Buck Lovell's American Biker Blog

B.L.A.B.B. Buck Lovell's American Biker Blog.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form


Posted by on in Buck Lovell's - American Biker Blog
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 108620
  • Print

Feuling Performance Parts



Riding With No Front Brake Really Is Suicide…..

Rocker clutch


I’ve seen the term “suicide shifter” used in describing a plain old ordinary tank shift. Simple ignorance allows that term to be used. There is no such thing as a “suicide shifter.” Nobody has ever died because of using “hand shift.” There is however such a thing as a “Suicide Clutch.” The term suicide clutch came into being when choppers were born. I’ll tell ya why. Back in the good old days, a long time before foot shift was standard equipment, tank shift with foot-clutch was the most common method used to get from one gear to another. Let’s use the Harley-Davidson motorcycle of the 1950’s as an example. The foot clutch was of the rocker type, meaning it could be “rocked” to the disengaged position, and it would stay in that position until the rider nudged it with his or her foot in the opposite direction. Harley-Davidson motorcycles were “heel down” disengaged, Indian motocycles (no R is the way Indian Motocycle Company spelled it) were toe down disengaged. The rider could and would control the RATE of engagement with his or her foot. In other words, the clutch was not totally spring loaded like the clutch in a car. Clutch pedal engagement is/was determined by foot position. If the rider slid his foot off the clutch pedal while it was in the disengaged position it would stay disengaged. The stock/standard rocker clutch did have a spring that would pull the pedal towards the engaged position only after the clutch was “rocked” out of the disengaged position. Safety first for this style clutch.

 Suicide Clutch 

Early Chopper builders modified the rocker clutch so it would not, and could not stay “rocked out” in the disengaged position. This allowed for much faster clutch action. It also meant that the rider had to maintain constant foot pressure on the clutch to keep it disengaged. NO big deal! BUT!..... Many early chopper builders/riders/outlaw bikers also decided to remove the front brake. This was done not only for cosmetic reasons, but also because removing the front brake also lightened the motorcycle quite a bit. If you look at most old chopper photos from the 1950’s and 1960’s, even through the 1970s, many times you’ll see custom bikes or choppers with a clean, lean looking front-fork that has no front brake. This is when the suicide name caught on.

IMG 0248 suicie clutch2


That shift lever looks like it is mounted on a ratchet-top doesn't it?

A motorcycle rider while riding steep hills such as found in the city of San Francisco was subject to traffic lights like all the other traffic. If that rider was riding a chopper equipped with no front brake, hand shift (jockey shift or tank-shift) and a clutch that was modified to act as a spring loaded clutch, that rider could not easily stop and start at traffic lights located at streets located at the top of a hill. If the rider stopped at light on a steep hill using the right foot on the brake, the transmission would need to be neutral (remember the clutch could NOT be rocked into a disengaged position and stay there). The right foot would be holding the brake engaged the left foot would be on the ground with the left leg holding the bike upright. It took speed and coordination to quickly put the right foot down to hold the bike up, then the left foot to push the clutch pedal down, the left hand would slam the tranny into first gear, and the rider could then let the clutch out and go. This sequence of events was virtually impossible to do on a steep hill, so riders took to running the yellow or early red traffic lights rather than attempting a stop on the hill. More than a few were killed running the light. And that, my friends is how the suicide clutch got his name. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! Enough riders were killed for other riders (and the cops) to consider it suicide to ride a motorcycle equipped as described. But then again, all the macho guys went straight to the suicide set-up, for macho reasons alone. Back in the good old days real bikers shunned the wearing of leather. Back then, only sissies wore leather. Also, if a jockey-top is mounted rather than a ratchet-top (four speed transmission only) when hand shifting, blazingly fast power shifts can be made, and wheelies will happen. It’s more fun than a high speed chase!

   I rode a rigid frame Panhead for years with a foot-clutch, jockey shift )jockey top trans), and no front brake. I purchased the motorcycle so equipped and once I got familiar with it, I saw no reason to change. I also wore a leather jacket; I like my skin too much I guess. When myself and friends rode up to San Francisco to cruise the Haight Ashbury and North Beach districts, the guys with front brakes rode behind the guys without front brakes, and held them in place on the steep hills at traffic lights by putting their front wheel against my and others rear wheel. That’s what friends are for. Hardly anyone runs without a front brake these days, but there are a few diehard out there. Foot clutch, no front brake, and hand shift. The owner/riders usually make a point of riding it exclusively on flat roads or road with stoplights on the hilly parts.. I don’t blame them, anything else is beyond scary. Then again, I miss my old Panhead; I must have put 200,000 miles on that bike without committing suicide. Came close a few times though. I’ll tell ya about one of those later on.

Buck Lovell

Chief of the Lost Dog Riders MC

Last modified on
Rate this blog entry:

Deadwood Tobacco and Cigar Bar


  • jeff
    jeff Monday, 21 November 2016

    The watch scene in Minneapolis is booming and rolex replica uk the collectors around here are very passionate about all things watch-related. About a year ago, an iteration of rolex replica New York’s Red Bar was formed in Minneapolis as Red Bar MSP. It’s a local watch club that meets up panerai replica uk at least once a month to share their collections, tell stories about their favorite pieces and rado replica uk brands, and to meet new people that also love rolex replica sale watches. Minneapolis has a great mix of seasoned watch collectors that are eager to share their passion with the newcomers who fake omega are first time luxury cartier replica sale watch buyers. While we have a strong base of loyal watch clients who live in Minnesota, we have clients all over the country as well as international watch collectors.

  • Helen Steiner
    Helen Steiner Wednesday, 14 December 2016

    I love Harley-Davidson Motor business, one of my links is an owner of another superior in years Harley-Davidson 1946, he gave me a ride one time and it was extremely cool Time. Midnightessays.com

  • Alahna Henry
    Alahna Henry Wednesday, 25 January 2017

    This is a great inspiring bike.I am pretty much pleased with your good bike.

    Alahna Henry coursework service

  • Hyuna Crysten
    Hyuna Crysten Friday, 10 February 2017

    It is called suicide shifter as the driver has to seekclip maintain his bottom on the clutch when he situate before a traffic light.

  • Addy Addison
    Addy Addison Friday, 10 February 2017

    It is watchful with a specific end goal to make a notice of the guaranteed number and disregarding enter it into the vehicle remarks package when you demonstrate your next Boiler Juice inquire. By then, on the foul opening that you are not at Buyassignmentservice.com home when the headway is made, the tanker driver will have the PIN number stamped on the vehicle molded material.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments