How to Shift a Motorcycle

Man Driving Harley in Desert

Learning how to shift motorcycle gears is one of the fundamental challenges that new riders in the Portland area have to overcome. Initially, it can be overwhelming to coordinate the different functions when learning how to ride a motorcycle. With lots of practice, though, you’ll be able to answer “how do I shift a motorcycle” instead of asking it!

The Fundamentals of Motorcycle Gears

There are three basic components of the gear-shifting system on most motorcycles:

  • Throttle – Located on the right end of the handlebars, the throttle controls the engine power. Rotating your hand towards you increases the supply of gas to the engine, thus increasing the power.
  • Clutch – The clutch lever is located on the left handlebar. It engages and disengages the engine power to the back wheel of the motorcycle. Squeezing the lever disengages power and vice versa.
  • Gear Selector – The gear shift lever is located on the lower left side of the motorcycle where the rider’s left foot is used to change gears. Most bikes have five gears to choose from but some bikes have six.
Harley Davidson Digital Shifter

Basic Gear Shifting Technique

The goal for any new Vancouver area rider is to learn how to shift motorcycle gears smoothly and reliably to where the procedure is almost automatic and subconscious. Below, we’ve laid out the basic individual steps that — when combined with practice — will get you to a high level of shifting proficiency:

  • Disengage the engine power by using your left hand to squeeze the clutch lever completely. There is now no power going to the back wheel.
  • Connect the correct gear by placing your left foot on the gear shift lever (tap down for a lower gear/pull up for a higher gear).
  • Rotate the throttle lever by slightly twisting your right wrist toward you (starting from a wrist flat position). You are now increasing engine power.
  • Gradually release the clutch lever SLOWLY with your left hand while gently rotating the throttle lever, so moving the motorcycle forward.
  • Once the bike is in motion, release the clutch fully and accelerate gently. Slowly increase speed. Repeat the process to shift to the next gear and so on.

Make Latus Motors Harley-Davidson Your Motorcycle Dealer

Now that you’ve learned how to shift a motorcycle, you’ll want to make sure your bike runs smoothly and the shifting mechanisms are functioning properly. Contact the professionals in our service department and they’ll gladly check those functions and perform regular service maintenance on your ride.

Once you’ve mastered how to shift motorcycle gears perfectly, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a more powerful machine. Browse through our inventory of new Harley-Davidson bikes! if you prefer a ride that’s more affordable, our selection of used and pre-owned motorcycles are sure to impress.

For any questions on how to shift a motorcycle or any other Gresham-area motorcycle riding topics, please contact us and we’ll be happy to provide you with the right answers!

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Latus Motors Harley-Davidson 45.383731, -122.580852.