Can You Downshift Multiple Gears On A Motorcycle?


When riding your motorcycle, you may want to suddenly shift several gears down and may be curious whether this can be done, whether it will damage your motorcycle, and if there is anything that you should be cautious of.

Can you downshift multiple gears on a motorcycle? You can safely downshift multiple gears on a motorcycle. You’ll want to ensure that you are traveling at an acceptable speed for the gear that you are shifting in to and do any sort of rev-matching needed to make a smooth transition.

Shifting gears is part of the process of riding a motorcycle. It allows your motorcycle’s engine to be operating in an optimal rpm range at any speed. This allows your motorcycle to have torque and speed when it needs it most.

There are times where you may want to try to downshift multiple gears at once. Rightly so, you might want to make sure that this won’t damage anything and that it can be done correctly. As long as this is done carefully, it can be done without any damage to your motorcycle. Let’s dive in a little further on the proper way to downshift multiple gears on your motorcycle.

Why You Can Downshift Multiple Gears On A Motorcycle

If you ever hope to ride a motorcycle, you will need to learn how to operate a clutch and shift the gears. There will be a lever on the handlebars of your motorcycle which controls the clutch. Pulling it in disconnects your transmission from the engine temporarily to allow you to be able to switch gears. Releasing the lever then reconnects the transmission to the engine although now in a new gear.

Shifting up and down makes riding your motorcycle possible and also fun! Getting used to shifting up and down is part of learning how to ride a motorcycle. Once you are familiar enough with your motorcycle, you will know when to shift up and down instinctively without even needing to think about it or watch a tach. It will become second nature over time.

When coming from a stop, you want a high gear ratio to allow you to have plenty of torque to get your bike moving until it gets to a higher speed. Then you are able to shift to a slightly lower gear ratio (but higher gear) that allows for lower overall torque but higher speed. This process continues on and on until the top gear. Likewise, this same principle works in reverse when downshifting gears. Downshifting multiple gears at once just allows you to move several gears at once. You can click here to learn more about how a motorcycle transmission works.

Potential Risks Of Downshifting Too Many Gears At One Time

So, what are the risks of downshifting multiple gears?

Downshifting could potentially be problematic is as the engine reconnects to the transmission. Let’s say that you are going 50 miles per hour and suddenly shift into first gear and release the clutch. What is going to happen? Due to the much lower gearing, your engine is going to have to run significantly harder at that given speed.

If you downshift multiple gears and your engine suddenly jumps from maybe 3000 rpm to 15000 rpm, this can make the motorcycle jerk and the additional gearing will likely start to slow it down very quickly. This can potentially throw you off your motorcycle if you aren’t ready.

This is a result of the unique gear ratio of each gear on your transmission. These gears allow you to optimize the way that your motorcycle runs at any given speed. You should choose a gear ratio that provides the appropriate balance of torque and speed.

That is why if you are wanting to downshift multiple gears at once, you want to know what the speed/rpm range of each gear is. If you are in 3rd gear and want to downshift into 1st gear, you will want to know at your current speed what rpm you will be at once in 1st gear.

Downshifting multiple gears can damage your motorcycle if you aren’t careful. Downshifting multiple gears can cause the engine to work far beyond its limits. This could result in your engine over revving, overheating, seizing a piston, breaking the teeth on a gear, and so on.

The transmission on your motorcycle is fully capable of downshifting multiple gears. The biggest thing is just making sure that you are being cautious of which gear you are shifting into and what speed you are going. Don’t be in 5th gear and shift down to 1st.

How To Properly Downshift Multiple Gears On A Motorcycle

So, what is the proper way to downshift multiple gears on your motorcycle? First, you will want to be aware of what speed you are currently going and what gear you are wanting to be in. Essentially, make sure that the gear you are shifting into can handle your current speed. If necessary, you can start braking before starting to shift gears to ensure you aren’t going way too fast for the speed at which you’re traveling.

Once you are sure that you are at a good speed for the gear you want to be in, you can now pull the clutch lever. This will disconnect the engine from the transmission and allow you to shift gears now. You can use the gear shift near your foot to shift down. You will shift down one gear at a time so you will need to keep track of what gear you are currently in and how many gears you have shifted to know when you are at the desired gear. Some motorcycles have gear displays that show you what gear you are currently in so that you don’t have to keep track as much.

Once you are in the right gear, you can stop shifting. One thing that will help the transition go smoother is rev-matching. Rev matching means to provide some throttle to set the engine rpms about to where they will be once you release the clutch so that the “jerk” is much smaller.

Now you can release the clutch and use the throttle like normal. By following the procedure that we have outlined, you can safely downshift multiple gears at once without any risk to your motorcycle or to you. Getting familiar with this process may take a little bit of time on your specific bike. This requires you to be familiar with the motorcycle enough to know rpm ranges in different gears at different speeds which only comes with time.

Can I Use Downshifting On My Motorcycle As A Method Of Stopping?

You may be wondering if you can use multiple downshifts as a way to stop your motorcycle. You can use this method to slow your bike down and bring it to a stop although this is not recommended. This concept is often referred to as engine braking. This uses the resistance of the engine as a way to slow your motorcycle down. This can be very useful when going downhill but is not a recommended way to completely stop unless an emergency requires it.

Your motorcycle has a brake system that is far more efficient and controllable as compared to engine braking. While you can use engine braking to stop your motorcycle, it doesn’t make sense to use it in most cases. Using your brakes is simpler, safer, faster, and more efficient. So if you are needing to bring your motorcycle to a stop, using your brakes is the best way to handle that.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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