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Ironhead Sportster Motorcycle Talk (1957-1985) For all those that wanna talk about Ironhead Sportster Motorcycles

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  #1  
Old 6 Days Ago
raleypc raleypc is offline
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Default Grabby clutch on 61 XLH

My all original 61 XLH suffers from a what I would call a grabby clutch. It almost feels like the plates have a servo action, especially when cold, so that once the plates contact each other they want to fully engage. It makes smooth take off's a bit of a challenge! There is absolutely no clutch slip. I have managed to adapt to it but it does make me a bit nervous at a busy intersection.

I know the primary cover has never been removed so I wanted to get an idea of what may be happening before dive in and risk making a dry clutch into an inadvertent wet clutch. I do have a set of NOS Raybestos friction discs. Any idea on what may be causing these symptoms?
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My guess is that the clutch plates got some oil in there and got sticky. My '60 and '58 H's were like that. I pulled the plates out, cleaned them up, make sure everything is put together with fresh gaskets on the primary cover and derby cover, and it usually lasts a few riding seasons before I have to do it again.

I know some guys will tell you to pull the whole engine apart and fix it so no oil seeps in, get new plates, or even switch to wet plates, . Those guys don't have all-original, one owner bikes, so they don't understand.
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Thanks Jerry! That sounds like the likely scenario. I will get the required gaskets and give that a try.
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needspeed needspeed is offline
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The condition of the friction plates could be the cause (and likely) but don't overlook the possibility of some external issue.

A cable that is bad or needing lubrication may not allow for smooth engagment of the clutch. Same with the release worm in the sprocket cover.

Do you really have a 58 year old bike that has never had the primary cover off? If so you may need a new pad on the adjuster or at least a chain adjustment.
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The splines on the hub and the replaceable blocks on the drum could get grooves worn in them that stop the plates moving smoothly apart and together? Maybe worth checking if you have the clutch apart.
I dont have much experience with the Harley clutch in this area, but I have an AJS which had a worn hub that was hard to slip the clutch on. It was either "in" or "out"!
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i'll go with mr. mag, oil inside the clutch.
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Having just been through a complete clutch / trans / kicker overhaul which started out as an adjustment problem, I’d agree with needspeed - go over everything external first before cracking the derby. I’ve seen pics of your bike and it’s lovely, would be a real shame to start taking it apart unnecessarily - even if the seal or thrust washers are causing oil to get in, if you can get away with a clean up job every now and again like Magneto Sportster says, and everything else is good then keep riding it! Mine had been thoroughly molested by previous owners so I had no qualms about tearing into it. Good luck! (And if you choose to continue this thread and it does need to come apart, I’m sure I would not be the only one who would like some good pictures of what’s inside a primary / derby last sealed by the factory...)
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