Changing Gears on a Motorcycle for Safe and Smooth Riding

Changing gears on a motorcycle is not only essential for smooth and efficient riding, but it also plays a crucial role in ensuring your safety on the road. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced rider, mastering the art of shifting gears is key for a more enjoyable and confident riding experience. In this blog post, we'll delve into the basics of changing gears on a motorcycle, including when and why to shift, as well as the different techniques involved in downshifting, upshifting and quickshifting. So, grab your helmet and let's get started!

Introduction to Changing Gears on a Motorcycle

Motorcycle gears will come to you a little bit as a surprise, when you come from driving a car, especially one with the diesel engine. Motorbikes are much more performance based and their engines are designed to run in much higher revs.

Changing gears on a motorbike is not only a basic technical skill, that makes your motorcycle riding possible and enjoyable, but when performed incorrectly, can become a safety hazard. These situations include locking your rear wheel when downshifting abruptly and releasing your clutch too fast if your motorcycle is not equipped with a slipper clutch. Another hazardous situation can arise, when changing gears while cornering and leaning the motorcycle. Your tyres can lose traction or your left foot can get under the foot peg and scrape the pavement. While carrying a pillion passenger helmet head-butts often occur when gear shifting is not smooth.

Upshifting and Downshifting with Clutch

The basic motorbike gear shifting technique involves using the clutch. When on a new motorcycle, always get familiar with its clutch and clutch lever, learning where exactly the clutch engagement point is. Pull on the clutch lever, shift to first gear and slowly release. The point where the motorbike starts moving forward is your clutch engagement point. If possible, adjust your clutch lever to your comfort and style. My tip is to always clutch with two fingers, leaving my pinkie and ring finger around the handlebar grip and in between the grip and the lever. Based on the engagement point of the clutch, you barely ever need to squeeze the clutch all the way to the grip.

motorcycle twin engine


A typical gear shift pattern is the same on all modern motorcycles, unless it has been customized and it's first down, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth up, neutral being between one and two.

Squeeze the clutch lever when your motorcycle reaches the desired speed and RPMs. Roll off the throttle with your right hand, change the low gear using the gear shifter, smoothly release the clutch and roll on the throttle again. Although in this order, the whole procedure should be performed under one second and requires some practice and coordination. The undesired outcome of slow upshifting is that the motorbike will lose momentum in between gears, revs will fall and your pillion passenger will be dangling back and forth mostly giving you a helmet head-butt.


When you need to change to a lower gear, pull on the clutch lever, roll off the throttle, shift down using your gear shifter, slowly release the clutch lever to prevent sudden jerking or even locking of the rear wheel and finally roll back on the throttle if needed.

How not to stall your motorcycle

Stalling your motorcycle is embarrassing, especially after filtering in between cars to get to the front of the line at the lights. Practice finding the engagement point of your clutch and always start on first gear with a little bit of throttle before starting to release your clutch. Your throttle grip should be adjusted to have about 2 mm of a turn, before engaging.

Quick shifting (Clutchless Changing Gears)

What is quick shifting

Quick shifting is essentially shifting gears without engaging the clutch. It can be performed safely and without any harm to the gearbox and used for both upshifting and downshifting. Many modern motorbikes are equipped with a quickshifter or an aftermarket quickshifter can be fitted to them.

Step-by-step guide for quickshifting without quickshifter

If your motorcycle does not have a quickshifter, don’t worry, you can still shift gears without using a clutch and it is more fun anyway. Make sure you first master standard changing gears technique with a clutch, because this is an essential skill that you need to have. Although changing gears without a clutch can be performed while both upshifting and downshifting, it makes only sense upshifting and works best from the second gear up.

In order to upshift without a clutch, you need to be accelerating fast. Once you reach middle or high revs, place your foot under the gear shifter and press against it upward, as if you want to change to a higher gear. Then quickly roll off and on the throttle in a split second and the gear will just slip in.

motorcycle shifting gears

Rev Matching

Understanding the concept of rev matching

Now when you understand clutchless upshifting, there is a neat skill to have when shifting down and it’s called rev-matching. Rev matching is a technique to match the revs of your engine to the revs of your rear wheel. Again, it can be done automatically by quickshifters and auto blippers, or manually, which is more fun.

Benefits of rev matching

  1. Smoother downshifting without the jerking caused by the rear wheel revs needing to adjust to the revs of the engine. This will be appreciated not only by you, but by your pillion passenger as well.
  2. Quicker downshifting, since you don’t have to release your clutch lever slowly and you don’t need to wait for the revs adjustment between the gears. If your motorbike does not poses a slipper clutch, this is also a method to prevent an accidental rear wheel lockup when abruptly downshifting and being too quick on the clutch lever release.
  3. It sounds and feels cool.

Step-by-step guide for rev matching

Squeeze your clutch lever, roll off the throttle and shift one gear down. Blip the throttle quickly with your wrist. The blip needs to be quick and short, and it does not have to be much - 10 to 20% or increasing the rpm by 1000 should be enough. When the revs are at the highest point, quickly release the clutch lever. It requires some coordination and takes some time, but every gear change downward is a good opportunity to practice and soon you will be rev-matching naturally without thinking about it.


Changing gears on a motorcycle smoothly and safely is an essential skill for any motorcycle rider. Proper shifting technique not only ensures the longevity of your motorbike but also keeps you and your pillion passenger safe on the road.

Upshifting and downshifting with a clutch is the traditional way of changing gears on a motorbike, but quickshifting and rev-matching are techniques that can make the experience more efficient and fun. Quickshifting allows you to upshift without using the clutch, which can save time and make for a smoother ride. Rev-matching, on the other hand, matches the engine revs to the rear wheel, making for smoother downshifting and preventing accidental rear wheel lockups.

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to shifting gears. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the different techniques and find what works best for you and your motorcycle. By mastering proper shifting technique, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable ride on your motorcycle.

What is the purpose of gears on a motorcycle?

Gears allow you to control the power and speed of your bike. By shifting gears, you can adjust the ratio of engine revolutions to wheel revolutions, which affects how much power is delivered to the rear wheel and how fast you're going. It allows you to accelerate smoothly and efficiently. When you're starting from a stop, you need to apply enough power to get moving, but you don't want to spin your wheels or jerk forward too quickly. By shifting to a higher gear as you gain speed, you can maintain a smooth, constant acceleration without overloading the engine or losing control. Gears also play a crucial role in controlling your speed and maintaining balance. When you're going downhill, for example, you might need to downshift to a lower gear to slow down without using your brakes too much. And if you're taking a sharp turn, you might need to downshift to a lower gear to maintain your balance and traction.

What happens when you shift gears on a motorcycle?

When you shift gears, you're essentially changing the way the engine's power is delivered to the back wheel. By adjusting the gear ratio, you can make the bike accelerate faster, climb hills more easily, or cruise at a higher speed without over-revving the engine. To shift gears, you'll need to use the clutch lever and the gear lever. The clutch lever disengages the engine from the transmission, allowing you to shift gears smoothly without damaging the bike's transmission or stalling the engine. When you upshift, you'll press the clutch lever, then use your toe to shift the gear lever up one notch, releasing the clutch lever smoothly as you do so. This will cause the engine's RPMs to drop temporarily, but then they'll pick up again as you release the clutch and the bike engages the new gear.

What type of gearbox is used on a motorcycle?

The most common type of gearbox used is a sequential manual transmission. This type of gearbox requires the rider to shift gears in a specific order, typically from first gear to sixth gear, by using a shifter pedal located near the left foot of the motorcycle rider. Each gear in a sequential manual transmission has a specific ratio, meaning that the rotation speed of the gear shaft will change as the rider shifts through the gears. The first gear in a sequential manual transmission has the lowest ratio, which provides the greatest torque but the lowest top speed. As the rider shifts up through the gears, the ratios become higher, allowing the motorcycle to reach higher top speeds but with less torque.