Stiff clutch and alternate push levers


XS650 Addict
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Albuquerque, NM
My clutch action is stiff enough to hurt!

This is a '75 with a stock rebuilt engine. The clutch plates, springs and right hand mechanisms looked good and no upgrades or mods were done on that side before we buttoned it down.

It a one-piece push rod, I 'think' the bearing is in there on the right side.

First I had the '75 push lever on it and after some adjustment and fiddling the pull wasn't too bad, though finding neutral was a problem.

I changed the lever out for a used one - which is ~ 0.3" longer - off my '80. I was able to rehab the frozen lock nut that caused me to change it back when.

After two tries I still can't get it even as 'less stiff' as the '75 lever was working.

Here's a pic comparing the two (the '75 is at the top):


I am going to try a different angle on the lever and see how it works. I have read a lot of links here on these adjustments and this will be the 6th or 7th time I've done it, so I think I got the process down.

But I am starting to think the stiffness might be something on the right side. What should I look for over there if I decide to get into it?

For further comparison, here's a pic from a thread by gggGary. Note that the length of the one off my '80, installed above (at bottom), sort of falls between the two in Gary's pic.

How many versions of these push levers are out there? Are there any after market versions for sale that might work better?

View attachment 28148

(Find Gary's thread here:
I've been thinking about hydraulic too. But if I can just get this clutch half as smooth as my other stock XS's I would be happy.
The longer the arm, the easier the pull should be. That's simple geometry and physics. If the longer 1980 arm is a harder pull, then something's wrong somewhere in the mechanism. Is the plastic worm gear cracked? Is the steel worm gear gouged up? It's unlikely, but maybe someone put racing (stiffer) springs in the clutch? Is your cable routed smooth and easy, or is it torturous? Have you read TwoManyXS1Bs posts on worm gears, push rods and cables?
I just completed my Hydraulic clutch and 8-pack disc. I am more than pleased. I did add stronger springs. I got my clutch from Ippy. Clayton. Good luck Tony C

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Is the cable lubed properly. I always do the bag thing and atf over night. My klr250 has stiffer springs installed. P.o. said it was the springs that made the pull almost impossible...lubed it properly....suprise suprise.....its half as stiff now. These clutches with stock springs and a properly routed and lubed cable arent tough at all.
You can make a cable clutch work as smooth as a hydraulic but you have to often adjust it. With a hydraulic clutch set and forget. (except for fluid and change every few years. Tony C.

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Do you have a fresh clutch cable? I really like the 650 Central E-Z Pull Clutch Cable. It eliminates the metal elbow and has a lot less friction than the stock cable. I still can't usually get neutral if I'm stopped, but the lever effort is way better than stock.
Thanks for the replies
I do have a new cable, carefully routed, and it was soaked/drained with oil over night. And the actuator is in good shape.
Also tortured myself with too many of TwoMany's research treatises.
Every thing seems to work smoothly when the side is off.
I'm going out there now to try it again . . .
Try taking all of the actuator pieces from the good one and move them to the one that is giving you issues and verify smooth function. if all works as expected then 1 piece at a time swap over the original parts back in place of the ones from the known good system. When you find a part that makes a significant difference then that is most likely your culprit. If it does not work as smooth as on the other bike then you have some more investigating to do.
Although you said it looked good, I would begin suspecting the clutch itself. Maybe something you didn't see is binding or not right. It will be a PITA, but I'd try swapping a different clutch in.
The possibility that someone put stiffer springs in now sounds more likely.
In the above drawing, push rod #23 pushes the pressure plate #12 out. I had a clutch that the contact area on #12 was all gouged and uneven, so that the plate did push straight out, but at an angle, making the plates not separate correctly. While I don't think that's your problem, I'd begin suspecting something wrong in the clutch. I assume you lined up the mark on the basket with the hole in the pressure plate when you put the clutch back together.
They tried several different arms trying to get a better clutch.
My bet is on a cracked nylon part of your worm.
On my 75 it had a cracked nylon part of the worm. Hard to see but with close inspection can be found.
I bought one of Mike's new worm sets. It has a long arm with two holes. The hole in close to the worm, gives more movement to the pressure plate, with a heavier pull. The outer hole moves less but easier.
I tried it both ways. I use the inner hole. The difference in pull was not much but the improvement in action was very noticeable.
The stock springs were about 50 lb. springs when new Now closer to 40-45 lbs. My replacement springs are 70 lb.
With this worm, well lubed, a good cable, well lubed, 70 lb. springs I have a two finger pull to operate the clutch.
Easy to find neutral even when stopped.
I tried one from an 82, works about the same.
I don't think a hydraulic clutch would work any better.
I suspect improper cable routing. It will operate easily with the cover off and no load on the cable, but bind right up with a load on it. For testing purposes, I would hook the cable up away from the frame and forks, just running directly from the lever down to the case with one gentle arch in it. If it works easy like that, some part of your routing is binding it up.
Thanks for all the good advice guys! Its great to have this community. Still hoping it will make me more smarter.

Problem turned out do be one of those :doh: moments (of course).

The longer actuator was actually deformed slightly (collar was a bit oblong) and it wasn't going all the way in to begin with. This happened years ago when I first took that piece off the '80 and tried to unfreeze the lock nut, and since I ended up getting a new one I never noticed the deformity.

Ippy's comments made me think about TwoMany's saga and how some of the pieces of these actuators are - or are not - interchangeable (watch out). These two are; but I didn't need to do that. But by comparing more carefully I found the defect.:thumbsup:

I ended up carefully rounding it back in the vice, greased everything up and buttoned down.

Santo remedio as we say here in New Mexico.

The longer actuator does the trick, everything is smooth, there's just a tiny bit of creep, neutral is easy, and my old wrist might even last a few more decades.

I hope the pics and your comments will be useful to others dealing with these old bikes!
You can make a cable clutch work as smooth as a hydraulic but you have to often adjust it. With a hydraulic clutch set and forget. (except for fluid and change every few years. Tony C.

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Six of one, and a half a dozen the other.... wait, make that a bakers half dozen. What with the master/slave AND fluid! :doh: (bleeding....crush washers...flushing...ugh!)--Rant over:)