How to shift gears on a motorcycle? Learning to ride a motorcycle can be a challenging endeavor. You have to learn how to start, steer, and handle your bike safely. But without a doubt, the most difficult aspect is learning how to shift gears.
If you already know how to drive manual transmission vehicles, you may think it would take only seconds to learn. However, shifting gears on a motorcycle is a bit different than it is on an automobile. Both the pattern and controls vary, and they can trip up even the most experienced driver.
For those who have never driven a manual transmission vehicle, this task will be even more challenging. Aside from needing to learn these same controls, you’ll also need to learn the basics of handling a manual transmission.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about shifting gears on a motorcycle.
How To Shift Gears On a Motorcycle?
This section will gladly recommend three different methods: manual transmission, semi-automatic transmission (clutch-involved), and clutchless shifting (no clutch involved, just as the name suggests).
There’s no way to tell which one is better; assess your shifting skills, types of bikes, and available features to decide the ultimate solution you should turn to!
Step 1. Familiarize Yourself With The Shifting Compartments
Three features are tightly involved in the shifting process:
- The clutch: Where is the clutch on a motorcycle? Well, it is placed on the handgrip’s front, responsible for moving the engine torque to transmissions.
- The throttle: on the hand grip (to the right), whose rolling helps increase the RPM in your engine, keeping stalling accidents at bay.
- The gear shifts: positioned on the pedal (left foot) in the form of a bar, taking charge of switching among gears.
Keep practicing with them until you can use all three with ease!
Step 2. Start Your Bike
Now squeeze the clutch and press “Starter” to kick-start your vehicle, ensuring it’s rested on Neutral.
Now it’s time to engage in the first gear. Close the throttle and pull its clutch all through. In the meantime, push the shifter downwards to move the shift into the first gears. Once done, apply the throttle gently while pulling away from the clutch gradually.
The bike will begin rolling slowly at this point. Now increase the throttle input, releasing your clutch entirely.
Step 3. Upshift Towards Higher Gears
When the bike reaches sufficient velocity for higher-gear shifting, roll it off, squeeze the clutch, and close its throttle.
Then place your left toes below the bike’s gear shift pegs and lift them as high as possible. While doing so, continue transcending to a higher gear by bumping its shifts upwards. One bump enters the second, second to third, third to fourth, etc.
Step 4. Downshift Towards Lower Safety Gears
Roll off the throttle and squeeze the clutch. Release the shift peg after pressing on it. And you are done!
Step 1. Learn The Fundamental Control
Unlike manual transmissions, their semi-auto counterparts only require two main functions – the gear shifts and the engine. In a semi-process, the clutch and gear shifts are tied together, activating both controls simultaneously through the gear shifts.
Step 2. Turn On The Motorbike
The next step is to straddle your bike, guaranteeing it’s rested in neutral. After that, proceed to the gear-shift task illustrated in the next phases.
Step 3. Move Into The First Gear Pattern
The procedure is straightforward; you only need to throttle the bike’s engine, pressing down one click upon the gear shifts. First gears are always located by lowering the shifts one notch; meanwhile, other gears are approached by pushing the shifts upwards.
Step 4. Shift Onto The Higher Gears
The process is more or less similar to step 3. Again, throttle your engine, pushing the shifts upwards using your toes. This movement will let them enter second gear. Repeat the same steps to transfer it to the third, the fourth, et cetera.
Step 5. Downshift Towards The Lower Gears
Do you want to reach a full stop now? Then downshift towards the lower gears by pressing the shifts down. Once the bike has stopped at a sweet spot, remember to put it in neutral.
Simple, isn’t it? Should everything go as planned, you have just completed a proper shifting technique.
It’s easy to realize that both methods introduced above involve clutch pressure. Here comes a critical question: is it possible to downshift without clutches? (also referred to as clutchless shifting).
Is Clutchless Shifting Even A Real Thing?
Our answer is Yes, there is. But why do we not really recommend it to our readers?
The reason is that the method requires a bit of practice, finesse and precision – something only experienced riders have. Plus, its performance advantages are not that different compared to the other two strategies, so sticking to the latter is still much safer.
But we cannot deny that it’s incredibly fun. A bit of clutchless shifting in a racing competition will certainly wow your audience and other rivals!
So How Should You Do It?
Step 1. Downshift Using The “Blipping” Throttle
First, decelerate the vehicle with your throttle closed – but then open it quickly to allow gear changes and unload the transmissions. Remember not to open it entirely – only a small part is enough.
Step 2. Upshift Towards Higher Gears
For clutchless upshifts, we suggest timing the shift with the momentary window that activates after your transmission has been unloaded and the revs reach their peaks.
This method works best during the brakes’s faster acceleration, which helps match the road speed precisely to your engine revs. Such a combo might be somewhat tricky to master – but again, that’s why it’s so fun and satisfying!
Motorcycle Gear Shifting Basics
Shifting is the process of switching your motorcycle from one gear to another. Lower gears have more torque but aren’t capable of achieving high speeds. Higher gears provide more top-end speed but offer little torque. As a result, you start riding in first gear, then shift up as you accelerate.
To begin learning the basics of gear shifting, start by putting your bike in neutral and starting the engine. There’s a neutral light indicator on the dash that lights up when you’re in neutral on most modern motorcycles. On older bikes, you’ll need to feel it out.
Once the motorcycle has started, disengage the clutch by pulling the clutch lever. Next, push down on the gear shift lever to set the transmission into first gear. Now comes the first challenging part. Next, you slowly engage the throttle by twisting it towards you while simultaneously releasing the clutch in one smooth, fluid motion.
As you do this, you’ll feel the clutch start to engage, and the motorcycle will start moving forward. As you begin releasing the clutch more, give it proportionately more gas via the throttle. Eventually, you’ll have released the clutch entirely, and you will be underway.
If you’ve never driven a manual transmission vehicle, you’ll definitely want to practice this somewhere out-of-the-way, like an empty parking lot. After some time and a bit of trial and error, starting your motorcycle and putting it in gear will become second nature.
Of course, first gear will only get you so far. Depending on the make and model of the motorcycle, you may want to shift up to second gear by the time you accelerate to 10 or 20 miles per hour.
Upshifting is the same process as engaging first gear, but often much easier. You pull the clutch lever, lift the gear shift lever to the next position, then release the clutch. When you do this, let off the throttle a bit. Remember, the motor will be running slower at a higher gear at any given speed.
Upshifting is only half of the process. To ride safely, you’ll also need to downshift.
To downshift, pull the clutch lever, kick the gear shift lever to the next lower gear, and release the clutch. It often helps to give the throttle a subtle twist as you do this, as it helps speed the engine up to compensate for the change in gears.
Remember, you’ll also need to engage the clutch lever when you want to stop. Like a manual transmission car, you must first activate your clutch any time you hit the brakes. Once you’ve come to a complete stop, don’t forget to return to first gear. Attempting to start in a higher gear will likely cause you to stall your engine.
Over time, you’ll develop a feel for your bike and learn the ideal times to shift. Experiment with different timings and with shifting at different speeds. You may be surprised what you discover.
When To Shift Gears On a Motorcycle?
Learning when to shift gears on a motorcycle is a matter of practice, but it depends on your engine’s revolutions per minute (RPMs). Each gear operates within a certain speed range (miles per hour), and as you get near the top of that range, you’ll reach higher RPMs on your bike, and the engine makes a higher-pitched noise. At that higher pitch, it’s time to shift up.
When changing gears on a motorcycle for downshifting, you’ll listen for a much lower-pitched noise. At the end, the engine may lug or stall if you aren’t going fast enough in each gear, which is a definite sign that you need to downshift.
Mastering your gear shifting is something you can learn during a motorcycle safety course. Taking an approved course has other benefits as well. Many insurance companies will give you a discount on your motorcycle insurance once you’ve passed an approved course. Check with your insurer for their requirements before exploring schools and classes near you.
What Is a Motorcycle Gear Shift Pattern?
The shift lever for motorcycles is at the left foot, and you use the toe of your boot to move it up and down. They have a “first down, rest up” gear pattern. That means the first gear is at the bottom of the lever’s range.
Neutral is directly above first gear, and second gear is directly above neutral. The gears go up sequentially from there. So, for a five-speed motorcycle, the pattern from the bottom up is 1N2345, where “N” is for neutral.
This is the most common motorcycle gear shift pattern, although others are in use. Some motorcycles reverse this pattern (“first up, rest down”). Other motorcycles have a shift level controlled at both the heel and the toe (a heel-toe shifter).
One side is for shifting up a gear, and the other is for shifting down a gear. Some of these bikes put downshifting at the toe, and others put it at the heel. These bikes may also vary in the placement of neutral in the gear pattern.
How do you know when to shift gears on a motorcycle?
In most cases, a motorcycle will shift smoothly at an engine rpm of 5,000-7,000, but judging by speed and the sound of the engine is always a more reliable option. Moving faster increases the pitch of the engine, and once the pitch is high enough you can safely upshift.
Is shifting hard on a motorcycle?
Shifting gears can sometimes be pretty challenging. Often riders face motorcycle gear shifting problems such as gears not engaging, motorcycle stuck between gears, motorcycle hard to shift into first or second gear, bad motorcycle transmission or gearbox problems.
Do you let off the gas when shifting gears on a motorcycle?
When upshifting after the 1–2 shift, I left off the gas slightly and lift the shift lever into the next gear. You will find it just about sucks the lever up into the next gear when you get it right. Downshifts you are generally already off the gas, so just pull clutch in and downshift.
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