How To Safely Clutchless, Power & Quick Shift A Motorcycle

Clutchless shifting, power shifting and motorcycle quick shifters are three of my favourite topics to talk about…

Why?

Because broadly speaking (or “broadly typing”) they’re all about shifting gears, in less time, for faster acceleration. 

And I am all about that life!

gear change without clutch

That being said, this was one HECK of a post to write. Lengthwise. So I’ve separated it into three sections. Use the table of contents below to jump straight into the most relevant section for your search.

Or continue on below to learn everything about all of the topics combined – I’d much rather you do the latter!

You ready! Great. Let’s Rev up, and ride in…

Here’s a quick synopsis of what the entire post covers. Read it. Get an idea, then move into the meaty sections. And if you like it, or find it helpful after reading it. Then share it!

Technique Type Difficulty (to learn) Throttle Position Clutch PositionPurpose Safety Level
Clutchless shiftingManual Medium Closed Released (engaged)Racing/smoother shifts/riding with snapped clutch cableSafe (only with proper technique)
Quickshifter
Device
Manual with automated assistanceEasy Closed Released (engaged)Racing/faster street ridingSafe
Powershifting Manual Medium Open Pulled in (disengaged) Faster acceleration, hill climbs, jumps + cornering (for motocross)Not safe for street riders but great for motocross

Clutchless Shifting Motorcycles

There is a big debate.

Is clutchless shifting truly a safe method for regular riders? Or is changing gears without using the clutch a first-class ticket to the “cycle cemetery”?

If you haven’t already heard of clutchless shifting, then you’ve been locked in a closet.

This is my go-to technique for riding bikes with no quick-shifters, and if I’m being totally honest, is a skill that I believe every rider should have tucked in their toolboxes.

Clutchless shifting has been around (in the racing world) for decades. It can be the saviour in being able to ride home with a snapped clutch cable, and the secret sauce in assisting you to achieve shorter upshifts with faster lap times.

More on that later…

What Is A “clutchless shift” on A Motorcycle? 

A Clutchless shift is practically what it sounds like. It’s essentially the process of changing gears while riding a motorcycle without using the clutch lever.

It can be used for both upshifts and downshifts, and when executed effectively will result in buttery smooth gear shifts and faster acceleration.

But, just how safe is this technique to use on the streets? And how does this style of riding affect the overall health of your transmission?

Is clutchless shifting Bad For A Motorcycle’s transmission? 

Using an improper technique to make gear changes with no clutch is a surefire way of shortening the lifespan of a transmission system. On the other hand, using the correct technique to make a clutchless shift is entirely safe to do, and shouldn’t result in any unusual wear of a motorcycle’s sequential transmission system or its associated components.

Whether you’re using the clutch, or simply rolling off the throttle, achieving a smooth gear change will always require the reduction of torque.

The process is fairly simple. Reduce the torque to remove the load. Once load is removed, shift to the next gear. Easy enough, right? Well… kinda.

You see… torque is a metric that measures rotational force. And load is a metric that measures the weight of the force when met with resistance. Similar to how pressure is measured, but slightly a little different.

A funny GIF of Cayote providing a practical example of how force (i.e., him running) and load (i.e., the resulting weight on the wall from the force of his running) work in harmony.
Here’s a funny GIF of Cayote providing a practical example of how force (i.e., him running) and load (i.e., the resulting weight on the wall from the force of his running) work in harmony.

And if any of this still is still not sinking in, then DO NOT WORRY, as I’ll be breaking down all of the above (in detail) with visual aids in the following few sections.


What Engine Components Can A Clutchless Shift damage?

As the vast majority of modern motorcycles now use ‘sequential gearboxes‘ that’s exactly what we’ll talk about.

There are four main components incorporated with a clutchless shift.

  1. Dog gears – Gears with small protrusions on the face (Gear sizes may vary)
  2. Input shaft – Turns at the speed of the engine and drives the output shaft when the clutch is engaged
  3. Output shaft – Turns at the speed of the rear wheel that is being driven in acceleration or driving in deceleration
  4. Clutch – This component bridges power from the engine over to the transmission system

Allow me to expand.

A Brief Explanation – How a Motorcycles Transmission Works

An output shaft (i.e., the long metal bar-looking thing) and the rear wheel (including all the components in-between) work together. Meaning that if the rear wheel turns, the output shaft turns, and vice versa.

The input shaft (i.e., another long bar-looking thing) and the engine are mechanically joined together. Meaning, when the engine turns, the input shaft turns, and vice versa.

A clutch simply acts as a bridge (for the two shafts) by mechanically joining them together.

The result? A “complete” transmission system.

When the engine now turns, the clutch and rear wheel turns too, and vice versa. But only when the clutch is engaged (and bridging the two shafts together).

Gears and dogs

Each shaft (be it an input or output shaft) contains gears (little cog-looking things) that interlock with neighbouring gears via dogs (small protruding metal blocks) and slots (small holes in neighbouring gears that interlock with dogs).

Here are examples of what they look like.

image of an output shaft with splines (i.e., grooves) that gears can mount onto
Output shaft
image of dog gear labelled with protrusions (i.e., small protruding blocks) and splines
Dogs On Dog Gear
image of dog gear with slots
Slots On Dog gear

Each shaft contains two types of gears.

  1. Fixed gears – Gears that are mounted to the shaft (and turn when the shaft turns)
  2. Free spinning gears – Gears that are not mounted to the shaft, but instead sit on a bearing allowing them to turn without turning the shift, and vice versa

This allows for gears that are NOT engaged to move freely (i.e., free spinning) and gears that ARE engaged (i.e., fixed) to transmit power.

But, I bet you didn’t know that gears work in pairs. Well if you did, great job! But if you didn’t, then let me explain.

When a “gear” is selected (i.e., engaged) it then has to mesh together with another gear to transmit power from the engine to the rear wheel. Each gear will vary in size to allow for varying outputs of power. Resulting in what we call “gear ratios“.

The example below will explain this further.

Fun Fact – Transmission Gear Ratios

Gear ratios are complex in physics but simple in operation. 1st gear is designed to have the highest torque and lowest top speeds, while 6th gear has the lowest torque and highest top speeds.

All the gears in between are just gradual steps in the conversion. I.e., highest to lowest in torque, and highest to lowest in top speed. As you go up the gearbox.

Some gears are fixed to shafts (fixed gears) while other gears (free-spinning gears) freely move (as they sit on bearings) on the shafts. Freely-moving gears can only transmit power when interlocked with a neighbouring gear mounted to the shaft.

a Visual example of The gearbox in neutral

Power is received via the input shaft, but is not transferring power to the output shaft (i.e., the shaft that moves the rear wheel). As the free spinning gear is not interlocked (i.e., engaged) with other gears mounted to the output shaft.


However, when a gear is selected (i.e., engaged) the free-spinning gears and mounted gears will interlock to provide drive to the output shaft and rear wheel.

Dog gears interlocking with one another in constant mesh sequential gearbox
Dogs inserting into the slots of neighbouring gears
3rd gear engaged via dog gear an transferring power from input shaft through to output shaft
3rd gear is transferring power from the input shaft to the output shaft

How does A Bad Gear Shift Cause Damage?

A bad gear shift can “potentially” cause A LOT of damage (to multiple components). You can bend shift forks, damage shift levers, wear the clutch out, shatter gears on gearboxes, bend shafts and that’s just to name a few.

That being said, the degree of damage caused is determined by varying factors such as the speed at which you are travelling, the gradient of force in a gear change, road or track conditions, the gradient of the clutch, throttle input, and much more!

What Is It That Causes The Damage In A Bad Gear Shift?

The cause of damage in a bad gear shift boils down to one word.

Forces

But it can also translate into two words.

“Torque and load” (Ok, I lied! It’s actually “three” words)

When you perform a throttle input, power is sent through the transmission system. Power converts to torque and when met with resistance, torque will convert to “load”.

A Simple way to Look At ‘Mechanical load’

If you were to place both hands (head height) in front of you with straight arms onto a wall… The “load” would be a metric you could use to measure the amount of force being applied to the wall (in the area where your hands meet the surface) due to the force from your weight, strength and gravity.

Load is similar to force, however force is more to do with pushing and pulling while load is more to do with how much weight a given area is receiving.

A man pushing against the wall with annotations of how load and force is being applied.

Placing your hands lower would likely increase the load as the force of gravity along with your weight will increase the amount of load being applied to the area.

Even when applying the same amount of force.

A Short Quiz

1. Take a look at the three images below.

2. Now guess which of the three postures is most likely to prevent you from being able to rub your hands together.

(Load is highlighted in green. Force is the red arrows)

minimal load and little pressure when pressing hands against one another
1. Minimal load
pressing hands together with medium pressure
2. Medium load
image of man forcing hands together in example of force
3. Maximum load

If you guessed number 3 you were right!

Maximum load equals maximum friction. As the force of the man’s arms in image 3 is much higher than the force of his arms in the other postures.

Making this the most difficult of the 3 postures to rub your hands together.

During this phase, gears become locked and are held in position by force (i.e., torque)

The result? You can try to change gears to your heart’s content but to no real avail.

As it’s only when torque is reduced and load is removed that the gearbox will essentially “unlock” once again.

How Do you Correctly time a Clutchless gear Shift?

Timing a Clutchless shift correctly boils down to removing load and making the gear change at the correct time.

The perfect time to change gears in acceleration is when load is removed after rolling off the throttle (and revs fall), or in deceleration when you blip the throttle (and revs peak).

In acceleration, the load of the engine is placed on the gearbox. But in deceleration (when you’re slowing down) the load of the transmission is placed on the engine. Resulting in one or the other spinning at different speeds.

However, by using a rev match, we can briefly remove the load and keep the engine and the transmission at similar speeds (allowing us to make a smooth gear change).

Rev Matching

Rev matching is simply keeping the speed (i.e., RPMs) of an engine at a similar speed (RPMs) to the transmission. One spinning faster than the other can result in a loss of control or engine damage.

So we match the speeds up by controlling the engine RPMs with the throttle.

If we blip the throttle it speeds up the engine RPMs and if we roll off the throttle it slows them down.

This can help to remove load too, as when you match the speeds of the two components you briefly reduce resistance. And remember force must be met with resistance to result in load.

Here’s an example

Let’s say you have two gears. One is moving and the other is not. What happens?

Now let’s say both of them are rotating at equal speed. What happens?

two gears showing how resistance works
1. (A) is turning at 5000RPM, (B) is stuck and taking all the “load”
gears moving together
2. (A) is turning at 5000RPM, and (B) is turning at 5000RPM. Load has been heavily reduced

As you can see in example 1, the resistance of one gear not moving increases load.

But when both of them rotate together, load is reduced and gears are freer to move.

If we add momentum and inertia into the mix, it starts to make a lot more sense.

For example, high speeds equal high momentum, as the faster you go, the longer it will take you to stop.

Pulling back the throttle (increasing RPMs) will increase speed, and rolling off the throttle will decrease speed. However, when you roll off the throttle at high speed, the rear wheel continues while the engine RPMs begin to slow down.

The result, instead of the engine driving the rear wheel, the rear wheel now begins to drive the engine (i.e., deceleration) causing engine braking (or overrevving)

example of acceleration vs deceleration

Newly selected gears UP the gearbox have LOWER torque requiring engine RPMs to fall in order to match speeds.

However, newly selected gears DOWN the gearbox have HIGHER torque, so you’ll need to increase RPMs to match.

How do you Know When Load Has Been Removed In a clutchless shift?

Load is removed during peaks and troughs of the rev range. I.e., when you blip the throttle and the rev range reaches a peak, or when you roll off the throttle and the rev range bottoms out.

Let’s dive into a few examples of how load is applied during throttle input.

Image showing the input shaft sending torque through to the output shaft via dogs with highlighted blue lines to represent where load and interlocking is taking place.
GIF demonstrating force in the gearbox during throttle input

Key Guide

  • Red = Components that are transmitting torque/power – Red arrows represent the direction of force
  • Blue = Components on the receiving end of power and being driven
  • Yellow = Area where load is being applied
  • Green = Area where load has been removed as a result of reducing torque

Let’s dig into how power is flowing through the transmission system in the example above.

  1. Engine RPM sits on a crankshaft that powers the clutch
  2. The clutch turns (when engaged) and powers the input shaft
  3. The input shaft (bottom left) rotates clockwise to power the free spinning gear (big gear)
  4. The slots on the free spinning gear turn anti-clockwise (red arrows) and force the dogs (highlighted in blue) on the gear mounted to the output shaft to turn
  5. The gear mounted to the output shaft turns the output shaft to power the final drive

A bit wordy! But hope it all makes sense.

How Load (i.e., weight) Transfer Works

Think of this as putting a stick into a balloon and swinging the balloon from left to right…

example of a balloon filled with air with a stick weighted to the right of the balloon
1. Swinging balloon to the left.
example of a balloon filled with air with a stick in the centre of the balloon
2. Middle phase of weight transfer.
example of a balloon filled with air with a stick weighted to the left of the balloon
3. Swinging balloon to the right.

Image 1 – Left Swing – The mass weight of the stick transfers to the right when the balloon is swung left. Gravity and mass are obviously playing major roles here.

Image 2 – Load Transfer – Thee weigh of the has not yet been transferred over. As the load must move from one side to the other.

Same as when gears fixed to the output shaft roll away from slots and are free to move in gear change as there is no “weighted load” being applied to the “stick”.

Image 3 – Right Swing – The weight of the stick remains in the middle until the balloon wall forces the mass of the stick to the other (i.e., right-hand) side.

The images below provide examples of how forces behave during acceleration, load transfer and deceleration.

image of input shaft with highlighting of how power is passing through the shaft and into the output shaft via dogs and slots
Phase 1. (Acceleration) – Engine is sending powering the transmission – slots are pushing dogs
image 22
Phase 2. (Load transfer) – Rolling off the throttle in acceleration – Counteracting force allows for smooth gear change
image showing the input shaft under load from the rear wheel inertia
Phase 3. (Deceleration) – The rear wheel begins to power the transmission – dogs are pushing slots

Dissecting each phase in the examples above

Phase 1 – Acceleration

The red dots on the image represent “power”. And by looking at the example, you can identify how power flows through from the input shaft into the large free-spinning gear.

Power then forces the slots of the large (free-spinning) gear against the dogs of the interlocked gear.

But, as the interlocked gear is fixed to the output shaft, when it turns, the output shaft turns too.

Phase 2 – Load transfer

This is the perfect time to change gears. Load is shifting from one side to the other (i.e., gearbox to the engine) and the dogs are under very little stress allowing them to freely move.

Changing gears at the moment will explain why perfect gear changes are often referred to as being buttery smooth. But the hard part is timing it.

When you leave it beyond a few seconds phase 3 kicks in.

Phase 3 – Deceleration

Power is now being fed from the rear wheel into the input shaft which is why the dogs (of the fixed gear) are now forcing the slots (of the free spinning gear) to move.

However, there is one big but!

The input shaft (which is linked to the engine speed) causes resistance, as when in gear the engine’s RPMs are essentially fed from the rear end.

Power is now travelling from the rear to the front. And load has now transferred to the opposing side where resistance (i.e., counteracting force) is present.

How To Shift Gears On A Motorcycle Without using the clutch

We finally reach the moment, the one and only, the cream of the crop. You have learned everything about its fundamentals, but how is it done?

Let’s dig in.

Carrying Out A clutchless upshift (10 steps)

This technique is simple enough to learn within one hour. I would advise you to get the basics under your belt, and then perfect the process later.

  1. Switch on the ignition
  2. Pull in the clutch lever
  3. Shift into 1st gear
  4. Begin accelerating (ie. pulling back on the throttle while slowly releasing the clutch) to begin riding
  5. Continue in 1st gear until reaching your desired RPM to change gears (i.e. correct RPM for upshift)
  6. Preload the gear selector ( by applying a small but firm amount of upwards pressure to the shift lever with your foot)
  7. Slightly Roll off the throttle and (as revs fall off) shift into 2nd gear (if you did this right it should slip right in)
  8. Take the pressure off the shift lever so the next gear can be indexed
  9. Roll straight back on the throttle and continue in 2nd gear
  10. Rinse and repeat until you develop a natural gauge for smooth upshifts with no clutch

How to downshift with NO Clutch (8 steps)

Because the rear wheel and transmission are spinning faster than the engine (deceleration), we have to blip the engine RPMs to match the speeds of the rear end.

PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend clutchless downshifts (only upshifts), but if you choose to do it, then here’s how it should be correctly done.

  1. Switch on the ignition
  2. Pull in the clutch and shift into 1st gear
  3. Get up to speed in at least 3rd gear or above
  4. Preload the gear selector (with your foot on top) to shift down
  5. Blip the throttle (i.e., to rev match) and change gears right at the peak of the blip
  6. Take the pressure off the shift lever so the next gear can be indexed
  7. Roll back on the throttle and continue riding
  8. Rinse and repeat until you develop a natural gauge for timing a smooth downshift with no clutch

Being honest, as simple as a downshift may seem in theory. It’s not that easy in practice.

That’s where quick shifters and auto-blippers come in…

Motorcycle Quick shifters

Quick shifters have literally taken the industry by storm in the past few years and have simply replaced the need to learn how to clutchless shift.

They now come as a standard optional upgrade for the majority of motorcycles, and if I’m being totally honest, are very enjoyable to ride with.

Check out this video of a 2013 Yamaha R6 on the dyno being tested with a quick-shifter (and auto-blipper).


It’s important to note that quick shifters are designed for racing performance, and perform best for street riding in full performance mode.

They also make gear shifts simple, fast and buttery smooth resulting in you being able to make better decisions when riding on straights and around corners.

quickshifter for motorcycle

What Is a Motorcycle Quickshifter?

A Quickshifter is an external device that is mounted to a motorcycle’s shift lever that allows you to make upshifts without having to use the clutch.

This is not a technique or a standard part of a production motorcycle but instead included as an optional extra for a majority of motorcycles upon purchase. Making them “standard” for most modern bikes being sold.

But as this sleek system is solely designed for upshifts, you can opt to add an additional mechanism called an auto-blipper for downshifts.

Summing it up, a quick-shifter will give you

  • Faster upshifts
  • A more slick and more satisfying riding experience on streets and track
  • The reduction in the complexity of riding allows you to focus on other tasks while riding

How do quick shifters work?

Quickhifters are super simple to use, but make no mistake a very complex piece of kit.

A quick-shifter works by briefly cutting power to an engine during upshifts, by using a strain gauge sensor (that fits the top of a replacement shift linkage) or spring-loaded shift rod (fitted with a sensor) to send a message to the ECU.

Quickshfiters save fractions of a second (milliseconds) when making a gear change. Allowing you to make faster lap times by automating the process of carrying out a clutchless upshift.

What is a Spring loaded Position sensor?

Spring-loaded position sensors work by using a coil in a column to detect changes in force by measuring the changes in the length of the coil.

Check out the examples below to see how they work.

Example of a spring loaded sensor
Extended position
Example of a spring loaded sensor when compressed
Compressed
sensors spring loaded
Up/Down Motion

What is a Strain gauge?

A strain gauge is essentially a small electronic device that detects changes in ‘molecular density’ (i.e., movement of the shift lever). It simply converts external force, pressure or weight into a change in electrical resistance. Making it the perfect solution for measuring a gear change.

What Is A Quick Stem Sensor (QSS)?

While uncommon, I’ve recently stumbled across aftermarket quick shifters that use quick stem sensors to detect the movement of the shift lever.

Quick stem sensors are designed to pick up changes in thrust and torque (simultaneously) by using a strain gauge wired into a Wheatstone bridge.

The Healteck quick-shifter was one of the first I found using this technology making their products more applicable for a wider range of models.

It works, the same way as the others mentioned, but is able to collect and control more data that can be easily viewed on the product’s cool mobile application.

How Do Quick-shifters remove load?

Regardless of the type you have, how it will work, will remain the same. The sensor detects a change and then sends a signal to the ECU.

The engine ECU will then cut out the engine by preventing the spark plug from sparking. Very similar to how a kill switch works. That being said, there are also other devices that work by starving the engine of fuel supply to cut it out.

I’d recommend staying away from those.

This interruption in power prevents the engine from making one to two strokes resulting in a reduction of torque flowing through the drivetrain. Or easier said, the removal of load on the transmission, allowing you to make a fast and smooth upshift.

Here’s what I think about quick-shifters

In my honest opinion, installing a quick-shifter for upshifts alone is the sweet spot for the majority of riders. As having a quick-shifter (for clutchless upshifts) and auto-blipper (for clutchless downshifts) too is somewhat overkill resulting in a motorcycle leaning towards being semi-automatic than manual.

That being said, the next section will explain everything there is to know about bi-directional quick-shifting (i.e., auto-blipping).

Let’s blip in!

How Do Auto-Blippers Work For Clutchless Downshifts?

Adding an auto-blipper in addition to a quick-shifter creates far more complexity and increases strain on the transmission system.

It’s important to note that auto-blippers are only compatible with bikes that use a ride-by-wire throttle. Which is essentially an advanced throttle system that uses actuators and sensors to send messages to the ECU for power output, instead of simple oldskool (referred to as “mechanical linkage”) cabling.

Auto-blippers must work in a far more complex way as they have to instruct the engine to match (rev match) the revs of the transmission to remove the load.

The operation of an auto-blipper is far more mission-critical than that of a quick-shifter as it must electronically interrupt throttle input (via the electronic throttle valve).

The benefit of bidirectional sensors (i.e., quick-shift and auto-blipper) on newer bikes is that they’re able to collect and present large amounts of data.

For example, they are able to detect and determine the next gear change, where you are in the rev range and ride angles, and changes in pitch to provide you with the best possible shift.

Smart, ey!

What Should You Consider When Buying A Quick-shifter?

Before buying a quick-shifter, I would consider its intended use. Meaning, where, what and how will you be riding with this type of device fitted to your bike? Like, do you even need one? As not every rider does.

You also want to consider the amount you’re willing to spend (as this will limit you to a range), whether there are OEM or aftermarket options available if you would like an auto-blipper and the general adjustability of the device. As many aftermarket options allow you to train the device to match your style of riding.

I would lastly consider the length of time that the device cuts out the engine, as having longer intervals on bikes that are reluctant to change gears will be beneficial.

How much do the best aftermarket quick-shifters cost?

The best quick-shifters and auto-blippers to buy would be a device that is manufactured and sold by your motorcycle manufacturer.

However, many models of bikes, there are not yet available, so if you find yourself needing one, then you can choose from a few aftermarket options below.

A list of the best aftermarket Quick-shifters for Motorcycles

Brand Starting Price (£1/$1.20 rate)OEM FitmentBlip AssistOfficial Website
HM£400 ($480)Yes Can be purchased as added extra HM Quick-shifter Website
Dynojet£246 ($295)Yes (selected products only)Not available Dynojet UK
Dynojet USA
Translogic£239 ($287)Yes Can be purchased as added extra Tranlogic UK
Translogic USA
Bazzaz£90 ($108)Yes Can be purchased as added extra Bazzaz Quick-shifter webpage

What are the Downsides Of Using a Quickshifter?

The style of your riding is the biggest determining factor for the appropriate settings of a quick-shifter. The problem is that many quick-shifters come with the wrong settings to match the style that you ride in.

Quick-shifters are also heavily reliant on technologies like sensors, actuators, ECU compatibility and minute mechanical adjustments. Because of this, there is an increased chance of potential faults, ranging from intermittent operation (as a result of incompatible software) to in some cases total failure of equipment.

What’s more is that aftermarket systems can be expensive to buy, difficult to repair (or recalibrate) and will likely reduce the overall resale price of the motorcycle. As if you’ve had any previous experience in selling bikes, then you’ll know that they’re best sold as standard.

I’ve even heard stories of quick-shifters failing at high speeds, preventing riders from being able to change gears. Not only does it sound pretty damn dangerous, but in most cases, it will likely result in transmission damage too.

They can also alter your riding style when having to stick to gear changes in high RPMs, experience wiring faults, or sensor issues, and become dysfunctional upon the upgrade of any associated equipment.

With all of the above being said! A good quick-shifter can always be identified by buttery smooth gear shifts. No butter, no purchase, it’s that simple.

How To Shift Gears With a Quick Shifter On A Motorcycle

Quickshifters are as simple as riding an old semi-auto Honda Super Cub (I call them pizza bikes). Place your foot under the shift lever and shift up.

But where the quick-shifters get interesting is the fact that there’s no requirement to roll off the throttle when making the gear change. Meaning, you could technically keep the throttle pinned back, shift gears and still maintain a smooth ride.

  1. Turn on the ignition
  2. Pull in the clutch
  3. Shift down into 1st gear
  4. Slowly release the clutch while rolling back on the throttle
  5. Place your foot under the gear lever and apply firm pressure
  6. Accelerate to desired RPMs and make the upshift using the gear lever
  7. Rinse and repeat

Of course, if you have an auto-blipper or quick-shifter with a downshift feature installed, then you can also practice this technique for downshifts too.

Power Shifting Motorcycles

I was very hesitant about including this topic in the post. Not because it doesn’t work, but because of the damage it can do if done incorrectly. But this DOES NOT MEAN this is a bad style of riding, it just means that in my experience, I have found it’s not for everyone. More on that in a moment.

Most riders do not use this technique (for many reasons that I’ll explain).

Power-shifting is not for the faint-hearted and is a method that I recommend you avoid unless necessary.


What Is A power shift On a motorcycle?

A powershift is the technique of slightly pulling in the clutch lever and making an upshift with only a slight roll off the throttle, to prevent engine RPMs from skyrocketing in the gear change.

The goal with a powershift is to maintain the highest possible RPMs and torque while changing gears to power through difficult track areas, land jumps, power out of corners, around bends and up hills. Without losing much torque.

This is because every new gear ratio (up the gearbox) has lower torque and higher top speed. Remember. So the idea is that if we retain high RPMs (torque) we can enter the new gear with high torque to compensate for the way it’s designed.

Powerhsifting is mainly a skill that I have used in motocross using off-road bikes such as dirtbikes and dal sports. And I’m yet to see it used elsewhere.

Is power shifting bad for Motorcycles?

Powershifting is surely a technique that will heavily reduce the lifespan of a clutch and other associated components inside the transmission system. This is 100% a technique that I would be avoiding on a Sportbike, Cruiser or Touring bike for the inexperienced.

Maintaining high RPMs through gear changes is never a good thing (mechanically) but may give you a slight edge in an off-road race. At a cost of course.

When the engine is turning much faster than the transmission and you release the clutch (to re-engage the gearbox and engine) it will likely slam together as the two must resume similar speeds in order to effectively operate.

Power shifting vs clutchless shifting (My personal Opinion)

Power shifts are far more difficult to learn with a higher potential of damage than a clutchless shift. Get your feet wet with clutchless shifting, then take it from there.

The only safe part about a powershift is that it requires you to “slightly’ pull in the clutch for a gear change, but when you release it, there’s a whole lot of power to answer to. And if you’re not an experienced rider, then a sudden surge in power could result in a drop, or even worst, a collision.

Quckshifts on the other hand allow you to change gears up and down the gearbox in a relatively safe way. But of course, you shouldn’t be attempting it on bends and so forth.

How to power-shift on a motorcycle 

  • Turn on the ignition
  • Pull in the clutch
  • Shift into 1st gear
  • Slowly release the clutch while rolling back on the throttle
  • Get to a safe maximum RPM for the next gear change
  • Keep the throttle pinned back (or just gently roll off ever so slightly)
  • Preload the shift lever by placing your foot under it and slightly applying pressure – this will help you to slip into the next gear
  • Slightly pull in the clutch (a few centimetres at most) – just enough to slip into the next gear
  • Shift into the next gear – using the shift lever
  • Release the clutch
  • Roll back on the throttle and hold on tight
  • Rinse and repeat for all further upshifts

Frequently Asked Questions

If for any reason you did not read this BEAST of a post, or you did read it, and still have questions. Check out a few of the answers below. As they’re all recurring questions that I came across when researching to write this post.

Clutchless shifting will generally make riding a motorcycle a more FUN experience. And anyone who claims to “not like them” has likely never tried one. What’s more is that it frees up the clutch hand, develops new habits, allows you to stay tucked up on long straights, and has faster acceleration with shorter upshifts. Just to name a few.

Professional race motorcycles in MotoGP have a seamless-shift transmission. They are also used in F1 and work by pre-engaging the next gear in the sequence before actually being selected. this reduces the interruption of torque allowing riders to bang through gears on terribly expensive gearboxes.

A slipper clutch is designed to allow riders to maintain control (prevent the rear wheel from locking up) in the event of a bad downshift or abrupt brake application. Quickshifters on the other hand, are designed to help riders make faster shifts without using the clutch.

Technically speaking, one is an operation (i.e., quick shifting), while the other minimises impact after an operation has been made.

That being said, installing a slipper clutch on a street bike allows manufacturers to reduce the weight of the clutch spring allowing you to operate the clutch lever with one finger force. They are sometimes referred to as slip-and-assist clutches. Because they slip (when needed) and assist you in making a gear change.

This one is a difficult debate that would require the same bike to be tested with varying techniques.

In my personal experience, a quick shifter has resulted in the fastest gear changes and acceleration, but I do not ride track… Yet! So I can’t give you lap times. Power-shifting would then follow up and in last place would be clutchless shifting.

Quickshifters are surprisingly easy to install. There is no need for specialised tools, and you can install most of them within one hour flat. Not bad if you ask me, as you get a whole lot of racing performance in return for a small amount of effort.

With Quickshifters becoming more and more popular it’s likely that your manufacturer will have an OEM Quickshifter kit up for sale. However, in the event that a manufacturer does not offer one, then it’s likely you’ll find an aftermarket option. A few good ones I know of are HM, Dynojet, Translogic, and Bazzaz.

It’s also important to mention that most non-linkage (i.e., no-shift rod) motorcycles now come with a quick-shifter as standard.

While it’s totally possible the clutch with a quick shifter installed, it’s not something I’d recommend. With a quick-shifter installed, using the clutch to change gears can be clunky and powerless. So if you have a quick-shifter installed, then use it! otherwise, have it removed?.

But of course, you will absolutely use the clutch if you are slowing to a stop and dropping back to 1st gear (to disengage the transmission and engine while in gear).

There is a lot of talk about preloading shift levers resulting in damage to the shift fork in a clutchless shift. Not only would it take an unusual amount of force (I should know, as I’ve done it before), but you would likely bend the shift lever (on the outside of the engine) first before causing damage to internal engine components.

Unfortunately, not all transmissions are designed to remove load with a quick blip or roll off the throttle. For example, sportbikes love it, while big burbling V twin cruisers and giant-sized Chiefs are less likely to give you a smooth gear change. Unless you use the clutch of course.

Learning to clutchless shift can be as easy as one afternoon of riding. Even if you’re a newb. And sure, you’ll get the basics under your belt, but actually perfecting the process will take time and effort. Much like everything else in life.

The way to know if you’re doing it right is by gauging the smoothness of the gear shift. As a smooth gear shift equals a good job and a bad gear shift equals the opposite. Of course, it will take time to master the rev ranges and general timing of when to shift, but if you’ve been riding for a long time (3 years plus) then this should be a problem.


Conclusion

I totally forgot about the sheer level of science that’s involved with engineering, but that’s exactly why I love it.

Writing this post has not only helped me to thoroughly understand gear shifting, but it has also helped me to put an end to the debate on how each style of riding will affect the health of an engine.

Of course, there will still be “the opposers”… But for the most part, the answers are as clear as day. Powershifting. Not a great idea (only good for off-road riders). Clutchless shifts are great when carried out with the right technique. Quickshifters? An amazing piece of kit and something every rider should try at least once.

Thats it. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. My continued thanks to you for being a part of the Tribe. And I encourage you to share this post, as I’m sure you can tell, I put A TON of effort into it.

Picture of Leon Angus

Leon Angus

I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I also love cars, planes and boats too! I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and love to smell petrol in my spare time! A true petrol head at heart. This website is my path back into the motor industry and the place where I can shell fuel for fanatics along the way. Learn More about the mission here

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Picture of Leon Angus

Leon Angus

I love bikes. All types, but mainly motorbikes (or motorcycles for those in the U.S.). I also love cars, planes and boats too! I'm a qualified Motorsport Engineer that currently lives in the UK and drives trains for a living (weird combo, don't ask), I love to cook, into fitness and love to smell petrol in my spare time! A true petrol head at heart. This website is my path back into the motor industry and the place where I can shell fuel for fanatics along the way. Learn More about the mission here

About Piston Tribe

Welcome to Piston Tribe, a place where bikers and drivers (just like you) can find tips, recommended gear, tools and techniques for maintaining the health of your bike, car, scooter or whatever floats your boat (pun intended… as we cover boats too). 

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