Why Is Neutral Between the 1st and 2nd Gear in a Motorcycle?

Neutral between 1st and 2nd gear - thumbnail

While there are old motorcycles with an N12345 gear pattern, most modern motorcycles have a 1N2345 gear shift now.

Where the neutral gear is between the 1st and 2nd gear.

Why is that though?

Why is the first gear down in a motorcycle and the neutral gear is between the first and second gear?

While there are no strong technical reasons, there are, however, safety and ergonomic reasons for the neutral gear to be placed between the 1st and 2nd gear.

Here are the reasons:

  • Safety reasons in emergency situations
  • To avoid accidentally engaging higher gears
  • First gear is not to be used for driving
  • Neutral gear as the landing gear doesn’t make much sense

Let’s get into the details.

#1. Safety reasons in emergency situations

If you get caught in an emergency situation, you would shift down the gear lever in panic.

And having the first gear at the lowest point is a far better and safer option than the neutral gear.

What if the neutral gear was the lowest gear in position?

During the emergency when you press down to the lowest point and land at neutral, there will be no power transmission to the wheels.

A rider's foot on motorcycle gear shifter

The engine will make a roaring sound adding to your anxiety, and also not providing any power to the bike.

On the other hand:

Having the first gear as the lowest point will still keep the motorcycle moving and you will still have control of your motorcycle.

Neutral between 1st and 2nd gear

In these situations, you would ideally want to be in a gear that is still engaging the engine and at the same time, moving at a very low speed.

Take the case of driving down the hill, for example.

You are feeling that the brakes are not working.

You panic.

And start shifting down the gears continuously without keeping any count.

If the lowest gear was neutral, you would land on neutral and then realize to shift up to keep moving.

So, you shift up again in panic. There is a possibility that you move to higher gears again.

However, if the first gear is at the lowest position, your panic downshifting of gears will lead you to the first gear.

A far safer alternative since you will keep moving at a snail pace and at the same time engaged with the engine.

So, for these better safety reasons, the first gear is preferred at the lowest position in the gear shift lever rather than placing the neutral gear at the lowest point.

#2. To avoid accidentally engaging higher gears

In old motorcycles with an N12345 gear shift pattern, the rider can make the mistake of shifting the gear lever twice and trying to pull away in the second gear.

The accidental upshifting to higher gears can get quite frequent.

The motorcycle stalls and can halt in such cases.

In the 1N2345 gear shift pattern, on the other hand, there is no possibility of accidentally shifting to the second gear.

Motorcycle gear shift lever

The downshift undoubtedly takes you to the first gear.

Without any chance of pulling away in 2nd gear.

This might not be a big deal for experienced riders. But for a beginner rider, it counts.

Imagine you are stuck in a traffic signal.

You have placed the gear to neutral since the signal is red.

Motorcycle rider with right foot on ground

When the signal has turned green, you want to start moving the motorcycle by shifting the lever to the 1st gear. Only when you have gained momentum from the first gear, you would want to switch to the 2nd.

However, if your gear shift pattern had neutral below and all the gears are up, there is a chance of you accidentally shifting the lever up twice.

The motorcycle will abruptly go to the second gear instead of staying in the first, and will not move with your bike stalling.

#3. First gear is not to be used for driving

Before you throw daggers at me, hear me out.

The primary function of the first gear is not for driving, but to move the motorcycle from rest to start.

Unless you are stuck in a steep uphill, you hardly use the first gear to drive along.

An uphill road with different vehicles driving

The neutral gear’s placement between the first and second gears signals the rider subconsciously to drive from the second gear.

Whenever you are decelerating, you ideally want to go to the 2nd gear.

Motorcycle rider waving

The rider can feel it too.

Driving in first gear is scratchy at best.

The smooth running of the bike starts only from the second gear.

And for these reasons, the first gear which is used to move your motorcycle from the resting position to start, is differentiated from the other gears.

It makes sense from an ergonomic point of view.

#4. Neutral gear as the landing gear doesn’t make much sense

You don’t use neutral gear much often while riding.

Even if you want to land into neutral, you can easily pull in the clutch lever with your left hand.

Motorcycle clutch lever pulled in

So, placing the neutral gear as the bike’s landing gear does not add much value to the rider since you can easily access the neutral gear using the clutch.

The first gear, on the other hand, does not have any shortcuts to reach.

Shifting down from the higher gears by continuously pressing down the shift lever is the only approach.

Gear Shift - 01

And you need the first gear every time you want to slow down abruptly yet at the same time continue moving forward.

For these reasons, having the first gear as your landing gear is far more advantageous for the rider as opposed to having the neutral gear as the landing gear.

Final words

Safety and ergonomic reasons are why the neutral is placed between the 1st and 2nd gear in newer motorcycles.

Besides, neutral gear as the landing gear does not make much sense. You can switch to neutral simply by pulling in the clutch lever.

What do you think? Did we miss any important reasons?

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