When to Shift Gears On a Motorcycle  And at What RPM

The difference between a good rider and a great rider is knowing when to shift. Some riders look at the dashboard to check the rpm. Other riders listen to the engine rev before they shift. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Ride the bike, not the clutch.” While it may sound simple enough, it is one of the biggest hurdles to learning how to ride a motorcycle. As you start learning to ride, you will probably start by doing many things wrong, but you will improve at riding as you go along. However, while you may improve, you may also start to make mistakes that cause you to shift out of gear, lose control, or even crash. It’s possible to lose control of the bike, hit something hard, and injure yourself if you’re not paying attention. To avoid the inevitable, you need to understand when to shift out of gear and when it is appropriate to leave the throttle wide open.

When to shift gears?

While it’s true that shifting gears is a real challenge, it’s also true that the challenge is only at the beginning. So, if there is one piece of advice bikepics.com can give you, it is this: don’t be scared to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Another tip we can give you is to let yourself be a beginner while being tutored by a licensed or professional rider. 

The significance of RPM

RPM stands for revolutions or rotations per minute. The speed at which the crank’s rotation happens within the engine. This results in the power delivery to the rear wheel through the gearbox. Higher RPM means higher speeds, which means higher gas consumption. 

Changing gears is based on the RPM, or revolutions per minute. Typically, gear transfer occurs between 2000 and 2500 rpm. Just remember that this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

There are two considerations:

  • Fuel efficiency: if you’re trying to save gas, shift gears at lower RPM (2000 to 3000).
  • Performance: If you’re after the performance of your motorcycle, shift gears at higher RPM (e.g., 4000) and above. 

When do you shift gears? 

Here is a quick list:

  • Second Gear    15 to 30 kp/h
  • Third Gear    30 to 40 kp/h
  • Fourth Gear    40 to 55 kp/h
  • Fifth Gear    55 km/h or higher

What about steep climbs? 

Steep climbs are hard on the engine. For a smooth ride, you need to maintain a steady 5000 RPM. An attempt to accelerate uphill while your RPM is below 2000 adds additional load to the rear wheel, which could damage the engine. 

Why do you need to shift gears at the correct RPM?

  1. Smooth Ride: It’s called shifting gears at the right moment. You’ll smooth out the shifting process and have a better riding experience by shifting in the right gear.

2. Fuel efficiency: When you master this technique, your motorcycle will be more efficient and smoother; You’ll be able to concentrate on the road rather than changing gears, allowing you to get more mileage out of your ride.

3. Better for your engine: Your engine lasts longer by shifting at the right time. All your mechanical parts work better and shift more smoothly, including the parts responsible for your getaway after a traffic stop. This will reduce the strain on your engine and its components.

Following the tachometer

If you are new to motorcycle riding, following the cue from the tachometer is highly recommended. This will help you make sure you’re shifting gears safely and adequately at the right time. 

Other advantages:

  • It guides you on when to shift gears.
  • Shows you a detailed measurement of your engine and transmission. 
  • It tells you when you’re past your bike’s safe RPM range. 

You will only use this tactic while you’re learning. Eventually, you will be able to shift smoothly with the aid of a tachometer. This is made possible by the high-pitched sound emitted and the vibration coming from the engine that tells you it’s time to shift gears. This learning becomes beneficial to your road safety. It will allow you to focus on the ride and the road rather than the technicalities of operating a motorcycle.

How to shift gears smoothly.

  1. Ensure that your gears are neutral. A green light indicates this on your dashboard. After starting the motorcycle, prepare to engage your first gear by squeezing the clutch lever. 

2. To shift to the first gear, start with the throttle closed and the clutch lever pulled in. Push the gear shifter downwards; this puts your motorcycle in the first gear. Roll the throttle gently, at the same time, releasing the clutch lever slowly until the bike starts to move forward. You can now let go of the clutch and crank up the engine power.

The operative words here are “gently” and “slowly.” A sudden release of the clutch will result in your motorcycle stalling. If you’re new to riding, this could be a jarring experience. Nevertheless, it’s a part of the learning process, and it shouldn’t stop you from riding. 

3. Let go of the throttle and squeeze the clutch to shift into second gear. Make a single upshift by putting your left foot under the gear lever shifter. This puts your motorcycle in second gear. If you repeat this process, you will go up to third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. 

4. To downshift to a lower gear, close the throttle and squeeze the clutch. To get into gear, put your left foot on the gear shifter and push it down until it clicks. You will have to do it repeatedly until you reach first gear if you’re approaching a stop.


Shifting gears on a motorcycle is only tricky while you’re still learning. However, it’s an essential part of riding as it helps propel your bike forward. So, besides the steps outlined above, the only other tip we can give you is to keep practicing.

Just make sure that you observe safety for yourself and others. In other words, you should wear a helmet and complete riding gear while being supervised by a licensed motorcycle rider and practice riding in an area where you won’t injure anyone if you lose control.

Good luck, and ride safe.