The purpose of the clutch is to disengage and engage the engine from the rear wheel for starting, stopping and shifting gears.

The Sportster clutch is a multiple disc dry clutch with steel plates and fiber (friction) plates set alternately in the clutch shell and sprocket housing. The friction plates are keyed to the housing and the other set to the clutch hub and through it, to the transmission and rear wheel. The plates driven by the engine are called driving plates, those connected to the clutch hub, the driven plates.

When the clutch is fully engaged, strong springs force the plates together and cause them to turn as a unit, with the result that the power transmitted through the engine sprocket, primary drive chain and clutch is transferred to the rear wheel through the transmission.

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