How To Smoothly Downshift A Motorcycle

To learn how to smoothly downshift a motorcycle takes lots of practice. However, it needs to be done not only for a smooth ride, but also to avoid damaging the motorcycle and in the process, yourself, and anyone who may be near you. An improper downshift can lock up the rear wheel and at the very least, make the bike jump. While downshifting a motorcycle is similar to downshifting a car, it is far more dangerous and requires years of experience to do it safely.

To complete this task you will need the items below:

  • Motorcycle
  • Proper safety attire including a helmet and chaps or at least jeans
  • Open road with minimal curves for the first attempt
  1. Understand the parts of the motorcycle. It is possible to use the engine to slow the bike down, but in general, the clutch is used to change gears and make sure that the RPM's match the gear you're changing to while the brakes can be used alone to slow the bike down without clutching at all.
  2. Learn to "blip." Blipping is a common practice used to prevent damage to the suspension and other parts of the motorcycle. Basically you apply the clutch, which disengages the transmission, then you rev the motor to get the RPM's where they need to be for the lower gear. Done correctly before downshifting, blipping can make for a smooth transition from one gear to another without any "hop" in the rear.
  3. Know when to downshift. You don't need to downshift to stop. In fact, if you're coming to a complete stop, downshifting is completely unnecessary. You only need to downshift when you will be requiring more power at a slower speed.
  4. Downshift the motorcycle. Assess the situation and what is required. Keep an eye on your RPM's. You shouldn't downshift below 4,000 RPM's. Apply the clutch and brake if needed. Before shifting to a lower gear, rev the throttle a bit to keep the RPM's where they need to be. Listen to you bike so that you can get a feel for the sound of your RPM's. Don't confuse speed with RPM's. You want to rev about 1,000 RPM's per gear you are downshifting. After revving the motorcycle, downshift and gently release the clutch while giving the bike gas. Do not pop the clutch unless you are prepared to ride a wheelie and possibly replace your clutch.
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