The Dennis Kirk Blog
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We can always get better at the things we do. Riding is no different. So often, riders stop getting better after learning the basics and they continue to ride that way til the end of time. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you focus on becoming a better rider, you can be faster and more efficient, whether it’s on the track or on the street.
Mastering your shifting is one way that you can become a better rider. Seamless shifts can make you faster, but more importantly, they will make the ride smoother for you and your passenger. Clutchless upshifting and rev matching for downshifts can accomplish just that when done properly. With a little practice, you can learn these techniques and take your riding to the next level.
Omitting the clutch while shifting through the gears can not only make your shifts faster, but it will also smooth out your ride and can actually be easier on the bike’s gearbox. Not using the clutch may go against all of your instincts, but once you figure it out, you’ll be wanting to blast through the gears like this more often.
Now you can’t just slam through the gears all willy nilly. You need to use the proper technique to finesse your way through. Once you do it right for the first time you will be wondering why you weren’t taught this way from the get-go. Clutchless upshifting eliminates two steps in the process by not having to disengage and engage the clutch.
To clutchless upshift, you first need to put upward pressure on the shift peg with your foot while accelerating. Don’t push so hard that you pop the bike out of gear, but give enough pressure to where you begin to feel resistance. As you start to go over the shift point in RPM, quickly roll off the throttle and then back on immediately. You do not need to fully close the throttle; just enough to stop your acceleration. This will take the load off of the transmission enough to allow the gears to be changed. Once you have upshifted, you can take the pressure off of the shifter until you need to make the next upshift.
That’s it. Follow those easy steps and you will have successfully upshifted without the use of your clutch. It may take you a few times to get the sequence down perfect, but once you get it down your upshifts will be much smoother and faster.
Rev Matching/Blipping Throttle While Downshifting
Just like clutchless upshifting, Rev Matching can smooth out your downshifting and is a little easier on your bike than the standard procedure. It’s also a must learn if you are tired of your passenger slamming into you as you downshift through the gears. Learning how to rev match by blipping the throttle will prevent the bike from rapidly slowing down after the shift (engine braking). Blipping the throttle allows the bike to smoothly decelerate evenly through gears. A slipper clutch will help, but is definitely not the cure-all that rev matching can be.
When downshifting, you need to match the engine speed to the road speed to eliminate engine braking. Blipping the throttle accomplishes that. The process begins with your index and middle fingers on the front brake lever to lightly apply the brake and then pulling in the clutch and downshifting a gear like you normally would. Next comes the blipping. With the clutch still pulled in, quickly roll on and off the throttle slightly to rev the engine slightly. With the engine now revved to match the road speed, you can release the clutch lever to go into gear. Throughout the process, you should be continually applying even pressure on the front brake lever.
This process can be hard to master at first. Every gear of every bike may require different amounts of blipping, so you may have to practice to find that perfect sweet spot. It could range between 500 rpm to 2000 rpm depending on the bike and gear selection. If the bike continues to engine brake, you need to blip the throttle more to up the rpm. If it lurches after releasing the clutch, then you have blipped it too much.
Both techniques require some practice to get them down. Find yourself an empty parking lot and give both a try. You likely won’t get it down on your first attempt, so don’t get too frustrated and quit. Make these processes habit by doing it over and over and you will soon be shifting like a pro without even thinking about it.
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