Hands up who learned to ride on a two-stroke? Yep, my hand is right up there with you. I love those things. Nothing beats coming into a turn on a track hot, stomping down on the gear lever a few times, grabbing a fistful of brake to wipe some speed off before powering out of the apex with the ring-dinging at full noise and a big old smile on your face. Good times.
You can’t really do that with modern four-strokes thanks to their engine braking. Shift down from sixth to second without using the clutch and not only will you compression-lock the back wheel or cause it to hop, there’s also a chance you’ll end up being launched over the bars. Not good.
"Slipper clutches essentially disengage the rear wheel from the engine without the rider having to touch the clutch lever."
However, it’s possible to get that four-stroke grunt and two-stroke fast entry into corners with a little thing called a slipper clutch. You’ve probably heard of them before, but we thought we’d better show you how they work.
Slipper clutches essentially disengage the rear wheel from the engine without the rider having to touch the clutch lever. This allows for less engine braking and enables the rider to be in the right gear coming into a corner, set-up and trail brake through the curve and be back on the throttle coming out, rather than dealing with a locked up or chattering rear wheel or having to find the right gear midway through the corner. If you’re into supermoto riding, they’re basically essential.
This coasting action is achieved via a set of ramps on the inner clutch hub and the pressure plate that allow the two to disengage under heavy engine deceleration. Some slipper clutches have other ramps built into them that positively lock the hub and pressure plate together under acceleration, allowing you to run lighter clutch springs and have a super-light touch lever, which is handy for a multitude of riding disciplines, from enduro to MX to backing your sumo in around a roundabout… not that we’d ever do that officer.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that slipper clutches are not the same thing as auto clutches, like a Rekluse. These basically disengage the on deceleration and won’t re-engage it until the revs rise. You can coast to a complete stop on an auto clutch without stalling, whereas you still need to pull in the clutch lever with a slipper. Which one is better largely comes down to personal preference. Some people love their auto clutches for technical trails while others prefer slippers; some people prefer neither. Either way, very few people regret a clutch upgrade. It’s one of those things you get something out of with each and every ride.