There are certain motorcycle features that you try once and never go without again. For some, that’s heated grips. For others, it’s a bi-directional quickshifter. While cruiser riders and vintage fans may scoff at slipper clutches, the component is practically irreplaceable for the sporty crowd, and MotoGP riders are chief among them.
So, it stands to reason that former Grand Prix rider and current MotoGP commentator Simon Crafar would know a thing or two about slipper clutches. Honda first introduced the slipper clutch on its NSR500 race bike in 1982. The technology soon trickled down to the production market with the Honda Sabre, Magna, and Interceptor V-4. Nowadays, nearly all sportbikes boast the feature.
If you’re not well-acquainted with slipper clutches, the technology preserves rear wheel grip by allowing the clutch plates to “slip” under deceleration. That slipping action eases the differential between the engine speed and rear wheel speed, reducing the likelihood of a lock-up. Of course, those purchase-preserving results benefit laptime-chasing racers, but they also help newer riders remain safe on the road.
Slipper clutches have become so common in today’s market that many middleweight and entry-level models now tout the component. Whether it’s Kawasaki’s Z650RS or BMW’s G 310 R, the inclusion of a slipper clutch increase both the bike’s performance and safety. As the innovation becomes more affordable, we hope more manufacturers adopt it as standard equipment in the years to come.
That doesn’t stop MotoGP from pushing the boundaries, however. As Crafer points out in his latest Tech Talk installment, Grand Prix teams have evolved the technology over the past few years. From fine-tuning butterfly valves to moderate the slipping effect to adding additional slip under acceleration, there’s no telling how MotoGP could advance the feature in future seasons.
We’ll have to wait and see whether those new innovations make it to the roadway or not. If they do trickle down to the production market, though, we have a feeling that after trying them once, we won’t want to go without them.