Riding Uphill on a Motorcycle [How to and at Which Gear]

Motorcycle uphill riding

Driving uphill as a beginner bike rider can be unnerving. Especially the first few times.

Years ago when I went for a long ride with a few of my biker friends, I was shit nervous to ride a steep hill.

Looking back now, it feels meh, not a big deal. But it was back then.

So let’s dive right into how to ride uphill on a motorcycle. Starting from how to start on an uphill.

How to ride uphill on a motorcycle

Motorcycle riding on a uphill road

Let’s start with the basics.

Starting from how to start your motorcycle on an uphill road to how to ride uphill to what to do with clutch, gear, and brakes.

Let’s dig in.

Starting the motorcycle uphill

Let’s start from the start.

If you have to start your motorcycle on an uphill road, here is the first thing to keep in mind:

As soon as you pull in the clutch – the motorcycle will start moving backward and down. Unless – you brake.

So, pull in the clutch and hold the brake.

Motorcycle Clutch

Which brake?

Preferably, the front brake.

If the front brake is not possible or you are not comfortable, use the rear brake.

It will be difficult with the rear brake though. You need to be switched to the first gear before you start the motorcycle. Only after that, pull in the clutch with your leg pressing on the rear brake.

To keep it simple and easy, use the front brake.

Start the motorcycle now.

Then, slowly release the clutch with the gear in first gear and start moving.

To start the motorcycle on an uphill road:

  1. Apply the front brake first. Pull in the front brake lever.
  2. Pull in the clutch. With brakes applied, the motorcycle won’t go backward.
  3. Start the motorcycle. Either starter or kickstart.
  4. Release the front brake. And slowly release the clutch to move forward.

Riding uphill

Once you have started the motorcycle (or riding for some time and then encountered an uphill), keep the throttle on. And keep moving.

You have to accelerate more on an uphill than what you are used to on a plain road.

So throttle up. Accelerate more. Keep moving.

A motorcycle rider driving uphill

One more thing.

Keep the motorcycle to lower gears. Preferably. And not mandatory.

The second or third gear is optimum. But if the uphill is too steep, you might have to shift down to even the first gear as well, if necessary.

Riding an uphill at lower gears has 2 advantages:

  • More engine torque to navigate the steep road
  • Less chances of stalling

Let’s understand both of these advantages a bit more.

Gear, speed, torque

Different motorcycle gears provide different speeds and torques.

Without boring you with all the gear ratio principles and technicalities, here is the gist you need to know:

  1. The higher gears provide high speed but low torque
  2. The lower gears provide low speed but high torque
Motorcycle Gear Transmission - constant mesh

Think of it like this.

You are running uphill. You have good speed. But you are panting and finding it tough to run the steep road. This is you in a higher gear.

Similarly, you are walking uphill. You are slow. But you can walk the steep road easily. This is you in a lower gear.

That’s it.

That’s the simplified (oversimplified!) relation between the motorcycle gear, the torque, and its speed.

So to ride an uphill smoothly, shifting to a lower gear helps. The motorcycle gets more torque to move the steep road.

Clutch and brakes – while driving uphill

Once you are driving your motorcycle on the uphill road, here are a few pointers about clutch and brakes.

First, don’t pull in the clutch for a long period. The only times you pull the clutch should be for a gear change and a gear change only.

Motorcycle Clutch

Pulling the clutch in for long period keeps the motorcycle on neutral. If the road is too steep and the brakes are not held in, the motorcycle can move backward.

Second, use front brakes less. I know. It becomes tempting to use front brakes more while driving uphill.

Front Brake of Motorcycle

Curb that. Use rear brakes more when necessary. And apply front brakes judiciously.

Only exception. If the motorcycle is at a stop or halted, then use the front brakes more. It’s easier to use front brakes at this point.

Avoid motorcycle stalling

Last and final section on uphill motorcycle riding.

Try to avoid motorcycle stalling.

How to do that?

Here are a few tips:

  • Ride the uphill at lower gears
  • Release the clutch lever slowly after gear shifting
  • Don’t use half clutch
  • As you lower the speed, shift down the gear

That should do it. When in doubt, always fall back to the first gear. You will do fine.

Which gear is best for uphill on a motorcycle

Shifting to lower gears on the motorcycle while riding uphill is the best way to go. Preferably to the second gear or the third gear.

If the uphill is too steep and the motorcycle is stalling or sputtering, you can go for even the first gear.

Motorcycle gear shift lever

In fact, the first gear provides the best torque to navigate uphill. But the compromise is the low speed of course.

That’s why second or third gear works the best.

Again, it all depends. Depends on how steep the uphill is. How speed was your bike in before starting the uphill.

The momentum matters. If you were at high speed at the start of an uphill road, you can even drive in fourth or fifth gear even.

But on a usual uphill ride, second or third gear makes more sense.

Do’s and Don’ts of uphill riding

An uphill road with different vehicles driving

Let’s quickly glance at the do’s and don’ts of uphill motorcycle riding:

  • Be mindful of pulling in the clutch. Especially when you are at a halt.
  • While riding uphill, prefer braking the rear brakes over the front brakes.
  • If your motorcycle stalls or sputters, shift down the gears.
  • Preferably drive the steep uphill in second or third gears. Even first gear if the hill is too steep.
  • Don’t use half-clutch.
  • Throttle up more and keep the gear lower.
FAQ Icon


How to judge suitable motorcycle gear on uphill

The best way to judge the suitable gear is to determine which gear the motorcycle moves uphill without stalling or sputtering. If it does, lower the gear until it stops.

Can you go uphill in first gear?

You can go uphill in the first gear. The first gear provides the highest torque and helps in driving uphill better. The only compromise is low speed.

Is second gear suitable for uphill?

The second gear, in my opinion, is the best gear when driving a steep uphill. The higher torque keeps the motorcycle moving at a low but good speed.

Before you go…

Here are a few more posts that could help you on your biking journey: