Technical Q and A for classic motorcycle maintenance and repair.
Editor’s note: If you’re having trouble with that old Suzuki, BSA or BMW, Keith Fellenstein is your guy. From motorcycle tuning tips to detailed motorcycle engine repair, he can draw from a wealth of experience to help guide you to success. Send questions to: Keith’s Garage, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or send an e-mail with “Keith’s Garage” as your subject.
1983 Suzuki GS1100E Won’t Shift Into Neutral
Q: I love my 1983 Suzuki GS1100E to death. It was way ahead of its time, with self-canceling turn signals, gear position indicator and oil temperature gauge — in addition to its (relatively) light weight, great power and easy riding position. It’s 100 percent except that it won’t shift into neutral when sitting still. It will go through neutral into first or second. When it’s rolling, everything is fine and it slips into neutral easily. The problem is only when it’s not moving, like at a stoplight or in the garage. I’ve had the linkage adjusted, but that didn’t help. I don’t think it’s the transmission, per se. Any suggestions? - Jim McCracken/Twin Lakes, Wis.
A: I can sympathize with your neutral-finding difficulties. I have a couple of vintage English bikes, and it’s common with them to have trouble shifting into neutral when the gearbox isn’t moving. I just use the last few feet before a stop to hit neutral before the gears stop turning. Japanese gearboxes are not supposed to be so difficult. The symptom you describe is usually due to a dragging clutch, but you have had the linkage adjusted. It sounds to me like the clutch is dragging and not completely disengaging for some reason. Now we just have to find the reason. I’d start by again adjusting the clutch cable as the shop manual instructs. Turn the adjuster at the handlebars to create maximum slack in the cable. Then adjust the cable at the engine mount to provide 2-3mm of free play at the handlebar lever. If you can’t get the required clearance by adjusting the engine mount, your cable may be stretched and need replacement. Once you have the 2-3mm clearance at the handlebar lever, take it out for a trial run. If you still have trouble finding neutral at stops, adjust for less clearance at the handlebar lever. If running with less clearance improves the shifting at stops without causing clutch slipping under power, I’d run with less clearance. If none of this solves your problem you should probably pull the clutch cover and check the clutch plates for wear, and the clutch center, basket and plates for notching. Notching occurs over time as the clutch plate tabs bang back and forth on the clutch basket. The steel plates do the same to the clutch hub. If it is minor you can sometimes carefully file the burrs off and regain good clutch action. If the notching is too deep you will have to replace the clutch basket and/or hub. If the clutch plates show wear on the tabs you should probably replace them, too. MC