Let’s face this; one of the most challenging aspects of riding a geared motorcycle is shifting gears the right way it was designed to. Many think this as an immensely confusing activity that they switch to gearless scooters to make their life easier.

Triumph Daytona 675 Gear Shifter (Copy)

But the actual fact is, with a bit of knowledge about the inter dependency of throttle, clutch and gear and a bit of practice, Perfect Gear Shifting can easily be mastered.

Based on a few requests from our readers, here we present to you an easy article on shifting motorcycle gears. This article is aimed majorly at people who are at the initial stages of their motorcycling life or are learning the basics of geared motorcycles. 

The Basics First

For any bike or scooter equipped with manual gears, the three things seen and come in common are;
Throttle – Helps in revving the engine
Clutch – Engages and Disengages the Bike’s Transmission when needed and
Gear Shifter – As the name says, used to select and shift to the gear of choice.

The Basic principle in using the Throttle, Clutch and Gear selector is; Pull the clutch towards you, engage the gear which in standstill position should be the first gear, open the throttle slowly while releasing the clutch in parallel. This makes the bike move forward swiftly. Any mistakes in this procedure, like excess throttle or accidental clutch engagement would result in stalling or even accidental wheelies which are not so good for beginners and are scary at times. So, practice this and get on a swift take-off.

Mastering the Technique

As the above said procedure is for beginners; we shall see what it takes to master the technique. A typical gear pattern in a motorcycle that is available on the gear shifter is given below for reference.

• 6’th Gear (If applicable)
• 5’th Gear
• 4’th Gear
• 3’rd Gear
• 2’nd Gear
• Neutral
• 1’st Gear

The same would also be imprinted by almost all the manufacturers either in the fuel tank lid or near the gear shifter indicating particular bike’s gear pattern for easy understanding.

Pulsar 200NS Gear Shifter

 

Coming back to Mastering the Technique of gear shifting and taking off, following are the pointers that need immense practice;

• Disengaging the clutch by pulling the clutch lever towards you
• Selection of appropriate gear (again 1’st gear if the bike is in standstill)
• Revving the engine gently by opening the throttle say about to 2k-3k rpm
• Releasing the pulled-in clutch gradually
• Opening the throttle gradually along with gradual clutch opening which will move the bike forward and
• Revving the engine for more acceleration once the bike is in motion for second gear shifting

Although these steps look more of a detailed lesson with points listed one by one, in practical it is easy to master if done so. The same requires patience and practice. Along with practice one needs to have a feel of his/ her bike to know things better which is otherwise known as communicating with the bike.

Now Mastered. When do I shift remaining gears?

There’s no proper equation to shift at optimum points apart from the feel that one has for the bike and the Rev Limiter lights kicking in. In most cases of road bikes, revving high until the Rev limiter kicks in and shifting to the next gear is not required as after a certain point the engine doesn’t generate any usable power. Revving the bike even after that would result in damaging the internals on the long run. The trick is to learn the engine’s sweet spot which is the optimum shift point that produces maximum power and torque at a given acceleration point the bike is subjected to.

Again going by the above concept, a lot of people try shifting way too early fearing late shifts may damage the engine. Again, by shifting early even before the bike reaches its sweet spot or the defined power band, either the bike stalls or struggles to pull when gradually building the rpms to the selected gear. So, a correct shifting of gear in the right sweet spot will enhance the shifting pleasure, adds engine life and proves out to be more efficient.

Shifting Smoothly?

Almost everyone would have experienced first hand in shifting gears pretty hard that gives a thunderous snapping noise. But how does one shift smooth? The answer is to pay sincere attention to find out the bike’s behavior while shifting. If the bike jerks or if the front fork dives in or dives out excessively, be informed that disengaging and engaging the clutch is not smooth and attention should be paid in sorting out that. On the other hand if the bike spurges ahead with handlebars closing the chest while shifting, then one must realize that too much of throttle is in place that gives these wheelie effects. In short, smooth shifting is all about paying attention and synchronizing the clutch, throttle and gear shifter in one single line.

Finding Neutral

The most difficult part in a geared motorcycle is finding the correct Neutral position. The easiest way to get the bike to neutral is to pull the clutch in when the bike is in 2’nd gear and shift down towards the first gear gently so that the shifter slots in to the Neutral. This can be confirmed by the Green Light indication that instantly lights up once slotted into Neutral.

Be careful to not to apply too much of force that might result in the bike to go into 1’st gear which is very common. Although finding “Neutral” might take a little extra effort, with practice it would soon become child’s play. Ever wondered how come the Yamaha RX owners shift to Neutral perfectly every time when we struggle doing the same even once? It’s Practice that they’ve mastered it.

What about Down shifting?

The proper way to down shift is to do it as you accelerate; also known as throttle blipping in biking terms. To downshift; Select the lower gear with clutch closed for that moment and let out the clutch while opening the throttle as much as required only. Be careful in not to stall the bike and also never brake while clutch pulled in. Braking in gear with clutch open will help in a bit of engine braking that gives control over the bike, gear positions and also gives rider the option of accelerating quicker if the scenario in front of the bike changes.

When Parking?

It is completely Ok to leave the bike in Neutral while parking on a flat surface rather than leaving it on gear, as accidental cranking of engine with gear engaged will pop the bike. When parking in an incline surface, leaving it in the first gear position is the best practice which doesn’t allow the bike to roll off from its kick stand.

In a nutshell, it takes time to get accustomed to the correct procedure of shifting, downshifting and finding neutral. But with religious practice one can easily master the most efficient way to extract the max out of any bike leaving the gearless scooters behind.

 

– Ram

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  • Nitin

    “Braking in gear with clutch open will help in a bit of engine braking” – does n’t it impact the engine? Braking in gear with clutch open will put pressure on the engine which might adversely affect engine and its life. Am I right?

    • Ram

      Prolonged Engine braking with engine subjected to High rev’s is bad. Say for eg, you are in 5th gear at 6k rpm and shifting to 2’nd at the same rpm which over rev’s the engine for that particular gear ratio which is bad. But again Engine braking the right way will not hurt the engine. Take eg. of Long hill declines, try using you’r engine braking, it will work better than ant sort of disc set-up’s. Have you ever wondered how come RX owners stop their bikes equally with bikes equipped with disc brakes? Simple, they’ve just mastered engine braking without harming the engines. – Ram

      • Hi Ram, you’re stupid, RX is a 2-stroke bike meaning it has little to no engine braking.

    • Krishna

      yes, it will if you keep the throttle open, but if will keep the throttle at its starting position (not the RPM but the throttle) it will not affrct your engine, instead it is said that it will keep your engine in healthy state(don’t know if its a myth).

    • dux rahman

      I was thinking same, Braking with clutch engaged to machine will help decrease stock power and torque of a bike.

      • Anupdas

        Engine braking itself requires just as understanding as how gears are shifted. While braking you just need to use clutch momentary to shift down the gears. One needs to do just the opposite of what they do when they shift up. Usually all engine peak the torque around 60-70 percent of their rev range, this vary depending on the stroke length.

        The bigger the stroke the greater the engine braking. Engine braking would be very less around 30 percent of rev range, that is the time to shift down again, which bring the rev up. The lower gears vary more than high hears. So need to keep an eye on them.

        By doing this way you are effectively using front brakes, back brakes and engine brakes, and is always in control.

  • Excellent post, shows how important it is to be aware about shifting cogs.

    Also one can’t really decide which RPM to shift, its becomes engraved in the mind and shifts happen according to need of progress.

  • babu

    engine braking is less in 2 stroke bikes. In RX the exhaust note during engine braking is nice .
    with slipper clutch in new ninja 300 does it reduce the engine braking.

    • Ram

      Babu, slipper clutches are designed to slip when the rear wheel rotation does not match engine speed and Revs caused by downshifting. This eliminates rear wheel lock-up’s when downshifting. Slippers clutches were actually developed to allow smoother and more controlled corner entry for downshifting for racing. They are not engineered to stop normal engine breaking or to reduce them significally – Ram – Bikeadvice

  • Saikat Das

    Hi Ram!! I have read your article and much impressed with downshifting mechanism. I wonder if I want to accelerate quickly, suppose in a traffic signal go green & I have rush for the destination, how can I accelerate quickly from standstill, say 0-60 kmph in about 5-6 seconds. Advice!!! Thanks in advance..

    • Ram Prasath

      Hai Saikat, This is more of a Traffic Lights MotoGP that you’re looking at. The acceleration part is more to do with the “Bike you Ride + Riding Skills + Proper Gear Shifts at sweet Spots” Having said that Revving more until the Rev Limiter kicks in will make your bike slower than someone shifting at optimum shift points. Start communicating with the bike, You’ll see wonders there. Also, if you’re in an unavoidable rush, keep the steam coming from the bike. Never put your safety and others on the road in Jeopardy. Remember it’s better to be “Mr.Late than Late Mr.” Ride Safe – Ram – Bikeadvice

  • Mr.NT

    At the beginning the article looked promising, like starting from the basics and moving forward advanced levels. But, advanced level is not explained. It is engineering and the logical perfection of physics which can explain engine and gearing, not experience and tweaks’n’tricks. Quality is something we expect from Bike Advice.
    Sorry for being frank.

  • Rohit

    Is it okay for the gearbox if i shift a gear down at higher speed. For eg. if i m at 6th gear at a speed of 75kmph & if i shift it to 5th gear will it affect my gearbox? Also i have seen that when i shift a gear down at such a speed the shift sounds a lot more than what it does when i shift at a lower speed say about 40kmph. I have also seen 1 of my friend shifting down gears from 5th-neutral at downhills & turns off the engine to save fuel, which i have heard is very bad for the gearbox as it can wear n tear out faster. Is this true? Why?

    • Sagar

      Yes Rohit. The gearbox get hurt when you downshift it from 5th to neutral. For your first question- when you downshift the gear at a speed of 75kmph, you should do it with utter precision. Usually I downshift from 6th to 5th gear at speeds 70-80kmph to get more power in my GS150R, still I don’t hear any sound from the gear box. Try the same by just applying rear break for fraction of second without pulling the clutch (to make sure engine pull back the transmission ) then downshift quickly pulling the clutch n release the clutch immediately throttling again. Your engine revolves at little higher rpm delivering you more power. But do this with utter care until you master over it. When you master over downshifting at any speed then you can downshift even without applying rear break for that instance. But when you are slowing down downshift immediately pulling the clutch at speeds above 70kmph. Use engine breaking until you feel the engine is at optimum rev to get downshifting the transmission. You may feel this little bit confusing but as you master over it, you feel it’s a Childs play.

      • Anupdas

        Well said Sagar. I too own a GS150. Since our economy bikes don’t have a slipper clutch, we need to blip the throttle a little when we are shifting down say from 4-3 and 3-2, where the gear ratio is a little different. The shifting feeling non stalling, if you blip the throttle a little before releasing the clutch.