The brake and clutch lever positioning can greatly improve your riding performance and help maintain or enforce the correct riding position. Additionally, a correctly set up handlebar position along with correctly positioned grips as well as brake and clutch levers can help prevent arm pump and fatigue in your forearms and upper body.
Modern dirt bikes are very customizable with factory and aftermarket parts. Therefore, it is also important to know how to adjust and tune your existing setup.
Adjusting the handlebar and lever positioning is a simple and easy way to improve the endurance, control, and level of comfort for dirt bike riding. To adjust the brake and clutch levers, loosen the crimp bolts and adjust the lever position and downward angle on the handlebar. To finish up, secure the levers back to position by tightening the lever crimp bolts.
In this ultimate brake and clutch lever adjustment and positioning guide, you will learn how to adjust and position the dirt bike clutch lever, front brake lever, and grips to an ideal position.
The guide is intended for all beginner and advanced riders out there. The controls can be adjusted with regular tools in 15 minutes and it can also be completed trailside.
Let’s dive in!
Dirt Bike Clutch and Brake Lever Positioning Principles
The dirt bike clutch and brake lever height is an important factor for reach and comfort on any dirt bike.
Both the front brake and clutch lever can be adjusted in lever height, distance from the handlebar ends, and reach. Each one of these adjustments, when properly set, can greatly improve your riding.
Let’s start by talking about different riding styles.
You have probably noticed how motocross or supercross riders like to keep their brake and clutch lever pointed downwards and both levers are close to bar ends. Hard enduro and technical riders tend to keep the levers more level and pushed in. The variation in the setups is more than just a personal preference.
Motocross and supercross style riding and tracks require much less clutch use and riders often run auto-clutch setups further easing the need for clutching. In addition to this, the more technical enduro and single track style requires a more frequent and precise clutch use and for this reason the setup is so different.
A great example of this is when riding in technical sections, where the rider is leaning on the dirt bike as far back as possible and still actuating the clutch or the front brake to overcome an obstacle. This is very typical in hard enduro riding. With levers pointing downward, it is impossible to reach the levers and therefore it limits the rider performance.
You may have heard that the downward angle of the levers will force you to keep your elbows up. However, that is an old trick used by some trainers and does not really help with your training.
How To Adjust Dirt Bike Clutch and Brake Lever Positioning
Overall, the most biggest factor to finding your ideal handlebar setup begins by focusing on the riding style or trail types your are mostly going to be riding on. This is because the handlebar and lever configuration greatly affects your riding position.
Many single track and trail riders cut the handlebars to more narrow bars to improve performance around tight wooded sections. Check out our complete guide to setting up dirt bike handlebars for trail riding for more details about setting up your dirt bike front end to your liking.
1. Adjust Dirt Bike Grips Into the Correct Position on the Handlebars
Grips are the first thing to focus on.
Adjusting the grips to the correct position is super simple; adjust your grips to the end of the handlebars. If you feel like the handlebar is too wide, cut the handlebars. We cut each side 0.25–0.5″ for a better tight single track performance.
Whether you have glue on or clamp style grips, the positioning principles are the same. Adjust them to the end of the handlebars and also check that the rotation of the grip pattern matches on both sides. This is important since many grips have softer sections for your palm area and they might not be symmetrical.
On the right side, pay attention to the free play at the end of the bar. If you have bar ends or wrap around handguards, make sure to leave about 1/8″ or 3mm free play between the grip and the bar end. This will ensure that the throttle grip is not easily getting stuck, even when taking a hit or when dropping the dirt bike.
Read the manual thoroughly for any aftermarket grips to make sure you align them correctly. Some grips have softer sections or more padding or wear pads, so aligning them correctly is important.
2. Adjust the Dirt Bike Clutch Lever Position
The clutch lever is easy to adjust and it is usually held in place with two bolts on the top side clamp. Start by loosening the bolts until you can wiggle the clutch lever up and down fairly easily.
Once the lever is loose, move the lever inwards on the handlebar until the lever slightly touches the grip when pressed. This allows your front finger to align with the curve on the lever. It maximizes the reach and pull distance while making the level pull as light as possible.
Move the clutch lever as far inwards as possible until the lever touches the grip donut when pulled in.
If your lever is pushed more out, your fingers will work much harder to pull the lever or you naturally start moving your hand outwards on the grip.
3. Adjust the Dirt Bike Clutch Lever Downward Angle
Next, looking at the bike from the side, position the lever 0.5″ down from the level position. This is a great starting point for any dirt bike rider. You can use a T-handle or similar tool for reference.
The downward angle is mostly a personal preference. However, consider being able to reach the clutch lever in all riding positions.
4. Adjust the Dirt Bike Brake Lever Position
Same principles apply for the brake lever as for the clutch side.
Many riders tend to like running the front brake lever more towards the outside of the handlebar rather than pushed all the way in. This is a personal preference, but it is important to set both the brake and clutch lever adjustments to the same height to square off your riding position.
Position the brake lever in such a way that your index finger directly hits the brake lever curve. This is a neutral position for the brake level and a good stating point for fine-tuning.
After finding a good setup, tighten both brake lever bolts evenly snug. It is important to not over-tighten these bolts. Instead, it is better to leave them slightly on the looser side. This helps when dropping the bike and in crashes as the lever can slide or move without breaking off.
Shortly, we will also tell you a tip for how to avoid levers from snapping off so keep reading!
5. Adjust the Dirt Bike Brake Lever Downward Angle
Basically, the brake lever downward angle should follow the clutch positioning. For fine-tuning the brake lever positioning, focus on the sideway positioning and the reach.
It is good to keep in mind that if the clutch or brake levers are positioned too much downwards, this may cause you to “miss” the lever in certain conditions.
High speed, bumpy, or otherwise difficult terrain will usually mean that you tend to shift your body weight low and all the way to the back of the dirt bike. In this position, reaching levers that are angled too far downwards is almost impossible.
6. Adjust the Dirt Bike Clutch and Brake Lever Reach
Ideally, we all should be only using the index finger to actuate the brake and clutch lever.
Tune the lever reach with the adjustment on the inside of the lever near the master cylinder. If your dirt bike has a wire clutch, the adjustment should work the same.
Note that that friction point slightly changes if the dirt bike is cold. You should warm up the transmission oil and clutch and then re-adjust if needed.
When sitting on the dirt bike, use only your index finger to actuate the clutch. Find the friction point and tune the reach so that you can properly reach the clutch lever. While pulled in, make sure that the bike doesn’t try to crawl forward or it won’t affect the idling.
Try to find a good compromise between the lever being as close as possible without dragging the clutch when pulled in only with one finger.
There is no need to pull the lever completely to touch the grip. You need to be able to use one or two fingers only to pull the clutch and disengage the motor pull. The reasoning here is that you need to be able to use other fingers to hold on to the handlebars when clutching. This prevents arm pump and improves your riding performance.
Do the same for the brake side. Except this time focus on a solid reach and being able to fully engage the front brake without the lever hitting your knuckles.
Additional Tips for Dirt Bike Clutch and Brake Levers
- Wrap some plumbers tape (the very thin white stuff you put on threads to seal them) around the handlebar under the brake or clutch lever perch. Then tighten the levers back to snug. This will make the lever slide and move when crashing and can help with braking levers off.
- Replace the levers with break away levers. They can help save levers in crashes.
- Add better wrap around handguards for better lever protection.
- Pack a T-handle with you on test rides so you can fine-tune the dirt bike clutch and brake lever adjustments on the trails.
Positioning the grips and the brake and clutch lever to the correct position is an important step in ensuring that you can keep riding longer and maintain a good riding position. This will help you fight the fatigue and arm pump.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks!
Last updated: September 12th, 2022