I know we’ve discussed this before but apparently, someone wasn’t paying attention, so let me repeat, as forcefully as I can on a printed page, that motorcycle control cables need periodic attention. If you neglect them they’ll break, and trust me on this, they’ll break at the most inopportune time, under the worst circumstances, and in such a way as to create the most havoc.
Clutch cables need to be cleaned, lubricated and inspected at least once a year, but it certainly won’t hurt to do it more often. I like to give mine a squirt of lube every couple of months, or whenever the clutch action starts to feel a little heavy. You don’t have to remove the cable from the bike, but you will have to disconnect it from the lever. Inspect the area around the cable end for damage. As the cable operates, the nipple end should rotate freely in the lever. If it doesn’t, the cable will flex and eventually break where it’s swaged into the nipple. Look for broken cable strands, or a noticeable “set” to the cable close to the nipple. If the cable appears bent there, it means the nipple is binding, and bending the cable. If physical damage is present, replace the cable before the next ride, or shift without using the clutch.
If all looks good, lubricate the cable, preferably with one of those clamp-on cable pressure lubers, and coat the nipple with a good dab of high-pressure grease. Anti-seize will do in a pinch, but a good wheel bearing or chassis grease will actually work better. Inspect the clutch-operating end of the cable in the same way, and don’t forget to lube the clutch end nipple.
Inspect the throttle cable the same way. Because the throttle housing protects the cable(s) from the elements, a once-a-year inspection and lube is generally enough. In most cases, once the throttle housing is open you’ll be able to inspect and lube the cables without completely disassembling the thing. Inspect the carburetor or throttle body end as well, particularly where the cable rests in the cable guide. I prefer to use a few occasional shots of WD-40 or another light lubricant here; grease can attract dirt, and it stiffens in cold weather, which can make the throttle a little sticky. If you’re up to it, it won’t hurt to remove the throttle drum and apply a very light coating of grease to the handlebar. Be careful not to overdo it; again, a thick coat will make for a sticky throttle, so I normally use white aerosol grease here.
Be forewarned that some throttle and clutch cables use a Teflon inner liner. If that’s the case, lubricating them may cause sticking; your owners or shop manual should provide the details. In those instances simply inspect the cable, and lube the nipple ends.
Oh yeah, that guy who neglected to inspect his cables and had one break? That was me.