Clutch types?

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Dec 5, 2005
Just wondering what type of clutch plate material should be std in a 2/74 850. All the litterature I have read suggests sintered bronze plates in the latter machines. My bike is/was a Hi rider and has 5 fibre lined plates, is this usual?
Or did some funny stuff go on with Hi riders.
I notice the gearbox sprocket is only a 20 tooth when again I understand 21 tooth to be more usual.
Just curious

Cheers Richard S
The 850 (and all 5 plate clutch models) did indeed come with bronze clutch plates. However, these seem to be easily oil impregnated and slip, so many owners opted early to replace the clutch with a Barnett or Sureflex (my favorite), which are both fiber lined plates.

As for the sprocket, the 850 Roadster and Hi-Rider was delivered with a 20 tooth counter shaft sprocket for the US and a 21 tooth for the "home market". Don't know if Australia was designated "home market" or not. Since the Hi Rider was primarily developed for the US market, yours was likely originally a US Market bike.
Thanx for settling that question on the clutch. and yes you are right my bike is from the US as the battery it came with was from Minasotta (cuse the spelling)
So my PO must have had the primary cover off, damn! I thought I had a totally un mucked around with bike. Never mind, so the fibre clutches are Ok then. I found oil on the whole assembly, I have scrubbed in petrol and they now have a clean fibre look. So I trust they will be fit for re use as they do not exhibit any wear. I might have to invest in a push rod oil seal. or make one?

Further notes on the resto of the Hi Rider.

I have decapitated the seat, I drilled out the spot welds in the seat base that held the Hi rider apendage on, and am now left with a cracked but serviceable Roadster base. I have located a NOS foam Roadster base and am now on the prowl for a nice seat cover.
I image this might upset some folk, but I made some inquires re Hi rider seats and could not draw much interest.

Cheers for now


Don't quite get the logic here.

You evidently have a seldom model of the machine. On one hand, you complain the PO had the primary cover off and made changes (logical...good, changes), and on the other, you take a seldom seat model and go about doing strange things to it yourself. Maintaining the bike...isn't "mucking" with it. Logical changes that make it safer, aren't nesesarily "mucking". If you ever came down the on-ramp, onto a highway, and tried to fit in, in front of a big semi, and when you gave it the gas, the old oil impregnated plates just let the rpms go into the ozone instead of keeping you away from the grill on the semi.... Take my word for will give you religion, quick. I changed mine within the week.

The story with the seat....that is where the real questions emerge. If you wanted a roadster...perhaps you should have bought one. You may naturally , do as you wish, but the logic of what you are doing...sort of fails me. A hundred dollars would have bought a good Roadster seat, and someone else could have enjoyed the one you "mucked" with. Think about it.

Wishing you a happy and safe Christmas.....
The Hi-rider seat sucks, you have my permission do do what you want with it :p I am sure in 100 years they may fetch good money but all on this board will be dead by then.
Hi Rider Seats

Yes, I do agree the Highrider Seat is not everyone's favorite--- however I personally like it as the very first bike I owned in 1970 was a yellow highrider with the "banana" seat. Now that I am much older-- I am continually hooking my foot on it as I try to throw the leg over the seat. After a few cuss words as I almost fall on my arse--- I still get a chuckle. I will always keep this seat as to me on the old highriders-- the seat is what sets it out! just my opinion. Merry Christmas to all or ya'll Semper fi devildog
Hey, hewhoistoolazytologin

dude, sorry if you are cut up about the Hi-rider seat, if you want it I would glady swap u for a Roadster seat. But bear in mind the bike has only 14000 miles showing and the poor old seat base is cracked to buggery because of the Hi Rider rear section being crudely stuck on the rear of a Roadster seat base. I agree with originality to a point, but sorry I did not buy this bike to put another Hi Rider back on the road. But rather to get a Commando going.
No problems with the clutch plates either, I have not had your first hand experience with the different types of clutch plate, if the fibre are more reliable then great, I just had the bronze plates were more favoured.

Send me your Roadster seast and I will dispatch off the Hi Rider

Cheers Richard :lol:
Perhaps I shouldn't have stuck my nose into the conversation, as it was, anyway. I don't even ride a roadster. I have one, but it is under a pile of junk in the barn and when I win the lottery, I will have the money to get it back on the road. I was perhaps forced to mistakenly jump into the thread by my love for antique vehicles. When I was growning first car was a 31 Ford pickup. I had several models actually,at one point of another, but this was back in the 60's and all my friends were building rods from the old cars. I just wasn't able to take one of my cars and "Muck" it up and throw a huge motor into it. Seemed a sacriledge. All my close friends shared this theory and we all drove what we could get, from the 20s and 30s. Made us all a bit of an "outsider"...but we still got to school and back, in the 27 Caddie, a 32 Chrysler my Ford and even for a while, a 23 Rolls. Girls didn't mide it either, to be honest. Somehow, back then, it just didn't seem too naughty to fool with a 55 Belaire or 59 Corvette, or a 63 Beetle, but something out of the 30s, that had survived already for 40 years untouched, was out of bounds. I helped with a couple of projects that friends worked on, one of them a 32 Chevy, he put a 289 v8 in, but I just couldn't do such a thing, myself. Made me sad to think it would never be able to be put back to the way it was.

When I got my Commando, it was new. I changed a lot of things too and never felt funny about it. It wasn't an antique. There were lots of aftermarket things to be bought and slapped on. It hadn't survived years on the road and somehow avoided the junkyard , yet. Today, I would think twice before doing something to one of the bikes I am lucky enough to still own, that would really change it to the point of it not being able to be returned to it 's original state by some future owner. Paint and mechanical/safety improvements and pieces that can be removed and replaced, aside. Guess, I'm trying to think of those who come after. Some changes just can't be reversed.

My comments about the seat should then be put into the context of how I learned to see things as a teenager. May be that I'm a bit old-fachioned in the way I see things. Maybe I live in the past.... Quess it was hard for me to see that someone else's way of looking at things might be different than mine. You are though, indeed welcome to your way of looking at things...that's what you paid for, the right to do what you want with it. Just was hard for me to see it and not stick my 2 cents worth in. Consider my pennies retracted though...ride safe! :wink:

For what it's of my buddies wrote a book about our adventures and our cars, and one of my cars is pictured on the cover....I got pulled over a couple times with that WAS legally registered though.
I May be in the minority but I prefer the bronze plates.
A little history.
I purchased a new commando in 73. The biggest continuing problem I had was the clutch. It would slip after 300 - 500 miles. Everywhere I read were all these compliments about how great this bronze plate clutch was. Mine was always getting oil fouled. I tried everything, 10 wt. 30 wt. detertegent, non detergent, ATF. Nothing worked. I finally realized I needed to switch to Barnett plates. I sold the bike before I did that.

18 years later I reenter the Commando world knowing what I needed to do. My supplier was emphatic the bronze clutch would be fine with proper maintenance. Sure enough after 300-400 miles it started to slip. I gave up and wanted to buy a Barnett. They recommended an alternate clutch pack from Italy (Surflex??). It worked fine.

Then I discovered the Internet and Dyno Dave's Clutch rod seal. I soon realized the source of the problem was not a poor design or the primary fluid but the tranny lube wicking in and fouling the plates.
I pulled the primary apart and sure enough the fiber plates were getting soiled with a gummy oil / grease.
It's obvious the fiber plates aren't as sensitive to this as the bronze plates are and will operate till they completely gum up.

I have owned eight Coomandos in the past eight years and everyone had a fiber clutch pack and everyone except one (including the Dreer which has a dry, belt primary) had a slipping / dragging clutch.
The one that was fine was the only one that had a clutch rod seal.

Of the three clutch packs I have tried, the bronze gives the most progressive and predictable engagement, then the Italian one (surflex?)
with the Barnett being very quick.
Not a big deal and of course we can get used to anything but when street riding, dealing with signals, possible stalling, kick starting it can become a big deal.

I know I am cutting hairs but I prefer the smoother, longer engagement of the bronze plates. With a clutch rod seal I have had no issues. My next bike that will get a bronze pack is the Dreer.

My $.02
I use a clutch rod seal on my '73 850 Interstate and still had clutch slip with the bronze plates. As you mention, I cleaned the plates thoroughly and run ATF in the case and just enough to touch the primary chain. It would improve it, but a hard gear change and I would have to back out of the throttle, then roll it back on somewhat slower.

Of course this also has a 22 tooth countershaft and a .065" shim plate for easy clutch action.

Replacing with a Barnett completely cured the slip, but does engage a little suddenly for my liking. I'd have used a Sureflex, but picked up the new Barnett at a bargain.

All of my Commando's now have five-plate fiber clutches (two Surflex, two Barnett) , two have clutch rod seals, and none of them slip.

Just my experiences.
Gidday all

The man from Snitzerland, Ron & Mike,

Gee that started some discussion. Well the seat is done and frankly I do agree it is better not to change an old machine just for the sake of change, however the hi rider seat was just too goofy, sorry. But I am retaining what I believe is the original tank and side cover colour. Under a red and metallic blue top coat is what lloks like Tangerine Orange, I think this was a colour for MK11 hi riders, now there's a discussion point, any takers?
On the clutch question, many thanx guys for your inputs, I think I will turn up a nut to incorporate a seal for the clutch push rod, there was a lot of gummy oil on the fibre plates, enough to make the clutch a real drag.
My Trident has a similar seal arrangement as standard so something similar should fit the bill.

My mates restoration Commando still has the bronze plates so it will make an interseting comparison when we get the bikes mobile.

Thanx al for the good insight.

Cheers Richard
I'll throw one more out there. I had a 71 that had a terrible, grabby clutch. Upon disassembly, it had 3 bronze and two fiber plates with an 850 pressure plate. I assumed this was the problem but it did have an inordinate amount of gunk build up.
The usual clean up, true up the plates, clutch rod seal, it worked great even with the old cable.
Obviously the greater thickness on the fiber plates changed the stack height for an easier pull. The engagement was smooth and predictable.
I would use this arrangement again.

Another $.02 worth

I am the owner of a -73 750 Interstate since 1977.
In that period I have tried numerous tricks to "cure" the clutch.Different oiltypes miscellanous platetypes,stackheights,all kinds of clutchcabels, and so on.The thing that made my day was to give the steelplates a mild go with a sandblaster to
breakup the "glazed" surface, and use them with the original bronzeplates.Some grabbines was present at first,but that gradually went away.In the primary I run 200cc 10W-40oil as subscribed!The clutch has not slipped once since then,and thats some 15 years gone now.To prevent a dragging clutch I wash the clutchplates once a year as a part of pre-drivingseason rituals! I run my bike with 21-tooth sprocket and occasionally carry a passenger,... but no slipping at all!!
I used to use my 1972 commando for track days, and with a tuned engine the stock clutch did need constant fettling to keep working properly.
i eventually cured the clutch problems by dropping the bronze plates, and going back to fiber plates, but i used 5, fiber plates and turned them down in a lathe to get the stack height just a bit higher than stock.
(dont turn down the center splines, only the outer part)

this reduces the clamping force, and the force needed at the handlebar,
but because of the extra plate (25 % more friction) it never slipped again.

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