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Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a "suicide shift". Suicide clutch refers to a particular style of motorcycle clutch operated by the rider's left foot, instead of the more common left hand. This prevents the rider from placing both feet on the ground at a stop unless in neutral, thus allowing the motorcycle to fall to the left should the rider become unbalanced. Though gaining popularity in the seventies, the concept began with older-style Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycle foot-actuated clutches which could be locked in a safe, disengaged position. Simplification of the system to prevent this locking mechanism became part of the motorcycle chopping phenomenon of the late sixties onwards. Gear shifting was accomplished with the left hand via some sort of shifting lever, usually adorned with lavish shift knobs. Sometimes called a jockey, tank or hand shift, depending on where the shift knob is located relative to the rider.
by Jimmy T. Kirkbride October 30, 2007