Riding techniques for the beginner…
August 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm #3243nandersonParticipant
I’m just learning to ride a motorcycle and have bought my first bike late last week. I just bought a cheap Enduro/dirt bike to learn on and the plan is to buy a streetbike in the spring if I have built up a higher comfort level in riding.
I have several friends who ride and are giving me lessons whenever they come over but some of the learning I will do will be by myself in a field or parking lot near my house. The question I have is, what techniques should I be practicing first and then after I master those, what should I move on to next?
Right now I’m just practicing shifting through all gears going in a straight line and then turning around and doing it again. After that I was going to move to slow cornering(figure eights) and then maybe faster cornering and then more advanced techniques but was wondering what the members of this forum thought I should be practicing first…
One specific question I have is in regards to downshifting. Some of my friends have suggested just holding in the clutch and kicking it all the way down to first gear before engaging the clutch again. Others have said to rev match…what is the best way to do this? If rev matching, what steps are needed to do this properly as I’ve heard conflicting/different ways to do this as well?
One other question would be if there are any good book recommendations you my have that teach various riding techniques that may be good for a beginner like me?
I think those three questions should be enough for now, thanks in advance for your help!August 5, 2009 at 6:26 pm #21265
First and foremost, if you haven’t taken an MSF beginning rider’s course, you need to do that pronto. That will answer all of your questions and vastly improve your riding ability and preparedness for street riding.
When you say “downshifting” do you mean a single downshift, or downshifting all the way when stopping for, say, a light?
Either way, it’s better, when possible, to engage each gear as you go down for a number of reasons. First, it’s the easiest to do smoothly once you’re a proficient downshifter. You don’t have to guess as to how hard to rev the engine and how hard to brake and when to let out the clutch to make up for the big jump from a high gear to a low gear.
The trick to smooth downshifting is to be very fast and to blip the throttle. Being fast will develop with time and repetition. Blipping takes some practice. To downshift, you pull in the clutch, bump down a gear, and let the clutch back out. To blip, what you’re going to do is give the throttle a twist while clutched in to get revs higher for the lower gear. One big and quick rev. Don’t linger. Open and close it immediately. You have to be ready to clutch back in at the “top” of the blip, so at first you might want to wait to blip until you’re in the lower gear, clutch still disengaged. As you get more comfortable, you’ll blip as you downshift for extra speed.
One thing people sometimes do is wait too long to clutch back in. You have to catch the blip when the engine is revved up or you don’t get any benefit. It can be a bit worrisome at first if you’re afraid you revved too hard and you hesitate, but you just have to go for it. Start with a smoother change like 4th to 3rd (on a 250) or 3rd to 2nd (on a bigger bike). 1st gear is the hardest to hit smoothly.
But yeah, emphasis on taking that BRC before you ride more!August 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm #21268zeppelinfromledParticipant
Everyone here will recommend that you take a professional course, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course. I would strongly encourage you to take that course. They’ll go through a number of exercises that will teach you different skills, and you can practice them more after the course, as well as variations on those exercises.
With downshifting, it depends on the distance that I have to stop. If I have a very long way before I need to stop, but I want to start slowing down, I’ll shift down and then cruise in that gear for a little while (while slowing down because of engine braking), then shift down another a little bit later, etc. When you downshift one gear, and then engage the clutch, make sure that you give it some throttle before you engage the clutch, and don’t just drop the clutch – release it slowly. This will avoid you being jerked forward when the bike revs and engine brakes hard.
If I’m coming up on a light that just turned red or something, I’ll pull in the clutch and shift down at the appropriate times based on my speed (in case I need to start going again), but I won’t engage the clutch at each gear.
But again, take the MSF Basic Rider Course. It will help you a lot, statistics show that it will make you much less likely to get in a wreck, and you can get a break on your insurance cost.August 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm #21273nandersonParticipant
As far as the MSF course, I appreciate the advise to take it and I had originally planned on it but the times they have the class available in my area just won’t be feasible for me to attend this year. This is why I’m planning on practicing just techniques for the next several months in fields and parking lots before I ever get on the road. That and I will be getting lessons from much more experienced riders along the way.
eternal05, I think I’m confused as to the sequence of events you describe in downshifting. This can be for either shifting down one gear or coming up to a stop light and needing to go down all the way. Would you mind numbering that for me to make sure I understand you correctly?
To all, in addition to just practicing shifting, what should be practiced next? And are there any books out there that go through proper riding technique(outside of the MSF pamphlets I can download online)?
Thanks again for all the help!August 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm #21276MunchParticipant
What is it …ummm….proficient riding is one ( so I’ve heard) the Bikers bible… several out there.
Do slow crawl work in straight lines. Traffic will catch the noobness quickly if you do not get comfortable with it. Try some straight line weaves and off set weaves. Slow speed hard turns at full lock ( remember use the friction points of the clutch, rear braking and throttle control ). EMERGENCY braking…huge huge need to know. Especially braking hard in a turn ( straighten, then brake) …ermmmm what else. Learning to take sweepers- outside, inside, outside. Oh yea and ask Elwood about this one… Proper shut down and dismount procedure..lol.August 6, 2009 at 1:01 am #21278paulurmstonParticipant
You know, I found a guy who posts videos on youtube that was really clear and precise in showing how to change up and down gears, how to layout your own space for practice turns, etc…
His website is http://www.motorcycleassistant.com/ and all the videos are on youtube (the counter turning one is very nicely described!!)
** Hope it’s ok to put a external link… not promoting.. just wanting to pass on a little help!! ++
BTW… Munch says “Oh yea and ask Elwood about this one… Proper shut down and dismount procedure..lol.”
Go on… what happened? This I have got to know.August 6, 2009 at 1:22 am #21279
Ok, to downshift one gear you have two main options: the blip and the slow-release.
Slow-release (aka what you learn in MSF, the “easy” one):
1. In one motion, pull in the clutch lever and roll off the throttle.
2. Click down one gear with your left foot.
3. Release the clutch lever slowly (e.g. seconds) and let the engine speed back up while slipping the clutch. Once the engine has revved up, smoothly crack open the throttle.
1. In one motion, pull in the clutch and roll off the throttle.
2. Simultaneously click the gear lever down one gear with your left foot, and with your right hand rev the throttle hard and quickly: just on/off.
3. Right when the engine revs start to fall again, release the clutch lever to re-engage the engine and smoothly roll on the throttle. Make sure the clutch is at least in the friction zone or all the way out before you get back on the gas.
Does that make more sense?August 6, 2009 at 1:26 am #21280
I forgot to address the issue of braking for a stop-light or quick braking. If I see a stop-light 200ft ahead, I’m going to just downshift slowly through the gears, letting the engine slow the bike down. I’m not in a hurry, and I’d rather get lucky and have the light turn green while I’m still in second gear so I can just keep on going.
If you need to stop fast for whatever reason (emergency, surprise yellow/red, starts raining cats, etc.), then yes, just
1. Start applying the brake firmly.
2. Pull in the clutch
3. Click down through the gears until you get to first.
4. When you’ve braked to stop, put your foot down. STAY IN FIRST until you are sure that a) the car behind you has stopped and b) there aren’t any other hazards that might force you to get up and go.August 6, 2009 at 2:00 am #21283zeppelinfromledParticipant
I don’t really follow your blip technique when I downshift. I roll off the throttle, pull the clutch, and downshift all the same as you. But then I roll on the throttle so the rpms get to about where they need to be, and I release the clutch (relatively slowly). I don’t really understand the point of the blip. It seems like you should just rev less hard and leave it there. Any insight?August 6, 2009 at 7:07 am #21308
Engine braking is fine, but you should also flash your brake light to indicate your deceleration to the cars behind you.
This is done by gently pulling the front brake lever in and out a few times; just enough to engage the brake light switch, but not enough to engage the brakes (unless of course you need or want to brake).
If you are already stopped at a traffic light, it’s also good practice to check your mirror and flash the brake lights (followed by a steady brake light) to attract the attention of the driver closing in on you from behind.
You can also buy accessory automatic brake light flashers (not legal in all states) and/or accessory light-bars which connect to your tail and brake light wiring and will flash when the brake light comes on. These are legal I believe, as your main brake light remains steady.
You can also use hand signals to indicate deceleration, but that gets old soon and isn’t always possible.August 6, 2009 at 7:14 am #21307
I too find it easier to achieve smooth downshifts using engine/gearbox speed matching as described by Zepp and eternal05 (“slow release”), rather than by throttle blipping which, in order to achieve a smooth downshift, requires that you let out the clutch at the precise moment in the blip’s decay when engine and gearbox speeds match.
Note that when Zepp says “roll on the throttle” (with the clutch held in), it’s usually a fairly slight roll-on (i.e. don’t “grab a handfull”). You’re trying to match engine revs (using the throttle) with the new speed of the gearbox (in the lower gear). If you do it well enough, when you let out the clutch (smoothly), the bike will neither speed-up nor slow down.
That said though, with enough practice, I’m sure that the blip technique soon becomes second nature, so whatever floats your boat…August 6, 2009 at 8:07 am #21309
…people blip because it allows you to downshift MUCH faster. The reason is that you don’t have to spend any time finding the right engine rev level. You just rev it and dump the clutch. Here’s proof of how fast you can downshift smoothly (notice that the camera doesn’t shake at ALL) when blipping. Pay attention to Rossi’s neon yellow glove on the clutch starting around 00:26 or so. Each pull is a downshift. Yes. That fast:
You say it’s harder to achieve a smooth downshift, and while it’s true that it’s harder in the sense of taking more practice, once you’ve figured it out, it’s actually easier because it’s totally mechanical. Again, notice that the bike doesn’t shake at all as Valentino shifts down. Part of the reason is that you wait for the engine to hit the top of the rev and start spinning back down before you dump the clutch. That way both the engine and the bike are slowing and some of whatever inevitable speed differential gets “absorbed.” The other reason is that the if you’re in one gear, there aren’t too many possibilities for how hard you should rev it to drop down a gear. You figure out how hard you need to rev in a particular situation and that’s that. In a way, you’re just “rev matching” REALLY fast.
So why would you need to go that fast? The obvious answer is “for the track,” but that answer is a bit naive. Anybody who thinks of a riding skill as wasted on street riding should think twice. I could give you lots of little examples where this would come in handy, but here’s the over-arching principle: combined with simultaneous braking, blipping allows you to stop or slow down quickly, ending up in gear with the clutch out when and if you need to get back on the gas. This can save your neck, and has saved mine more than once.August 7, 2009 at 12:13 am #21329
I agree with what you’re saying about faster downshifts and that it will probably become second nature with practice, but I don’t think that the Rossi video is an ideal example.
Valentino Rossi, apart from being one of the most skilled and accomplished racing motorcyclists in the world, also has the benefit of something that most newbie’s don’t, which could explain the smoothness of his downshifts and the lack of camera shake.
A Slipper Clutch
Rab (tongue firmly in cheek).August 7, 2009 at 12:45 am #21333
My Suzuki has a slipper clutch, and believe me, it doesn’t make your shifts smooth. All it does is let the clutch slip when not slipping would cause you to lose rear-wheel traction or create instability during a particularly jerky shift. As you know if you’ve had the good fortune to use one, it’s plenty easy to shift like crap with a slipper clutch, which is why, I assume, you have your tongue planted so decidedly in your cheek. I guess the above was more for general information.
Seriously though, Rossi might be a bad example, but there’s a horde of motorcyclists who can shift as smoothly in the same manner.
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