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The ON/OFF Switch

If you ask a group of riders what the ON/OFF switch is on a motorcycle, you’re likely to get a couple of different answers. Many untrained riders may say it is the ignition switch or the key. Most trained riders will answer with the engine cutoff switch. (Some might call this the “Kill” switch, but in my world if you kill it you have to either bury it or clean and cook it.) But there is another control that many new riders subconsciously think operates like an ON/OFF switch and that's the clutch.

Disciplined clutch and throttle control is one of the most difficult skills for new riders to learn, yet it is one of the most important skills to have. Being able to use the clutch and throttle together allows our motorcycle to start moving smoothly from a stop. New riders normally learn this concept of the friction zone early in their development through a series of less than comfortable take-offs caused by releasing the clutch as soon as they feel the bike start to move.

"We can manipulate the clutch to rein in the power of the engine."

Once new riders have their bike moving, they seem to forget about the friction zone; perhaps because they've already used it. Now they give the impression of considering the clutch to be an ON/OFF switch. It can be used that way to quickly remove power from the rear wheel when it feels like the bike is getting away from us or when we want to change gears. But the clutch is much more than just an ON/OFF switch.

Just as we use the clutch in the friction zone to start off, we can manipulate the clutch to rein in the power of the engine.  Holding the clutch in the friction zone can make an overly responsive throttle more manageable. We feel more comfortable when adjustments to the throttle result in smooth movement of our bike. Using the throttle and the clutch together in the friction zone can be extremely useful when controlling our bike in heavy rally traffic or other slow speed situations. It can also help us feel more in control when executing limited space maneuvers like U-turns.

Our bike is least stable at slower speeds and the clutch can make the operation of our motorcycle smoother by regulating how much power is applied to the rear wheel. We feel more controlled when our bike is operating smoothly. This is important for new riders because feeling more in control as they ride raises their comfort level, builds their confidence and increases their enjoyment of their ride.

There are some ON/OFF switches on a motorcycle, but the clutch is not one of them. The clutch is a friend that can help us operate our motorcycle smoothly and with control when we use it completely. Knowing how to use our clutch in the friction zone to control the power of the engine helps build our confidence when operating at lower speeds.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!