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Thread: Why RH Shift

  1. #1
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    Default Why RH Shift

    What was the purpose behind having the early sportsters shift on the RH side of the bike? Convenience? Design? Looks?

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    Lots of models of bikes had odd controls outside of HD. Controls were placed where they were convenient. There wasn't necessarily a goal, there was just no standardization yet. Nowadays obviously most everything is "Transmission left, stop go on the right." but essentially pre 75 nothing was set in stone. Thus suicide clutches, left hand throttles, right side shifting, right hand clutches, that sort of shit. If you were to get on a pre-1970-ish European/Asian/Soviet anything it'd be pretty safe to assume that the controls are going to be fucked up. I rode an MZ two stroke twin last summer that you essentially had to double clutch every gear...

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    sportys where made to run against the britsh bikes on the circle track.just like a race car cant shift left side so they moved it to right side to compete in circle track.

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    I think the Dirt Track Racing had alot to do with the shift being on the right ....

    In the early 50's the Britt bikes has the shift on the right side allowing them to do a shift while the bike was kicked out in a curve...
    Harley followed that when the K-Models came out in 1952 to compete with the Britt's....

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    ^

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    I'm not saying you guys are wrong about the flattrack bit, but do you have a source for that? I know it seems logical enough but considering hd started producing the xr in 1970 as direct competition for the other purpose built bikes it seems redundant to build another street bike "specifically" for flat track. The only sportsters i've seen on a dirt track were transplanted into xr chassis and had right side shift linkage done up the same way most other bikes were done.

    I don't really know shit about that age sportster, but do they also have right side rear brake? as per the ama rules? If they do then I'm 100% on board with them being produced for flattrack, but if they don't then I'm not seeing it.

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    The XR was out in the 60's, and before that the KR (early 50's). It was because of racing. You can't shift if your foot is on the ground going around the dirt track.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyFnny View Post
    I'm not saying you guys are wrong about the flattrack bit, but do you have a source for that? I know it seems logical enough but considering hd started producing the xr in 1970 as direct competition for the other purpose built bikes it seems redundant to build another street bike "specifically" for flat track. The only sportsters i've seen on a dirt track were transplanted into xr chassis and had right side shift linkage done up the same way most other bikes were done.

    I don't really know shit about that age sportster, but do they also have right side rear brake? as per the ama rules? If they do then I'm 100% on board with them being produced for flattrack, but if they don't then I'm not seeing it.

  8. #8
    TwoLaneFever
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    history is the source ,,raceing was the driving force in the sales of the new bike models,like today, race winning bikes, sell better than those that don't. everyone wants a winner .that is the reason for right side shift ,shift on the right, go around track to the left.look up dirt track raceing 1950,s thru the early 1970,you , had to compete in tt,mile track,scrambles,to win points for ama #1 plate ..the guys had to compete in many different races not just the flattrack .no other explination for a r/ sided shifter. the big twins where L side .In the 1960s ,1970s, guys, would ride to the track ,on same bike they raced ,sorta like Friday night shoot out raceing ,run what you brung.

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    I spose it makes sense when it's looked at from an amateur level. Interesting enough, learn somethin new everyday i guess... That's what were here for right?

    One thing I do have to say though: The xr really didn't start being produced until 1970, I know i'm not full of shit on at least that part.

    Quote Originally Posted by WinstonWolf View Post
    The XR was out in the 60's, and before that the KR (early 50's).

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    Model KR (racing only) 1953–1969: 750 cc side-valve engines.

    XR-750 (racing with the exception of being Evel Knievel's jump bike while sponsored by Harley-Davidson between 1970 and 1977) 1970–1971: 750 cc overhead-valve engine, iron heads.

    XR-750 (racing only with the exception noted above) 1972–1985: 750 cc overhead-valve engine, alloy heads.

    XR-1000 1983–1984: 1,000 cc street model using XR racing cylinder head and other XR engine parts.. (My favorite.)

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    Lots of American military service men stationed overseas discovered the virtues of the light, good handling British bikes of the time. Those bikes were right side shift. Upon their return home, they started buying, Triumphs, BSA, Norton, Matchless, AJS and other "sporting" British bikes. Fearing lost sales, Harley came out with the K Model, and made it right side shift because that's what the riders of the British "sport" bikes were used to.

    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinnyFnny View Post
    I spose it makes sense when it's looked at from an amateur level. Interesting enough, learn somethin new everyday i guess... That's what were here for right?

    One thing I do have to say though: The xr really didn't start being produced until 1970, I know i'm not full of shit on at least that part.
    Sorry, I meant "XLR" 58-69.

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    So when did we decide that we were being excitable and really didn't need the shifter on the right going around the track left? I don't see many kids getting their feet stuck in the mud trying to shift.

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    Quote Originally Posted by goofyfoot2001 View Post
    So when did we decide that we were being excitable and really didn't need the shifter on the right going around the track left? I don't see many kids getting their feet stuck in the mud trying to shift.
    Engines on the modern mx bikes arent as wide so it's not a problem, but some guys building the framer versions still switch em over. Also, you don't shift mid corner. Once you get it in the right gear (usually 4) you leave it there. Pretty sure all of the GNC 750s are right-side shift except for maybe some guys with sv's...

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    Quote Originally Posted by goofyfoot2001 View Post
    So when did we decide that we were being excitable and really didn't need the shifter on the right going around the track left? I don't see many kids getting their feet stuck in the mud trying to shift.
    When I went through the HD mechanics course many, many years ago, we were told the controls on the K & Sportster were patterned after the British motorcycles which were the main competition for HD. The right side shift was seen as an equalizer on the circle tracks.

    The National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required "standardization" of controls in the mid 70s.
    This affected the 1976 Sportster which ended up with the unfortunate Rube Goldberg engineering to move the brake control to the right side and the shifter to the left. The brake pedal essentially became the shift lever. The rule was conceived on advice from the big 4 motorcycle manufacturer's which were Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. They sold the most bikes in the 70s so they selected to help "standardize" the design, which happened to match the controls on Japanese bikes. HD, Triumph and other European brands were nearly out of business then and it was either comply or don't sell bikes in the US. HD did have a jump start as all their big twins shifted on the left and braked on the right.
    FMVSS stands for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

    FMVSS No. 123, Motorcycle Controls and Displays. The standard specifies requirements for the location, operation, identification, and illumination of motorcycle/motor-driven cycle controls and displays and requirements for side stands and footrests.

    Modern flat track bikes have the shifter relocated to the right hand side since we are still using the counter clockwise direction from horse racing days. Depending upon the class, they may also have a rear brake pedal on the right hand side. Competition motorcycles are exempt from the standard.

    555
    Last edited by 555; 02-05-2015 at 9:58 PM.

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    FYI, AMA rules didn't allow brakes on flattrack bikes until 1969. And yes, most bikes were set up to shift and brake on the right. The modern MX-based bikes they're running on short tracks now can't be converted to R-shift, so they have to shift with a steel shoe and either wait for the straight to shift or lift that left foot. Sportsters would probably still shift on the right (correct) side if it wasn't for the dang government.

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