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Oldie but a goodie .... foot clutch and hand shift ....

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Posts: 1654
So, looking at my "accidental" 45 project rapidly overtaking the Ariel-frame one ( because its SO much easier when you don't have to make or hunt about for just about everything .... ) it strikes me that I'll have to practice foot clutch and hand shift again.

Actually, I never found this particularly difficult first time round. I ad a couple of rocker clutch/tank shift 45s, a hand clutch/foot shift 45 with a Triumph box, a panhead with a suicide clutch and tank shifter and a shovel with a rocker clutch and police shifter on a ratchet top at various times.

My favourite was the rocker pedal and tank shifter. The police Shovelhead definitely benefitted from the disc brake at the front ( banana caliper )and I never really found it a problem that there was no straight-into-neutral, you don't ride a foot shift bike that way after all ( actually I once had a Royal Enfield with a "neutral finder" but you soon learnt to avoid using it! ) . The panhead also had a banana caliper on the front, which leads me to the conclusion that if you have a decent front brake the problems of riding a suicide clutch are mitigated, at any rate.

So as the foot-clutch 45 has got Glide forks and a banana caliper to fit its 1" steering-stem conversion, that shouldn't be a problem.

I know this is a whiskery old chestnut that tends to go round and round, but I'd be interested in people's views, thoughts and experiences?
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Posts: 497
Location: Six miles East of Cheney, Wa.
The knucklehead I rode for 20+ years or so had the jockey top, shift lever on the jockey top and a foot clutch that was an old ratchet top foot shifter, with a chain (dog choke-collar chain) to the clutch lever. Kind of the traditional non stock suicide shifter. After the first year or so it became very natural and easy for me to operate a motorcycle that way, and really I kind of prefer it to a foot shift, hand clutch.

I would say that, for me, having a good front brake makes a world of difference, or all the difference in the world. The knuck had a disc brake up front, as does my current '37 U project. (project knucklebolt)

I also run the brake lever on the right handlebar, in spite of claims that it should be on the left to be "correct". But if you use your front brake a lot, as I do, like 99% of my braking, having it on the left handlebar just would not work, especially for holding the bike on a hill and changing gears, taking it in and out of neutral, etc. Braking and downshifting also works better with the brake on the right...for most anytime I'm braking I'm primarily on the front brake. For my style of riding, I'd have to let off on the brake everytime I shifted.

Another thing is that I almost never, like 99% never, is put my left foot down on the pavement...even when I'm on my's just ingrained from riding the knuck. Left foot is either on the clutch, or on the peg ready to go to the clutch. But to my mind, riding a suicide bike well requires that you keep your left foot off the ground. Seeing how a lot of riders drag both feet through the whole intersection, that certainly wouldn't work for everyone.

I thought about putting a stock clutch pedal on project knucklehead, but decided I'd stick with the 20 years of training on the knuck...although I think I could adapt to the stock type pedal pretty fast, even though it operates the opposite of what I'm used to. I do think I'd like the tank-shifter better, and I may convert to that someday.


Just a thought.

Posts: 1654
One other thing which hasn't been mentioned, is the seat. My suicide pedal / tank shifter panhead had a Bates type seat and found it very awkward to use the rocker pedal with the resulting ankle angle. I swapped to a pogo seat and it made a big difference, a necessary part of the rocker pedal conversion really.

I did try it with the suicide pedal set low, with an action like a car pedal - heel on the foot boards. This actually worked well but I refitted the rocker after a few days, it was easier in UK traffic

I've also ridden bikes with the British-style right-side tank shift and left hand clutch. I'm not a great fan of this but you soon get used to it. This is pretty rare as British machines stopped using it in the 30s so apart from a few restorations, you just don't see bikes so fitted.
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

Posts: 32
Location: Western Australia
45Brit, the first time I rode a bike with foot clutch was when I checked out a chopped 42WLA for sale. It had an original rocker clutch but the fuel tank was a peanut, the oil tank was AM and the shifter was jockey. I told the seller I hadn’t ridden a foot clutch bike but he wasn’t bothered so I took it for a spin after he explained what to do. I had no problems and bought the bike, riding it often for about six months before selling it to a friend of mine. Later I bought and sold several more 45s, some with jockey shift and some with original tank shift but none with suicide clutch.

My Pan had a mousetrap when I bought it but the cable snapped soon after and I converted to suicide. Prior to the cable snapping I’d already decided to run suicide so I was prepared for the changes and I altered the foot shift lever to use as a suicide clutch pedal. I also made a short hand shift lever and mounted it to the rachet lid. But since about 1985 I’ve had a proper hand shift lid, complete with a jockey lever I made.

The Panhead drum front brake lever was at first on the right-hand handlebar but I later moved it left and sometimes this confused the cops because they’d assume the left lever was clutch and they’d ask where my front brake was due to no lever on the right. These days I have a front disc and the lever is on the right-hand bar.

Some of my 45s had footboards and some had forward-mounted pegs. My Pan had boards when I bought it but soon I went to forward-mounted pegs, at first all the way forward and then about two inches back. Next I made my own knees-up pegs and attached them to the footboard mounts on the frame. I used those for a long time, even on interstate rides, and I also made sets for both Evos I’ve owned. However, these days my legs don’t take kindly to that position for long and it may be partly because I’ve bounced off a few cars in my time so I returned to my forward-mounted pegs but they are in the two-inch-back location as opposed to all the way forward.

I thought about converting my current Evo to suicide and hand shift but haven’t got around to it. I don’t have a problem swapping from the Evo to the Pan and sometimes even ride both bikes in the one day.

Ken mentioned almost never putting his left foot on the pavement and I do the same thing. Even on my Evo I keep my left foot up as it keeps me in practice for the next time I ride the Pan. Sometimes on the Evo I’ll sit at a stoplight with both feet on the pegs for a split second before putting my right foot down just to stay in practice. Over the years on one forum or another people have asked what it's like to have a suicide clutch and I often tell them to keep their left foot up when stopped on their hand-clutch bike to get a feel for how it's going to be. I also advise them to make sure their wife and/or girlfriend doesn’t move around while the bike is stationary so they too can get used to the idea.

No doubt you’ve run across some who say suicide is dangerous. 8) So why do we do these things to our bikes, or in my case one of my two current rides? I like the uncluttered look. (Incidentally that clean look made one cop say that my Pan seemed to be missing some parts from the handlebar area because at the time I was also running an internal throttle.) Plus there was a minor practical reason as the cable had been eliminated so no lubrication and/or adjustment required there. I may have even wondered back then if I could handle a suicide clutch and there was only one way to find out.

Posts: 1654
I've ridden various odd control set-ups on vintage and veteran machines and you get used to most things, given time. The old push-pull "free pulley" pseudo-clutch beside the tank, for example; the Rudge Multi "coffee grinder" variable belt pulley, the no-clutch, paddle away to start two-stroke Baby Triumph. You get used to most things.

As has been pointed out, the key limitations of the suicide clutch and jockey shift are mitigated by a decent front brake ( I don't think it much matters whether the drum brake lever of a Big Twin is on the left, on the right or back on your work-bench, because it doesn't stop the bike worth a damn in any of those positions ).

That leaves the obvious weakness that the controls are a bit delicate, cf comments about your pillion not changing position etc. personally I quite like the tank shifter and rocker clutch, with the pogo seat. It's how the bike was designed and it works pretty well. Some people like suicide clutches, good luck to 'em sez I.

Owning and riding an expensive, high-maintenance, obsolete motorcycke is an irrational choice, however you look at it. You might as well gave fun while you're doing it.
Shoot, a man could have a good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff...

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