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So what are shorty levers and what do they do? I was just as curious as you, so in today’s post I take a look at shorty vs standard clutch and brake levers.
A lot of motorcycle riders choose to swap out their clutch and brake levers to the shorty style primarily for looks and many riders claim that shorty levers can help your ride performance.
What Are Shorty Levers?
Shorty levers are an OEM or aftermarket replacement clutch and brake lever for motorcycles that are shorter in length than the original levers. Shorty levers can improve the riders performance and hand ergonomics while riding.
If you’re thinking of changing out your levers there are a few things that you need to think about before making the swap.
When switching to shorty levers, cheaper is not always better.
Many motorcyclists that ride sport bikes (and some adventure style motorcycles) select shorty levers based on how they look, how they fit their hands ergonomically and the adjustability of the distance of the lever from the handlebar.
Changing out your original clutch and brake levers is a fairly easy modification that you can do to personalize your motorcycle just a bit more.
Should you do this for touring or cruiser motorcycle?
Read on, and you can decide for yourself!
Notable shorty lever brands:
Vortex brake levers
Shorty vs Standard Clutch and Brake Levers
A lot of riders like having the short brake and clutch lever, while other riders really aren’t a fan because of the simple physics involved.
Why is that?
Simple; A shorter lever can be less leverage to activate the clutch.
Less leverage means that applying the clutch or brake may take more effort.
Typically, brake and clutch levers are going to come in two basic sizes:
- Standard size
- Short or ‘Shorty’.
Let’s break it down a bit more.
These levers are the ones that came with the bike originally (or OEM). They run just about the length of the handlebar grip, from the cable connection point to to the end of the grip.
There’s no mandated size and the length will depend on the model of the motorcycle.
These levers will run from the cable connection point to about halfway down the handlebar grip. Usually just long enough for the rider to get about 2 or 3 fingers on it for application.
One thing about motorcyclists;
They’re always looking for new (and hopefully inexpensive) ways to improve the looks of the motorcycle along with improving performance.
Like a lot of aftermarket toys you get for your motorcycle, the biggest reason that riders decide to change out their levers is to improve the looks of the bike.
Are there any real advantages to installing shorty levers on your motorcycle? There may be a few, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
Motorcycle Shorty Levers Advantages
Although the reason most riders change out their levers is mostly cosmetic, there are a few advantages. These advantages may depend on your riding style.
1. Prevent brake and clutch levers getting damaged in an accident
Once of the first things that can be damaged in a crash or if you drop your motorcycle is having the lever get snapped off.
Since they’re much smaller, shorty levers are protected from damage if the motorcycle comes into contact with the ground and not as prone to being damaged in a crash.
There’s nothing worse after you pick up your dropped motorcycle to discover that you don’t have much clutch lever left to shift with.
2. Improves ergonomics for those with smaller hands
Riders with smaller hands do find a benefit to shorty levers as long as they’re adjustable.
3. Allows you to use two fingers on the levers
For some riders, changing out to shorty levers works out just fine because they only use a couple of fingers to grip the clutch or the brake.
4. Better Lever Adjustment
Having brake and clutch levers that are adjustable (spoiler alert, most are!) means that you can adjust the distance of the lever from the handlebar.
This is where improving the ergonomics of your handlebar grip come in, meaning your hand may not cramp up as much.
Many aftermarket levers offer the ability to make very fine adjustments.
Are There Disadvantages to replacing Brake and Clutch Levers?
There’s only one potential drawback to using shorty levers and it’s really going to depend on your riding style.
A lot of riders say that using the shorter levers will give you less leverage and make it more difficult to pull on the lever (the clutch for example).
From a physics standpoint, yes a shorter lever means that it can be more difficult (or take more hand strength) to activate the lever.
Realistically though, most riders (no matter what motorcycle you ride) only use just a couple of fingers to pull the clutch or brake levers.
Rarely have I personally seen riders with their hands all the way outboard when riding using the full width of the lever.
For example, I tend to use only two fingers on my brake lever way up the lever close to where it’s attached. So changing to a shorty lever really wouldn’t feel any different than it normally would.
In other words, I wouldn’t notice the effect of the lever being hard to pull, because it would feel the same as it always does. This guy is a racer and also talks about the benefits and disadvantages.
You don’t need to install both levers
This brings me to my next point which is –
If you buy a set of shorty levers, you don’t need to use both of them.
Depending on their riding style, some riders may only install one of the two levers in the set, or just purchase one lever.
Examples I’ve seen online are riders that want to keep their original clutch lever, but swap out the brake lever for a shorty for better feel and control.
Feel free to mix and match depending on your riding style.
What should you look for in a Shorty Lever?
You’ve decided to get yourself some new shortys, so what should you look for?
There are going to be a couple of things that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
Fit It to Your Specific Motorcycle
Be careful not to run out and just purchase just anything and slap it on your handlebars.
In order for you to buy a product that’s going to fit your bike the best, you need to shop by:
- Model Year
In some cases, you may even want to have the motorcycles VIN number on hand which makes matching any part more exact.
If you’re not sure what a VIN number is, you can check it out HERE and get a break down on what a VIN number is and what it means.
It’s good to have all this info on your phone at all times. Not just for shopping, but for roadside emergencies to.
Chinese Made Shorty Levers
There seems to be quite a bit of discussion online amongst sport bike riders of whether or not to use brands of levers made in China.
The discussion is pretty straightforward:
Lower price for the lever vs. The lever made cheap and breaking.
It’s a discussion that really has no clear winner; Many riders use the Chinese brands and have no issues at all.
My life experience with many Chinese products, is that many of the metals used in manufacture tend to be inferior and break easy.
I don’t have the inclination to switch my levers (Chinese or otherwise) but my thought is simply this;
If there is any potential that the lever can snap from normal use, it shouldn’t be on your bike. Your brake and clutch levers directly affect your riding, if they break during a ride you can get hurt.
Can Shorty Levers Change your motorcycles Feel?
To a certain degree yes they will, but that’s the point. Many riders who like to use shorty levers use them because they help their grip and can be adjusted for a better feel.
That being said, when it comes to changing the feel on the friction zone of the clutch, nothing should change.
The friction zone is generally controlled by the how the throttle cable is adjusted, so simply swapping out the levers should not cause this to change.
Shorty’s or not?
Realistically, using shorty levers on a motorcycle is not going to be for everyone.
Replacing your levers with shortys will largely depend on the type of riding that you plan on doing. If your touring – not going to be what you want.
Most of the riders I’ve seen online (with the exception of some Harley riders) are racers or sport bike riders. So, If you’re motorcyclist who races using shorty levers may be for you.
If you plan on riding a sport bike or street bike you’ll probably wind up changing out your levers for something that’s more compatible with those riding styles.
Riding a touring or cruiser bike? Switching to shorty levers may be less desirable, specially if you’re riding in stop and go traffic.
As motorcyclist that tours and not races –
Switching out to these levers really doesn’t work for my riding style, but I can see their usefulness with other riding styles. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that nobody who rides a touring bikes uses the.
Are you using shorty levers on your bike? Let me know in the comments below how they’re working for you.