Posted by Mario on 9 May 2012
Okay, I’m indulging in a bit of Schadenfreude here. That being, laughing at someone else’s misfortune. In this case it is one of my best biking mates. So that’s allowed.
What do you do when your engine locks up? For those of a certain age, brought up on bikes with a RD, GT, KH badge on the side panel, this will bring back strange memories. Having a two-stroke engine seize was always a possibility. Many of us kept two fingers hovering on the clutch lever, just in case, and pride was taken in the ability to whip in the clutch lever faster than a gunfighter on the trigger.
To a large extent, it worked. I can remember having to do just such a thing trying to keep up with a Laverda Jota on a radically tuned RD400. Niiiiiiip. Big bang. Large amounts of aluminium all over the road but no accident. Just a rather peeved owner.
Nowadays, of course, two strokes are not that common. But what if your four stroke goes bang and locks up. Never happen? Well, my mate who has recently forked out for an immensely powerful European-brand superbike will be getting a recall notice about now. It covers a potential loosening of conrod bolts. The recall will fix it, of course, but what if your bike engine does lunch itself? What should you do?
That depends. In a straight line. it’s really not such a drama. A locked rear is something you can live with surprisingly well, so long as you maintain good balance and steer straight. So don’t panic. Squeeze the clutch in gradually and feel the rear wheel start to turn, then look for a safe place to stop. Use the front brake (gently). If a four stroke locks up, it usually means ‘game over’, so start the search for a recovery service...
If a lock-up happens in a corner, you have a whole heap more trouble. Straight away, the back will step out. And this is where the ‘spun-lowside/highside’ dilemma is a serious problem. Whipping in the clutch gunfighter-style can either save you, or launch you. If you’re only just turning in, disengaging the clutch won’t result in a highside but it may make you run wide. Remember to turn again, and hard.
If you’re well into the turn and leaned right over when the back slides out, you’ll be very lucky to save it. What you should try to do is squeeze the clutch just enough that the rear wheel starts to rotate again in a progressive way. But whipping the clutch in completely so the back freewheels will most likely highside you.
As always, it’s easy to think about this in your La-Z-boy and a whole lot harder when you’re half way round a corner and the back tyre starts overtaking you. And, also as always, smooth, progressive inputs are the best way to maintain stability.
Of course a completely lunched engine is a very uncommon occurrence nowadays. And if you have a slipper clutch, it should, in theory, come to the rescue. But if you haven’t had your brand new German Superbike in for the recall fix yet, remember the above just in case.