Beginner Motorcycling

Information on Motorcycling for Beginners

Tag: motorcycle controls

How to Shift a Motorcycle

motorcycle shift paternIn this post we’ll continue our articles on the basics of riding a motorcycle and discuss shifting a motorcycle.  If you missed our recent articles on basic motorcycle controls and how to start a motorcycle you may want to read those before reading this article.

So, you’ve know where the motorcycle controls are and you’ve gotten the motorcycle started.  As stated in our last article, if you’re new to motorcycling or riding a motorcycle that you’re not familiar with, you should do this exercise to feel how the bike throttle and friction zone of the clutch work: (1) sitting on the motorcycle with your gear on, pull the clutch lever all the way in and shift to first gear by pushing the shifter down as many times as it takes to get where it won’t go down any further — this is 1st gear; (2) keeping your feet on the ground, feel the friction zone of the clutch by slowly letting out the clutch a bit (without giving throttle) and then pulling it back in before stalling (if you stall, put in Neutral and re-start); (3) again keep your feet on the ground, and feel the throttle response by doing the same exercise with a small bit of throttle; (4) put the bike back in Neutral (Neutral light should illuminate) with both feet on the ground and start to push forward and check that the front brake will stop the motorcycle, and do a quick check on front and back brakes separately in the first 20 yards or so after starting out on your motorcycle.

O.k., you’re off and running in 1st gear and have tested your brakes a little, so what next?  Once your RPMs go up where you need to shift, then squeeze in the clutch lever while rolling off of the throttle, firmly shift up into 2nd gear with your shifter foot (left foot for most modern motorcycles) and roll back on the throttle.  Doing a firm and full shift is especially important in shifting into 2nd gear, otherwise you might wind up in Neutral by accident (if so, simply quickly repeat the above: clutch, throttle down, shift up, throttle on).

Once you are riding about, you’ll often need to dowshift in traffic, before stopping, before cornering, etc.  The motorcycle downshifing process is similar: squeeze the clutch, blip the throttle, shift down and throttle on.  By “blip the throttle” I mean for a split-second roll on the throttle more (to get RPMs up a bit) then close the throttle before pressing down on the gear change lever with your shifting foot.  When going down from 2nd to 1st, be extra sure to firmly and fully push down on the motorcycle gear change, so that you don’t end up in Neutral.  Again, if you do end up in Neutral don’t panic, just repeat the process above.

So there you have it, basic motorcycle shifting instructions.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below.  Happy riding!

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How to Ride a Motorcycle – Basic Motorcycle Controls Explained

motorcycle controls drawing

Basic Motorcycle Controls

In a previous article we talked about the best way to learn to ride a motorcycle. In this article, we will give a basic overview of how to ride a motorcycle. We’ll cover some items in more detail later, but even so this is not intended to be a replacement for a motorcycle riding course.

Riding a conventional motorcycle requires the use of both hands and both feet (and your eyes, ears and brain as well!), while riding a scooter or automatic transmission motorcycle will eliminate the clutch and shifter (and sometimes only have one control for both brakes). For most modern motorcycles, here are what the motorcycle controls are:

Left hand motorcycle controls — on most manual transmission motorcycles the left hand is used to control the clutch lever. There are also other motorcycle controls near the left handlebar grip, including the high and low headlight switch, the turn switch (Harleys have one on each side of the handlebars) and the horn button.

Left foot motorcycle controls — on most modern motorcycles the shift lever is moved by the left foot. We will cover how to shift a motorcycle in more detail in a later article, but the usual configuration is 1st gear is all the way down, then shift up for Neutral, then shift up sequentially for each of the other motorcycle gears (usually 5 or 6).

Right hand motorcycle controls — the right hand lever on the motorcycle controls the front brake, while the right hand grip on the motorcycle controls the throttle (or gas) and rolling the grip towards you rolls on the throttle (gives it more gas) and rolling the grip away from you is called rolling off of the throttle and lessens the gas that the engine gets. Other right hand controls on most modern motorcycles include the starter button and the motorcycle kill switch which shuts off the engine (and if this switch has been flipped the motorcycle engine will not start). On Harleys, there is also a right turn signal button near the right grip.

Right foot motorcycle controls — on most manual transmission motorcycles in the U.S., the right foot controls the rear brake. On some older bikes and some European bikes the shifting is done with the right foot.

So there you have it, those are the basic motorcycle controls that are used to operate most modern motorcycles. As I said, we will cover some of those in more detail in later articles.

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