The clutch system of a motorbike is used to disengage the transmission from the engine output. It acts as the point of contact between the gearbox shaft and the engine driveshaft. This is necessary for starting the vehicle when it is at rest and for bringing it to a stop when it is moving. The clutch system also helps drivers change gears when needed, making it one of the most essential components of a two-wheeler.
Therefore, the quality and longevity of a motorcycle clutch system are of paramount importance. A well-functioning clutch will make the vehicle safer, faster, and more durable. It will also help improve the performance of the two-wheeler. On the other hand, an old and tattered clutch system will diminish the functionality of the motorbike.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a clutch system for your dirt bike is actuation. When people talk about cable or hydraulic clutches, what they’re really referring to is the way in which the clutch system is actuated. This will have a profound impact on how durable the clutch levers are, how much maintenance they require, and how expensive they are.
Hydraulic versus Cable Clutches
Dirt bike clutch levers can be broadly classified into two categories – namely, cable-actuated and hydraulic clutch levers. In the case of a cable clutch, a Bowden cable with steel wires is used to transfer force when the lever is pulled. Alternatively, a hydraulic clutch conveys force with the help of a special hydraulic fluid which is stored within a reservoir and needs to be replenished from time to time.
While the functions performed by cable and hydraulic clutches are essentially the same, the way in which they perform these functions are quite distinct. While cable clutches are more common, they make use of a more dated technology, with the clutch system being operated by a set of cables and wires.
Cables are popular because they can be manufactured cheaply and installed easily. However, despite being inexpensive, these cables and wires are prone to wear and tear, which means they require frequent upkeep, maintenance, and replacements. This often results in cable-actuated clutch systems costing the user more money in the long run, despite being cheaper to buy.
When using a cable-actuated clutch system, the biker will need to adjust the slack from time to time in order to prevent the cables from becoming loose and falling apart. If the cable gets too loose because of constant wear and tear, then pulling the lever won’t result in complete disengagement. However, if the cables are too tight then the clutch plates are at risk of getting fried due to clutch slip.
Cables and wires are also susceptible to corrosion, which might result in breakage, which is why they need to be lubricated periodically. They might also require binding if they are bent too sharply. Adjusting and lubricating cables in dirt bike clutch levers can be time-consuming work, which is why many people are increasingly opting for hydraulic clutches that do not involve any such complicated maintenance requirements.
The Benefits of Hydraulic Clutch Systems
When using hydraulic clutches for their two-wheelers, dirt bike enthusiasts do not have to worry about fraying cables and messy lubricants. Nor do they have to deal with adjusting and tightening anything at regular intervals. A hydraulic clutch system will self-adjust as long as there is sufficient fluid in the reservoir.
With a hydraulic clutch lever, the engagement point remains the same throughout the lifespan of the system because the clutch plates readjust automatically in response to wear and tear. Hydraulic clutches can also be modulated more easily than cable-actuated ones. They have a lighter and more consistent lever pull due to the presence of a master cylinder and a slave cylinder which can work together to amplify the driver’s grip strength.
While hydraulic clutches may be slightly more expensive to install in the beginning, they tend to be more cost-effective over the lifetime of the dirt bike because they rarely need to be repaired or replaced. The only situation in which a hydraulic clutch lever would need to be repaired is if a seal fails while driving. Some of the components of a hydraulic clutch system include the clutch pedal, the master and the slave cylinders, and the pushrod.
Apart from that, the hydraulic fluid in the reservoir needs to be replaced every few years, but that is much easier than having to fuss with cable tension all the time. Smoother and friction-free transitions and easy maintenance are two of the major highlights of hydraulic clutch systems in dirt bikes.
Some other benefits include reduced pedal effort, direct connection between clutch and pedal, self-adjusting clutch plates, folding pivot, and solid grip. Together, these factors often lead to better performance, fewer accidents, and greater longevity for the dirt bike overall.