Street Savvy

What to do when grav­ity strikes and a lever breaks

Motorcyclist - - Contents - BY KEN CONDON

CRASH­ING YOUR MO­TOR­CY­CLE is a bum­mer and may leave you with a bro­ken clutch lever, brake lever, or shifter. Do you at­tempt to ride the bike to a parts depart­ment, re­pair shop, or back home? Or do you play it safe and call a friend with a truck?

You’ll prob­a­bly be okay if you busted the front brake lever be­cause you still have use of the rear brake. If you choose to ride the bike with­out the front brake, go slowly, al­low plenty of fol­low­ing dis­tance, and de­cel­er­ate early for stop signs and traf­fic lights. If you broke your shifter, you can of­ten still op­er­ate it with an agled boot toe, de­pend­ing on where the lever snapped.

You’ve got much big­ger prob­lems if you snap off the clutch lever. In this case, we rec­om­mend you call for as­sis­tance be­cause rid­ing with­out clutch con­trol is risky. If that’s not an op­tion and you hap­pen to be brave, then it is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to ride with­out a clutch.


1. Pick a route with the fewest stops. 2. Start the bike in neu­tral.

3. Get the bike rolling at a suf­fi­cient speed so the bike won’t stall when you force the shifter into gear. The safest way to do this is to roll down a hill. A riskier op­tion is to run along­side the bike, step onto the foot­peg, swing your leg over the sad­dle, and then find first gear. 4. To shift into higher gears, sim­ply roll off the throt­tle and lift the gearshifter briskly. Most bikes will be fine up­shift­ing with­out the clutch. 5. Down­shift by slow­ing un­til the en­gine just be­gins to lug and then shift firmly. Al­ter­na­tively, you can mo­men­tar­ily “blip” the throt­tle and then im­me­di­ately down­shift. The blip un­loads the trans­mis­sion gears, per­mit­ting the shift. 6. Slow early for traf­fic lights (watch your mir­rors) to al­low time for the light to turn green. 7. If you must stop, try to slip the trans­mis­sion into neu­tral, but be pre­pared for the en­gine to stall. If you’re in traf­fic, get to the shoul­der be­fore you stall. To get go­ing again, re­peat the start­ing pro­ce­dure. 8. To stop at your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, down­shift through each gear and ap­ply the brakes firmly to com­plete the stop. Be ready for the bike to stop abruptly.

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