaction.
 
Even though the friction plates still measured within Yamaha specs, they were glazed.  Jennifer replaced the old friction plates and then had to start over with correct clearances and spring washer adjustments.  That solved everything.  I consider myself lucky to have a mechanic who stuck with it long enough to find a fix.
 
So, to make a long story short, last week I picked up my bike, went on a nice, long ride, and can confidently say that riding with the EFM Auto Clutch is back to normal.  In the future, if any of these annoying symptoms show up again, I won’t put up with them for long!
 
Central Texas has had some rain, bluebonnets are blooming, and it’s time to get out and ride!
 
Peace on the Road!
BT

EFM Auto Clutch — Final Review

8 Jul

To begin with the end. . . .  Two thumbs up! 

Facts are in and case is closed.  Time to render my final verdict and review for the EFM Auto Clutch!

As expected, my recent 5,800-mile Lake Superior ride put the EFM auto clutch to the daily challenge of motorcycle touring.   Under certain circumstances, yes, it would have been easier to use a regular clutch – but the main thing is that there is absolutely NO WAY I could have ridden that far without the auto clutch!

(Warning:  This is not one of my usual ride reports.  You may find it boring unless you’re interested in learning more about the EFM auto clutch!)

If this is your first time to read one of my EFM Auto Clutch reviews, I suggest you read the two earlier reviews before continuing with this final review.  Each article builds upon the one before it, and I won’t repeat what’s been said previously.

EFM Auto Clutch — First Impressions provides links to basic information that will help you understand how the auto clutch or centrifugal clutch concept works and talks about the first few hundred miles of riding with the EFM.

EFM Auto Clutch — Almost-But-Not-Quite-Final Impressions goes into detail about my impressions after riding a little under 2,000 miles.

Now that I’m back from the Lake Superior ride, I can confirm everything in my first two reviews and can think of only a few things to add.    First, the negative.

*  At times the lack of clutch control was annoying.  Slow speeds were always tricky on tight U-turns, off-camber turns or taking off at a weird angle, and I sometimes resorted to duck-walking and other bungling methods.   Lack of smooth technique may have been a little embarrassing; but, when it was all said and done, I never got stuck in gravel, missed a mark,  or dropped the bike.

I believe someone who has more leverage or more upper-body strength than myself may do better at handling the lack of clutch control.  Also, I believe I may have an easier time with an auto clutch on a smaller, lighter bike than the V-Star 1300; however, the V-Star is my choice for now.  I’ve accepted the fact that with no clutch control my slow-speed skills will not be as good as they used to be – but apparently they’re good enough!

*  In my last review I mentioned how occasionally I’d hear a loud rattle or scraping sound on take-off.  When I got into the cooler northern states and Canada, that happened almost every day.  When I got back to the hot southern states, it did not happen.  It only seemed to happen once in a morning and always within the first few minutes of riding.

I contacted Garry at EFM Auto Clutch about that sound.  He said sometimes it gets a little dry and can stick.  If it gets worse, then it may need to be readjusted.  I don’t know much about motorcycle mechanics, but that’s exactly what I thought it sounded like.  Not gonna worry about it!

*  On rare occasions while pulling up to a stop, I couldn’t shift down into first gear from second, even when the rpm’s were low.  In that case I simply pulled in the clutch lever and shifted into first while stopped.  No big deal.

Now a few positive points.

*  Of course, the number one positive point is that I was able to ride my motorcycle 5,800 miles and my left hand didn’t do anything but rest on the grip!

*  In spite of the fact that I left home at 4:00 a.m., I caught the beginning of rush hour in Fort Worth.   This was the first “unscheduled” challenge for the auto clutch, and it performed magnificently.  If you have any type of left-handed impairment, you’ll understand how much I appreciated being able to slowly inch along without pain and wondering if I’d even make it.

*  In North Dakota I ended up on a section of road that had been completely torn apart.  This particular section was slick with  mud and ruts, on a fairly tight S-curve, and it was lightly raining at the time.  Honestly, the conditions were bad enough that if I’d known about it ahead of time, I’d have found another way around.  Even the flag workers and road crew all seemed to stop what they were doing to see if I’d make it!

With the auto clutch it was easy to hold a slow, steady pace through that slick mess, even though Lizzie fishtailed the entire way.  The auto clutch made controlling the bike effortless since I didn’t have to worry about stalling at the slow pace or spinning out from an increase in speed.   I will say, I strongly suspect this ordeal may not have turned out as well with a regular clutch!

*  I’ll mention that Garry, the owner of EFM Auto Clutch, is good about answering e-mails and phone calls.  I called him with questions several times when I was deciding whether or not to have the auto clutch installed, and he was always patient and never tried to talk me into anything.  My understanding is that he’s also helpful if you have questions during the installation process.

Con                                Pro

No clutch control                                      I’m still riding!
Has a few quirks
Have to break a few habits

Conclusion

Regarding a dirt bike. . .  .

I don’t have personal knowledge about that, but there is a lot of information on the internet about riders and racers who love an auto clutch for off-road riding and racing.  One of the guys I met on the Lake Superior ride said his son has raced with one for a few years and loves it.

Regarding a street bike. . . .

If you have an impaired left hand or arm, I highly recommend that you consider installing an EFM auto clutch.  Yes, you do have to make adjustments to your riding; but if you have some type of impairment, I’ll bet you’re already good at making adjustments!

Because you have to give up clutch control, the decision to install an auto clutch should not be taken lightly.  In fact, the only other reasons I can think of for getting an auto clutch would be for racing, daily commuting in stop-and-go traffic, or for a parade/show bike.  I’ve read where a few people want to clean up their handlebars by eliminating the clutch lever, but I wouldn’t suggest doing that if you want to ride very far.

But don’t take my word for it.   The following picture can be substituted for everything I’ve ever written or spoken about the EFM auto clutch.  It shows a dirty Lizzie  taken at the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border in Canada — which is a  very long way from Austin, Texas — and this picture is possible because of the EFM auto clutch.   I hope those of you with a left hand or arm impairment can also continue to experience the joy and freedom that can only come from a motorcycle!

For me, the EFM Auto Clutch is worth its weight in gold.  While the cons do tip the scale a bit, they don’t even begin to outweigh the pro — and I’ll definitely stake my reputation on it!   Two thumbs up!

Peace on the Road!
BT

UPDATE

Discussion about a problem with the auto clutch and the solution in EFM Auto Clutch — One Year Later.

EFM Auto Clutch — Almost-But-Not-Quite-Final Impressions

18 May

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!
BT

Update

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.

EFM Auto Clutch — First Impressions

1 Feb

Saturday I picked up Lizzie, my V-Star 1300, after having “clutch enhancement surgery” performed on her.  

Lucky for me, it turned out to be a beautiful 75-degree winter day here in Austin, and I was able to go on a nice little ride to try it out.  To be sure, this auto-clutch  concept takes getting used to, but so far, so good. . . .

Here is some basic  information about the EFM Auto Clutch and review of my first impressions after riding about 250 miles with it. 

This Super Auto Clutch video explains in easy terms how an auto clutch or centrifugal clutch engages and disengages.  While the video shows a different brand than EFM and the design is not identical (but close), it’s the same concept.

This Faq Page  from the EFM website explains a little more about how it works.

New Year’s Solution gives a quick explanation of why I had the auto clutch installed.

Of course, I know little about motorcycle mechanics and did not do the installation myself.  Jennifer, from Austin City Powersports, said the installation is definitely not a casual weekend job.  You may have to make a few or even several adjustments to get it exactly right, and each time an adjustment is made, the entire auto clutch has to be removed.  With the V-Star 1300, it also required removing the exhaust system to get to the clutch.  However, once it is properly set, it should not have to be readjusted.

An auto clutch is NOT the same as an automatic transmission or CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).  You still have to manually shift gears with your left foot (or whatever), and you still have to understand how and when to use those gears.  I’ve read where people want to know if the auto clutch is a good alternative for someone who is having a hard time learning to shift.  Personally, I don’t think so.

From the outside, Lizzie looks exactly the same.  The modification is done on the pressure plate, so nothing shows on the outside of the bike.  Apparently some models have a spacer that pushes the cover out, but that’s not the case with the V-Star 1300.

Having ridden a good 12,000 miles on little twist-and-go scooters, I expected to start rolling without a thought, but that’s not what happened.   The muscle memory of pulling in the clutch lever to begin moving the heavy motorcycle was practically impossible to overcome, and the feeling in my gut was exactly like the first time I breathed underwater in scuba class — This is not right!   But with a lot of concentration and ignoring instincts, I forced myself to forget the lever and she took off without stalling.  Sweet! 

If you want to use the clutch lever, it works as usual at idle and up to about 1,500 rpm’s.  (That number may not be exactly right.)  There is zero pull on the lever while idling, and the tension increases as the rpm’s increase.  

To shift gears, you roll off the throttle a bit and use your left foot for shifting like you normally do.   Simple as that.

My test riding included some of the tightest curves in this area (not a lot to choose from) and remote country roads with steep grades.  There is only one tight curve with a steep elevation change that I know of around here, and I rode that going both directions.  As far as I could tell, engine braking seemed to be exactly the same as the OEM clutch in all gears.  It seemed like there is more pull in all the gears at lower speeds, but I’d like to confirm that with more mileage.

If you park the bike while it’s in gear, it can roll on an incline since the auto clutch is not engaged.  I need to come up with an easy way to set the front brake, which shouldn’t be hard to do.  Several people have suggested wrapping an inner tube around the front brake to hold it.

Because the bike will roll when parked in gear, it’s easy to believe it’s in neutral when it isn’t.  It’s important to always make sure it’s in neutral before starting so it can’t take off on its own, especially if you’re using a choke. 

There seem to be  a few other quirky things to be aware of with this auto clutch, but I don’t want to speculate on them until I know for sure what I’m talking about!  I’ll post more after I’ve ridden a while.   It is February and today’s high is stuck in the thirties, so it might be a while before I can put on some serious miles.

In conclusion — if it’s possible to have a credible conclusion after only 250 miles — I can see how dirt bikers and racers love these clutches so much.  Changing gears is much quicker and easier than it used to be, with absolutely no wear and tear on the left hand.   

It appears that the EFM auto clutch is going to turn out to be the perfect solution to my left-handed issues! 

Peace on the Road!
BT

Updated Reviews

Read my updated reviews at Almost-But-Not_Quite-Final Impressions and Final Review.

Discussion about a problem with the auto clutch and the solution in EFM Auto Clutch — One Year Later.

Decision Made

8 Jan

Before we begin today’s episode, I’ll remind everyone that today is the birthday of the undisputed King of Rock ‘n Roll.   Elvis Aaron Presley was born on this date in 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi.  He would have been 76.  His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn, leaving Elvis to be an only child.  Y’all know the rest of the story.  Happy birthday, E.P.!

Now, in case you’re wondering  what I decided to do about that left-handed problem. . . .

I made the decision to go with the EFM auto clutch  to help out my weak left hand.  (See New Year’s Solution.)  Dropped off Lizzie at Austin City Powersports a few days ago to get things started.  The entire clutch assembly needs to be removed and sent to Ohio for modifications, and the work could conceviably be done by the end of this month.  As Elvis would say, TCB!

Peace on the Road!
BT

New Year’s Solution

1 Jan

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to think about my two-wheeled future. 

Those of you who have been following Biketrash Holiday for a while may have noticed a sharp decrease in motorcycle miles in 2010.  It’s only right that I confess to y’all and to myself that I’ve been in denial about a serious issue and am forced to face a difficult fact.   The tendons in my left hand and wrist, which operate the clutch, have become increasingly weak, and it’s impossible to ride the motorcycle any distance without pain. 

It seems to have started back in the eighties when, working as a court reporter, I was in court all day every day and that left arm and hand would go numb for weeks at a time.  In the nineties, working as a ride marshal and motorcycle official for the US Cycling Federation, I frequently had to crawl along behind the peloton, constantly changing gears and feathering the clutch, leaving my hand tired and weak.  Then in this century, add trigger digit in the  left thumb and index finger, and my poor ole hand has worn itself out and doesn’t want to play anymore.  (Thus ends complaints.)

That being said, I am not yet ready to give up my long two-wheeled rides.  No way, man!  There are apparently two options to keep riding:   installing an EFM auto clutch on Lizzie or getting a maxi scooter.  The auto clutch is an expensive risk, but the perfect choice if it works like it’s supposed to.  In some ways a maxi scooter would be easier, but I’d still have to use my left hand for the rear brake, which is less than a perfect choice.  

So here is the New Year’s Solution:  I WILL make a decision NEXT WEEK about which option to choose:  EFM auto clutch or maxi scooter.  Whichever option is chosen, I WILL keep riding and WILL have some amazing BTH experiences in 2011!

Lest we forget the “Why?” in all this, here is a photo taken on the AMA Conference ride, showing the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.  This, my friends, is why.

   

A few “housekeeping” matters. . . .

You may or may not have noticed a fairly new link on the right sidebar, FleeterLogs Travel Journal, where you’ll find many interesting and entertaining motorcycle travel stories with plenty of pictures.  Check it out.

And about that Three Twisted Sisters video you were promised a few months ago. . . .  There is more than enough great material for half a video, but the most important half – the actual riding on the sisters — did not turn out so well.  With the sun being at such a low angle in November, the tall limestone cliffs shaded the roads to the point that they’re not bright and inviting like they they are when the sun is high in the sky.   You know Auntie Biketrash insists on portraying our Hill Country at its best, so will finish the video next spring.

Okay.  So let’s get on with 2011!

Best wishes for a healthy and safe New Year; and, as always, Peace on the Road!
BT

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