When I first started riding motorcycles, I practiced on my dad’s bike. It was kind of hard at first, but slowly, I settled into the rhythm and got hold of the gear shift patterns. I got so good at it that I could change gears with my eyes closed.
Then I got my driver’s license and started looking for my own bad boy to ride. When I finally did get it, the feeling was overwhelming. But the excitement was short-lived. I found out that I couldn’t go past the second gear. It wasn’t that I had forgotten the gear pattern, but that the bike had its own design that I needed to familiarize myself with. That took me another month or so.
Finally, the other day, I borrowed my buddy’s bike to go downtown (mine was being repaired). I hopped on the motorcycle only to find that I didn’t know the gear shift pattern of this bike either. Frustrated, I left the bike and took the bus. I had a lot of time on the bus, and that got me thinking just how many gear shift patterns are there. Cars have standard gears, so you don’t need to learn the new pattern every time you get a new one.
So, I started working on a list that described the various types of patterns available and their applications so that you don’t have to be in the same seat as me (the bus seat).
All Gear Shift Patterns
The term Gear Shift Pattern refers to the way you switch gears on your motorcycle. A motorcycle gear can go up and down, and the gear changes according to specific forms. The pattern that needs to be followed to get from neutral to the highest gear can be simple in some or complicated in others.
My research led me to the discovery that there are not two or three but five types of gear shift patterns available in the market. Decoding messages as a cryptographer seemed easier than decoding the mysteries of the gear patterns. Nonetheless, my determination to create the best handbook for gear patterns outweighed my laziness, and I got to work.
There are five types of gear shift patterns available:
- First Gear Down, Rest All Gears Up
- First Gear Up, Rest All Gears Down
- All Gears Up on Rear End of Lever
- All Gears Up on Front End of Lever
- All Gears Up on Rear End of Lever – except for First Gear on Front End
This is a bit hard to understand as the patterns don’t have names. But, based on the descriptive names, you can find out the functioning of the gear.
First Gear Down, Rest All Gears Up
This is the type of gear shift pattern that you would find on most newer generation bikes out there. The mass adoption of this pattern is pushing the motorcycle industry to adopt a universal gear shift pattern. But many older models have other systems installed.
This type of system can take some getting used to if you are habituated to previous models since it only has a front lever. As it lacks any rear lever, all the gears need to be changed using the balls and bridge of your feet.
As the name suggests, the pattern is pretty simple. When the gear is at neutral, you shift down to get into the first gear. After that, you shift up again to get into the second gear and keep shifting up for higher gears.
This type of gear shift pattern is expected to become universal within a decade, phasing out all the other forms.
First Gear Up, Rest All Gears Down
This type of system is exactly the opposite of the previous one. It follows a similar rule but is like a mirror image. This type of pattern is usually only found in racing bikes (as it allows for faster downshifts). This is why it is also referred to as a Race-Shift Pattern.
When you are in neutral, you shift up to get to the first gear. From then on, you need to shift down in order to get higher gear configurations. Since this type of gear too consists of only the front lever, you need to use the bridge and balls of your feet to do all the shifting.
This type of design isn’t very different from the previous one, as it utilizes the same core concepts but flips the spindle angle by 180 degrees to get the opposite motion for the same actions.
All gears up on the rear end of the lever
Now, this is the type of gear system that I grew up on. It consists of levers on both the front and back ends. The front one decrements the gear, while the back one increments it by one. The default starting position is neutral.
From neutral, if you want to go higher, you need to press the back lever of the car using your heel. This will shift you to the first gear. Press the back lever again and you will shift up to second gear. This goes on until you reach the final gear.
To downshift, you need to press the forward lever using the balls of your feet. Each subsequent press will decrement the gear shift by one until you finally reach neutral. Although this type of gear system was quite widely used a few years ago, the newer and more efficient gear shifting systems have started to replace these.
-1 (front lever) Neutral → 1 → 2 → 3 → 4 → 5 +1 (back lever)
All gears up on the front end of the lever
This type of gear is the reverse of the above one. This is the type of gear shift pattern that is usually seen on Japanese-origin motorbikes. The pattern follows the same rule, with just the direction of the shift reversed.
The front lever increments the gear level by one, and the rear lever decrements it by one. It starts at a default value of Neutral, and you need to press the front lever to shift into a higher gear.
To downshift, you simply press the rear lever using the heel of your feet and keep pushing until you reach back to the neutral gear. While this is not as widely known or manufactured as the others, it is still a gear pattern that finds use in some of the older Japanese Motorcycles.
+1 (front lever) 5 ← 4 ← 3 ← 2 ← 1 ← Neutral -1 (back lever)
All Gears Up on Rear End of Lever – except for First Gear on Front End
Now, this system is a wee bit complicated. It doesn’t require cryptography or rocket science knowledge, but it does require some common sense and quick thinking. This gear pattern can be thought of as a mix between the first type and the third type.
As we know, the third type of gear shift pattern has two levers, with the rear one incrementing the gear shift and the front one downshifting. Thai gear shift pattern has a similar placement, with the slight change that when the bike is in neutral, you need to downshift using the front lever to get to first gear.
After that, you can increment the gear shift using the back lever as usual. The gear shift pattern itself is pretty simple, but it requires quite a lot of getting used to before you can finally get it down.
You start at neutral, and then, to reach the first gear, you need to downshift using the front lever. This will put you in the first gear. To go to higher levels of the gear, you need to shaft using the back lever as usual, with the first back lever shift getting you to second gear and so on.
While downshifting, you need to shift all the way down to the first gear and then shift up once to get the motorbike in neutral. Do not ask me the nuances of this pattern. I do not know how it goes from first gear to second gear while shifting up but goes from first gear to neutral while shifting down. I mean, there is a reason that we no longer see these types of gear shift patterns in motorbikes anymore.
-1 (front lever) 1 ← Neutral → 2 → 3 → 4 → 5 +1 (back lever)
Whew! That was a hell of a ride. While you don’t need to remember all the gear shift patterns, it is still nice to know which pattern evolved into the one you currently use. Soon enough, all the other gear shift patterns will become obsolete as more and more manufacturers shift to the First Gear Down, Rest All Gears Up pattern for good.