How Do You Shift Gears On Your Motorcycle?

Beast Riders is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Most motorcycles and cars have multiple gears because each gear has its use, enables a different amount of speed and power, and has to be used in a specific case. The first gear is designed to get your bike moving and is best for moving up hills as it sends a lot of traction power to the wheels.

Subsequent gears have less and less traction and focus more on speed and maneuverability. The final gears are optimal for reaching high speeds or going down steep slopes. Regardless of whether your motorcycle is a 3-speed or a 21 speed, you should know how to shift bike gears, and in this article, I’ll talk about the basics of:

  • Understanding Components Involved In Shifting
  • Shifting Gears On Motorcycles
  • Shifting Gears On A Manual Motorcycle
  • Shifting Gears On A Semi-Auto Motorcycle
  • Clutch-Less Shifting For Advance Bikers
  • Tips For Smooth Shifting

I will also talk about other relevant topics, so make sure to read the article in its entirety.

Understanding Components Involved In Shifting

Before you can even think to start shifting the gears of a motorcycle, you need to be well aware of the different parts connected to allow the gears to shift. You need to know three components: the clutch lever, the shift lever, and the throttle.

You should also know how each part operates so that when the time comes for you to shift the gears, you can easily carry out all of the actions required doing so.

1. Clutch Lever

Located near the left handlebars of the motorcycle, the clutch lever is a handheld lever designed to engage the bike’s clutch by disconnecting the engine from the transmission and drive train system, allowing you to change gears easily and smoothly.

While you do not need to engage the clutch to shift gears, this operation is quite difficult to do and may cause damage and grind the gearbox if done incorrectly. The lever operates simply by being pulled towards the rider and stays engaged as long as it is held.

2. Shift Lever

The shift lever is also located at the bike’s left but near the left foot. Some motorcycles have foot pegs that allow you to place your feet with the lever directly in front of it. Most motorcycles have the design to shift into the first gear by pressing the lever down, but for higher gears, you must move the lever up.

Other motorcycles have a simpler process of simply pulling the lever up to downshift and pressing down to upshift. Motorcycles may also be accompanied by a heel shifter which can shift the gear up or down according to the shifting design your motorcycle follows.

3. The Throttle

When shifting the gears, you also have to fine-tune the throttle so that the bike’s gears can safely shift. The throttle is located at the right handlebar and can be controlled by twisting your right wrist inwards.

Depending on your settings and motorcycle, the throttle may be very sensitive, so make sure you get a feel for the thing so that you can avoid accidentally launching the motorcycle or stopping it dead in its tracks while driving.

Knowing how much power the throttle controls is essential to gear shifting and is something every motorcycle rider should know about their motorcycles.

Shifting Gears On Motorcycles

Now that I have explained the basics of how the three components work, here’s how you should use all three of them together to allow for smooth and easy gear shifts when driving your motorcycle.

While gear shifting generally stays the same, however, there are slightly different methods to shift the gears of a motorcycle with manual transmission vs. a motorcycle with semi-automatic transmission. There is also a method for clutchless shifting.

While the first two are mostly the same and have only a few key differences which separate them, clutchless shifting is a very high skill and high accuracy demanding trick, which only pro bikers should do.

With all of that out of the way, I will now explain the three gear shifting methods.

Shifting Gears On A Manual Motorcycle

Before you can shift any gears, you need to start your motorcycle. Start by squeezing the clutch down and pressing the start button or kick-starting your motorcycle and making sure your motorcycle is in neutral gear when doing so.

  1. This should be evident by a green light in the motorcycle’s display.
  2. Begin shifting to the first gear by closing the throttle and pulling the clutch towards yourself, making sure to move the gear shift into the first gear simultaneously.
  3. Apply the throttle slowly until the motorcycle moves forward, then increase the throttle and let go of the clutch.
  4. Now that the motorcycle has started, make sure to position yourself so that you are comfortable and can control the bike’s components easily.
  5. Once you get to the right speed and think the motorcycle needs to be shifted to higher gears, let go or decrease the throttle, engage the clutch, and activate the shifting lever to engage the second gear.

This method is applied to all higher gears and if you think you have to slow down, and then make sure to downshift by doing the same steps but activating the shifting gear so that it downshifts the gear.

Shifting Gears On A Semi-Auto Motorcycle

Semi-automatic motorcycles have the gear shifts and the clutch tied together, which means that when you use the gear shift, it activates both components at once. This could get used to, so make sure you understand how this operates.

  1. To shift in first gear, simply throttle the engine and click down of the gear shift so that the first gear can engage.
  2. Once you think you are ready, start the motorcycle and shift the gear into neutral mode.
  3. To move up to higher gears, repeat the same process as above but make sure that shift is according to the design of your motorcycle; some bikes have the same motion as the first gear, while others require you to pull the gear shift up.
  4. When carrying out a downshift, make sure to keep the design in mind and do the same steps for upshifting but activate the gear shift such that it switches to a lower gear.

Clutch-Less Shifting For Advance Bikers

As I have mentioned multiple times, this method of gear shifting is not meant for the novice or amateur riders as it is quite difficult to pull off, and incorrectly doing this method can damage your gearbox. However, for experienced riders, this method can easily prevent you from even touching the clutch and save time while driving.

This occurs due to the transmission being unloaded when you air the throttle. The way you do this is by timing your upshift to coincide with the airing of your throttle. This allows the motorcycle to be shifted to the next gear. This method requires precise timing and a lot of practice to master.

For downshifting with this same method, you must learn a technique called blipping, where when you are decelerating your throttle, you must quickly open the throttle to unload the transmission, allowing you to change your gears.

This method is even more difficult than upshifting, so try not to do it on the road if you do not have enough practice.

3 Tips For Smooth Shifting

Now that you know how to gear shift, here are a few tips you can use to refine and get better at it:

1. Master The Clutch Lever

Before moving on to clutchless shifting, you must first fully master the clutch lever so that you can at least get into the first two gears before deciding to go clutchless.

This means that you should build a habit of not letting the clutch go too suddenly and keeping this in tandem with the throttle so that your shifts can happen smoothly and effortlessly.

If you think you are accelerating too quickly and are uncomfortable, you can use the clutch lever to disengage power from the engine to the rear wheel and kill the engine.

2. Learn When To Shift Gears

While the definite number of shifting your motorcycle ranges around 5,000 to 7,000 RPM, it is relatively better to shift your gears according to the sound and feel of your motorcycle. As you move faster, the pitch of the motorcycle increases, and when it is high, it is a good time to shift.

Similarly, when the pitch drops and the motorcycle begins to struggle, it is time to downshift. Always listen to your motorcycle as if it starts screaming, you waited too long to shift to a higher gear, and if it starts to choke, you waited too long to downshift.

3. Know Which Gear You Are On

While modern motorcycles are now coming with a proper display that tells you what gear you are on, some motorcycles, particularly older motorcycles, do not have this convenience.

To counter this, all you can do is keep a mental note of which gear your bike is on and make sure you remember the most recent one so that you don’t accidentally shift to a higher gear thinking it was a lower one. If you have a display, make sure you keep track of the gears from there so that you don’t shift to the wrong one.

Conclusion

Now that you have read the article, you should have a firm grasp on how to shift motorcycle gears, regardless of the type of motorcycle you have or the gears it comes with. You should also now have a good idea of clutchless shifting and incorporate that in your motorcycle driving.

However, if you do not feel it is necessary, it is perfectly fine to stick to the normal methods. Since you also know how each component functions and how to use it when driving your bike, it should be relatively easy for you to shift your motorcycle’s gears now.