Is It Bad To Leave A Motorcycle In Gear? This Could Save You Thousands


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The transmission on your motorcycle is expensive to repair or replace if damaged. While all of us wish we could spend most of our time riding our motorcycles, they do spend quite a bit more time parked than actually on the road. 

While your motorcycle is parked it is important to note how to properly park your motorcycle and which gear to leave it in. 

Is it bad to leave a motorcycle in gear? It is not bad to leave a motorcycle in gear. In fact, it is helpful for a motorcycle to be left in gear while parked as it keeps the motorcycle from accidentally rolling.  A motorcycle’s transmission sees a lot more wear and tear while it is actually ridden than when it’s left in gear and parked.

It’s important to note that there are certain situations you will have wished you parked your motorcycle in gear rather than in neutral. There are also times when it might make more sense to park in neutral rather than in gear. We will touch on each of those throughout this article. 

Why It’s Not Bad To Leave A Motorcycle In Gear

Your motorcycle was built to withstand some of the most rigorous conditions while it is running on the road at fast speeds. Cruiser bikes and their capabilities to run a radio, carry saddle bags, pull a small trailer, and then throw a passenger on the back for a nationwide trip. Sports bikes going 150+ mph in controlled environments of course. Each motorcycle has its own unique exhaust note and the way it handles. You may have noticed on different motorcycles they shift very differently.

Your gearbox or transmission was built to accomplish the goal of the engineers who built it. While cruiser bikes may feel a bit smoother shifting, sports bikes grab hard and are ready for the next gear. When parking any motorcycle, leaving it in gear will not hurt the gearbox at all. Especially since the most wear comes from actually riding it as mentioned earlier. 

The way your gearbox is designed consists of this: it has a clutch that can disconnect power from the engine to the transmission at any time. This clutch is only used when shifting gears or when stopped briefly to prevent having to shift to neutral.

Keeping your motorcycle in gear means that you leave it in first gear while parked instead of neutral. Neutral allows you to move your motorcycle forwards and backward without the need of using the clutch lever. 

If your motorcycle is left in any gear (besides neutral) it will not move forwards or backward unless the clutch handle is compressed. This is because the engine is connected to the gearbox. If the engine is not running, the transmission gears cannot spin freely. 

Feel free to try a test on your motorcycle. Leave it in first gear, with the engine off, and see how far it moves forward and backward without depressing the clutch lever. Then try moving forward or backward in neutral. You will see little to no resistance in neutral. Understanding this simple principle will help you understand future questions in this article. 

Times You Should vs. Times You Should Not Leave A Motorcycle In Gear

With the gearbox in gear, it will give you some advantages when parking in different places. Let’s say on your way to getting to the top of the hill climb with your friends, you decide to stop at your favorite burger joint to grab a quick bite. When parking, you realize you have to leave your motorcycle on an incline. 

This is an opportune time to leave your bike in gear for a number of reasons. First, your motorcycle is not going to roll away willingly down the hill while you are eating your burger. Second, once you are ready to roll out, your bike is also ready to go for you without having to shift to 1st. Lastly, your kickstand has the reinforcement of the gearbox to keep your motorcycle in place. Click here to learn more about how to properly park a motorcycle on a hill.

Heavy gusts of wind can pick up a bike just enough to get some weight off the kickstand, then it goes forward because it was parked in neutral. Don’t let this be your motorcycle, especially if it’s on a hill. You will be calling your insurance company embarrassed and riding your bike home with all kinds of scratches that could have been avoided if you had parked in gear. 

Not only is wind a danger but also unforeseen accidents can suddenly turn tragic for your bike. For example, a stranger decides to lean up against your motorcycle. The bike is in neutral and it moves when they lean on it causing them to fall down and your bike as well. If a car bumps your bike while parked in neutral it can send it down a long road of regret. 

While those things don’t happen too often, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. I can remember a time I backed into my friend’s motorcycle by accident with my SUV. I had barely caught his foot peg. I looked behind me because something felt off. Sure enough, the front end of his bike was about 6in off the ground but it hadn’t moved at all. He had left it in gear. While this could have ended in a tipped-over bike, it didn’t because it was left in gear.

When working on your motorcycle, being aware that it is in gear or in neutral can make a difference when doing certain procedures. When towing a motorcycle (meaning when it’s fully on the trailer with no wheels rolling), it is best to have it in gear to reduce the possibility of it rolling around on the trailer. 

The best time to leave it in neutral is when your bike will be on flat ground and possibly not ridden for some time. It also helps if you know you may need to move your motorcycle without needing to start it so it is readily mobile. It also makes pushing a motorcycle a lot easier as well so you aren’t clenching down on the clutch lever while trying to push it straight. 

Possible Adverse Effects From Leaving Your Motorcycle In Gear

Remember when we talked about your clutch needing to be engaged to allow your motorcycle to move if the engine is off? Your clutch will always be ever so slightly engaged when in gear. This is to assist in smoother shifts while riding. If your motorcycle is sitting for some time in gear it can cause slightly abnormal clutch wear and it may be felt when you are shifting gears at a later ride. 

Leaving your motorcycle in gear can also damage the transmission if it is hit by a car at low speeds. As mentioned earlier, I had hit my friend’s bike that was left in gear. It could have caused unseen damage to his gearbox. He was able to ride it home without any issues but had I not stopped it could have done more damage internally to the gearbox because it was left in gear. 

While it seems like it should be common knowledge, some motorcycles may not start in gear. It will require that you pull the clutch lever in to allow it to start. If you leave your bike in gear and let the clutch slip it can cause an accident and substantial clutch wear. 

What Gear Is Best To Leave A Motorcycle In?

That will all depend on what you hope to accomplish while your motorcycle is parked. If you want to jump on it quickly on a ride, I’d say leave it in 1st gear. If you are parking it on the flat surface of your garage floor for a few days before you ride again, I’d recommend leaving it in neutral. Creating habits like this can potentially prolong the life of your gearbox and you will get many more smiles per gallon with a working motorcycle. 

The most important thing to remember when deciding to leave your bike in gear or not is if it is ok if it moves or not while it’s parked. Safety should be at the forefront of your mind. If you know you have small children that go into your garage frequently, leave it in gear. A decision to leave your bike in gear could potentially save a life when it comes.

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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