Board index Flathead Power-Technical Questions, Answers, and Suggestions Pans The Difference Between Suicide & Rocker Clutch

The Difference Between Suicide & Rocker Clutch

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

IMO, a suicide clutch is a left side pedal that bounces from slack, provided by the clutch release lever rod. The shifter top on the transmission is the manual shifting jockey lid (i.e. You would instantly know which gear you were in by the position of the stick.)
Image - shown here in fourth gear, no mistaking that !
A suicide set up would typically not use a ratchet top, since the shift lever returns to middle, the only gear you knew you were in would be no gear (neutral), and indicated only by the dash lamp being lit.
If you didn't have the suicide pedal pushed down, and it was in gear, you would have to have it in neutral. Stopped on a hill, in gear, you would need to have the pedal pushed down and your hand on the front brake lever. Suicide, if you fall over to the left or the ol' lady your packing has big feet and kicks it into 2nd.
On the other hand a ratchet top with a rocker clutch is not a true suicide.Image
For one, the rocker clutch shaft (big hex) nut can be tightened against the spider spring and the rocker foot lever can be frozen in a mid-way position, so that the fiber and drive disc are barely making contact (a.k.a. parade mode), semi-safe, and the "police service" clutch plates can take the beating.
Stett says a rocker clutch and suicide clutch are both suicide. I disagree. But, I will concede that running a suicide clutch (free-bouncing pedal) along with a ratchet top is double-suicide. He says there's no such term, and I agree, but with the shift lever returning to the same position as shown in the pic above, you'd never know which gear your in, plus you have to pump a ratchet lever to get it to downshift (as your eyes are fixed on that neutral dash lamp indicator waiting for it to light-up :idea: .
Who's right? Are suicide and rocker totally different animals? ... F8&s=books

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 12:11 am

Posts: 77
Location: Espoo, Finland

Suicide clutch is that free bouncing pedal. Rocker clutch is that original awkward thingy. Two different animals, although same breed.

And then you have a jockey shift. Either manual lid or ratchet lid. That's it.

I had rocker clutch in my Pan with manual lid, but later upgraded to real Suicide Clutch (connected to actuating lever with a chain)AND ratchet lid Jockey shifter. The latter was most pleasing and damn fast to shift when gunning from the red lights.

And I knew always which gear I was on. You gotta ride these beast to get to know them.
What neutral light?? What dash??


Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 2:17 am

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

Suicide clutch is that free bouncing pedal. Rocker clutch is that original awkward thingy. Two different animals, although same breed.

Yeah, well all right then. :lol:
And I knew always which gear I was on. You gotta ride these beast to get to know them.

To heck with a bunch of neutral lights :wink:
I always have those false nuetrals between every gear on a jockey lid. Everything is "happy jack" as long as that compressed roller ball doesn't slip on the surface of the shifter drum and into the closest notch and into gear. And yeah, suicide probably is the fastest shifter on earth.
I'm rocker ratchet...but you know,... whatever blows your hair back. Peace.8)

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:55 am

Posts: 1676
Location: Interlaken, NY USA

Well, The terms I always heard were suicide for the bouncing pedal, and Jockey for the shift via short lever mounted on the box. Course, back then, nobody was going to waste a valuable ratchet top on a hand shift rig, so there was no confusion. Now, IMHO, the jockey lid (not ratchet), is the fastest shifting unit, when you forget the clutch and rolling off the throttle. Wind 'er out, and give 'er a yank, and you've either shifted.... or :cry: . But the most fun, now that I'm an old fart, is to drive it like a truck, no clutch, using that false neutral between gears to match engine speed and shift 'er smoothly up and or down with no jerks or grinds... just clutching when you come to a stop.
Dr. grind'em Dick

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:34 am

Posts: 641
Location: Wisconsin, USA
My old riding partner, known the world over as Killer, Had a clutch pedal modified to have less than an inch of travel over the running board. He used a ratchet lid and a tank shift lever with a modified gate. Close ratio 4 speed 47 FL. Fastest wide open shifts possible. Just as fast as the air shift/ignition kill setups I've seen. The sound coming from the old time trumpet muffled upsweeps on that 80 incher were as good as it gets.

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:07 am

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

I think the jockey lid and suicide pedal is the fastest, but you'd need to have your head screwed on straight to be in control of all your faculties. Pat Kennedy told me he had his jockey lever re-positioned, so it was in front of the clutch release lever. "That way, when I first stepped on the suicide pedal, it would put the transmission into first gear"
How'd he do that :?: Well, I never figured that out. Unless he used an FX shifter cam, which I'm pretty sure he didn't (first being fullly forward with that particular cam). First gear on all of the shifter "drums" would be all the way back.
You'd think that suicide and rocker clutch would be the same "ride", but they are way different. Jockey riders are pushing forward to go to the next gear. FX shifter cam ratchet people are pulling back for every gear. I think what you are talking about here are two or three completely different mind sets. I'd like to see three parallel sets of people riding through a series of road curves on a viewing screen. With shot angles provided by an "axle camera" and interspersed with a "helicopter camera" w/ zoom, set to music that fits the action. This way we could judge for oursleves.

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 2:01 pm

Posts: 646
Location: Detroit
Loosen the nut on the rocker pedal, use a good spring, and you have a suicide.
New Knuckleheads? Thank, you, Jesus!!

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 2:22 pm

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

True, although it would be a rocker press down.
On the other hand, the traditional suicide pedal [borrowed from the (36813-37), Servi-Car (left) brake pedal], would be a stomp.
:arrow: My research has led me to believe, that anytime you change one lever on a Big Twin, you change the ride entirely.

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:14 pm

Posts: 1676
Location: Interlaken, NY USA

Plumber, you may be right about the suicide pedal coming from the 3 wheeler, but I once had a rocker clutch ass'y that someone had added a bracket to. THe result was that the clutch acted like an Indian, press down the front pedal, you engaged the clutch.
Amklyde, I would like to be in the line up with your buddy on that run of Plumber's. Then again, maybe not, I'll just stay in my own little dream world. :lol: :lol: And to tell the truth, I only really trust myself on the one-two shift, I'm out of practice on the two-three.
Dr Dick

Post Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:35 pm

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

A rocker clutch and FX cam ratchet top combination becomes an extension of your leg and arm. It's like the left brain and the left arm and the left leg and the pedal are one. :lol: :lol: Hey :!: :lol: :lol: with those fat 5:10 x 16 can easily balance at a stop sign without taking your feet off the footboards. To me...'s as close to mechanical horseback riding as you can get.
Last edited by Plumber on Tue May 01, 2007 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Post Sat Apr 14, 2007 9:25 am

I keep seeing these references to "fastest shifting", when some of the actual factors are not necessarily different.
Disengaging and engaging the clutch is a function of how much the plates have to separate so that the transmission shifter clutch can move without drag. This depends on wet vs. dry (dry is less), how many plates (fewer is less), and if there is any bending or compliance in the pressure plate or linkage.
None of these are related to the clutch release mechanism, all of which can be modified to give whatever travel you like at the pedal or lever: 1/4", 1 foot, whatever.
The actual shift factors are how much rotation in degrees the drum makes to find the next position, and the inertia of the parts. I don't know if the radial spacing between the hand-shift and ratchet lids are different but it can't be much. There is extra bits in the ratchet but they weigh very little. Banging a hand-shift top relies entirely on the synchronization of the gate notches with the drum rotation - and they aren't as close as I would like unless you tweak them. They may be out of position due to position of the gate on the tank, or the position of the lever pivot on the tank.
If you find yourself bumping the gate before the gear is engaged or being unable to reach all gears your lever travel is too long. Move the gate down (not fun), move the pivot up (not fun) or make an alternate hole lower down at the bottom of the lever where the rod runs to the top.
If you have space between the lever and the gate when the gear is engaged or can reach all gears with room at both ends do the reverse.

Fastest shift: no slack in any bits, no loose bushings, everything aligned (duh), heim joint in place of clevis on rod, drill holes in shift drum to reduce inertia (seems like very little but works on Triumphs).
Fastest clutch: 3 dry plates, diaphragm spring, heim joint in place of clevis on rod, linkage length arranged for smallest travel at the pedal you can stand. For street vs. strip: alternate hole in one component to increase leverage for casual use, and separate rod with alternate length to reduce adjustment time when swapping.

Post Sat Apr 14, 2007 10:05 am

Posts: 1536
Location: S.Calif.

Some factors:
The jockey lid shown in 4th gear (top pic above) is a direct link to your arm. You can put the transmission in 1st gear and wind the motor out til' it chokes (or over-rev the motor until just before the pistons sieze) and then cram it into 4th gear. Shifting 1st gear...(by-passing neutral, 2nd, and third gates) to fourth gear is possible (and having "false" neutrals between each gear, in case you get in a jam).
With a jockey ratchet top, you have those opposing spring prawls. The mechansim is selecting the gear for you with a minimum of lever movement, but you can't downshift from 3rd to 2nd or from 2nd to 1st, without pumping the lever back once between each gear. So, ratchet is not as fast (downshifting) as jockey.
Upshifting speed between the two could be debatable. But then, the two are so different that the comparisons aren't really worth the effort.
Without a doubt, the jockey lid is fastest from first to fourth. But a ratchet top is much less physical on your arm. In fact, with the aid of the "Saturn" shifter ball, you can finger-shift between gears faster than Billy could draw his revolver. So fast, in fact, that when you develop deft movement with your left wrist, it is almost impossible to be seen shifting. Your hand is there to flick, your hand is gone,.... flick, gone, flick, gone.
With the jockey lid, when you put the transmission into fourth, your leaning down and forward to reach the lever (unless, of course, you've got Neanderthalic long arms, all the better).
• It's expensive to build a kit Panhead. Jockey shifts are a cheaper way to go. No mousetrap, no footlever, no tank lever, less linkage, less weight, no extra cables. No harm done. Hide a standard horn under the left fork cover - Lean & responsive for digging in and out of curves on a rigid frame

Post Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:03 pm

Posts: 2688
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Nothing shifts faster than a Speedy Shift.

Post Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:31 pm

Posts: 3158
Location: Central Illinois, USA
The difference between 'suicide' and ordinary bad luck is the loose nut on the handlebars.


Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 6:51 am

Posts: 641
Location: Wisconsin, USA
In 1983 I had a 49 Pan, mostly stock roller with no front fender,ape hangers, and a sporty tank. So called suicide clutch and jockey shift. One nite after many beers at a local town party I decided to hit the country roads for a little hard riding. I lost it on some sand in a corner and went to the ditch at about 50 in 3rd. I was alternately stabbing the ground to stay up and stomping the clutch to down shift, made it out of the ditch in first gear wfo throwing dirt and gravel. I was quite pleased with myself. About 2 weeks later I went to turn around on a narrow bridge in the country. I lost my balance in the turn, without thinking I took my foot off the clutch pedal to keep from tipping over, the bike lurched forward, which caused me to get a handfull of throttle and I slammed into the bridge rail hard. Me and the bike didn't feel so good for a while after that. Sometimes the nut behind the handlebars has it, sometimes he don't.

Post Mon Apr 16, 2007 11:27 am
Pa Site Admin

Posts: 5837
Location: Ohio USA

IMO............the last two replies are pure wisdom !! :) Pa

Post Sun Apr 22, 2007 8:50 am

Posts: 49
Driving drunk and injure yourself because you want to use a stupid mechanism called "suicide".
What a wise man.

Post Tue May 01, 2007 7:08 am

Posts: 641
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Now Rene, You know the term suicide was used by chopper jockeys to describe a foot clutch release pedal with no friction disc to hold it in place. Stock equipment on late model G's. Its only suicide if you are too uncoordinated to use it. As for drinking and riding, we all know that isn't a good idea, but neither is jumping out of an airplane with a sheet on your back. Boys gotta have a little fun.

Post Tue May 01, 2007 7:38 am

Posts: 3158
Location: Central Illinois, USA
When I first set up the hack for my wife, I tightened up the friction disc thinking she would benefit.


She immediately declared it stupid, so I released it completely again, as it should be (unless traversing difficult terrain.)


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