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Old 03-05-2014, 01:52 PM   #1
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Clutch Play Adjustment for Dummies

This is a simple basic adjustment that all bike owners should check and adjust. On the Parallel Twin bikes, it's especially important since the lack of play will destroy your clutch in one ride if not noticed. Off-roading and hill climbs where feathering the clutch is necessary will burn up your play in short order so check it often when doing so.

When the Models were released, the factory manuals listed play at 1mm. This 1mm was gone well before the first service and likely before the first tank was burnt. I noticed it on Customer's bikes who came in with a week old bike wanting some farkle installed. A letter was eventually sent out calling for 5mm, after many clutches were sacrificed.

Simple, no ruler needed adjustment procedure:

2 13mm wrenches required.



With the bars turned all the way to the LEFT, look at your lever like shown above. You want 5mm play and the gap is 6mm. The edge of the lever is nearly flush with the inside opening of the holder.


Photo below is as you are pulling in the clutch, showing the gap decreasing.







On a properly adjusted clutch, bars to the left, taking up all the play with light finger pressure should leave you looking like this:




I usually aim for the full 6 mm but I have my lever span all the way out. If you have smaller hands with a decreased span the 6mm may be too much. YMMV.

Properly adjusted at full left lock, the gap will decrease a bit while pointing straight ahead. Turned to the RIGHT lock, it will be less again but should still have a hair of play left. This is the actual goal, to have play lock to lock. Now that it's adjusted properly, feel the play when straight ahead and memorize the feel. You can then quickly check your play on the fly when you get to the top of the hill without even looking down at it. Just a quick finger flick. Easy.


To adjust, get your 13mm wrenches and lower the cable to get more play. Adjustment is done at the LH side cover (bottom end of cable) at the two nuts shown below.



When your clutch is worn out, typically you run out of adjustment as well. On my '09, I almost ran out so I changed my clutch plates. Measuring them showed they were at the wear limit per the manual but would have lasted quite a bit longer in real life. It was winter so I did it. The play was adjusted correctly but after one cold ride up the street and back, the plates had settled in enough that I needed to add more play already.

On the street versions of the twins, the S, ST and R, with a properly adjusted clutch some owners managed to get their cable to pop out of the lever at the engine then called roadside for a tow. I began squeezing the cable holder gap to smaller than the cable diameter (arrows in last pic) to prevent this. When needed, I just pry it open with a screwdriver to release the cable.


Quick theory lesson:

The clutch operation on these engines is "backwards" by other bike standards. The clutch outer cover is PULLED outwards to release the pressure and uncouple. Most other bikes PUSH against the inside cover to release. So on the twins, when clutch plates wear, the outer cover is pushed further inwards by the springs which is why your play disappears. Having no play is like pulling in the clutch partially. This leads to more wear which leads to less play then soon your tach is passing your speedo when power is applied. Left like this, you can see the $$$ signs wafting away from your hot engine.

Quick check for clutch slippage: In top gear, moderate throttle-hold throttle in position and flick the clutch lever in a hair (engine revs a bit) then pop the lever back out. You should feel a jolt on a good clutch. A slipping clutch will re-engage a lot more gently and the revs will fall slower as both sides return to the same speed.
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Old 03-05-2014, 02:03 PM   #2
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Thanks Dad! Great as always :o)
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Old 03-05-2014, 02:37 PM   #3
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Thanks Dad! Great as always :o)
Your welcome son. Too late for your first clutch but that was tough love. I let the kids touch the hot stove rather than harp on endlessly about the danger. Sharpens the learning curve.
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Old 03-05-2014, 05:38 PM   #4
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Thanks for this. Great info for new owners.
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:17 PM   #5
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Thanks Reaver! Very helpful info!
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Old 03-07-2014, 09:26 PM   #6
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You rock!!! After reading this and rechecking my clutch, I still didn't have enough play. I've adjusted again, have enough play and I am now out of adjustment. Hopefully it will get me through a few more rides before I have to replace the clutch plates.

Thanks again
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Old 03-08-2014, 09:32 AM   #7
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Glapin, you have a 2011 so you'll have the latest cable and nut. BMW also changed the cable to allow for more adjustment.

If you put a THIN nut on the top part of the cable adjuster you can get a little more time out of your clutch unless it's just plain done. Better check how long it takes to order one from the Dealer..........
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:55 AM   #8
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Reaver, this is the way I have been doing it. This is the cable as it butts up to the clutch lever bracket.



Pull the sheathing away from the bracket and take a measurement of the gap.
Pull the lever and it goes back in place. OK?



From experience I can tell you that the loop on cable bracket attached to the side case is very easy to break. Use a wrench on both nuts on either side of the bracket.

Knowing and doing that still resulted in me breaking mine. They break middle way of the hoop located at the end of the bracket. That bracket is cast as an integral part of the side cover. a $300+ part.

Those nuts were tightened to super human strength. Enough so, the steel nuts gouged into the soft aluminum bracket hoop.

Not pretty, but a cheap fix. I used JB marine epoxy because it is the strongest I could find. It has a long cure time and can run, which explains my lumps.

I put a small amount on the broken ends and held it in place with a piece of tape over the top until it set up.

Between the nuts and the bracket I epoxied thin slotted 3/8" washers in order to allow the cable to go through and still add reinforcement. I then slathered more epoxy over the break and further down top and bottom. (slather explains the runs)

I have it for a few months and no sign yet of it not holding.




You are probably wondering what idiot tightened those nuts that tight. So am I, because I have been adjusting the clutch myself. BUT, I did take to dealer for one of my 12,000 mile checks. They have a protocol to follow. Just wondering.
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Old 03-08-2014, 12:40 PM   #9
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Another way to skin a cat. I taught my method because a lot of Customers couldn't visualize 5mm. Important part is to check it, however it's done.

Your clutch cover sounds like the pre-mod with the cable slot in it. The newer ones are full circle but I don't know if they're thicker or not. Used ones come up for sale for when you decide to change it.
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Old 03-08-2014, 03:02 PM   #10
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Thanks. Great writeup
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Old 03-08-2014, 09:01 PM   #11
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How much more adjustment comes from retrofit of a 2011 cable to say, an 09 model?
I was going to fit a new cable when doing my clutch and keep the original as a spare, but if I change just the cable first will it buy a few more kms?
I did notice this bike had less clutch adjustment from new than other bikes, nice to see the cable redesign.
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Old 03-09-2014, 11:20 AM   #12
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Well, I haven't yet checked this out empiracally. My new cable hangs on the wall still and I ended up changing the clutch instead due to opportunity. Need to do a side by side.

For you I'd suggest getting a thin nut like you see on the bottom of the cable adjuster on the newer models. My top nut measures ~6.5mm and the bottom thin nut ~3.5mm. Therefore you'd gain 3mm of added play. If you were stuck in the bush or it takes weeks for the Dealer to get a new clutch to you, I'd swap the thick nut from the top of the cable with the thin lower for more play. Worst case, remove the nut altogether. Don't know if the cable will pass thru the holder without a nut so try a washer or vice grips. Don't know how long that would last but it may get you out of a bind.






The '09's have two thick nuts like the first pics but the '12 has one of each as shown. For reference, this is the new cable PN and the clutch has 1K kms on it. Most of the threads are useless by design.
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Old 03-09-2014, 11:33 AM   #13
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Hey thanks! The nut swap should be the dog's bollocks as the Brits would say.
Getting the last life out of the clutch by running the cable with just a washer on is a great get 'er home fix.
Be interesting to count the threads on the new cable or measure them side by side for an A-B.
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Old 03-09-2014, 12:10 PM   #14
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While we're at it, this is my '09 with the old cable and new clutch. The threaded portion meaures the same on both cable ends so that wasn't changed. Maybe the length of exposed cable? Maybe I should not give false hope??? I'm just going on what BMW said. I changed a clutch under warranty years ago and they said to put the new cable on as well. Dunno just yet.





However, an off-the wall check shows the cable won't go thru the mounting boss without a nut.


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Old 03-09-2014, 12:49 PM   #15
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That pic above illustrates what I meant about not having much adjudtment room from new. Hard to beleve that with the number of bikes sold there is no aftermarket clutch kit. Maybe because a majority of riders opt for dealer service??? Compared to say GS1150 owners? Personally, I think more and more GS8 and GS658 owners opt for dealer service.
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