How to Shift on a Motorcycle

Like if this guide is helpful
How to Shift on a Motorcycle

Accomplished motorcycle riders spend years learning the nuances of operating their cherished machines. While it looks as if experienced riders have effortlessly acquired the skills to ride safely and enjoy the freedom of the open road, the fact remains that many skills of operating motorcycles take months, even years, to master. The one skill that seems to take new riders longer to master than any other skill involves shifting gears. Unskilled riders can damage their engines or cause irreparable wear and tear on the braking system by improperly shifting from one gear to the next.

No matter how high the skill level, motorcycle owners invariably must replace the parts that perform the gear shifts. They can shop at auto part shops or go online and buy gear shifting parts without the hassle of waiting in line to make a purchase. The most popular portal for buying motorcycle parts is eBay, one of the leading e-commerce outlets. Before accessing eBay, motorcycle owners should first learn about the three main components of a bike's gear shifting system, the different speeds that require riders to shift gears, and the step-by-step instructions on how to shift on a motorcycle.

The Parts That Shift Motorcycles

While it can take some time to master the delicate skill of shifting a motorcycle, the mechanical operation only involves the primary motorcycle parts. New riders who learn how to shift or experienced riders who learn how to shift on a newly designed bike only need to acquaint themselves with the clutch, throttle, and gearshift.


Motorcycle manufacturers construct wet clutches to allow riders to shift gears. Wet clutches operate in the same oil as the transmission and typically consist of alternating stacks of plain steel and friction plates. Riders operate the clutch using the hand lever located on the left handlebar. No pressure applied to the clutch means the clutch has engaged, while pulling the clutch towards the rider disengages the clutch plates that move on a cable that receives hydraulic pressure. Racing and off-road motorcycles possess slipper clutches that eliminate the engine braking effect.


A motorcycle throttle either constricts or releases the flow of the fluid that powers the engine. Riders manipulate the engine's power through the increase or decrease of inlet gas. Motorcycle throttles are much smaller than the throttles found in traditional automobile combustion engines, but the principle remains the same. Properly operating a motorcycle throttle requires trial and error, as new riders tend to release too much gas that causes a loud popping sound. The key to operating a motorcycle throttle involves synchronising the pressure placed on the hand lever with the timing of the clutch movement.


One motorcycle magazine writer once referred to shifting a motorcycle as possessing the same dexterity required to play the drums. Two hands constantly move in concert with a foot that controls the gear shifter. Most bike companies construct the shift lever to pull back for selecting higher gears. The design of a veritable sequential gearbox includes a shift lever that operates a ratchet mechanism for creating rotary motion. The rotary motion turns a selector drum that has three or four tracks embedded around its circumference. While the hand motions required to shift gears must be seamlessly coordinated, the actual shift occurs with direct pressure applied to the gearshift.

The Speeds That Require Changing Gears

Before learning the proper technique for shifting on a motorcycle, riders should learn about when to change gears. Although different bike models and styles vary in exactly when to change gears, riders can follow a few general guidelines to ensure optimal motorcycle performance. It takes time to learn at which speeds to shift, but the time spent can save motorcycle owners thousands of pounds in repair and maintenance bills. Riders who change gears too soon can cause the engine to stall and riders who delay shifting gears push the engine rotations per minute (RPM) to dangerous levels.

In neutral position, give the bike some gas before moving forward. Shift from first to second gear when the motorcycle spends a little time in the 15 to 30 kilometre range. Riders should not attempt pushing the RPMs into subsequent ranges until the bike experiences functioning at different speed levels. At 45 kilometres per hour, shift the bike from second into third gear and stay in third gear for at least 30 seconds. Riders should shift into fourth gear when the motorcycle reaches 60 kilometres per hour. Any speeds above 75 kilometres per hour require riders to shift into fifth gear. Unlike automobiles, riders should never downshift motorcycles for the sole purpose of bringing the bike to a halt. Downshifting at speeds above 60 kilometres per hour can also cause the rear tyre to lock and possibly throw riders off of bikes. Use the brakes to slow down a motorcycle, especially for sudden stops. Downshift the gears as the bike slows, not to force the bike to slow.

How to Shift Motorcycle Gears

The most intimidating tasks for new motorcycle riders involve shifting gears. Even seasoned riders require some time to become accustomed to new clutch and gearshift designs. Motorcycle riders who have experience operating automobile transmission tend to grasp shifting on a motorcycle quicker than riders who mostly operate automatic car transmissions. The operational principles between car manual transmissions and a bike's clutch and gearshift remain similar. The rider's hand operates the clutch and the rider engages the gearshift by applying various levels of pressure on the gearshift.

Become Familiar With the Working Parts

The first step for shifting a motorcycle involves becoming acclimated with the working parts. Not only must riders learn where the brakes, clutch, and gearshift are located, they also must work out how they plan to operate each part to coordinate seamlessly during the shifting process. The front brake operates by using the lever located on the right handlebar. This positioning can require left-handed riders to spend more time familiarising themselves with bike shifting. The bike's rear brakes operate from the pedal located on the right floorboard, near the right foot peg. Left-handed riders typically learn to operate the clutch quicker than right-handed riders, as most motorcycle manufacturers locate the clutch on the left handlebar and the gearshift on the left floorboard. As major bike manufacturers, such as Suzuki and Triumph, instruct their customers, left equals "go" and right equals "stop".

The Technique

When riders start their bikes, they need to place their left hand on the clutch and their right hand on the brake. Once riders steady the bike after the initial combustion burst, they can take their hands off of the brake. Release the clutch, while simultaneously increasing the throttle slowly. Motorcycle experts refer to this shifting technique as "feathering". As the bike receives additional throttle and riders continue releasing the clutch, the motorcycle should begin to move forward. At this stage, riders should keep their feet on the ground to ensure the bike remains centred. Beginners take more time adding throttle and releasing the clutch, since it can be difficult to find the right pace of changing each shifting part.

Shifting on the Move

Once the bike moves forward, riders must shift gears as the bike gains speed. Motorcycle riders develop an ear for noticing when the transmission moves towards the top of each gear. When the transmission reaches the high gear point, riders reduce the throttle and pull in the clutch to shift the bike into the next gear. Raise the gearshift up to move the motorcycle into a higher gear. After shifting into the next gear, slowly release the clutch and resume giving the bike power by twisting the throttle. After gaining riding experience, motorcyclists learn that it is easier to discern when the transmission reaches the top of third and fourth gear, than it is discerning the top of first gear.

How to Buy Motorcycle Shifting Parts on eBay

What makes a highly regarded eBay seller? How about one who posts an enlarged photograph that allows you to examine the gear shifting part for defects and imperfections? The enlarged photograph prominently displays at the centre of each seller's product page. Another sign that you have struck eBay seller gold is finding a seller who offers buyers a wide range of payment options and short time spans for delivery. The most important quality of a successful eBay seller is the myriad positive reviews the seller receives from happy customers. eBay amasses the feedback on seller product pages. Try to find a seller who has earned rave reviews for selling motorcycles accessories or parts.

The key to finding the highly regarded seller is to type specific keywords into eBay's search engine, which is placed at the top of every eBay web page. You can type "motorcycle clutch cables", but expect to receive dozens of search results. Narrow the search results, and hence, reduce the amount of time you spend on an eBay search by adding more specifications to your search. For the motorcycle clutch cables, why not define whether you want new or used clutch cables? Once you find the seller who matches your shopping criteria, ask the seller if he or she runs an eBay Store where you can buy gear shifting parts directly.


For decades, motorcycles have been glamourised as a way to make a rebellious statement and enjoy the feel of the open road. The revving of a motorcycle engine and its quick burst of power attracts motorcycle aficionados who join clubs to share their riding experiences. Yet, despite all of the glamour, riding a motorcycle requires the development of difficult-to-learn skills, such as shifting gears. Motorcycle riders must learn to coordinate hand and feet motions to operate the clutch, throttle, and gearshift. Improper timing or pressure not only causes damage to other motorcycle parts, they can also cause the bike to spin out of control.

To ensure safety and enjoy the optimal ride, motorcycle owners must learn the speeds that require a shift in gear. They should stay within a gear for several seconds before they move the gear up a notch. Smooth transition ensures protection of the engine and braking system. Most motorcycle manufacturers place the clutch on the left handlebar and the gearshift on the left floorboard. Riders operate the throttle and brake system by using the right hand. The placement of gear shifting parts means most riders must adapt to using their weaker hand to operate at least one of the parts. However, with a little practice, even novice riders can quickly become adept at shifting gears on a motorcycle.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides