Friday, April 19, 2024

Clutch cable won't work? Here's a fix

Cotton swab through hole in gearbox back.
Cotton swab shows path of Royal Enfield clutch cable through back of four-speed gearbox.

 "Eeeewwwwwwww," my wife groaned, as she picked up my helmet from the sidewalk and put it into our car. 

"That is one soggy helmet!" she said. 

No surprise. 

I had just pushed my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet about a mile, with my helmet on because I had no other place to put it besides on my head. 

I had considered abandoning my helmet and returning for it later, but figured that if she came in the car and got it she could also bring me some water to drink. 

I would need the water. I still had another mile to push to get home. Luckily we live in Florida, where there are no hills to push up. 

Several people stopped to offer help. Did I need gas? Nope, got plenty. Did I need to borrow some tools? Nope. I have a full kit on board and could fix the problem -- if I only knew what it was. 

It all started with a broken clutch cable. (This time the little nub on the end of the cable broke off at the lever. Usually it's the nub on the gearbox end that breaks off.)

Luckily I carry a spare cable and all the tools needed to swap it in. I've done it on the side of the road before. (My spare cable is extra long, so it need not be threaded through the nacelle, but can arch over the handlebars.)

This time, however, the moment I set off with my new cable installed, the clutch lever went right to the handlebar and the motorcycle stalled. Once again I couldn't disengage the clutch!

I knew the problem couldn't be another broken clutch cable, so soon. I'd need time in the my garage to diagnose this problem, and that meant a two-mile push home! Ugh.

Thanks to the four-speed Bullet's neutral finder lever I was able to put the gearbox into neutral.

And so the long, hot push began.

The next morning I began taking a closer look. Indeed, the new clutch cable was intact.

The trouble was that the cable could not operate the clutch because its whole end had been pulled inside the gearbox. To work, the outer cable must stop at the gearbox wall and allow only the inner cable to respond to the handlebar clutch lever.

View of hole in gearbox from back side.
View from behind of hole that must grip outer cover of clutch cable.

Removing and replacing the cable was no help: the first pull on the handlebar lever once again yanked the cable through the hole into the gearbox. Obviously, the hole had grown just big enough to allow the fat end of the outer cable to pull right in.

I'm stumped on how to make that hole smaller. All I could think of was to put a washer on the outer cable to stop it from being pulled into the hole.

It's a bodge, not a perfect fix. The washer barely grabs the shallow ridge at the cable end, and in doing so it holds the cable slightly proud of how deeply it should be held in the hole.

Gearbox end of cable with washer fitted.
Washer will keep all but narrow tip of outer cable from entering gearbox hole. Note the shallow "shoulder" of the cable that is supposed to prevent it going into the hole, but doesn't. It will keep the washer in place, I hope.

The effect of this is to shorten the reach of the inner cable. It is just slightly shorter, but enough so that I had to leave off the cable adjuster at the lever end to let it reach the ferrule that holds it at the handlebar lever.

I'll replace the adjuster when the cable has stretched enough.

The photos here explain how I made my "fix."

Washer held in vise has flat side filed into it.
I filed a flat side onto the washer to better fit near the gearbox hole.

The washer I used has an internal diameter of 3/8 inch (8mm). It must be rather a common size as my spare parts bin is full of them. Since replacing the cable roadside will undoubtedly result in the washer falling off and disappearing I put a package of extra washers into my on-board toolkit for next time.

But there IS a better solution: In "My Cart" at Hitchcocks Motorcycles is clutch cable part No. 142453A, for Bullets made before June, 1999 with the Magura handlebar controls. Allan Hitchcock suggested it in response to a question from me.

In an email, he wrote of this cable:

"There is the top hat outer cable ferrule which locates in the case of the gearbox (the originals had a crude domed ferrule). This looks to have a bigger diameter shoulder to the ones in your photo, which will prevent it pulling through."

That's just exactly what I need. 

Finally, I'd like to thank the charming young sales associate at the business whose parking space I used to initially replace the clutch cable. She graciously offered me a bottled drink, which I had the affrontery to refuse, so confident was I that my repair was complete.

How badly I suffered with thirst in the blocks before my wife came to the rescue with a thermos of water. Serves me right.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Baxter Cycle creates the Shotgun 350

Baxter Cycle custom Shotgun 350.
Here's a Royal Enfield you've never seen before.

 Baxter Custom Works, the "dreams fulfilled" side of Baxter Cycle in far-off Marne, Iowa, has done it again. This time they've created a Royal Enfield Shotgun 350, a motorcycle that otherwise doesn't exist. 

Oh, you could just buy a Shotgun 650 at Baxter Cycle. 

But 20 years from now a stock Shotgun 650 is not going to cause any arguments in the roadhouse parking lot. 

Leave that to this Shotgun 350. 

"We added some wide tracker bars, 17-inch wheels off a Hunter, a Classic 350 black exhaust with that killer old-school muffler, YSS black aluminum rear shocks, Diablo fork gaiters, a Royal Enfield tinted fly screen, some Royal Enfield bar-end mirrors and gave it a solo seat," Baxter explains.

Unspoken is that Baxter started with a used 2021 Meteor 350 (only 700 miles, with its first valve service already done). Asking price is $3,999 before taxes and etc. In contrast, Baxter's price for a new Shotgun 650 is $6,899 before taxes and etc.

Stock Royal Enfield Shotgun 650.
The 2024 Shotgun 650 twin.

Of course, if you wait long enough, Royal Enfield itself probably will build something like Baxter's creation.

It has occurred to everyone by now that the company is seemingly out to build each of its motorcycle platforms with custom colors, accessories and styles and then multiply those iterations by inserting into each its various twin and single-cylinder motors.

I'm personally anxious to see the (coming soon) Classic 350 combined with the sweet 650 twin of the Interceptor. It's only a matter of time, I'm sure.

Impatient? Go ahead: build your own. Royal Enfield invites you to do it. In fact, Royal Enfield suggests you use the Shotgun 650 as your inspiration.

"A Century of pure motorcycling DNA collided with the anarchic spirit of custom culture and a shapeshifting mutant was born: Shotgun 650. Inspired by Custom. For Custom," its website says

"The Shotgun 650 "draws from the culture of customization, offering a canvas for self-expression for builders and beginners."

Baxter Customs apparently took that to heart.

Baxter Cycle custom Shotgun 350.
But wait... it is... isn't it? Did they ever make one...?
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