Motorcycle technology is slowly catching up with safety and comfort equipments fitted (mostly) as standard in cars, but still a long way to go. Long distance riding is just way more inconvenient than driving a car with the main contributor being the rider having to constantly hold onto the throttle to maintain speed. Sooner or later this start straining anyone's hand and what could make it more bearable than a cruise control. In this article we describe different options available and how they work in real life.
No, cruise controls are designed to maintain a preset cruising speed regardless of road elevation, whereas throttle locks are retrofitted mechanical devices that lock the throttle in a certain position as the second best thing for motorcycles.
Not really, at least not with ease as it requires electrical connections and mechanical modifications to measure and adjust vehicle speed. A vehicle either has cruise control as standard or not.
Throttle locks hold the throttle in a certain position instead of completely locking it, so the rider can always twist the handlebar to decelerate.
All throttle locks work on the same principle of creating friction on the handle sleeve to prevent the throttle spring to pull the handle forward. Some lock onto the front brake, some create tension at end of the grip while others practically wedge the handle to the wiring body when activated.
There aren't many choices when browsing around for a suitable cruise control alternative. After skipping the cheap ones with low ratings (that also look either unusable or dangerous) the options are (pretty much) limited to Atlas and Kaoko. Even thought the design of Kaoko seems less disruptive than Atlas, the concept does not seem as effective. The Kaoko throttle lock is fitted to the end of the handlebar and is engaged by grabbing and twisting it along with the grip. It is designed to loosen when the throttle is turned foward to decelerate, making adjustments difficult. The Atlas throttle lock is fitted between the handlebar grip and throttle wire casing that engages and releases with a push of a button.
Prices are high due to the niche market for motorcycle throttle locks. Expect to pay over £100 for quality ones, like the Atlas. They come in two flavours: top and bottom mount kit and which one suits depends on the model of the motorcycle. The first generation of Atlas throttle locks had a single button to both engage and release the grip, but now the second generation has dedicated one for each.
Fitting is meant to be simple, but can get time consuming to get it right. The kit comes with different size friction pads and won't work unless fitted exactly: one millimeter can make a difference. When set up too lose there just isn't enough friction to hold the throttle in the desired position, when too tight the handle doesn't move freely, becomes harder to twist and more stiff to engage the lock. Their online tutorial makes it look really simple on a motorbike that has a large enough gap between the throttle housing and handle sleeve, which is not the case on most motorcycles. An important thing to point out: it works only on motorcycles with a flat throttle housing, because it requires equal spacing regardless of twisted throttle position. Step by step instructions can be found online and are also included with the kit.
Online reviews vary on the subject, split around 50-50. We tested it on a Suzuki SV650S, which is on the manufacturer's list of supported motorcycles for a bottom mounting kit and the short answer is no.
Due to the atlas throttle lock's physical size it takes a little getting used to reaching the buttons as the grip must be released slightly more to get the thumb around it as opposed to pressing other buttons (e.g. engine start). Luckily all the controls required during riding are on the other side, like indicators and headlight switch.
It's a hit and miss, unfortunately the latter being more frequent. The key to get it right is driving on flat surface at a constant speed before pressing the lock button. Slight adjustments rarely work, I found it better to try again. During testing about 1 out of 3 attempts were successful, but just about 1 in 10 worked for over a minute and that was the deciding factor.
Running engine of a motorbike and road unevenness or potholes can loosen the hold of a throttle lock. On the bright side it does not seem to happen immediately to cause sudden engine breaking, but loses friction gradually resulting in slighter deceleration of the vehicle.
Engine vibration has a large effect in numbing your hand while riding, so I suggest choosing a motorcycle with an inline 4 engine. They tend to be smoother and more convenient in covering longer distances than V engines (they are practically like holding a small jackhammer). Wearing winter (padded) gloves even in the summer can make longer journeys easier on the hands with their shock absorbing qualities.
Riding on flat roads with throttle locks may work for longer periods, but as soon as road elevation changes the rider needs to intervene to maintain constant speed, otherwise the locked throttle becomes too much going downhill or not enough to go uphill. This is a major downside versus cruise controls.
While there are some reviews out there swearing by it (mostly on adventure bikes), in case of a Suzuki SV650S it just doesn't fit for purpose. There could be multiple reasons for it, including the vibration caused by the V-twin engine and the throttle housing not being completely flat (although it was fitted to grab onto a flat part). After some long ride testing we just gave up trying due the minimal success rate especially for long term cruising and in the end it just became an obstruction on the handlebar.
Don't let this put you off, do further research and buy throttle locks from trusted retailers that provide a 14 day money back guarantee.