On multiple occasions, while riding my Harley as well as my dirt bike, the clutch cable suddenly snapped. I was left wondering why it could have happened so many times and how I could prevent it from happening in the future?
If you have faced a similar situation before while on the road, then this might become a critical issue that needs solving right away. If you have not faced this issue before, you may wonder what happens when the clutch cable actually breaks?
If the motorcycle clutch cable breaks, the engine will not be able to shift gears smoothly. The rider can still change the gears at low RPMs, albeit a small jerk. Doing so in high RPMs could lock the rear wheel and cause an accident.
Riding a motorcycle with a broken clutch cable can be a nightmare for some new riders. It can damage the engine and increase wear and tear, but it is not impossible to ride.
In this article, I am going to give you a few tips and related information to deal with the situation. Read on as I hope to explain why it happens and help you fix this issue on your own.
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How To Ride A Motorcycle With A Broken Clutch Cable
There are new technologies in sports motorcycles where you can upshift and downshift without using the clutch at all.
This is very common among MotoGP motorcycles and superbikes where you can save precious seconds without engaging the clutch. This technology is called a quick shifter.
If your motorcycle does not have this tech, you can still do the same. While it can help you if you are stuck on a highway, it will also increase the wear and tear to your engine and transmission parts.
With quick shifters you have to use the clutch to engage the first gear, then you don’t have to use the clutch to upshift or downshift at all. Some mid-size motorcycles come with only downshift tech, in which you can downshift without pressing the clutch lever at all.
By doing this, you will not feel any kind of a jerk, but if your motorcycle doesn’t have any then you have to learn a few things first.
Another important tip for beginner riders is that you must be very careful with the engine RPMs if you want to complete a clutchless upshift and downshift. Failing to do so can lead to you losing control over your motorcycle.
If you are riding and suddenly this happens to you, the first to do is keep your calm. You can still slow down gradually and eventually downshift when the engine RPMs have decreased.
Keep shifting down until you are able to get your motorcycle into neutral. You will feel a small jerk doing so, but you can get to stop so that you can call or ask for help.
Do not try to stop quickly or press the brakes too hard, doing so can stall your motorcycle engine and you will be stuck in the middle of the road. Do not downshift if you are in the high rev range. You can lose control of the motorcycle due to the rear wheel locking.
If you want to move from neutral to high gears you can do that as well with a broken clutch cable. All you need is to get into some motion, and then do an upshift. This will help you drive to the nearest mechanic shop, where you could get some help and fix the cable.
Before leaving, first try to find a route where there are no red lights so you do not have to stop again and again, which will stall your engine and prevent you from starting your ride again.
If your motorcycle requires you to press the clutch to start the engine, then this issue can affect motorcycles from different manufacturers differently.
Some motorcycles have an engine start sensor in the lever and not the clutch, which will allow you to start your ride even with a broken wire. If the sensor is connected to the cable, then make sure you do not stall your bike or you will not be able to start it again.
And one more thing, don’t do the clutchless upshifts and downshifts regularly, it can seriously damage the engine and the transmission of your motorcycle, don’t make this a habit if your motorcycle doesn’t have quick shifters.
What causes a clutch cable to break?
There are many causes that can lead to a broken clutch cable. There are a few minor symptoms as well as big ones that can point to a broken clutch cable. You can easily prevent this problem if you know these symptoms and fix them beforehand.
- Wear and Tear: A clutch cable is a normal metal wire which can easily lose its strength by normal wear and tear. After using it for extended periods of time, you need to check the cable for any kind of a stretch. If it has been a long time since you changed the cable, then it might be time to change it.
Regular maintenance is very important for any machine, and this is the same for motorcycles. Every motorcycle has its scheduled maintenance as mentioned by the manufacturer.
These routines mention when different parts need to be changed, which is also mentioned in the manual. Follow this schedule and also ensure that parts are replaced on time to ensure smooth and efficient running.
- Not using the clutch properly: For a beginner who is learning how to ride a motorcycle can be tricky, and using the clutch properly to get moving is very important. If you are getting jerks while getting the motorcycle moving from a standstill, then you are not using the clutch properly.
This might damage the clutch cable and clutch plates, so we recommend you if you are learning the motorcycle or giving your motorcycle to someone who is new to this, then make sure that they learn how to engage the clutch properly.
- Bad Clutch Pressure Plates: Bad clutch pressure plates might be another reason that results in the clutch cable breaking in the future. This can easily increase the wear and tear of the clutch cable as more pressure is being applied on the plate than it can handle.
If you are facing tightness while engaging the clutch or the lever requires a lot of power to pull it, then this might be a signal that your clutch pressure plates need to be checked.
- High RPMs while on idle and Bad Mileage: If your motorcycle engine is revving higher than normal in idle or giving your poor mileage while then this might be the sign of bad clutch wire. Failing to check the clutch cable, might create issues in the future.
- Not using the motorcycle for a long time: In some cases when motorcycles are not used for a very long time, the wire inside the clutch cable starts rusting. This can create some obstruction in the motion of the wire.
You can easily check this by pressing the clutch lever two or three times in a row. If you feel some kind of tightness while pressing the lever, then there is a chance that something is blocking the motion of the wire.
If rusting is the issue, then you have to buy a new clutch cable. While cleaning may help solve the issue temporarily, it is cheap and easy to replace the old cable with a new one for a better riding experience.
Can you repair a broken clutch cable?
Repairing a clutch cable requires a lot of time and effort. That is why it is better to replace it with a new one instead of repairing the old one. If you are riding your motorcycle for a long time then you must know how much your motorcycle revs while idle.
If your motorcycle has a tachometer that shows the RPMs of your motorcycle engine, it will make your work a little easier. All you need to do is to remove the old clutch cable and then add the new one.
- Turn off the Ignition: First, turn the ignition off and then start from the clutch lever. Remove the lever from the handlebar and then remove the old clutch cable from the place where it is connected to the lever.
While it is easy for most motorcycles, you can always refer to the manual if you face any difficulty.
- Disconnect the Wire from the Clutch Lever and Engine: Now trace the cable all the way to the engine and disconnect the end connected to it. Once you get the new cable, repeat the above steps in reverse order to install it on your motorcycle.
- Use the original route for the new clutch cable: Make sure to follow the route of the old cable while putting in the new clutch cable. If not, it could come in contact with the engine, which can cause it to melt due to the high heat.
- Connect the second end to the engine: Now you can connect another side of the clutch cable to the engine, make sure you have tightened it properly as it was before.
If your motorcycle has too many complex parts or you have quick shifters or sensors around your clutch cable, then it is better to seek professional help.
They will have the professional know-how to remove and install the new cable without causing damage to any of the sensors.
If you are on a ride when your clutch cable breaks, then make sure you stop at a nearby shop and get a replacement. If you prefer to be safe rather than sorry, then you can carry an extra clutch cable with you. However, these cables are big and take a lot of space.
Another option for long-distance rides is an emergency clutch cable repair kit. These are small and can help you in difficult times without leaving you stranded for too long.
I had one of these and it helped me get to the nearby shop to get a new cable easily without damaging the internal parts of the engine or transmission. (Click here to know more about the Motorcycle Clutch Cable Repair Kit from Amazon)
You can get one of them too to prevent such issues in the future. It takes up a little space inside the emergency tools section of your motorcycle. It is easy to use as all you need to do is remove the metal wire inside the clutch cable and replace it with the one provided in the kit.
However, I would not recommend you to use this cable for a long time. It is a temporary solution to help get you to the nearest mechanic and not a proper fix.
It is essential that you get the appropriate clutch cable for your motorcycle model. These do not withstand pressure for long periods of time as they are too thin for that.