Don’t Slip Up: How to Fix Dirt Bike and ATV Clutch Problems

Slipping much?

Veteran dirt bike and ATV riders can identify a clutch gone bad quite easily but new riders may not know what’s happening. If you ride a car with a manual clutch, the signs you need to get it checked on your dirt bike or ATV are quite similar.

The big one is gear slippage. Before you panic about a bad clutch first check the chain and sprockets. Replace everything even if one tooth is missing or the chain looks weathered and worn. If all looks good and you still slip when there’s appropriate slack on the chain then chances are the clutch is burned out. But before you start taking things apart…

Next, check the clutch cable. If it’s not adjusted properly or the cable is frayed or binding it can mimic the symptoms of a bad clutch. Clutch control should be smooth and allow full engagement. Tighten and lubricate if necessary. Last on your check list is taking a test ride…

When riding, if the gears refuse to shift or refuse to disengage then the clutch either needs adjustment or replaced. The other tell-tale sign is the clutch smells. The clutch on a dirt bike or ATV is bathed in oil so as it wears down it not only slips but stinks like burning oil. If you ride a 4-stroke you’re less likely to encounter clutch problems. You have to fan the clutch a lot on a 2-stroke so you’ll be well acquainted with clutch adjustments and replacements if you ride a 2-stroke.

Understand that the clutch is more than just fibers, steels and springs. The pressure plate and hub wears out along with the clutch pack. When replacing your clutch do it the right way and replace everything. Yes, it’s expensive, but you’ll just wear out the new clutch kit faster than if you replace everything at once.

Replacing a dirt bike clutch is easier than it sounds. The video at the bottom also gives a detailed account of inspecting and changing the clutch.

How to Change a Dirt Bike Clutch

Hi. My name’s Jason Thomas. We’re here at the Rockstar Energy Racing Shop in Corona, California. Today, we’re going to talk about how to check your clutch, inspect, and change if needed.

Tools and supplies to change your clutch:

  • T-handle on most bikes
  • Inch pounds torque wrench to properly torque your bolts to spec
  • Socket to torque the pressure plate bolts and the inner clutch cover – this size can vary from bike to bike
  • Outer clutch cover gasket to replace
  • 14mm or 12mm wrench for the oil drain plug if you need to replace your clutch


The first step if you know you’re going to change your clutch, you want to drain your oil. Here in the Rockstar Shop, whenever we change a clutch, we always put in fresh oil.

If you’re just going to inspect your clutch, you’re just going to lay the bike on its side, and I’ll show you how:

  • Take the bike off the stand
  • Lean the bike over
  • Lean the bike on the bike stand by the lower triple clamp
  • Before going any further, make sure the bike’s stable


Next, we want to pull our outer clutch cover off and inspect our clutch.

How to Remove a Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Compress the rear brake by pushing it in
  • Push the brake pedal down
  • Stick a screwdriver in to hold the brake pedal down out of the way of your clutch cover
  • Use 8mm T-handle and remove the outer clutch cover bolts
  • Remove the cover and gasket
  • Remove pressure plate bolts and pressure plate springs


  • Keep bolts and springs in order, organized, and clean
  • Remove clutch plates and pressure plate at all the same time – pull it all out as one unit


Pulling your clutch pack out all at once makes it simple and it’s efficient. Next we’ll inspect our clutch.

How to inspect a Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Look at the steel plates which are in between the fibers
  • If you see any discoloration, especially if purple or black, replace
  • For the fibers, service manual has a minimum specification that they can measure. If they fall under that specification, replace
  • Hold clutch pack to the light to see if fiber or steel plates are warped or bent. If they are, the clutch can drag and the bike will always want to pull for forward on you.


  • If clutch passes inspection, put it back on the bike
  • If not, you need to get a new clutch and soak it in oil for at least 10 minutes
  • Use a petroleum-based oil, not a synthetic

How to Install Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Always put the clutch back in the same way it came out, with the plates facing the same direction and the same order
  • The first plate is a fiber plate, the next plate is steel

When these steel plates are manufactured, they’re stamped out – one side has a rolled edge, the other side has a sharp edge. Here at the Rockstar Shop, we prefer to put the sharp edge up. We’ll go with the fiber and repeat until you have all your clutch plates in.

Now that your clutch plates are back in, you’re ready to put your pressure plate back on.

  • Your pressure plate should slide right on


  • Put on the clutch springs and bolts. If you did replace your clutch, you want to replace it with new springs
  • Wind the bolts in with my 8mm T-handle; you want to wind these in by hand
  • Torque clutch plate bolts to manufacturer’s spec – most specs require 87 inch pounds
  • Reinstall outer clutch cover with a new gasket
  • Run the bolts in with T-handle and torque them to spec
  • Torque in a star pattern, go around the cover and recheck the bolts

Now that we have our clutch reinstalled, we want to get the bike back up on the stand. The last step you want to make sure to do – if you remember, we compressed our brake and we moved the brake pedal down with that screwdriver – we want to pump the brake back up.


If you did change your clutch and you drained your oil, make sure and refill the engine back to manufacture’s spec oil level. Now that you have a fresh clutch on your bike, you’re ready to going get the holeshot. We’ll see you next time.


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Ryan Reynolds is an actor who unknowingly cost me a Scandinavian girlfriend. Back in 2005 I’d been dating a Norwegian girl and I struck upon the idea of taking her to the cinema, we bought our tickets and popcorn and settled in to watch Just Friends – a 2005 film starring Ryan and Amy Smart.

After having spent 90 minutes watching Reynolds be effortlessly charming and occasionally shirtless she turned to me and explained that it wasn’t going to work out, and that she wanted a guy more like Ryan. Now I know that none of this is Ryan’s fault per se, but I can’t help hold him vaguely responsible for stealing Synnøve away from me. So with this in mind you’ll understand my internal struggle when Mike LaFountain of Raccia Motorcycles sent me the images of the Honda CB750 you see here and told me he’d just finished building it for Ryan Reynolds. Not only had the Canadian actor stolen Synnøve, he’d also just taken delivery of one of the most beautiful and elemental Honda CB750 customs I’d ever seen. Damn him.

So far as motorcycles go, they don’t get much more iconic than the SOHC Honda CB750.

When Honda released the model in 1968 it was nicknamed the “superbike” – a moniker that stuck and led to the creation of ever more powerful motorcycles in a sort of two-wheeled arms race between motorcycle manufacturers.

The early CB750s all had 4-cylinder SOHC engines that were as reliable as taxes and capable of cheaply out-performing almost any road legal motorcycle in the world, in the eyes of collectors now it’s these early SOHC bikes that are in high demand – 10 years after releasing the original CB750 Honda released an updated DOHC version in 1979 that had some teething issues and lost some of the sentimental sheen of the earlier bikes.



The 1976 SOHC model you see here was requested specifically by Reynolds – he’d learnt to ride on an early CB750 and as is often the case, we hold the bike we started on in high regard, even years after the fact. He contacted Mike from Raccia Motorcycles and the two men began hashing out a plan for the new bike, it was to be a ground-up rebuild and Mike would have free-reign with the sheet metal.

All-in the bike took 7 months to build and with the exception of the engine and transmission, not much of the original metal remains. A new frame was fabricated from scratch as was the elegant headlight fairing, fuel tank, seat and rear cowling. The seat was upholstered using leather from one of Ryan’s screen-worn jackets – an act that Mike struggled with as he felt it borderline sacrilegious to take scissors to such a nice bit of tailoring.

Raccia Motorcycles is known for creating pristine custom motorcycles so this bike, dubbed “Cold War”, would be a significant departure from the garage’s usual creations. Mike wanted to create a bike that could be ridden hard, raced, dropped, dusted off and look better than it did previously.

The Raccia garage is near an area that produced military aircraft during WWII so he took some of than influence and out it into the fairing and weathered, almost flak-damaged metal work.

In order to ensure the bike would handle as well as it possibly could the front suspension was rebuilt and a new pair of Works Performance shocks were added at the rear, the engine was bored out to 836cc and a performance cam was added, four Keihin CR carburettors were bolted into place and synced before the newly ported and polished head was reattached.

The completed bike has an almost steampunk elegance to it reminiscent of the post-WWII salt flat racers, Ryan is regularly seen carving through California canyons on it – when he’s not preoccupied stealing the hearts of other men’s lady-friends…

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Since the beginning of the Yamaha Yard Built program we’ve seen a surprisingly diverse array of motorcycles developed by custom bike builders from all four corners of the globe.

The number of different ways the new Yamaha XV950 platform has been interpreted by the different builders has been interesting to see and it gives me hope that more manufacturers will develop similar programs of their own to both push their own design envelopes and to encourage the growing number of talented bike builders stepping into the fray.

The bike you see here is the third built by Marcus Walz as part of the Yard Built program and it represents a look back at his very first bike – a Yamaha RD80 that he bought as a 15 year old and repainted with the Kenny Roberts speed block design that we also see here.

Interestingly, Marcus started this build from the tail, he wanted to change the stance and look of the bike significantly from how it appears as stock so he removed the original rear subframe and welded together a higher and more traditional tail end to evoke memories of Kenny Roberts’ early flat trackers.

In order to give the bike better sporting credentials Marcus fitted twin Öhlins shocks at the back and modified the front forks to use lowered Progressive springs, the tires sit on prototype hand-cast magnesium wheels by Marvic and the clip-on handlebars were provided by LSL.

In order to keep the build as tidy as possible the stock instrument cluster was removed and replaced with a Moto Gadget “Tiny” tachometer and a new headlight cowl was added inkeeping with the new cafe racer theme. Marcus then added a hand-shaped fuel tank with Monza style filler cap and a custom manifold feeding an SC-Project exhaust.

The completed bike sits somewhere halfway between a street tracker and a cafe racer, and as with all the bike in the Yard Built series, I’d love to see some enterprising bean-counter at Yamaha pick up the approval stamp for a limited edition production run. I know they won’t because practicality-blah-blah but if we forget about reality for a second, it would be a wonderful thing to be able to buy off a showroom floor.

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A Sick Looking Yamaha XV950 Custom!


The new Yamaha XV950 is a motorcycle designed to target the fast growing mid-size cruiser segment, Yamaha released the model in 2013 and it’s quickly found a strong foothold for itself not just in the United States by across Europe and Asia as well.

I have to admit that when I first saw the bike you see here it took me a good few seconds to realize what I was looking at, it’s a motorcycle that maintains the engine, suspension and frame of the stock Yamaha XV950 whilst somehow looking like a totally different animal. The build is the work of Germany’s Bender Brothers, a pair of Yamaha specialists with a penchant for cafe racers, scramblers and bobbers. Their work is always both elegant and daily-ridable, which is more than can be said for a lot of the current crop of custom motorcycle builders.

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The transformation of the stock Yamaha XV950 into the motorcycle you see here is an impressive piece of aesthetic engineering, it remains so close to the stock bike that (hopefully) Yamaha could be tempted to either make a limited edition production run of the model or, better yet, offer the parts required to complete the conversion as an after-market kit.

The inspiration for the build was the highly regarded Yamaha TZ750 from the mid-1970s, this influence can be seen in the paint scheme as well as the hand fabricated fuel tank, seat and rear cowl. The stock exhaust was removed and replaced with a handmade 2-into-2 tipped with twin Hattech silencers which give the bike a deeper, slightly more grumbly exhaust note.

It’s difficult to know without actually riding the bike, but it certainly looks like it’d be better suited to twisty mountain roads and local track days than the stock XV950. Although it might be a long shot I can’t help but think an affordable production version of this motorcycle would sell like doughnuts at fat camp, whilst also providing some healthy competition for the Triumph Bonneville and Kawasaki W800.

If you’d like to see more from The Bender Brothers you can click here.

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The Honda CL350 was the marque’s best selling model for a number of years between 1968 through 1973, over 250,000 of them were produced and a significant number of them are still on the road thanks to the hard-to-kill nature of Honda’s engines.

With a dry weight of 328lbs (149kgs) and a horsepower output of 36 at the crank, the CL350 is a genuinely brilliant motorcycle to ride on tight, twisty and urban roads. The model was always destined for cafe racerization, even as the very definition of what a “cafe racer” is continues to evolve and cause countless, senseless arguments across the gasoline-scented parts of the internet.

Honda lists the CL350s top speed as 110mph but for a normal sized male adult to achieve that figure you’d need a 20mph tailwind and a slight downhill gradient, however this isn’t a drawback, bikes like this aren’t about a fabled top speed that you’ll never reach anyway, they’re about acceleration, handling and chuckability – features that the CL350 has in spades.

The bike you see here was saved from the junkyard by a friendly American chap called Shawn Smith, when he bought it is was little more than a rolling parts bike. The tank and seat were gone and the motor was shot, it was a project motorcycle that most people would never take on, and with good reason.


Fortunately for this particular CL350, Shawn isn’t most people. He’s trained in automotive collision repair and has spent years customising motorcycles and snowmobiles (depending on the season), he’s worked on everything from Aprilla superbikes to little CB175s so a slightly worse for wear CL350 didn’t pose any significant challenge.

Work on the bike started with a full strip down and engine rebuild, the frame was then detabbed and painted. During the engine rebuild the engine was bored .25 over with Bore-Tech pistons, rings and gaskets, next up was a new four-cell battery, a rear frame hoop and a matching DCC Brat-style seat. The stock handlebars were replaced with a set of inverted Clubmans with all new controls, the front suspension was then rebuilt with new external springs.

The finished bike is an excellent example of a simple, no frills cafe racer and is a very close approximation of the perfect urban motorcycle. If you’d like to read more about the Honda CL350 you can click here to visit Motorcycle Classics.


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DIY Polaris Sportsman ATV No Spark – How to Diagnose and Replace a Pulse Coil Trigger Coil Ignition

This DIY video provides a walk through of the steps I took to diagnose and repair a no spark condition on my 2003 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O.. I also show how to replace the Polaris trigger coil, also knows as the pulse coil or pulsar coil. I plan on creating another video which will show how to test and diagnose the ignition coil, the stator and the spark plug resistor cap. The process I used in this video will be the same or similar on many other ATVs, UTVs, Side by Sides and more. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Can-am and many other all terrain vehicles use a similar ignition system for generating spark. This video provides one possible fix for a no spark condition on a Polaris Sportsman ATV. There are several other reasons why an ATV might not have spark or be in a no start condition.

Polaris Sportsman Rear Wheel Bearing Removal – DIY ATV Rear Axle Bearing Replacement Part 1 & 2

This video is part 1 of how to replace a rear wheel bearing on a Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. This video demonstrates one way of removing the rear axle bearing without using a press. If you’re following this video to replace your wheel bearing, take your time and be sure to use caution beating the old axle bearing out of the hub assembly. These repair instructions will be the same or similar on many other ATVs and UTVs. Please keep in mind that my videos are shade tree mechanic style and a dealership repair may involve other steps and torque specifications. The four wheeler in this video was a 2003 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. I’ll be posting a video on how to replace the front wheel bearings on this same ATV soon.

This video is part 2 of how to replace a rear wheel bearing on a Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. This video demonstrates one way of installing the rear axle bearing without using a press. If you’re following this video to replace your wheel bearing, take your time and be sure to use caution when installing the new bearing. These repair instructions will be the same or similar on many other ATVs and UTVs. Please keep in mind that my videos are shade tree mechanic style and a dealership repair may involve other steps and torque specifications. The four wheeler in this video was a 2003 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. I’ll be posting a video on how to replace the front wheel bearings on this same four wheeler soon

DIY Polaris Sportsman 500 CV Boot Replacement – How to Replace a Rear Inner CV Boot on an ATV

This video covers a rear inner CV boot replacement on a 2003 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. The process covered in this video will be the same or similar on many other ATVs Four Wheelers, UTVs (Honda Suzuki, Kawasaki, Can-Am, Yamaha) , with the exception of the axle removal. This video also demonstrators how to install two different types of CV boot band clamps and the tools used to install them.

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Yamaha – Passion for motorcycle design. Part 1: The Process


“A designer has to be an artist, an engineer and a craftsman at the same time”, designer Olivier Béboux tells us enthusiastically.

“You have to understand the technical issues, you have to be able to sculpt something from nothing, and you have to be able to build everything yourself, as a craftsman. And that is what makes the job so exciting.”

“You are an artist because you have to sketch, express yourself, to draw, to paint, to sculpt. Sometimes in magazines, we see this kind of ‘photo montages’ of new models. These are very nice illustrations, made by picking up parts of existing bikes and pasting them together. But no matter how nice they may look, we do not consider them real ‘design’.

In reality, you need a three-dimensional mind to sketch and model a motorcycle and to make everything fit together in a proper way.”

This three-dimensional thinking is a key issue for the designers. Even when they sketch on two-dimensional paper, they are thinking and imagining how it will look like in three dimensions.

The artistic side however, has to survive in a business environment and that makes things tough for them. “Because you put your heart and soul in a design, it is sometimes very difficult to accept comments and criticism. By definition, you cannot please everybody. During a presentation of a new design, you stand in front of fellow designers, product planning people, marketing people and sales people and they all have a different perspective.”

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How does the whole design process go, from idea to final motorcycle? “It always starts with the concept, the idea behind the new bike. Usually we have a meeting with product planning people to discuss what type of bike it should be, what ideal usage it has and what kind of dream it should represent. We always develop “key words” to describe it: what should the bike say to you, what personality does it have?”

“Then we continue with sketches. We create the first ideas in our minds and then express them with rough sketches on paper. These sketches are presented and discussed, and the best directions are then selected, and based on those, we continue. More stages like this follow, so we narrow down more and more until we have a final sketch.”

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Technical issues
“At the same time during the sketching process we have to consider the technical factors: what is the wheelbase, the tyre size, what kind of frame can we have, where and how big is the engine, the airbox, how much fuel capacity is needed etcetera. All those things together form a ‘technical package’ that represents the limits within which we have to work. Of course we always try to push those limits in order to get a real innovative design!”

“Then based on the sketch and the technical layout, we start to build a fullscale clay model, that shows all the shapes the final production bike should have.”

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Clay or CAD
The first mockup of a new motorcycle is always made in clay. Isn’t that strange in a time of CAD (computer aided design) and computer animations? “You always feel the three-dimensional shape better with a real and tangible clay model. The shape generated by the computer is a two-dimensions image projected on a flat screen. For this reason it is difficult to get any real three-dimensional feeling. Also the lighting conditions that you have in real life, are not there in the computer.

It is simulated by a thing called shading, but that doesn’t show the detailed nuance you have in reality. So with computers, you have a virtual and cold barrier between you and the product, which makes it far from what the customer will feel in front in the motorcycle.”

“For structural parts and items such as footrests we sometimes use CAD from the beginning but not for body parts. CAD programs are fantastic tools, but in the end the computer is a tool, not a creator. To create the best design, we feel that a clay model is a must. It is tactile, you can see the whole thing in front of you, see all proportions, sit on it, touch it. So for the whole sculpture of the bike, and the body parts, we create everything in three-dimensional clay.”


The clay is a special one for this type of modelling design, also used in the automotive industry. It is heated to around 40 degrees Celsius, to make it soft.

“Because there may be bubbles inside, you have to apply it with your thumbs and push hard. Sometimes you get blisters from that, but that doesn’t matter because creating the clay is really a fun part of the job, you get a very quick first result in a short time.” After the clay is applied by hand, it is left to cool off, so that it hardens and can be shaped by tools for the finer adjustments. “The finishing work and symmetry can be long and difficult, though. But if you are not happy with the shape you can always heat it again on the surface and adjust it. Clay is very versatile. You can even re-use it over and over again, you don’t have to throw away anything!”

Indeed, usually during this clay stage, the shape is continuously being modified and improved until it is finally approved.

“Actually, to judge a bike when it is made of clay needs a lot of experience. It is a brown colour, not shiny, and that makes the shapes look less pronounced than when it would be painted and shiny. And some items that are normally transparent, such as the windscreen or the headlamp, are also made of clay. That makes the bike look heavier than it would be in reality. So you need to adjust all those things in your mind.”

After the model is finished, it is measured three-dimensionally and all surface data are transferred to the computer.

Based on that, the engineers can start to create real ‘parts’, which is again a very challenging job because they have to consider all the mounting points and attachments behind it, the production possibilities of the materials, the strength it finally should have.

Show models

The biggest challenge starts when the designer has to prepare a so-called ‘show model’, a one-off proto machine that is to be shown on motorshows when there is no production planned yet. In that situation, the bike has to have a perfect finishing, and all parts have to be made by the designers themselves. Clay as a material is too fragile to use, so all body parts have to be made separately.

This is usually done with the so-called ‘fast prototyping’, for instance through stereo lithography, where (after a clay model is measured into the computer) computer data is used to create the parts out of liquid resin, utilising laser beams.

Also the structural parts such as chassis, swingarm, triple clamps etc. are hand crafted. Here, specialist crafters come into play because the designers don’t have the time, the machines or the specialist skill to create everything by themselves.


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