Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The $65 alternative to a Rekluse clutch

Several of my dirt bike riding friends have Rekluse clutches installed on their bikes. A Rekluse is an auto clutch, so shifting is still manual, but braking doesn't require disengaging the clutch to avoid stalling the motor. Similar to an automatic transmission in a car, it's centrifugal, so the clutch engages and puts power from motor to drive as engine speed increases.

The advantage of the Rekluse is apparent in slow speed technical riding where stalling the engine is likely. My propensity to stall my engine in these situations caused me to give a Rekluse some serious consideration.

There are only two problems: 1) my bike has a big bore kit, so there isn't a readily available Rekluse clutch; and 2) even if a Rekluse were available, I am reluctant to drop hundreds of dollars to buy one. Additionally, a Rekluse isn't perfect--you lose some of the manual control, such as popping the clutch to raise the front wheel to clear an obstacle.

Enter the Midwest Mountain Engineering clutch lever. This lever changes the pivot mechanics, reducing clutch actuation force by ~50% with a much shorter throw. This means you can cover the clutch with one finger with much less finger fatigue, allowing the rider to more easily modulate the clutch in technical riding. Additionally, it's a "shorty" style lever, with only room for two fingers, which I prefer because the ends of my fingers not on the lever don't get pinched between lever and grip.

I installed mine over the weekend and tried it out in some of the steepest, rockiest conditions I have ridden to date*. I don't think I would have made it up some of those climbs with my old lever--I simply would not have had enough control. Would a Rekluse have been better? Possibly, but that takes us back to reasons 1 and 2 above.

*And quite possibly that I will ever ride, as I am never, ever riding up trail 39 in AF Canyon again.

The Midwest lever isn't perfect either. With the lighter pull and the shorter throw, adjustment must be more fine-tuned than with the stock lever. I thought I had mine adjusted correctly but found that my clutch was slipping a bit and had to make several trailside adjustments to get it just right. Additionally, it is only available for hydraulic clutches. Mechanical clutch users, which basically means everyone not on a KTM, Husaberg, or Husqvarna, are out of luck.

Drawbacks notwithstanding and only two rides in, I'm sold. It took maybe ten minutes to install, and it's an inexpensive part that makes riding noticeably better.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


My first few rides on the dirt bike, I just went out and rode trails. I dumped my bike at least once on every ride. Let's just say it's a lot heavier and faster than the mountain bike, and keeping all of that under control requires more skill than I presently possess.

I then went to Five Mile Pass with some friends who had just completed a Shane Watts riding course. Rather than ride trails, we found a big, steep tailings pile and practiced riding up and down that. Then we went to another tailings pile and practiced some more. Rinse, repeat for three hours until I was too tired to try anything new.

My next ride after that was with the neighborhood guys, and we went to the MX track in North Salt Lake. I chased little kids on 50s and 65s around the mini moto track for a couple of hours. I wasn't fast, but I got a better feel for how far I can lean my bike in a corner, and there may have even been air visible under both wheels a few times.

Then it was off to Moab for the weekend. Had I only ridden more trails and not worked on my skills, the trip would not have been nearly as much fun. That said, I have a long way to go. But for me, the journey is what keeps me interested. Trying something new that I'm not very good at and seeing myself get better over time is a reward in itself.