There are many mini bikes that utilize an automatic clutch, leaving the rider to only worry about the throttle and brakes, but once a rider has outgrown the abilities of a dirt bike equipped with an auto clutch the technique to properly use a standard clutch comes into play. Start using your clutch the right way, now, and you’ll be better off during your lifetime of roosting. We’ve all seen the fail videos featuring riders dropping the clutch with a heavy right hand and wildly swerving off until their ultimate contact with a hard object. We are here to help you avoid that.
Walking the Bike
Using a clutch for the first time can be intimidating, confusing and potentially scary if you don’t take the time to learn how to control it smoothly. One of the best ways to introduce clutches to new riders is by “Walking” the bike. It’s simple, safer than jumping on and going for it, and introduces what the clutch feels like when it’s working properly.
Without using any throttle a rider can learn where the engagement point of the clutch is and begin to let the bike creep forward.
Here’s how to practice for new riders:
• Find a slightly uphill section of smooth ground to practice on. Start the motorcycle and have the new rider stand next to the bike using two fingers to pull the clutch in with their left hand, keeping their right hand on the throttle housing OFF OF THE THROTTLE GRIP—we won’t be using the throttle at all here.
• Make sure the motorcycle is in good running condition and capable of moving forward a few inches just by slowly releasing the clutch. This means it needs to idle smoothly. Feel free to turn up the idle a bit if necessary. You will only be moving a few inches.
• Put the bike in gear and have the new rider slowly and smoothly release the clutch lever just so the bike creeps forward. As soon as it moves a couple inches, have them pull the clutch in to stop it. If you’re on a small incline, the bike should roll back to where you started.
• This drill gives new riders confidence in their clutch control, teaches them where the clutch begins to engage in the lever throw and is repeatable so they can truly learn how to release the clutch without stalling.
• After completing the standing drill, and if you feel the new rider is ready to saddle-up, go ahead and repeat the drill from the seat. Hand position is the same as the standing drill (Two fingers on the clutch, and throttle hand on top of the throttle housing away from the twist grip)
• Again, release the clutch slowly so the bike creeps forward. Once it rolls for a few inches, pull the clutch in and let the bike roll backwards to where you started.
Rock and Roll
• One final technique you can have your new rider practice before introducing the throttle is the Rock-and-Roll. Or rocking without stopping. To do this drill, have them sit on the bike, put two fingers on the clutch lever and keep their hand off the throttle.
• Let the clutch out slowly to creep the bike forward, pull the clutch in to roll back to the original spot and immediately release the clutch slowly to creep forward again. This will allow the bike to roll forward and back without stopping at either end. It’s a great way to show a new rider just how much control the clutch has on the motorcycle even without adding throttle.
• Using the throttle should be introduced using the same above techniques and drills, like most things we learn, in small steps. Pay attention to the RPM level of the bike and keep it as low and smooth as possible. Go straight to the Rock-and-Roll drill with a little bit of throttle to show the new rider how added power makes the bike move. Limit the distance the bike can move to a few inches and there is little chance of getting out of control.
• After you and your rider are confident in what they’ve learned about the clutch, move to an open area of flat ground and let them try starting with the clutch and going as slow as possible. Keeping their speed down is very important to make sure they can pay attention to the clutch work, gain maximum confidence and, of course, stay off the ground!