What Is a Motorcycle Slipper Clutch?

Written by lewis j. fagleman
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What Is a Motorcycle Slipper Clutch?
Slipper clutches can prevent accidents and damage to transmissions. (cluth lever motorcycle image by Crisps85 from Fotolia.com)

Operating a motorcycle clutch incorrectly can have catastrophic effects on the engine, and in extreme cases cause the rider to lose control of the bike. A slipper clutch can prevent such consequences and improve performance.

Why Do Motorcycles Need Slipper Clutches?

Over-revving a motorcycle engine, or changing to a low gear whilst travelling too fast, can damage the transmission and cause the rear wheel to hop and lose traction. This is a result of the rear wheel of the motorcycle moving faster than the engine normally operates, thus forcing the engine to rotate faster and cope with greater forces than it was designed for.

How Does It Work?

A slipper clutch partially disengages when a rider attempts to use too low a gear. This allows the clutch plates to "slip" on one another, only fully engaging once the speed of the rear wheel matches the engine speed. The amount by which a clutch can slip is often adjustable.

Pros and Cons

Slipper clutches not only reduce the effects of bad gear changes, but stop the rear wheel from hopping under extreme braking, particularly important in motorcycles used for racing. Slipper clutches are, however, more complex and expensive than standard systems.

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