ASK THE MXPERTS: IS THE SLIPPER CLUTCH A SLAM DUNK
My friend has a brand-new slipper clutch that he bought when he wanted to go Supermoto racing, but it turned out that he didn’t like Supermoto because there weren’t enough races in our state to justify the expenditure. So, he never installed the Hinson BTL slipper in his Honda. He says that it will fit in my CRF450, and he only wants $250 for it. Is a slipper clutch any good in motocross? How does it work? And what does it really do?
By its very name, it is obvious that a slipper clutch slips. The Hinson Back Torque Limiter clutch (BTL) doesn’t slip all the time, only when the unique clutch mechanism senses deceleration. When you chop the throttle, like before braking bumps, halfway through the whoops or down steep hills, the BTL slipper clutch acts as though you’ve pulled the clutch lever in. Don’t confuse a slipper clutch with an automatic clutch (like the Rekluse RadiusCX). It is not an automatic; you still have to pull the clutch in to start, shift or stop. It just slips when you back off on the throttle.
How does it work? A slipper clutch is basically two clutches in one. The first clutch is activated by the clutch lever. The second clutch is activated by centrifugal forces within the spinning clutch basket. When the clutch’s internal moving parts decelerate, the difference in momentum disengages the clutch. Although the BTL is a clutch, and it is inside your engine, its biggest advantages show up in the chassis (where it works as an anti-chain torque device). When you chop the throttle on a big four-stroke, the decompression of the engine slows forward momentum dramatically. This creates wheel hop, which you feel as kicking on the entrance of turns or in the whoops. A slipper clutch significantly lessens wheel hop in braking bumps and at the end of long whoop sections. Additionally, it lessens decompression braking and makes a four-stroke feel like a two-stroke on the entrance to turns.
If that isn’t enough, a slipper clutch hooks up more positively under acceleration, which makes it better in roll-on situations. When you combine the ability to freewheel into a turn with less wheel hop and better hookup on acceleration, you get quicker corner speeds. The last benefit of a slipper clutch is that it works as an anti-stall device. Although a slipper clutch can’t guarantee that you won’t stall your bike in a tight corner, it does make it less likely to cough, because the BTL clutch automatically disengages under deceleration (giving you time to get to the lever).
The Rekluse Radius auto clutch has lot of loyal users who don’t ever have to pull their clutches in ever again.
The question you have to ask yourself is, why would you want your clutch to slip every time you backed off on the throttle? The answer is simple. (1) A slipper clutch eliminates decompression braking and makes a four-stroke feel more like a two-stroke on the entrance to turns. (2) Slipper clutches are de rigueur in road racing and Supermoto because they eliminate wheel hop, especially on pavement. (3) The combination of four-stroke decompression braking and braking bumps at the end of a straight creates a condition known as “shock lock.” The co-action of rapid decompression braking, rear brake lockup and chain torque make four-strokes bounce through braking bumps. A slipper clutch lessens both chain torque and decompression braking.
The Rekluse auto clutch has a very trick master slave unit that allows the push rod throw to be adjusted with an allen wrench from the out side. This may not mean much to you, but to a Rekluse user it makes life very easy.
There are riders who like the feel of slipper clutches, but they never gained acceptance in motocross circles. Why not? It’s very complex. There is a learning curve to riding with a slipper clutch, and the most common complaint of MXA test riders was that it couldn’t be slipped out of a corner like a conventional clutch. Given that a Hinson BTL clutch retails for $1700, your friend is offering you a great deal, but you have to decide if what a slipper clutch does is what you want your clutch to do.