Let's talk LEVERS!
Are you on the market for new motorcycle levers, or just unhappy with your current setup? Then this article is for you!!
Levers are probably my favorite obscure topic regarding motorcycles, and I say obscure not because no one knows about them. I mean, everyone uses them every time they sit on a bike, but when it comes to adjusting them, or buying a replacement or upgrade, the basics tend to be neglected.
In my opinion, levers play a massive role in how you operate your bike, and as such, they deserve an article of their own.
In this article, I will share with you tips you may not know about while guiding you over what you should be looking for if you are planning on upgrading your levers.
If you have been riding off-road for a while now, or if you read my previous article, you know that your levers should follow a specific angle following your wrist line, and keeping it in mind is a fantastic starting point.
Reference: Image from cycleworld.com
An incorrect lever adjustment can be dangerous, as it may put your wrist in an injury-prone position or even worst.
If your brake lever is set at a high angle, you will be forced into a throttle pushing position to brake, which is not only counterproductive but also dangerous.
Reference: Image from dirtaction.com.au modified by BN-Enduro Camp for this article
This being, lever angle adjustment should be your starting point to have an optimal level operation, but not the only thing you should be looking for.
Many times overlooked, and of the utmost importance, is figuring out if you can reach the levers to start with.
I know that with that statement, some of you are already accusing me of click-baiting you into a nonsense article, but bear with me for a second.
When I say that we should know if we can reach the levers, I mean reaching them for optimal control, not for "I get by" usability.
Considering you are using two fingers on the levers, as it is advisable off-road, you need to know precisely what those two fingers do, and how they should rest on the levers.
Your index finger is responsible for the fine-tune sensitivity, while your middle finger is responsible for the bulk strength when pulling the lever.
This being, it is essential that your fingers are resting on the levers as shown in the picture to optimize usability, with your distal joint (top joint) of the middle finger just touching the top of the lever.
That position will allow you maximum strength when pulling, which will then allow the index finger to modulate how much power is applied.
Reference: Image from rospaworkplacesafety.com and modified by BN-Enduro Camp for this article
Having the lever above that point will force your hand to overreach, wasting you time and power, and at an extreme, forcing you to break your grip with the handlebar to make the needed motion towards the lever.
Having the lever bellow that position will not only potentially pinch your grip fingers but, in the same way, reduce your lever sensitive, as your index finger will be operating far from its top sensitivity point at the tip of the finger.
If you are using one finger levers, that adjustment becomes even more critical as one finger will be responsible for power and control.
Of course, as all hands are different and all fingers have different lengths, making this adjustment is hugely personal, making the chances of the factory setup being correct for you slim.
So how do you make that adjustment?
An easy option is by having adjustable levers such as the one shown in the picture.
Reference: Image from motorcycletraining.com
A cheaper option, although not always possible, is to move the lever inwards or outwards on the handlebar.
This technique can also be used to position your fingers closer to the end of the lever, effectively increasing the physical lever, thus, decreasing the necessary strength needed to operate it.
Reference: Image from bkwrm513.wordpress.com and modified by BN-Enduro Camp for this article
Moving the levers left and right is not always possible, and even when it is, it has limited adjustability, so if this technique doesn't work for you, it may be time to consider an upgrade.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN UPGRADE
More often than not, when looking for upgrade levers, riders tend to look for unbreakable shinny farkles at a low price, and even though there is nothing wrong with that, some more thought should go into it.
When it comes to material, aluminum is light, but it doesn't like to be bent back and forward, as opposed to press-steel that doesn't mind it at all.
This means that choosing a standard shaped press-steel lever might save you some bucks over something advertised as "unbreakable", with both suiting the same end to a certain extent.
An extra tip to make an average lever virtually unbreakable is to loosen them, instead of tightening them up.
I don't mean they should be flapping around, I mean they should be able to feel static when riding, but have enough free play to twist around the handlebar on impact, hopefully preventing them from breaking.
I've been using this trick for a few years with great results, and I can't remember the last time I broke a lever when riding. Still, I always take a spare if I'm traveling to remote locations.
Another trick is to go for short levers, such as 1, 2, or 3 finger pull levers, as the shorter width will help reduce the probability of lever impact on a crash.
Also, an important aspect to look for is how the end of the lever is shaped.
Again, looks should never trump usability, and if a ball ending lever may look too classic and dull, a pointy one may come back to bite you, literally.
Reference: Image from ebay.com
Everything happens really fast when we crash, and we end up hitting everything we never thought we would.
I won't share any gory images as it doesn't take much imagination to understand what can go wrong with a pointy lever.
The ball ending design is there to prevent the lever from sticking itself into you, and that is a feature you should be thankful for, regardless of how it looks.
The finish is also essential for usability, as a low-quality finish will result in sharp edges, instead of a smooth feel.
Those sharp edges can be painful from the get-go or become annoying after a few minutes of intense use, so I would advise staying away from them, opting for a more rounded edge feel, but this is a personal preference.
Another tremendous top tip is to search for force reducing clutch levers, usually found in stunt rider shops or stunt accessory manufacturers.
We all know about hydraulic clutches, and many know about easy clutch multipliers, but do you know that some levers have a similar system built into them?
Reference: Image from ebay.com of a multiplier
Reference: Image from ebay.com of an easy pull stunt clutch lever
The result will never be the same as a multiplier or a hydraulic clutch, but if you are looking for an upgrade, you can get a little advantage with something like this.
I've been using one on my F800GS for years, and I absolutely love the feel.
In summary, choosing and adjusting your levers can be a complicated subject, and one to which dedicating some time too can produce great results.
Do your research, try different setups, and improve your bike control by having the right levers for you.