At What Speed Should I Shift Gears On A Motorcycle?

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Learning to change gears may be the most overwhelming challenge for new bike riders. So, at what speed should you shift gears on a motorcycle?

While the appropriate speed varies based on the situation, the following is a rough estimate of the speed range: First gear is 0 to 9 mph, second gear is 9 to 18 mph, third gear is 18 to 24 mph, fourth gear is 24 to 34 mph, and fifth and sixth gears are 34 mph and above.

Here's what a 6-speed bike layout should look like: 1, N, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. If you're shifting in MotoGP style, that sequence will be reversed, with one up to get into first and down to reach 2-6 (again, all in sequential order, just the opposite of the regular shift style).

Biker riders frequently fail to change the gear on their motorcycles in accordance with the speed at which they are traveling. Some even wait until the engine starts roaring before shifting gears, causing the motorcycle to stall. Thanks to years of riding motorcycles as well as experience working in the motor industry, we have put together this simple guide to help riders understand at what speed they should shift gears on a motorcycle.

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At What Speed Should I Shift Gears On a Motorcycle?

So, how do you know when to change gears on a motorcycle? And how fast are you going? Your bike will tell you it needs to shift by the sound and response of the engine. Shifting is done sequentially on a bike. This means that the lowest gear is 1st and neutral is a half-click higher between 1st and 2nd.

The bottom line is to change gear when your speed demands it, and it is carried out by coordinating both hands (right for throttle and left for the clutch) with your left foot for the gear lever while keeping your eyes on the road ahead rather than glancing down at the controls.

Assume you're starting from a stop and have engaged first gear, cranked the throttle back to build enough rpm to fully release the clutch, and begin moving. So, what's next? Second gear will quickly be required to continue accelerating. These steps can be accomplished in a split second after a little practice, but make sure the moves are gentle at first until you're accustomed to the bike and its reactions.

To restate, speed is more of a guideline than a requirement. Rather than following a rule-based gear shifting system, the motorcyclist should always pay attention to the bike and change gear accordingly.

Over time, the rider will become accustomed to the motorcycle's demands and will shift gears according to their preferred pace based only on instinct. There's no need to be concerned if you're a newbie and are concerned about the speed at which you should change gears.

Even though the majority of current cars have automatic transmissions, practically every motorcycle has a manual transmission. In the end, it all comes down to hand-eye, foot-eye, and eye-hand coordination.

First Shift

First, let's talk about first gear. For the first gear, the recommended speed range is 0 to 9 mph.

It's a good idea to know where the clutch engages before changing into first gear. Put the bike in neutral by squeezing the clutch lever. The major purpose of the first gear is to bring the motorcycle from a standstill to a start. You rarely drive in first gear unless you're stuck on a steep slope. At best, driving in first gear is a chore. The bike's seamless operation begins only in second gear.

The first gear, which is primarily used to take the motorbike from a stopped position to a starting position, is distinguished from the other gears by positioning it down on the motorcycle while the rest of the gears are all up, with the neutral gear in between the first and second gears. This is for safety considerations during an emergency.

The neutral gear in between tells the rider that the first gear should only be used to start the motorcycle and move it forward.

Release the clutch lever slowly until the motorcycle begins to move. This is where the interaction begins. To get started riding in first gear, softly release the clutch while gradually increasing the throttle. If you release the clutch too quickly, the engine may lug or stall, and if you apply too much throttle, the rear wheel will spin.

Second Gear

Getting the most comfort out of your motorcycle only begins once you hit second gear. The recommended speed range for the second gear is 9 to 18 mph. Continue to give some throttle after you're in first gear until it's time to move to second. When driving on congested and packed highways, second gear is the most commonly used gear. The rider is unable to accelerate the motorcycle to high RPMs due to heavy traffic.

Furthermore, second gear does not have the turbulence that first gear does, and it is more comfortable to ride in, even when driving slowly in traffic.

Third Shift

The recommended speed range for third gear is between 18 and 24 mph. From here onward, the speed range is more of an approximate recommendation than anything that must be rigorously adhered to.

Furthermore, the rpm and speed of the gears, particularly the higher gears, vary slightly between motorcycle brands and models.

Fourth Gear

The recommended speed range for the fourth gear is between 24 and 34 mph.

Again, the speed range is meant to be used as a rough guide rather than something that must be completely adhered to. At 31 mph, you can even shift to fifth gear, and it would not be a problem at all.

In the speed range of 24 mph to 34 mph, the power generated according to the gear ratio will be perfect in the fourth gear.

When you shift to fourth gear, your motorcycle begins to accelerate rapidly. From here, you'll begin riding at a rapid speed. Although 24 mph may not appear to be a high speed, it is still a significant speed, and any accidents occurring at this speed can cause serious injury to the rider.

The 5th and 6th Gears

The best speed for 5th and 6th gears is anything over 34 mph. Only when the road is calm, there is little traffic, or you are traveling on a freeway will you shift up to fifth gear. You can, however, even shift to fifth gear while driving at 31 mph.

In the case of a crash or accident, riding in fifth or sixth gear puts the rider at a higher risk of injury. So, whenever you're riding your motorcycle in fifth or sixth gear, you should be cautious and ready to shift down. Because the speed limit for these higher ratios is 34 mph, the rider must be cautious and prepared to quickly shift down the gears or apply the brakes.

The biggest benefit of changing gears intentionally according to their appropriate speed range is that the motorbike parts will last longer.


You'll need to downshift as you slow down or stop, and you'll know it's time when the engine's pitch decreases, and it starts to struggle. Release the throttle, squeeze the clutch, then pull the shift lever down to shift into a lower gear. Then slowly release the clutch while increasing the throttle to increase the engine speed.

When downshifting, the goal is to match the bottom of the higher gear with the engine speed before allowing it to slow down, smoothing the transition and preventing rear wheel lockup.

To downshift without a clutch, you'll need to employ a method known as throttle "blipping," which involves going backward with the throttle closed while slightly opening the throttle to unload the clutch and allow a gear change. You're timing your shift with the short window when the revs maximum and the transmission is unloaded, much like with clutchless upshifts.

Clutchless downshifting works best when you're decelerating on the brakes since it helps match road speed to engine revs. However, doing so requires blipping the throttle while simultaneously tugging on the front brake lever, which is a difficult combination to master.

The Benefits Of Changing Gears Based On Speed

First and foremost, the clutch plates will be in good working order. The clutch plate will not be readily burnt or damaged.

Second, the gear will not become stuck, and the transmission will function smoothly for a long time.

Third, without an irregular load from the gear and transmission, the engine components will be able to operate smoothly.

Finally, you'll get the most mileage out of your motorcycle if you change and shift gears according to the speed range. The mileage or fuel efficiency will significantly improve.

Things to Consider When Switching Gears

One of the most typical issues with motorcycle gears is that it does not change smoothly. Problems with the sprockets, chain, engine oil, clutch cable, and the gear change lever itself are the most common causes of gear shifting issues.

If your gear isn't moving up or down, one of these four things isn't working properly:

  • Sprockets – worn out chain or loosened chain
  • Transmission Gear - a seized transmission with a foreign object lodged in the gear assembly
  • Clutch – the cable has either too little or too much slack
  • Oil/lubrication – either the oil level is low, or you've used a low-quality oil

Furthermore, if you do not change the gears according to their speed ranges, the gear may become stuck, or the bike may stall excessively.

Is It Possible To Start A Motorcycle In Gear?

By drawing in the clutch, motorcycles can simply be started in first gear. The motorcycle will start in higher gears but will die as you release the clutch to ride ahead. Motorcycles will not start in any gear if the clutch switch is not working.