Jump to content

Ride with (almost) broken clutch cable?


Recommended Posts

I was riding home from work today and hear this unusual sound when I pulled the clutch. frown.gif I checked it out when I arrived at home and of course some of the steel wires of the clutch cables are broken. So I setup an appointment with the local BMW shop to have them replace the clutch cable. thumbsup.gif

I am planning to ride the bike there and pray that the rest of the cable wires will survive the trip. Obviously I will keep my shifting a minimum. If the cable rips all the way, the plan is to kill the engine, let the bike come to a stop in a safe place and call the tow truck.

So that’s the plan but I wanted to get some feedback from other riders which might have experienced a failing clutch wire while riding? What is the recommended action to get the bike to a safe stop?


Thanks in advance for your help.


Cheers Frank

Link to comment

It's hard on the transmission and starter (you'd have to use the starter to get the bike up to 10mph. before riding off, but it's possible to ride without a clutch.


My question is, why don't you just buy the new cable and replace it yourself? The dealer could probably even mail it to you. You should only need a one or 2 wrenches.


I guess I'm just the type of person that thinks anyone who throws a leg over a motorcycle should be able to perform most basic maintenance and repairs.

Link to comment

To a stop? Just blip the throttle, tap you way into neutral and coast to a stop.


To start is a bit trickier, but it can be done. Put the bike in first with the engine off, key on, pull the clutch lever (you will still have to to trigger the interlock switch), be ready to lurch away and hit the starter. It can be a bit jerky and awkward, but if you are alert and ready (and don't have a car right in front of you either!) it can be done. Once underway make roll off clutch-less shifts.


Not ideal, but it will get you to the nearest new cable!

Link to comment

If the rest of your cable snaps, it will be while you have the lever pulled in. So chances are excellent that you'll either be in gear at a stop or shifting gears at the time. To minimize these two situations, do clutchless shifting while you ride and come to a stop in neutral. That way, the only time you'll put a strain on the cable is while taking off from a stop. If it pops then, you'll jerk and perhaps stall but it will all be at slow speed so give yourself more room than usual and you should be fine. You'll probably need to push the bike to the side of the road and either use Ken's method of starting without the clutch or call for your tow.


But assuming that the shop isn't far and you don't have that many stops between you and them, the cable could well last the trip. If you can, watch the mechanic do the work. It's easy and next time you can do it yourself.


Good luck.

Link to comment

Clutchless shifts aren't that hard to do while shifting up. But shifting down has always been trickier for me; not impossible, just trickier. However, after owning J bikes for a few decades, broken clutch cables weren't unheard of. When riding one without the use of a clutch cable, I found that whenever I need to stop, do as Ken and the others have suggested, and slip it into neutral prior to stopping, while still rolling. But, what I haven't seen anyone suggest here, is if at all possible, try to plan your stops so that you can let the bike roll forward, even just a few miles per hour, and then slip it into first. It will jerk a tad, but it is usable. If on flat ground, you should be able to paddle it with your feet to get some ground speed going. If pointed uphill, you'll have to use Ken's technique of using the starter motor to get the bike rolling again.


Whether you ride it to the dealer sans clutch, or change the cable yourself, you're bound to gain some valuable knowledge from your trek. Best of luck.

Link to comment

How far is it to the shop? Chances are good that you will make it. I rode from San Diego to Riverside (Bynum's place) with just a couple of strands remaining. And it actually failed at least in Flagstaff before I got to San Diego and I realized what the problem was. So I was able to put quite a few miles on a failing clutch cable without it breaking completely.

Link to comment
Paul Mihalka

It even can be done long distance. Ask Russell. He rode I think from Arizona to home in South Cal. with a bad throwout bearing, which is like having NO clutch cable.

Link to comment

I learned about this on a recent ride to Laughlin, Nv. for the annual River run. You probably don't know where Amboy, Ca. is but trust me when I say it's in the middle of nowhere. Pulling into town I begin to downshift for the stop sign, no clutch, lever flapping in the breeze. Long story short, start in 1st gear using the starter, shift using RPM's and rolling off throttle, back tracked 75 miles to Yucca Valley and Hutchins H-D.(The lock-nut backed off the clutch adjusting screw)


The scary thing was I think it might have shifted easier and quieter without the clutch!

Link to comment

Thanks everyone for the advice ... I am giving it a try today and report back how it went.


If it came to push and shuff if probably could change the cable myself but normally I leave the wrenching to the professionals since I don't have tools/time to do it myself. dopeslap.gif


The trip is only about 20 miles, so it should not be to bad.

Link to comment
  • 3 weeks later...

This is only a slight hijack...


I changed my clutch cable (in Russell's garage) about a year ago. A couple of weeks ago, my clutch started feeling strange. I looked at the cable and was surprised to discover that the new cable was about to break; half of the strands were gone.


So... The first cable lasted about 70,000 miles. What would cause the second one to last only 7,000 miles? It was a brand new OEM cable. I also replaced the clutch lever a year ago because the pivot bushing was clearly worn. So, why the short life? The good news is that after the failure a year ago, I had bought a spare and I am getting pretty good at swapping clutch cables.

Link to comment
Shawnee Bill
This is only a slight hijack...


So... The first cable lasted about 70,000 miles. What would cause the second one to last only 7,000 miles?


You need to grease the "nipple holder" (official BMW nomenclature) that is in the lever, if that doesn't rotate freely it will cause the cable to bend sharply right where it is crimped into the end (nipple?).


I learned this the hard way, first cable broke at about 45,000 miles, the replacement less than 10,000 miles, both snapped as I pulled the clutch in to stop.

Now I make it a point to inspect the cable at the lever fairly often, and put a little dab of grease on it whether it needs it or not.


On the original question, I now have ridden about 5,000 miles with a cable that has a couple of broken strands, I ordered a new cable three weeks ago (5,000 miles) from Chicago BMW and haven't received it yet. There is a thread elsewhere with varying opinions of their mail order service.

There was an article in BMWON by Paul Glaves about roadside repairs of a broken clutch cable, I carry that with me while I wait for my new cable.

Link to comment
It even can be done long distance. Ask Russell. He rode I think from Arizona to home in South Cal. with a bad throwout bearing, which is like having NO clutch cable.


What Paul said. (And it was Paul's advice that gave me the courage to try it in the first place.)


Throwout bearing failed in El Paso, TX. I rode the bike home to SoCal. (850ish miles)


The tricky part, is getting started. Everything else is pretty easy.


1. Clutch in (that depresses the clutch/starter interlock switch making the bike think the clutch is in

2. 1st gear

3. Key on

4. Killswitch on

5. Press the starter and give it some gas


The bike will lurch forward and start. As soon as it catches, let go of the starter button.


The key to shifting clutchless is to unload the transmission between shifts. If you're accelerating, ease off the throttle a bit. If you're decelerating, give it a little bit of gas...just enough to neutralize the engine braking.


Don't stomp on the lever to shift...be gentle but firm.

Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...