Over the years I have often considering buying an auto clutch for my dirt bike, but I have always concluded that they are too expensive. Furthermore, I worried about loosing engine braking on downhills. I finally decided to just do it.
Why I Bought An Auto Clutch
I would guess that about 90% of my tip-overs happen on technical climbs when I stall the bike. Although I am gradually getting better at slipping the clutch, I am still not very good at it. Knowing that I may stall the bike decreases my confidence, and thereby decreases my fun. I ride dirt bikes for fun. I don’t race, and I don’t ride very fast. But I enjoy cruising down trails and enjoying the scenery. Living here in Utah, it seems that every “fun” trail has at least one technical obstacle to conquer. That is where I get into trouble.
So, I figured that if an auto clutch would eliminate my stalls, it should boost my confidence and be safer. Yes, an auto clutch is expensive – but it is cheaper than surgery.
Why I Bought A Rekluse EXP 2.0
My choice really came down to two; the Rekluse EXP 2.0, or the more expensive Core EXP 2.0. My conclusion was that the Core EXP is the better choice for serious riders and racers, but the EXP 2.0 would be sufficient for me.
Installation Of The Auto Clutch
Installation of the auto clutch was fairly easy. Rekluse has a good tutorial video that is worth watching, but be sure to carefully read the instructions for bike specific information. There was one unique step for my KTM 350 that I missed at first regarding the alignment of the spring ring.
Installation of the EXP requires the removal of a few clutch friction plates. This increases the amount of force required to pull in the clutch lever.
Installation Of The Clutch Slave
The clutch slave was also fairly easy to install, but it does require you to bleed the clutch line (for a hydraulic clutch). Be sure to note whether your clutch uses brake fluid or mineral oil.
Notice the gradation marks around the allen head screw on the Rekluse clutch plate. This screw is used to adjust the free play gain. This allows you to fine tune the engagement point of the auto clutch without opening up the motor.
As mentioned previously, the clutch lever is noticeably harder to pull in after installing and adjusting the auto clutch. Since the KTM DDS clutch is so easy to pull in, I figured that wouldn’t be a problem, but I was surprised at how much harder it was to pull in. Luckily, when out on the trail I didn’t even notice it – it is just when playing with the lever in the garage that I notice it. But for a racer, the Core EXP would be a better choice to avoid this increase in force.
Impressions From First Test Ride
It took about two seconds to like the auto clutch. And not much longer to totally love it! For my style of riding, it was wonderful. Here is what I noticed:
- Technical hill climbs are much easier. Even if I approach the hill in the wrong gear, I just use the throttle to get up the hill. For me, this is huge. My confidence on technical sections shot way up. And therefore my fun factor went way up.
- Corners were easier. I am terrible at making tight corners. Even with the auto clutch I am still terrible, but I found them noticeably easier. No longer did I need to worry about slipping the clutch as I applied the brakes entering the corner. Just use the throttle and motor your way around.
- It was easier to stop and open a gate (there were a lot of gates on my test ride) since I didn’t need to find neutral all the time.
- Use of the clutch for shifting is optional, but I still used it most of the time – especially for up-shifts.
- Downhills are harder. This was expected, but there were some surprises which I will discuss later.
- If you park your bike on a slope it can roll away. There is no way to keep the bike from rolling without applying throttle. This was also expected. You just need to be careful where you park your bike.
There were a few major surprises – some of them good, some of them bad.
- At first, not needing to use the clutch made me forget how to use my brakes. I don’t know why, but at first when I approached a corner I wouldn’t use my brakes. Maybe that was showing that I have relied on engine braking way too much. Anyway, I would approach the corner too quickly and sometimes miss the turn. It took about one half hour of riding to work through this.
- I found that on steep downhills I was constantly locking up the rear wheel. I didn’t realize it, but I previously used the engine sound as feedback on how much rear brake I was applying. With the auto clutch disengaged, the rear wheel can lock up without any audible feedback. This was particularly challenging if I was sitting down since it was harder to modulate the brake. I was immediately wishing I had a left hand rear brake (LHRB) – so that will be my next expenditure.
- I was pleasantly surprised that I could do wheelies from a stop much more consistently. The auto clutch is much more repeatable than I am. I could consistently loft the front wheel about 2′ just by a quick twist to the throttle.
For my recreational style of riding I think the auto clutch is perhaps the best after market add-on I have put on my bike. I think it is going to increase my level of confidence and make me a better rider. Yeah, I know, it is cheating. But I am an old man and I will take advantage of anything that will help me have fun and be safe.
I decided to upgrade to the full Core Exp 2.0. This install is reported in a new post.