Story and Photography by: Tony Colombini
Installing the Widow Maker Industries’ Jockey Shift Kit on a pair of Harleys.
Old school bikes are becoming more popular, the tide is turning from the modern fat-tire long – OCC Style – choppers to small and spry bobbers. We see bikes reminiscent of the mid 40’s – 50’s hitting the scene here in So. Cal. Chip and the boys at Widow Maker Industries just released their Jockey Shifter kit for modern bikes giving an old school look and feel. Unlike the tank shifters of old where you had a foot operated clutch the WMI’s Jockey Shifter is a simple fix, which essentially moves the clutch handle to a tank-side bar that is connected to the shift linkage on the left side of the bike.
We thought we’d give it a run through the paces and install it on Billy’s sidecar rig. This could be a great solution for people who are challenged with moving their legs with shifting.
Installation was very easy. It took us about an hour on Billy’s rig . Whenever you have a 200 pound sidecar sitting beside a Harley, everything takes more time, and the clutch cable was routed really weird because of the sidecar frame attaching to the HD frame. The kit comes with everything you need sans-tools. The instruction guide is very complete and even tells you the tools you will need. Such as a pair of 7/16” wrenches, ½” wrenches, 9/16” wrenches, Torx Drivers, and a set Allen wrenches. We used a mix of wrenches and sockets for the installation.
There are plenty of warnings on the instructions as well. Like reading the Harley Owners Manual, where every other paragraph has a disclaimer. My favorite is: “…The names ‘Widow Maker’ and ‘Jockey Shift’ are used for marketing purposes only and do not suggest any intention, result or circumstance related to the product.” So if your old lady buys this kit and raised your life insurance, no worries, the Jockey Shift Kit isn’t intended to make her a widow.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the installation, which took a couple of numb-nuts like us between 30 minutes to an hour to install.
- Remove seat and lift the tank. We found it helpful to turn the bars a bit to help raise the tank enough to stick a roll of duct tape under the back of the tank to hold it at the proper height.
- Remove the horn bracket bolt and front head motor mount bolts. Easy enough.
- Install shifter mount. The mount has slotted holes which make installing easy.
- Install shifter arm. We opted to install the hand grip prior to installing the shifter arm.
- Remove Foot Shift mechanism. Easy enough.
- Connect shift linkage to shifter bar. With the custom shift linkage on Billy’s rig, we installed it on the backside of the shifter arm. It just seemed to fit better than installing it on the front.
- Re-install tank and seat. Easy enough.
- Disconnect clutch lever from handlebar.
- Mount clutch lever on shifter bar. We installed it a bit loose to get the proper fit when sitting on the bike. You may need a second pair of hands to help hold the clutch lever clamp to the bar while bolting it together.
- Re-route clutch cable. Be sure it doesn’t rub against the fender or painted surfaces.
- Install mirror mount.
- Inspect and test.
On the test ride Billy roared up and down the street and around the block. If you haven’t ridden a sidecar hack, you don’t lean it into the turns for obvious reasons, so you have to actually turn the handlebars. This was challenging while having a hand on the Jockey Shift, shifting through a turn. A bit getting used to and we suggest riding the bike in a safe area for a while to get used to it and get better at judging when you will need to shift and possibly shift earlier or later than usual to avoid shifting while in turns. Billy mentioned you will need some good upper body strength for turning a 1000 lb HD Sidecar Rig with only one arm.
Then we installed it on my bike. The installation went much smoother (probably due to our “expertise”). I was a bit nervous taking off with it an remembering that you pull it toward you to shift into 1st and down shifting, and pushing the bar forward going up in gears. Also what I noticed is that the bar returns to its static position in each gear. Not like a shifter on a car where you put it in gear and it stays there. Duh, makes sense when you think about it, the foot shifter doesn’t stay up when you up shift and so forth.
All in all, we rolled it over to our buddy’s bike shop to show the “pros” the kit and they were impressed. A bit tricky to get used to and could be challenging when splitting lanes on the 405 fwy here in Southern California, when you gotta down-shift fast and get out of the way of the cage drivers changing lanes while texting.
You can get yours from Chip and the boys at Widow Maker Industries in either chrome or black models. Be sure to tell them Blacktop Magazine sent you. They’d dig that, and maybe even give you a bit of a break on their already reasonable price.