Downshifting prior to turns
March 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm #2588japac1Participant
Is there advice on how to downshift prior to turns? Let’s say I am riding in 4th or 5th gear and need to turn Left onto a side street. Of course, I’d be breaking to slow to a good entrance speed before I lean into the turn, but what about the gears? I am not sure I’ll be downshifting one at a time and using the engine to help break (as a newbie, I think I’ll just hold in the clutch and start pushing down on the shift lever.) Should I assume for a safe turn I should be in 2nd, and just downshift while breaking into 2nd, so that I am ready to roll on the throttle during the turn?March 5, 2009 at 2:05 pm #16926MattParticipant
If you think you should be in second through the turn, then down shift to second as you decelerate. Don’t just go down the two or three gears right away, but as you slow down to the speed for that particular gear. You don’t have to let out the clutch to use engine braking until you are comfortable with it.
But just remember, you do want the clutch out, and some power going to the wheels as you make your turn (just enough to keep your speed, not slow down or speed up through the turn, but make sure you have that power going to the wheels before you lean the bike over, so in case you are off a bit, it doesn’t jerk the bike while leaned over).March 5, 2009 at 4:25 pm #16936briderdtParticipant
I do it all the time. I do it in my car as well. Depending on the bike (my SV is good for this), you can actually do it without being on the brakes at all. That can be bad, as it doesn’t light up the brake light to warn followers that you’re slowing (just in case they miss the turn indicators). So make sure you ride a brake a little, at least, to get that brake light lit up.
Downshift and ease out the clutch.March 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm #16940
or get a slipper clutch installed to help.March 6, 2009 at 1:17 am #16941briderdtParticipant
I’m really curious how an after-market one works on an SV650… Lots of engine braking on that beast.March 6, 2009 at 3:18 am #16945
Yup. thinking of getting one for the SV and the Duc. The object is to have it for just in case, not to rely on it for handling the rev matching exclusively. Like having ABS…March 6, 2009 at 3:24 am #16929IanCParticipant
If you know where you shift points are on the way up. Then as you are slowing into those speed ranges you should be downshifting even if you aren’t letting the clutch out until you are almost to the corner.
To answer to your question no you shouldn’t always to into second. The gear you need for a corner will be dependent upon the corner, there are corners where I go all the way to first and other’s that I take in 3rd. Depends upon how tight the turn angle is and what the speed of the street I’m entering into are.
+1 on what matt said make sure the clutch is out before you are leaned over into the turn overwise if you let it out leaned over it will be like applying the rear brake (might not a good thing).March 6, 2009 at 5:55 am #16930
Actually, depending on the situation, the gear you need to be in depends more on the rider and bike than the corner itself. If you’re running into the redline before exiting the corner, then you’re in too low a gear. If you’re struggling to get drive out of the corner, then you’re in too high a gear. The key is to keep the bike in the powerband throughout the corner. In too low of a gear and the bike will feel light and any instability will be magnified. In too high a gear and the bike will feel heavy and you could stall out the engine. Get your shifting and braking done before the corner… preferably with enough time to adjust your gearing if you end up in the wrong gear. While you can shift in a corner, it’s not recommended as you don’t want to make any unecessary movements which destabilizes the bike.March 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm #16932japac1Participant
Thanks for the advice. I guess I am just being nervous before I ride. So far, I’ve only been up and down my street a few times, including a nice island to practice wide cornering and of course, the obligatory emergency stop drills. I am looking forward to hitting the neighborhood around me.March 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm #16759BouncingRadicalParticipant
As a way to practice and get a feel for downshifting it might now be a bad idea to go up and down a straight street. Shift all the way up then start your way back down with out using the brake and see how it ‘brakes’ on its own.March 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm #16946
If you’re going to do this and not blip, make sure you follow the MSF technique of slowly letting out the clutch and practice downshifting with the bike upright. If you just dump the clutch after downshifting, you’ll get rear wheel chatter, which can be rather unnerving. With the bike upright, it’s not so bad and you shouldn’t have a problem just riding out the chatter. In the process of turning, you can easily dump the bike from the rear slippage.March 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm #16947dcJohnParticipant
1. Matt’s comments deserve repeating. But just remember, you do want the clutch out, and some power going to the wheels as you make your turn. He goes on to describe this as just enough gas to maintain speed. Actually, you want to be accelerating (slightly) through the turn. (It’s partially a semantic thing–you need to be accelerating to ultimately maintain consistent speed and properly load the suspension.)
2. Don’t, don’t, don’t downshift and then wait for the turn to let out on the clutch. Need for accelerating through the turn aside, of all the places to be surprised that you’re in the wrong gear for your speed, finding out mid-turn is one of the worst.
3. Downshifting is debated with cars because, by some accounts, the wear on the clutch may be ultimately more costly than the wear on the breaks. You don’t have the same question/issue on your bike; it can take the downshifting just fine.
I was surprised in my MSF course that they didn’t teach blipping the throttle up to match RPM’s in the downshifting process. Personally, I think it helps with smoother downshifts.March 27, 2009 at 7:32 am #17339eternal05Participant
1) For anybody who’s ever learned heel-and-toe downshifting in a car (which is more or less the same concept applied to the four-wheeled variety of vehicles), it’s pretty tricky to get the first couple of times. It’s like learning to shift all over again. Your right hand has to modulate the front brake and the throttle simultaneously and with a decent degree of sensitivity, all the while your right foot is also occupied, as are your left hand and left foot. DO NOT try this on the street the first time. As with everything else, find a big ass parking lot. Turn the bike off and practice the hand motions a bit until you think you can do it. Then try it in a STRAIGHT line until you can do it smoothly and regularly, but also fast enough that in an emergency you won’t be stuck without acceleration for too long. As mentioned by others, when you’re on the road, get all your braking and downshifting done at the same time (i.e. before you hit the turn). That way you can roll on the throttle right away after you get the bike leaned in.
2) At the risk of reproducing many a YouTube flame war, compression braking is ill-advised. Yes, with a wet clutch (as most but not all motorcycles have), the wear on the clutch for a given action is reduced relative to a dry clutch, and the lesser forces acting on bike clutches compared to cars also yield less wear on the clutch. It’s a really simple equation, however:
a. Brake pads are cheap. Clutches and transmission components are not.
b. Brakes are purpose-built to slow you down. The engine is purpose-built to speed you up.
c. As much as a little engine braking won’t hurt anyone, using engine-braking as the primary means to slow your motorcycle throughout its entire life WILL put undue strain on parts you do not want to have to replace.
d. Engine braking acts only on your rear-wheel. As we all know, the rear both contributes far less to a motorcycles stopping power and, during slowing, when weight is transferred primarily to the front forks and tire, the rear wheel is the more common source of skids and instability thanks to momentarily lowered traction. If your reflex reaction in a high-speed pinch (where “high” means “greater than 40mph”) is to chop the throttle, you completely destabilize the bike, potentially locking the rear wheel and inducing skid.
This is not to say that you don’t use SOME level of engine braking when slowing the motorcycle. By nature, if you downshift through the gears while slowing, at each reengaging of the clutch you will be applying engine braking for a moment. In fact, at any moment that the clutch is engaged and you are not accelerating, you are engine braking.
Using engine-braking instead of brakes is a bad habit, and while it may not be devastating to engine-brake, it is unnecessary, inefficient, less safe, and cost ineffective.March 27, 2009 at 6:28 pm #17352Clay DowlingParticipant
I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t supposed to be able to do this. It’s what they taught in the MSF classes.March 28, 2009 at 7:32 am #17367eternal05Participant
I’m not sure if you’re referring to simply shifting pre-turn or to shifting and braking at the same time.
If you’re talking about shifting down through the gears before you make a turn, that’s easy.
If you’re talking about shifting down through the gears while braking firmly and smoothly (and not releasing pressure on the brake) in the minimum space required, performing smooth and well-matched shifts each time, I beg to differ. This happens on every corner during a race, but also presents itself opportune in every day street driving. For instance, if the car in front of you suddenly slows a great deal and you were on a hill, you’d have to hit the brakes hard, but simultaneously shift down a gear or two while braking so the engine could handle the lower gear. If you’ve never done this before, I maintain it’s hard. If it was taught in your MSF class, you were lucky. Mine didn’t ever have us use this particular skill. I had to practice it on my own.
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