How to Shift a Motorcycle: What You Need to Know

How to shift a motorcycle

Learning how to shift a motorcycle can be difficult. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to shift the gears smoothly. If you are just learning this skill, here’s a simple instructional guide on how to shift a motorcycle. Just follow these instructions, and you’ll be able to shift gears in no time!

Parts of a motorcycle

Before shifting gears, you will need to know the motorcycle parts involved in the shifting process. There are three parts that you need to be aware of:

1. Clutch lever

The clutch lever is one of the most important features involved in shifting gears. Located on the left  handlebar, it can send or remove power from the back wheel, depending on whether you activate the lever. This then either allows or prevents the motorcycle from moving.

If you want your back wheel to receive energy from the engine, simply leave the clutch lever be; do not touch it. To shut off energy from the back wheel, though, squeeze the lever tightly with your left hand. This motion will engage the clutch lever and remove power to the back wheel.

No matter how much roll there is on the throttle, the motorcycle will be prevented from moving if the clutch lever is activated.

As you let go of the clutch lever, you will experience a friction zone. Though this might sound intimidating, it is not. The friction zone is simply when the clutch begins to transfer power from the engine. Once the friction zone has been encountered, the motorcycle will begin to roll again.

To find the friction zone, you will want to use minimal throttle roll-on. Locating the friction zone will allow you to better know how much pressure you need to add or release from your clutch lever.

How to shift a motorcycle

2. Gear shift lever

As the name suggests, the gear shift lever is the device that allows you to shift gears. You will find the gear shift lever at the lower left side of the bike, allowing you to change the gears with your left foot. More specifically, you change the lever by pulling up or pushing down on it with your foot.

The gears will be ordered as follows:

  • 6th gear (if applicable)
  • 5th gear
  • 4th gear
  • 3rd gear
  • 2nd gear
  • 1st gear

If you want to go, for example, from the third gear to the fourth, simply pull up on the lever with your foot one time. You should feel one click, indicating that you have shifted the gear up by one. To go down a gear, simply push the lever down with your foot.

3. Throttle

The throttle determines how much gas gets to the engine. You will find it on the right handlebar. You change the amount of gas by rotating the throttle. This motion is commonly referred to as rolling on the throttle.

Before rolling the throttle, start with your wrist in a neutral position. A neutral position is how your fist looks when it is resting on a table. To give the bike more gas, rotate the throttle towards your body. If you want to remove gas, rotate the throttle away from your body.

How to shift

When shifting your motorcycle, you will need to be conscious of all three of the previously mentioned parts. Here are the steps to shifting gears:

  • Disengage the clutch lever by pulling it towards your body
  • Use your left foot to shift the gear level to the appropriate gear
  • Slightly rev the engine by twisting the throttle
  • Gradually release the clutch lever
  • While releasing the clutch, feather the throttle to make the bike move forward
  • Rev the engine to make the bike move until you need to shift gears again

Frequently asked questions:

Here are some frequently asked questions about shifting motorcycle gears:

How do I know when to change gears?

There is no set rule for how to determine when you need to change gears. The easiest way to determine if you need to shift is by the sound and feel of the motorcycle.

If the bike sounds high pitched, you need to shift higher. If the motorcycle is making a low pitch, on the other hand, you need to shift lower.

This technique may take some time to master, and that is okay. The more you practice on your bike, the more familiar you’ll become with its sounds and needs.

I am following the steps listed above, but I am still not shifting gears smoothly. Am I doing something wrong?

If you are following the steps above, you are not doing anything wrong. Learning how to shift smoothly takes a lot of practice and learning how to listen to your bike. It is perfectly normal to find it difficult to shift gears smoothly. Just keep practicing, and you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

How do I slow down for a stop?

You will more than likely need to shift down as you decelerate to slow for a stop. Here are the steps of slowing for a stop:

  • Downshift as you decelerate
  • Shift to the lower gear
  • Let go of the clutch lever while feathering the throttle to match revs

If you need to come to a complete stop, it is best to shift to neutral, hold the brake as you stand still, and shift to the 1st gear right before moving.


Learning how to shift a motorcycle can be tough, but with the help of our instructional guide, you will be out riding in no time! Just remember that you need to listen to your bike and practice diligently! It is only through knowing your bike and practice that you will have smooth shifts.