Barnett Beats the Bumps out of Shifting and Pumps Up Power Delivery
Once you know, you know…
Words and photos by Dave Spinnenweber
It never seems to fail; you work on your bike over the winter, getting it ready for the emerging riding
season as you wait for the threat of cold weather to finally fade into memory. You make the last few
tweaks, eagerly anticipating the season, only to discover that you have unwittingly revealed the next
Such was my predicament at the beginning of the 2022 season. After making a few upgrades with Vance
& Hines parts, I discovered that my bike’s original clutch was not up to the task of heavy traffic or the
hills and mountains found in western Pennsylvania. Cruising along at 2500RPM in third gear, then
(perhaps too aggressively) cracking the throttle would result in the engine running away from the
transmission. It would rev, but the speedometer wouldn’t follow as quickly as it should: the clutch was
slipping. Unable to hold the power it was obvious that a repair was going be the next job to tackle.
I got the bike with nearly 30k miles on it, and since it had been serviced by an indy shop, I didn’t have
the service records. So I wasn’t sure what was done in the past or when it was done. Not leaving
anything to chance and assuming it was all original parts, I decided to just replace everything in the
clutch basket. Then I decided to have a closer look at the clutch cable and brake line. If I’m gonna pay for
shipping, might as well get it all in one box…
The original clutch cable didn’t “feel” bad to me, with no basis for comparison. (The GF’s Streetglide is
hydraulic, so not an accurate comparison there.) Also, the front brake line didn’t “look” bad either, but
I’m aware of the value in swapping out safety-critical items before they fail. After all, the thought of
popping a brake line in a panic stop isn’t one I want to entertain; as it turns out, my kids and girlfriend
have grown quite fond of me being around!
For me, the obvious place to go for clutch parts is Barnett. While I don’t have experience with them, as I
haven’t done much work on bikes in my past, you begin to see the same names popping up when
browsing the forums, magazines, videos, etc. Being a family-owned U.S. company making parts in the
states was a big selling point for me, especially considering the climate of the outside world.
As I was looking around their website, trying to objectively decide what I needed vs. what I wanted, I
was getting a bit turned around with all the options. I was reading the forums, watching the video
reviews, installs, etc. Some people were saying to “future proof” the clutch and just buy a full-on race
clutch that would handle anything I could throw at it. Others were saying to simply replace the stock
parts with stock parts. I figured somewhere between these options was the promised land of a clutch
that would last in traffic yet not leave me feeling like I left the gym after a 40 minute commute to work
in city traffic.
I decided to fire off an email to Barnett to get better ideas from people who know the parts the best. I
got a quick email back from Chance at Barnett. (How cool! I was actually talking to the guy on the
YouTube videos!) We discussed what I had and realistically where I was gonna go with this bike. With no
hard plans for engine work yet and considering the type of riding I do, he recommended I go with a
Kevlar +1 kit. This kit would include all the steels and frictions, but also added an additional friction disc
to increase the holding power, as well as a new standard spring to replace the possibly original, tired
spring. We also decided a new clutch cable could only help with the feel, and since I'm gonna do it, I
might as well do it all since it was unknown how many miles were actually on that cable. I figured, if
nothing else, it gave me a baseline on install date and peace of mind. When it came to the brake line, we
discovered they didn’t have a listing for the Blackline. But Chance said it was no big deal. If I got him the
specs on length and fittings, he could make one up real quick.
Within a few days everything showed up, and despite feeling under the weather, I put the bike on the
borrowed jack and began the install. The +1 clutch kit from Barnett included very well written
instructions that were easy to follow, even through the fog of cold medicine. It showed parts of the
original assembly to leave out during the install, and the best way to install everything. While
disassembling the outer primary cover and clutch basket, I had the new friction disks soaking in the new
primary fluid that I prefer. Following the directions, I had it back together in about an hour with new
frictions, steels and standard spring.
I next started the install of the new clutch cable, which began by removing the exhaust so I could get the
cover off the opposite side of the transmission. I was able to do it by removing only the rear cylinder
exhaust to gain access to the cover and remove the clutch cable. It took a little fidgeting around with the
hex keys, but I only had one exhaust gasket on the shelf and I didn’t want to leave it unfinished, so I
made it work.
Then I moved on to the front brake line. This was pretty straightforward and I was pleasantly surprised
at the high quality of the components. The fittings were exactly what was needed, came with sealing
washers, and were well packaged to not damage the coating/finish. I took this time to fully clean the
master cylinder and replace the fluid. Not having ABS, I opted to go with DOT 5 fluid and fully flush the
entire system. As always bleeding brakes is never as easy as it should be, and anyway, what fun would it
be to open a brake system without spilling a bottle of brake fluid? Despite my best efforts to over-think
the job and make it more difficult than it needs to be, it all went together quite easily and I managed to
get it bled without too much fuss. (Although that stain of brake fluid on the garage carpet is still
Finally, after everything was installed, the clutch cable adjusted and the brakes feeling solid, I was able
to take a ride. I was very gentle to the clutch when I pulled out of the driveway, but with that first shift
into 2 nd gear I was shocked! It felt like a brand new bike. I expected it would act a bit differently, but I
had no idea it was gonna be this good – and I wouldn’t have guessed that my original cable was that bad.
That first shift was almost euphoric. The new Barnett cable was silky smooth, and even with the brand
new clutch spring it was considerably easier to pull than the old parts. If I had known it was going to
make this much of a difference I would have attacked this upgrade this as soon as I got the bike.
Letting out the clutch into 2 nd gear, the engagement was crisp, no chatter or unsettling feelings, just a
firm hold of the power. In traffic, the easier pull on the cable is a welcome change and the engagement
is silky. It's so well-mannered that I don’t feel like I have to fight or persuade the bike to do my bidding.
The combination of the new cable and clutch kit from Barnett work so well together, I really am kicking
myself for not doing it sooner.
As for the front brake line, it has made a huge difference in the feel of the brakes. The brakes seem
more responsive and much easier to modulate in the city, on the highway and on the occasional panic
stop. The lever seems more directly connected to the caliper, which is a welcome change. I actually had
to change the way I apply the brakes to keep it smooth and not upset the fore/aft balance of the bike.
Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I really love how much of a difference it makes in the ride, compared to
the 10-year-old line that came off.
After putting over 1000 miles on the new Barnett clutch, cable and brake lines, I am still amazed at how
well it all works together. Full throttle shifts while spooking the cows in the fields, or rumbling around
the city traffic at idle, to bombing the highway on-ramps (c’mon we all know how much fun it is…) the
clutch gives such a crisp feel, solid engagement and holds on no matter how much throttle I give it. The
Barnett parts have made the overall feel of the bike seem like a new bike. Gone is the lazy shifting at
high RPM, the slipping and running away while one hand cruising in high gear. The new cable made me
realize just how gritty the old one was. Gritty is an understatement; it almost felt as if it had “notches” in
the travel of the clutch lever. The new one is smooth, like room-temperature, spreadable butter.
Now that I can finally get the power to the ground, hold my own in city traffic, and stop when I need to,
it's time to figure out where I’m gonna go next. I’d like to say I have it planned out, that the next project
is gonna be XYZ, but every time I think I have a plan something else happens that changes it. I do have a
few ideas; who doesn’t want more power or a more stable suspension? The responsible voice in my
head is saying, “Keep riding, numb nuts. The season is getting late. No need to tear it down and miss out
on the fun now.” But the fun guy is telling me, “Nah, crack the motor open so you can feel the difference
without waiting for the snow to melt! You could have it together in a couple days!”
We shall see where this ends up….