Tag Archives: clutch control

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.

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