Friday, December 11, 2009

A broken clutch cable does not stop Natasha

Once again the motorcycling gods must have been smiling down upon me today. I was riding to an appointment on Natasha, my 1996 Ural Sidecar Rig and as I rolled to a stop at a parking spot where I had the appointment, I felt the clutch lever snap all the way back towards the grip. I knew immediately the cable had snapped. Talk about luck, I could have been out in traffic when that happened! I was instead parked, the sun was out and it was a warmish 39 degrees. Couldn't have broken down in a better spot!

Look closely and you can see the broken end of the old clutch cable

I went inside to complete my work appointment. Came out about 45 minutes later and started working on replacing the cable. You see, I had recently taken receipt of "spare" clutch, throttle, and brake cables intending to carry them on the motorcycle. I was feeling very self-satisfied having done that and the timing was great don't you think.

Well, a small wrinkle developed in my plans. Turns out, the dealer had sent me the clutch cable for the newer Italian clutch lever assemblies, not the older Russian clutch lever assemblies on Natasha! Doh!

I found this out after trying for about an hour to make the cable work. I was contemplating calling a tow truck but instead called Wagner's Cycle instead. They had sourced the cables to me so I thought I'd enlist their aid in case I was just making user errors installing the new clutch cable.

Got hold of Mike, who's a highly experience Ural mechanic. He started the diagnosis process with me and along the way painted for himself a picture of how my Natasha is set up. He determined that while I had been sent the wrong clutch cable for my setup, that he thought he could "make it work" enough to get me home.

Following his step by step instructions over the phone, I took up all the slack possible on the cable. Along the way I learned how to determine if the cable is tight enough to engage/disengage the clutch. Learned also to use the kickstart to determine if the clutch is engaged or not, neat little trick actually.

The front and rear adjustment screws, backed all the way out to take up the slack

Before I'd called Wagners Cycle, I'd managed to break the lower jaw of the Russian clutch lever assembly thinking I had to pry it open to accept the new clutch cable end. I didn't know at that time I had the wrong cable you see.

Here's a pic of the broken off lower jaw on the Russian clutch assembly lever, totally my fault

Regardless, the new clutch cable had to be rigged so that it sort of rested against the clutch lever assembly so I could actuate the clutch lever at the rear of the transmission. Here's what I ended up doing so keep the clutch cable in position at the clutch lever assembly at the grip:

Here's how I "WWID" things up so the cable would kind of be in the right position at the clutch lever

Mike then had me try putting the motorcycle into reverse. Note: you can't do it if you're in third or fourth gear which I was. Once we got past that user error, and I geared up, I backed Natasha out of the parking space and successfully transitioned her to first gear. She was ridable! Mike gave me some final words of advice and said goodbye. THANKS MIKE!

I rode Natasha back to work to secure my stuff and then rode on home. No issues, she shifted just fine and things stayed together even though I'd backed off the adjustment screws so much that only a few threads held them in place!

Not really an RPOC moment, cables wear down and break, it's a fact of life. Great WWID (What Would Ivan Do) moment thanks to the great help from Mike of Wagner's Cycle. I got home on my own and they'll be sending me the correct clutch lever assembly since I managed to break the Russian one. It's all good.


Canajun said...

And here I was expecting a "rocked her back and forth until she dropped into neutral. Fired 'er up and then gave her a good push, jumped on, and snicked 'er into gear. Rode all the way home like that." story.

Feel almost cheated that you actually used your clutch. ;-)

Chuck Pefley said...

I love stories where all the people and pieces fit together for a happy ending. Neve-mind the angst along the way through the process. Good job!!

bobskoot said...


I like the happy ending too. You are soooo lucky. All of your breakdowns somehow always seem to end up in the "best" possible location. I like the idea that Natasha always makes it home under her own power

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Allen Madding said...

McGuiver lives!


Charlie6 said...

Canajun, thanks for reading this stuff...I think Natasha's transmission was happier that I could use the clutch!

Chuck, thanks for visiting and commenting.

Bobskoot, I think the motorcycling gods must take extra care with Ural riders since our mounts can be "maintenance intensive".

Thanks Allen, yep, truly a McGiver moment or a WWID moment since it's a Russian motorcycle!

Diamond Dave said...

wow. a Ural has a clutch?? youll be telling me it has "gears" next!!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

There is nothing more taxing than to have thought all of the bases were covered by carrying essential spares, only to discover you had the wrong part. Yet nothing phases you. I guess it comes from automaticaly switching into the "what is the solution phase." I go into the "F*ck this" mode of thought for at least an hour first."

I had a clutch cable break on "Fireballs" two years ago, when I'd had the bike about 2 months. For once, I was perfectly calm as I had a spare. The spare came from my other K75, however, which had much narrower handlebars. The damn thing was two short by three inches.

What is the deal with the "Italian" clutch caliper? Better design? Better components?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Hi Jack

re the italian clutch lever and perch, it's supposedly better made in terms of materials and it's got an adjustment knurl on it to go with the clutch cable that was sent in error to me.

the newer models of Urals come with the Italian model and apparently the Russian model is not carried by the dealer in question. Turns out, the previous owner, had switched out the russian handlebar switch assemblies with the newer italian ones so might as well continue the trend.

the Russian clutch perch, as you saw in the pic, were made of cheap metal.

thanks for the question and the addition of your version of this story.....the best laid plans of mice and men eh?