Many riders will wonder about the right way to downshift while approaching a stop.
Skipping gears is a topic that is going to be of interest to many riders because it not only makes them understand their motorcycle better but also ride safer and stay accident-free.
Can you skip gears on a motorcycle? You can skip gears on a motorcycle. It is possible to safely skip multiple gears while downshifting or upshifting. However, to be able to properly skip gears on a motorcycle without that putting the rider in danger, the engine speed, wheels speed, and gear should all be appropriately matched.
Riders will have a lot of questions regarding skipping gears, and many training and safety programs may not provide enough information about this topic.
This is why below, I go into more detail about everything you need to know about skipping gears on a motorcycle.
How skipping gears on a motorcycle work?
Skipping gears on a motorcycle is not necessarily bad or wrong. However, it is neither considered a good practice nor a good way of riding.
However, sooner or later, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to skip a few gears when downshifting.
You need to be aware of two main things when skipping gears (and changing gears in general): (1) the engine speed and (2) the wheel speed.
When you pull the clutch completely in the so-called connection or plates between the engine and the wheels will be entirely disengaged. This means that both the engine and the wheels will rotate independently of each other.
When you release the clutch, the two plates slip against each other and start moving together.
Since the wheels and the engine may rotate at different RPMs, the moment they slip together will significantly affect how the motorcycle behaves.
- There are two things that can happen here. When accelerating, you are pumping fuel inside the engine, which upon ignition will create movement. The engine then transfers that movement or force down the drivetrain and moves the wheels.
- However, the force can also move up the drivetrain from the wheels and to the engine. In this case, no fuel is fed to the engine. Instead, the wheels will be accelerating the engine, which is how the engine break works.
Unless you are riding an AWD or an FWD motorcycle, the engine breaks works the same way rear wheel brake works.
Can you skip gears downshifting on a motorcycle?
It is possible to skip gears when downshifting on a motorcycle—skipping gears when downshifting can even be done without engaging the clutch.
However, skipping gears when downshifting takes a lot of experience, and the rider should be very familiar with their motorcycle because they need to be very careful and precise with their speed and RPMs.
There is no limit to how many gears you can skip when downshifting. You can go from sixth to first, from fifth to second, fifth to first, or third to first, and so on.
Switching from fifth to second (-3) or sixth to fourth (-2) is usually a lot easier and safer than skipping more gears, like, for example, going from sixth to first (-5). (Something that should be avoided as much as possible.)
There is a little caveat here, of course. You need to make sure that the speed of the engine and the wheels are matching and appropriate for the gear you will be downshifting to.
In other words you have to bring the engine speed up to the wheels’ speed as you are releasing the clutch, but the speed should be appropriate for the gear you are in.
The problem is that the more gears you skip while downshifting, the harder the engine break will be. This can result in the rear wheel locking.
Many riders will blip as they are downshifting, especially when skipping gears, in order to make the transition smoother. However, this can also prove to be a little tricky.
You have to be very careful about how you release the clutch.
Usually, the clutch should be released smoothly so that the transmission slowly brings the engine speed up to the appropriate RPMs.
When blipping, the clutch can be released more rapidly. However, if you release it too fast, you may run into some problems. As you are blipping—and presumably releasing the clutch very quickly—too much throttle can cause you to wheelie, while too little throttle will have you engine brake.
As you are downshifting, you should be aiming for the smoothest possible braking deceleration without that putting too much strain on the motorcycle’s engine.
Can you skip gears upshifting on a motorcycle?
The same way you can skip gears when downshifting, you can skip gears when upshifting with your motorcycle.
The same principles apply here, as well. It is not considered bad form or practice per se; however, it is still recommended to shift up through all the gears.
When skipping gears while upshifting, you need to make sure you are driving at appropriate speeds. If you are riding fast enough and the speed will also be appropriate for a higher gear, there should be no problem shifting up.
However, if your speed is not fast enough for the higher gear, the motorcycle may stall, you will not be able to accelerate fast if needed, or you will be lugging your motorcycle engine.
What are the dangers of skipping gears on a motorcycle?
Some motorcycles may have a gear indicator; however, many motorcycles do not have a gear indicator, so you will not have easy means of telling at what gear you are in.
The biggest problem with skipping gears on a motorcycle comes from the fact that if you are riding at highway speeds, pull the clutch and start downshifting from 6 to 2, and something happens which requires you to reengage the clutch, you may not get into the right gear. How do you know what gear you will be in and if your speed and RPMs are suitable for it?
If one day you happen to release the clutch at a 30 mph, for example, thinking you are in a higher gear, but in reality, you are in first gear, things can get real messy.
A mistake like this will create a strong jolt, and the motorcycle can also start skidding on you.
While keeping the clutch in and waiting for the motorcycle to slow down enough to skip a few gears, you can end up riding the clutch. You are not making use of engine braking, which is safer than coasting. With time and as motorcycle riders gain more experience, they usually see that rev-matching combined with shifting one gear at a time is the safest way of changing gears.
While holding the clutch, there is also an increased risk of locking the rear wheel.
The more gears you skip, the more unpredictable your motorcycle may get.
Skipping gears done wrong is not only unsafe and can lead to losing control over the motorcycle and crashing, but it can also damage the engine or completely destroy the gearbox and even the rear sprocket.
Should you skip gears on a motorcycle?
Overall, skipping gears is not going to hurt your motorcycle when done properly. Yet, it is still worth it to learn how to downshift the right way.
You should not skip gears if you are a new rider or riding a new motorcycle which you are still unfamiliar with.
If you are on the race track, yes, you will need to skip two or three gears sometimes, but for casual everyday riders, there is simply no need to do so.
If you need to slow down quickly, it is better to slow down and shift into the next lower gear. This will allow you to slow down using the engine as a brake.
Downshifting one gear at a time while trying to rev-match is usually the best way to go about stopping. The gear you are in should always match your speed. This allows you to quickly and efficiently accelerate if needed.
Another advantage of engine braking is that your braking pads will last a lot longer.
Blipping the throttle may be useful in order to make the transitions smoother because a lower gear requires higher engine speed than a higher gear. (Oh, and by the way, rev-matching and downshifting one gear of the time is a lot of fun.)
If you are still learning and getting used to how your motorcycle behaves, then make sure to always release the clutch smoothly and slowly. That way, you will give the engine enough time to catch up in revs, withouth going past the redline.
It is still recommended, for safety reasons, to apply the brake, even if you intend to engine brake.
Motorcycles have a smaller stature, which is part of the reason why many car drivers cannot get a good idea of how fast the motorcycle is moving or stopping. When you tap the brake on your motorcycle, the other vehicles behind you will know that you are slowing down.