When To Shift Gears On A Motorcycle? [At What Speed]

Motorcycle parked

Many a times, the bike riders do not change the gear of their motorcycles according to the speed they are running in. Some even change gears only after the engine starts roaring and some even stall the motorcycle.

So, when to shift gears on a motorcycle? And at what speed? While the rider should change the gears more in instincts and the ideal speed varies depending on the situation, the approximate speed range are like this: 0 to 15 km/h for first gear, 15 to 30 km/h for second gear, 30 to 40 km/h for third, 40 to 55 km/h for fourth, and 55 km/h and higher for fifth and sixth gears.

Again, to reiterate, the speed is more of an indication rather than the rule. The bike rider should always listen to the motorcycle and change the gear accordingly rather than following a rule based gear shifting.

Over time, the rider will get used to the motorcycle requirements and will change the gears according to their ideal speed purely on the instincts. So, there is no need to fret in case you are a beginner and are worrying about the speed at which to change the gears.

So, let’s start with neutral gear and slowly shift to higher gears at speed then.

First Gear

Let us first discuss about the first gear. The ideal speed range for the first gear is 0 km/h to 15 km/h.

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.

Driving in first gear is scratchy at best. The smooth running of the bike starts only from the second gear.

The first gear which is mainly used to move the motorcycle from the resting position to start, is differentiated from the other gears by placing the first gear down on the motorcycle and the rest gears are all up with the neutral gear between the first and the second gear.

The neutral gear placed in between signals the rider to use the first gear only for starting and moving the motorcycle forward. For driving purposes, start from the second gear.

Second Gear

Second gear is where the motorcycle driving starts. The ideal speed range for the second gear is between 15 km/h to 30 km/h.

Second gear is the most used gear if you are traveling in busy and crowded roads. The heavy traffic makes it impossible for the rider to speed up the motorcycle to high rpm.

In addition, second gear does not have the turbulence that you feel while riding in the first gear and is comfortable to ride on even when you are stuck in a traffic.

Third Gear

For the third gear, the ideal speed range is between 30 km/h to 40 km/h.

From here on, the speed range is actually more of an approximate guide rather than something that needs to be followed strictly.

In addition, the rpm and speed of the gears, specially higher gears varies slightly for different motorcycle make and models.

Fourth Gear

The ideal speed range for the fourth gear is between 40 km/h to 55 km/h.

Again, the speed range is actually more of an approximate guide rather than something that needs to be followed strictly.

You can even change to fifth gear at 50 km/h. And it would not be not be an issue at all.

At fourth gear, the power generated according to the gear ratio will be ideal in the speed range of 40 km/h to 55 km/h.

Fourth gear is when you start really speeding up your motorcycle. You will be start riding at high speed from here. Although 40 km/h might not look high, it is still considerably a substantial speed and any accidents involved at this speed can injure the rider.

Fifth and Sixth Gears

For fifth and sixth gears, the ideal speed anything above 55 km/h.

You can even shift to fifth gear at 50 km/h speed itself. Usually, you would shift up to the fifth gear only when the road is smooth, there is hardly any traffic or you are driving on a highway.

And riding on fifth or sixth gear carries more risk of injury for the rider in the event of any crashes or accidents. So, you need to be cautious and should ready to shift down the gear whenever you are riding your motorcycle on fifth or sixth gears.

Since the speed for these higher gears is anything above 55 km/h, the bike rider needs to be cautious and should ready to shift down the gears or apply the brakes quickly.

If you consciously change the gears according to their ideal speed range, the main advantage will be the better maintenance of the motorcycle parts.

Advantages Of Changing Gears According To The Speed

First, the clutch plates will be in a healthy condition. The clutch plate won’t get burned easily and won’t be damaged.

Second, the gear won’t get stuck and the transmission will work smoothly over a long period of time.

Third, the engine components will be able to function smoothly without an erratic load coming from the gear and transmission.

And lastly, when you change and shift the gears according to the speed range, the mileage of your motorcycle will be high. The fuel economy or the mileage will drastically improve.

Things To Keep In Mind While Changing Gears

Motorcycle gear not shifting smoothly is one of the common problems associated with bike gears. The main reasons for gear shifting issues include problems in the clutch cable, engine oil, chain and sprockets, and the gear shift lever itself.

If your gear is not shifting either up or down, then there is a problem in either of these three things.

  • Clutch – not enough slack or too much slack in the cable.
  • Oil/lubrication – oil level is low or you have used a deteriorated quality Oil.
  • Transmission Gear – seized transmission, foreign object stuck in the gear assembly.
  • Chain – loosened chain, worn out chain sprockets

In addition, if you don’t change the gears according to their speed ranges, the gear might get stuck or there might be too much stalling of the bike.

Related Questions

Why is first gear down on a motorcycle? The ergonomical and logical reasons why the first gear is down on a motorcycle include – safety reasons during emergency, first gear is not to be used for driving, impossible to accidentally engage second gear, neutral gear as the landing gear doesn’t make much sense.

Will a motorcycle start in gear? Motorcycles can be started in first gear easily by pulling in the clutch. For higher gears, motorcycle will start, but dies down once you release the clutch to move forward. In case the clutch switch is not functioning, motorcycles won’t start in any gear.

Does stalling damage your motorcycle? Stalling will not cause any damage to your motorcycle. However, if there are too many instances of stalling, there can be impact on the peripherals like chain and sprockets, damage in the valves, or your motorcycle gear can get stuck.