WRR48: How to Shift Gears on a Motorcycle (smoothly!) at Compacc.com

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How to Shift Gears on a Motorcycle

Two Methods:

One of the most important processes of riding a motorcycle is shifting gears. This may seem like a challenge to master, but shifting gears is really a simple process. How you shift gears, however, will depend on whether your motorcycle has a manual transmission or a semi-automatic transmission.


Shifting Gears on a Manual Transmission

  1. Become familiar the clutch, throttle, and gear shifter.The clutch is located in front of the left handgrip. It is responsible for transferring torque from the engine to the transmission. The throttle located on the right hand grip. Rolling on the throttle increases the engine RPM to prevent the engine from stalling. The gear shift is a bar located in front of the left foot pedal. It is responsible for switching between gears. Practice the following:
    • Squeeze the clutch lever in, then slowly ease it out.
    • Roll the throttle towards the back of the motorcycle ("roll on") to go faster.
    • Roll the throttle towards the front of the motorcycle ("roll off") to go slower.
    • Press down on the gear shift to put the motorcycle into first gear. This only works if you are in neutral or second gear, otherwise, pressing down the gear shift will only take you to a lower gear.
    • Move the gear shift upwards to reach the remaining gears. The predominant gear pattern for manual motorcycles is one down, and four or five up. Neutral is found between first and second gear.
  2. Start the motorcycle by squeezing the clutch, then pressing the starter button.Make sure that you are resting in the neutral position. Neutral is indicated by a green "N" light on the meter console; all new bikes come with this feature. At this point, you should be sitting on the saddle of the bike.
  3. Shift into first gear.Start by closing the throttle, and then pull the clutch in all the way. At the same time, move the gear shift into first gear by pushing downwards on the shifter. Then, slowly apply throttle while releasing the clutch gently until the motorcycle starts to roll slowly. After this point start increasing throttle input and release the clutch all the way.
    • Do not be in a hurry to release the clutch lever, continue to coordinate the throttle and the clutch until the motorcycle is moving. As the motorcycle increases speed, continue to ease the clutch lever out smoothly and slowly.
  4. Upshift into higher gears.When you have achieved sufficient speed to justify shifting to a higher gear, roll off, (close) the throttle as you squeeze in the clutch. Place the toes of your left foot under the shift peg, lift the peg up as far as it will go. You can continue moving into higher gears by bumping the gear shift upwards more. One bump goes to second, another to third, another to fourth, and so on. NOTE: an experienced rider does not need to operate the clutch to shift up. He simply lifts the shifter lightly with his foot, and then, when he down-blips the throttle, the next higher gear will engage. Doing this smoothly takes a bit of practice, yet saves shifting time, and also slightly increases the lifetime of the clutch plates.
    • If you are in first gear and you lift half way, you will find neutral.
    • If you release the clutch and roll on the throttle and nothing happens, you're in neutral, squeeze the clutch and lift again.
    • If you skip a gear by accident, don’t worry. It won’t damage the bike as long as you make sure to match the throttle to the gear you have shifted to.
  5. Downshift to a lower gear.Roll off ("close") the throttle as you squeeze in the clutch. Press down on the gear shift peg, then release it. Smoothly adjust the clutch and throttle together to match the speed that you are currently traveling. If you are coming to a stop, keep the throttle closed, hold in the clutch and continue to press and release the shifter until you are in first gear.

Shifting Gears in a Semi-Automatic Transmission

  1. Learn the required controls.All that you need to do to shift gears on a motorcycle with a semi-automatic transmission is throttle the engine and use the gear shift. On a semi-automatic, the clutch is tied in to the gear shift, so using the gear shift activates both controls at once.
  2. Turn the bike on.Straddle the bike and make sure it is in neutral before proceeding to shift gears.
  3. Shift into first gear.This is a very basic process, as all you have to do is throttle the engine and press down one click on the gear shift. First gear is always found by moving the gear shift down a notch, while the remaining gears can be reached by moving the gear shift upwards.
  4. Shift into higher gears.To do this, use the same process of shifting into first gear. Throttle the engine and push the gear shift upwards with your toe. Pushing it one click with move it to 2nd gear, giving it another gear will move it to 3rd, and so on.
  5. Downshift into lower gears.To slow down and eventually come to a stop, you can downshift into lower gears by pushing down on the gear shift. Always put your bike in neutral when you are stopped.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Will I cause any problem if I release the clutch quickly?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, the bike will kick forward quickly, then stall.
  • Question
    How can I move with a motorcycle, then stop and then start moving again?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Put the bike into neutral (a small half click between first and second gear).
  • Question
    Will my bike's motor be damaged if I shift gears quickly?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Your bike's motor will be fine if you keep it running while shifting, but the motor may stall or shut off if you try to shift gears at very low speeds.
  • Question
    Should the motorcycle be in neutral when I start it?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Not necessarily. You can either put your bike in neutral or any other gear. Just remember to pull the clutch in before you start the bike while in other gears (except neutral). Bring the gear all the way down to the first if you want to accelerate the bike after starting the bike.
  • Question
    How do I know when to shift to the next gear?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Each gear has a speed limit; if the gear has reached its peak, you will hear it in the sound of the bike. If you are going to shift upward in gear, you'll get a feeling as if something is pulling the bike back; that is the time the gear is at its maximum potential.
  • Question
    What do I do if my bike is running in second gear and I suddenly see a speed breaker?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Brake and go into first gear. Or, if you have enough practice, you can brake and stay in the same gear, just be sure to hold down the clutch to prevent the bike from stalling and release it as you throttle after you cross the speedbreaker. Generally, you shouldn't need to shift gears for a speed breaker.
  • Question
    What gear should I use when I'm going downward?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Going downhill can be in any gear, but it's advisable you proceed downhill in the first gear while shadowing the throttle along with your break (just in case).
  • Question
    When changing gears, do I stop accelerating to kick it into each gear while holding down the clutch?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes; when you are changing gears you need to close the throttle and change gears, then depress the throttle again.
  • Question
    What happens if I shift from 1st gear to 3rd gear?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You cannot do that in a sequential transmission. Each gear change from 1st to 3rd or 3rd to first requires going through 2nd and neutral.
  • Question
    How can you tell what gear you are in?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Some bikes indicate the current gear on the dashboard; otherwise, there is no other visual indication. A sense of speed and engine revs, which you'll learn through experience, may give anidea of the chosen gear.
Unanswered Questions
  • Is gear pattern is same for all bikes?
  • Does a motorbike need to be in neutral gear when starting it? Is the first gear the lowest gear?
  • How close should the driver sit on his motorcycle?
  • What to do when my gear is stuck in first?
  • How to shift gears in traffic?
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  • Motorcycling demands 100% of your attention 100% of the time. Learn to operate all of the controls from muscle memory by “playing” with your motorcycle in a safe environment.
  • Keep your knuckles pointed upward to the sky, especially for beginners as to not give the bike to much throttle in first gear.
  • The easiest way to stay out of trouble and avoid accidents on your motorcycle is to identify that trouble long before you reach it, or long before it reaches you.
  • When the engine is cold don't pull the throttle fully, as you may wreck the engine. Let it warm up first!
  • When the light turns green, look left and right and left one more time to make sure that no one is “trying to beat the yellow light.” Pulling out in front of a red light runner can turn a great day into a not so great day.
  • One lift, or one press, equals one gear. You cannot go from first gear to fifth gear by just holding the shift peg up. It must be reset for each shift up, or down.
  • When at a very high speed, brake with the front brake gently at first and then progressively harder until you have slowed down to the speed you want and then gently ease off on the brake pressure. Use a little rear brake to stabilize the bike.
  • Some modern motorcycles have a digital display in the speedometer console that will display the gear that you are currently in.
  • Modern bikes rely on the front brake to stop. Using the rear brake at a high speed has very little effect.
  • The largest majority of motorcycles have a manual transmission. This means that the clutch must be used to disengage the transmission every time you want to start the motorcycle moving, every time you want stop the motorcycle, and every time you shift, or change gears.
  • Build the habit of shifting down while the wheels are turning. Sometimes, when a motorcycle stops moving, the “teeth” in the gears line up in a position that makes it impossible to downshift until you ease the clutch out.
  • If your motorcycle doesn’t have this feature, you will have to develop a “feel” for your gear shift peg.
  • When you take your bike out on the streets and highways, keep your eyes up, searching for problems in your path of travel. Check your rear view mirror from time to time looking for people who don’t see you.
  • The first gear is the hardest part to learn perfectly; release the clutch and roll in the throttle both at the same time and in slow interval, if you release the clutch fast and have applied speed, the motorcycle will jump forward and do a wheelie, causing an accident.
  • Alwaysstay in first gear when waiting at a stoplight. Have an escape route planned and glance in your rearview mirror from time to time while waiting on the green light. If something bad happens behind you, escape!
  • Visibility vests are very important to wear when starting on a motorcycle, especially at night time where you can be hard to see by other drivers.


  • When shifting up, listen to the engine. If it is making a very low grumble, shift down. If it is whining loudly, shift up.
  • When shifting into neutral from first gear, make sure that youlet the clutch out slowlyto ensure you really are in neutral. Releasing the clutch quickly, while still in gear, will cause the vehicle to stall (at best) or leap forwards unexpectedly.
  • When downshifting, only downshift one gear at a time.
  • If You don't shift up when the engine hits the rev limiter, your engine could eventually blow
  • If your shifts "clunk" a bit, try playing with your jetting settings to get it just right.

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Views: 1,091,174

Chris Outlaw

Jun 28, 2019

"It helped me a lot. I haven't been on a motorcycle since I was very young. I am going to take the written test forcar and cycle license tomorrow, so it was a good refresher course for me. Thanks for the info and help."

Janice Walsh

Jun 15, 2019

"Have not ridden in 40 years, and want to relive the good days! Can't wait to borrow a bike and enjoy the memories.Thanks for reminding me of how I used to ride with no problems, even miss the hill climbs."
Rated this article:


May 11

"For a beginner, it's a very helpful article. What I liked most about it is that it covered most of the scenariosthat we might encounter during motorcycle riding."

Sandy Kuzior

May 2

"I was able to coordinate my hands better after watching the tutorial. The Q & A was very informative, the Q'swere some of the ones I would have asked. And now have been answered. Thank you so much."

Gokul Gopakumar

Apr 25

"The language used is simple to understand the content, and the images shown contributed more."


Oct 4, 2019

"I never rode a motorcycle before, only the scooter and it's automatic, shifting gears is so confusing. Now Iunderstand why most of the riders who have accidents are on motorcycles, not scooters. On the positive side, your article made it easy to ride. Thanks."

Rob Q.

Sep 27, 2019

"After 20+ years away from bikes, I doubted my memory of the gear shift pattern. This article not only confirmedI'd remembered correctly, but it also provided clear instructions and useful advice for novice riders."

Virginia Rego

Apr 18, 2019

"The instructions on using the handbrake over the footbrake. As a new rider and experienced bicycle rider accustomedto using the rear brake over the front brake, this is a switch that I have to practice!"

Tauhid Cakraningrat

Apr 11, 2019

"I didn't know where neutral was, had to stop on the side of the road because I couldn't restart the bike (tried tomove the bike at third gear). You saved me from more public embarrassment, thank you. "


Jun 11, 2019

"Having a license and not driving for months, I had some apprehension. I just needed a quick review and this surewas not only that, it also offered clear pictures and examples!"
Rated this article:

Megan Reed

Mar 9, 2019

"I'm interested in getting my motorcycle license, and it's been a few years since I last rode. This article was veryhelpful for me to brush up on the mechanics of shifting. "

Leon Kennedy

Sep 10, 2019

"It helped me a lot familiarizing myself with the gears in the motorcycle, also to understand how this works. Ithelped me also on knowing the basis to turn on a motorcycle."
Rated this article:

Anita Warren

Nov 8, 2019

"Very clear photos and illustrations! Breaking it down was so helpful. I also loved seeing you actually ride thesteps. The best instructions I have seen so far, thank you!"

Yuvraj Das

Dec 1, 2019

"Learned to learn the gears, then hit the street or highway. It's not that hard, but be careful and practice thegears, and wear a helmet and proper riding gear."

Tomas Mamontovas

Jul 31, 2019

"I just passed my CBT with scooter, but I'm buying a gear motorcycle. I found this information really helpful,because I didn't know how to change gears. Thanks."
Rated this article:

Obaid Khan

Mar 26

"Shifting gears is best explained here. This made it look so easy, yet is so comprehensive. The animated displayadded more to it. "

Mary Simms

May 14, 2019

"The pictures showing what to do and also simple instructions on how to do it correctly helped, and it was very easyto read."

Samwel Tamiwai

Mar 20

"It helped me fully, it's my first time but when I finish reading this instruction I can do it. Thanks a lot!"
Rated this article:

Angel Sapla

Aug 16, 2019

"This helped me to realize and know better the right things to do next time I ride my motorcycle."
Rated this article:

H. Blackburn

Aug 4, 2019

"Refresher, since it has been 6 years since I last rode. Good explanations and visuals. Thanks."


May 16, 2019

"Letting me know how to downshift, which is engine braking, and there's 2 ways to downshift."

Patrick Robinson

Jul 2, 2019

"I found it very good at explaining gear shifts and the diagrams were very easy to follow!"
Rated this article:

Akash Kumar

May 1, 2019

"Now that with this tutorial you have learned the basics, go and give it all. "
Rated this article:


Jun 7, 2019

"I always find it difficult to change gear, but with this I can try my best. "


Dec 28, 2019

"It was nice knowing about clutch working because I am newbie to motorbikes."

L. Brown

Jun 20, 2019

"The questions are great with simple answers that are easy to understand. "
Rated this article:

Hugh Gassoll

Jun 8, 2019

"Pretty helpful. I just bought a bike and rode it home based on the info!"
Rated this article:

Mahesh Kumar

May 31, 2019

"I can easily understand this article. Not just me, but everybody!"

Patrick Robinson

Aug 26, 2019

"Gave a refresher after 10 years of no riding, very helpful."
Rated this article:


Nov 14, 2019

"Every little thing was helpful.

Video: How to shift gears on a motorcycle . Multiple angle footage.

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Date: 18.12.2018, 14:50 / Views: 53565