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.
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.
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.