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2021 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am trying to decide if heel shifters play any part in the premature wear of a shifter shaft or shift arm. Over the past few years I have noticed bikes with heel shifters tend to wear out the splines on the shifter shaft and/or shifter arm faster than bikes without them. Is this my imagination? Just a coincidence? Or am I putting too much thought into this?

I’ve had several riding brothers have their shifter shaft/arm fail with no warning. We all already know about the issue with the shaft and/or arm wearing and failing. A couple of my friends found the shaft on their bikes worn while doing maintenance. At least one of them was running down the road when the shaft slipped out of the arm on the inside of the primary and fell off the motorcycle. All of these guys are riders and all of them maintain their bikes. All of them run and use heel shifters.

I have never used a heel shifter. If the bike has one on it when I buy the bike the heel shifter is normally the first thing to go when I get home. I have no real issue with them I just don’t use them. I have also never had a shifter shaft or arm wear out. I ride with a couple of other guys that don’t use heel shifters and normally remove them like I do. Neither of them have ever experienced a shifter part failure. Now I do check all the bolts in the shifter assemblies on my bikes regularly to be sure nothing has loosened up. Tighten anything that has loosened up and normally add a little blue Loctite to any I find loose. This may have something to do with why I’ve not had one fail to date.

So, what say you? Are heel shifters contributing to the shifter failures? Has anyone else noticed this relationship? Is this just a coincidence?

Just something to think about and discuss. 😊
 

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2016 FLTRU / Heel Shifter. No issues.
2017 VN900C / Heel Shifter. No Issues.

This part here seems a bit misaligned:
"At least one of them was running down the road when the shaft slipped out of the arm on the inside of the primary and fell off the motorcycle.
All of these guys are riders and all of them maintain their bikes. "

Me: Ummm - like no.

Anyways.............
No idea what wicked science or juu juu or mojo is contributing to your experiential evidence. Interesting.
 

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I believe you answered your own question. Maintenance and lock tite are the answer. I think once they become just a little loose and not caught with in a few rides the damage is irreversible.
I've always used the kick lever and never had a problem either on a few different bikes.
 

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I had big issues related to this on my 12.

I took the heal kicker off my 17 & 18 and have never had an issue.

Some people never had issues, I don’t now
 

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Every time I used a heel shifter, I had issues. I was lucky and was covered under warranty each time. After that I take the heel shifter off and no issues since. My 2020 RGS did not come with a heel shifter and I feel HD has removed them due to fixing too many under warranty.
 

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Shark of the Month October 13
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Well, now that the Mothership has decided to save $1.48 per bike by adding the heel shifter to the list of de-contented parts in the last several years, I guess we'll find out over time if that makes a difference. Of course those who are true blue heel shifter fans will end up buying one to install.
 

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Every time I used a heel shifter, I had issues. I was lucky and was covered under warranty each time. After that I take the heel shifter off and no issues since. My 2020 RGS did not come with a heel shifter and I feel HD has removed them due to fixing too many under warranty.
I think you're right on target with your assessment.
 

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So, this got me thinking. Maybe the next question is to ask: "For those who use heel shifters and not had a problem, is there something they've done that may have made a difference?"

The slop in the shifter is evident. Always bothered me and I replaced that OEM shift spacer with the SoftBrakes Spring Loaded spacer. This "fix" would also account for the lack of issues with the VN900C. While it has a heel shifter, it is not a separate piece and is fixed to the whole shifter assembly. So there is minimal potential for slop there.

Also ask: Why is the aftermarket market still selling them if "everyone" knows they cause premature failure? There must be still a market. Unless the possible supposition is that there are a lot of ignorant people buying heel shifters. Dunno.

Ya gotta feel good about your decision so however you want to paint the picture is jim-dandy with me. :)

Good luck in your research
 

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I find the heel shifters annoying, so was glad the moco saved me 5 minutes when I get a new bike by not including them. I've always speculated that people stomp on them making the shaft vulnerable. I think even if you're careful not to stomp, I bet it's very easy to shift harder than when you do it with your toe.
 

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I know/ride with 6 buddies that have had ongoing shifter shaft/linkage issues. All have/use a heal shifter. I ride a 2010 RG Custom with soon to be 100k on it. Never an issue. Heal shifter came off at the dealership.
 

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2020 Zephyr Blue / Black RGS stage 2 TQ cam,V&H power duals, Ventilator Ciro bag blades,Kahuna heate
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Me and my wife are avid heel shit users
7 Harley’s never an issue.The issue that I saw was on a run, a riding buddy’s shift rod snaped at the rear helms joint.Called my dealer and he agreed it was a crap design. However the replacement shift rods have a proper designed shift rod assembly with proper ends.Going forward Each bike the shift rod was replaced with a catalogue rod.CVOs come with the upgraded rod.The failure I described happened in 05.When I bought my 2020 that shift rod is still used I switched it to a CVO style.I believe that inferior joint could be causing undue stress on the shift shaft over time causing the issue you describe.
 

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I've seen a couple of these threads, and invariably they end up - for the most part - leveling guilt on the heal shifter.

Now I'm not a fan of the things, I always taken mine off as soon as possible. I've also never had issues with things coming loose. I believe this is what's called anecdotal evidence ... So it doesn't prove shit, it's just interesting. But I have a theory...

Since most heal-toe setups are set with the toe low for downshifting, the riders foot goes in the middle which allows for the maximum amount vibration driven of movement. But with the toe only shifter, the rider's foot - frequently - goes under the shift lever, allowing the interference between footwear and lever to dampen the assembly's movement ... This could potentially minimize vibration oriented wear and limit the shit fell off results lamented all what experience them.

Conversely anyone with a higher set heal-toe setup that puts their foot farther forward - and subsequently under it - may not have the dreaded shit fell off issues either...skewing the results of the guilty party quest.

Shrug

Just thinking out loud here folks - Don't shoot me!
 
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I have had Heel toe on both my bikes 09 RG and 21 RGS. I changed the shift linkage to an after market and got it set right and never had an issue. Thread lock, correct length, don't jam heel shift. Clutch in all the way. I need to change the linkage on my 21. When you look at the linkage that is original HD its like a cup that pops over the ball end and can wear out the end. Then go to HD website and look at the Linkage that is there. Its an open hole that fully slides over a bolt then into the main arm. If HD is selling those on there website then it must not be an issue for them even with warranty. If it was they would have pulled the product to save all the warranty costs to them. I think it can come down to maintenance use and abuse. Just my thoughts
 
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2021 Ducati Multistrada V4S
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If you think about how much force is used by pushing down with your heel vs picking up or pushing down with your toe it is really simple to understand that a heel shifter does in fact play a huge part in a premature failue. Not even a question for debate in my experince with working on HD's. The weight of your leg is directly over your heel and one would have to really try not to put way more force than you need to shift. Now there may be some that do proper maintenence and are mindful not to slam down on a heel shifter that have little to no issues with it, but a lot of people like banging down on it and slamming through the gears. I had a friend replace his heel shifter twice in an 18 month period. I told him to just remove the heel shifter and be done with it. He did and hasn't stripped another shifter in the past 5 years and over 80k miles on the same bike. That is pretty good data to me. Just because one person has never had an issue with it doesn't mean that isn't the issue for the ones that fail. I used to use heel shifters all the time and I have never had any shifter stipping issue of any kind but I have replaced many on other bikes. I removed mine to gain more foot room on the floorboard and never went back. I grew up riding dirt bikes with toe shift only so it was an easy adjustment.
 

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I don't remember where I heard it, but someone once said to me that the shift linkage is the first thing you should swap on a new bike. I forget what that joint is called on the stock linkage (Heim I thinks) but if you compare how it works compared to the aftermarket ones it's pretty obvious it is not as sturdy.

I have no choice except to use the heel shifter due to foot drop in my left foot. I can see how using the heel shifter can put more pressure on the linkage than the toe shifter does, which could explain why people have had issues. I will say I have never had linkage issues with my aftermarket linkages and have been using a heel shifter since 2007 when I bought my first ride with one.
 

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I have had 4 HD's with heel shifters, just rolled over 75 k on the current ride. No issues. On my first, a 96 that I put 30k+ on myself and bought with close to 30 on it actually had a bent shifter shaft that must have happened when I wrecked it but didn't discover until 2 years later when I tore it down to replace the clutch. I don't stomp the heel shifter, but I am not gentle with it either. I lost a heel shifter once off my bike, but I don't think I had properly tightened it nor used loctite when doing maintenance. Not saying it might contribute to a shorter life, but I do not think it is a definite precursor to failure either.
 

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2021 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
[QUOTE="NCPiper,
This part here seems a bit misaligned:
"At least one of them was running down the road when the shaft slipped out of the arm on the inside of the primary and fell off the motorcycle.
All of these guys are riders and all of them maintain their bikes. "

Me: Ummm - like no.
[/QUOTE]

Maybe I should have said, they maintain their bikes with exception to the shifter assembly. LOL It is funny to me that each one of them that have had problems started checking them more often once they had a problem and haven't experienced another failure to date. As others have said, maybe I have answered my on question. Regular maintenance on these parts and Loctite is your friend. LOL
 
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