Remember when having a quick-shifter on a production motorcycle was a Big Deal? Now, the top-of-the-line bikes have both upshifting and downshifting covered with the auto-blipping throttles. So, where does that leave those of us with unassisted shifting on our motorcycles? Do we have to go buy gadgets like a HealTech Quick Shifter Easy? Of course, the answer is no. You just need to perform proper clutchless upshifts, like performance riders did for generations before quick-shifters became available. When it comes to downshifting, you’ll still have to use the tried-and-true method of matching the engine speed with the throttle while you manipulate the clutch.

MO Tested: HealTech Quick Shifter Easy

Before we dive into the upshifting technique, some of you may be wondering why anyone who doesn’t ride a sporty bike would care about clutchless upshifts. I first started using this technique when dragstrip testing cruisers but soon found that the technique was particularly useful for smaller-displacement bikes in urban traffic. Clutchless upshifts take less time and, consequently, means you can spend more time on the gas when you want to pull away from a stop light. Now, I use the technique on all bikes when the situation for acceleration is required – even fourth- or fifth-gear passing scenarios.

The theory behind a clutchless upshift is that, under acceleration, if you quickly roll the throttle off and then back on, the cogs in the transmission are momentarily unloaded which makes for the perfect time to shift gears. Since timing is important, it’s best to begin with slightly preloading the shift lever by nudging it upward. When you rapidly roll the throttle off and back on, the transmission will snick into place one gear higher just as it would with the clutch disengaged. As you gain skill in this technique, you’ll naturally find yourself beginning to perform the gear change and throttle adjustment simultaneously.

clutchless upshift

To preload the shift lever, lift it o the point where it stops moving before rolling the throttle off.

Some people will wonder if preloading the shifter and letting the engine bump up against the rev-limiter will achieve the same result. The short answer is that yes, it will, but that technique won’t necessarily result in the fastest acceleration times. For the slightly longer explanation, take a look at dyno charts to see how most engines begin to drop in power before they hit their limiter. Ideally, you’ll want to upshift right at the engine’s peak so that the bike continues to accelerate at its maximum rate.

Now, go find some open road and practice your clutchless upshifts. It’ll be a nice tool to have in your riding kit when the situation arises.

  • Old MOron

    Good stuff, Evans. You’ve stated that for downshifting one still has to use the clutch, so forgive me for this question. I’m just thinking out loud:

    Is it possible to momentarily unload the transmission when decelerating? If you’re being slowed by engine braking, can you give a little throttle such that there is momentarily no load on the transmission?

    • John A. Smith

      I’ve always done them by rolling off and gently pressing down on the shift lever. But usually just out of boredom, as the shift isn’t smooth like when you up shift, so I usually use the clutch to down shift and blip.

    • Born to Ride

      You’ve never tried/resorted to clutchless downshifting? Clearly you didn’t crash your dirt bike enough as a child.

      • Old MOron

        Actually on a dirt bike, in the dirt, I just downshift without the clutch and induce a brake slide.

        • Born to Ride

          I learned the virtue of rev matching in the numerous rides home with no clutch lever. I like to wag the rear end sometimes but that’s usually with a clutch dump.

          • Old MOron

            Oh, now I see what you meant.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I think the guys pretty much have it covered. I prefer to use a clutch when I’ve got one available.

    • Kevin Duke

      Yep, you can make clutchless downshifts, too, but at greater risk to the tranny’s internals and with no real benefit.

      • Old MOron

        See? The MOron in Chief has perspective. Thanks, Kevdashian.

  • Ted

    Don’t none of you MOrons tell any of my bikes that they ain’t suppose to downshift smooth without the clutch. They don’t know any better now.😂

  • Matt O

    Works great on bikes with heal/toe shifters. Just rest your foot on the lever, work the throttle and let gravity do the work.

  • brad

    Works great on any bike, regardless of a heel/toe shifter as long as you know how to ride and listen to the r.p.m.’s.

  • BDan75

    Never really tried to learn this skill, didn’t feel it necessary for myself. That said…am I wrong in thinking that you run a greater risk of screwing up your transmission if you try this and get it wrong, esp. while learning? Bent shift forks, etc.?

    • Kevin

      I am replying so I can see any replies you get. I can’t help but think this technique puts your transmission at some risk. Hitting a clutchless shift perfect feels pretty smooth. But anything less than perfect makes awful noises and feelings from the tranny. Doing it under any kind of speed/acceleration only makes the bad things worse. I’ve had to drive a manual car home after the clutch went out and I have tried clutchless shifting with most of my bikes. So I have done it more than just a very little. Fortunately I enjoy shifting. So clutchless isn’t a big thing for me.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    You can’t downshift, you also probably don’t want to use this between 1st and 2d (especially if the gearbox has short 1st gear), and you don’t really accelerate that hard above 3d gear (if some of you do that on sportbikes, please get pilot licence).
    All that makes it a very limited use technique.

    • Born to Ride

      I use this technique all the time 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd WOT on my Multi. Often do it while cruising when I can’t be bothered to put my left hand back on the bars.

  • Mahatma

    And this will save how many tenths riding on streets?Seems to me like saving pennies and spending pounds…

    • Kevin Duke

      Clutchless upshifts can also be done without accelerating hard and without damaging anything internal.

    • Evans Brasfield

      I’m with Kevin on this. I do tons of clutchless upshifts at mid-throttle around town. It’s so smooth and easy.

  • DickRuble

    The same technique (rev up and let the revs drop a bit before shifting) does wonders in smoothing the clutch assisted (regular) upshifts. Next article: clutch assisted wheelies.

  • JMDGT

    I like a speed shifter. I also like a slipper clutch. Wheel hop can be disconcerting. Shifting is part of the fun.

  • RandleMcMurphy

    I think this depends on the bike. Some do this well. I had a ’75 Suzuki GT 550 that did this effortlessly. My shifts were Uber fast. I never gave it another thought once I started doing it. The bike complied. Never any mechanical issues. I did use the clutch for downshifts. I knew to never even go there.

  • SpankyPE

    Just work on being a better rider. The cagers do not care how you shift.

  • Carl Beherrell

    Funny, I discovered this on my own decades ago and had been doing this not only on the bike but in some of my 4 wheel vehicles. I had assumed it wasn’t good for it so I don’t do it as much, but now I will start doing it again.