Is It Bad To Shift a Motorcycle Without Using The Clutch? Myth Busted

You need to use the clutch to get your motorcycle moving in the first gear and when coming to a stop, but why not use it at other times?

If you’re using good technique, the shift should be buttery smooth, and everything should be golden. But if you’re forcing the shifter or grinding the gears, you are definitely putting undue wear on your transmission, and that can be bad for your clutch and transmission.

If you’re like most riders, you use the clutch lever every time you shift gears, but you’ve probably heard of clutchless shifting. How does it work, and is it okay to do?

Clutchless shifting is exactly what it sounds like. It means shifting gears without using the lever on the left Handlebar.

It’s pretty common on upshifts, can be done for downshifts, and won’t hurt your transmission one bit if done correctly.

As we explained in one of our transmission articles, the cogs in the transmission slide along shafts to shift from one position to the next.

When you’re on the gas and accelerating, the gear teeth are pushed hard against each other.

The same goes when you’re off the gas and decelerating with engine braking, and anytime there’s a load on the transmission, It’s not going to want to shift positions and move to the next gear.

To shift gears, you have to unload the transmission; traditionally, that’s done by rolling off the gas and pulling in the clutch.

But here’s the thing. When you roll off the throttle, in that instant before you start decelerating with engine braking, the transmission is unloaded. Toe the shifter right as you roll off the gas, and it’ll slip into the next gear without the clutch.

It can be smoother and quicker for upshifts to shift without the clutch, which means faster acceleration. It’s also fun and satisfying to do since it takes some technique to get it right.

You can clutchless downshifting too, but it’s a little trickier. You need to blip the throttle and press down on the shifter right as revs peak, and it works best if you’re on the brakes since that helps match revs.

Clutchless downshifting takes a lot more finesse and technique, and there’s no real advantage to doing it, as long as you’ve got a functional clutch lever.

If you don’t, however, because the levers are broken or the clutch cable snapped while you’re out on a ride, you’re going to want to be familiar with clutches shifting so you can get yourself home.

Most motorcycles clutch shift just fine, but some bikes like those with heavy flywheels or wide ratio gearboxes don’t take kindly to the technique, so don’t feel bad if you’re struggling.

Like those with high revving engines or close-ratio gearboxes, other bikes seem like they slip into the next gear with almost no effort At all.

It all depends on the bike you’re riding and the revs at which you’re shifting. In general, the higher the RPM, the easier it’ll be.

An easy way to learn the upshifts technique is to pre-weight the shifter with your toe and then air the throttle.

As soon as you roll off the gas, the shift lever will move, and the gears are going to change.

Eventually, you’ll get a feel for the timing, and you’ll be able to do it without pre weighting the shifter and without even thinking about it.

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Keith Mallinson has been a motorcycle enthusiast for the past 20 years. He has owned a variety of bikes during this time, ranging from sport bikes to cruisers. Keith has a passion for all things motorcycle related, including riding, maintaining, and customizing his bikes. In addition to his personal experience with motorcycles, Keith has also kept up to date with industry news and trends. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and insights with others through his motorcycle blog. When he's not out on the open road, Keith can be found tinkering in his garage, planning his next road trip, or spending time with his family.