Skill Shift

There’s nothing worse than screwing up a gear change on the bike. I should know — I’ve certainly done it plenty of times.

The thunk, the sudden lurch of the bike as it abruptly jumps through the gears, lurching from the seat as the bike rapidly accelerates. All because you stuffed up the delicate timing of the throttle-off-clutch-in-gear-up-clutch-out-throttle-out ballet, not only slowly wearing away the teeth on the gear cogs (and heading towards an eventual expensive repair bill) but also making you look like a prize idiot as you rapidly accelerate away, cheeks still smarting from the rush of blood and embarrassment.

Thankfully, this particular challenge is coming to an end as quickshifters become more and more prevalent throughout the motorcycle market. These wonderful devices take all the skill out of changing gears, meaning that even the most clumsy and heavy footed of us can change gears like a pro.

(Source: www.powercommander.com)

Firstly, a quick lesson in how this new technology works. I’ll spare you the in-depth technical jargon but suffice to say an extra gear rod with a mechanical sensor is added to the gear lever which is in turn connected to the Engine Control Unit (ECU). As the gear lever is moved by the rider’s foot, the mechanical sensor informs the ECU of the gear change and cuts the throttle for a moment (some achieving it in as little as 15 milliseconds), allowing the next gear to be selected and drop into place. For the more technically minded amongst us, you can read a great explanation here.

Quickshifters make for an interesting experience when starting out; numerous times I’ve rolled off the throttle only to have the bike abruptly jump forward as the transmission selects the next gear much faster than I could have anticipated. For those of us used to clutches, it’s going to be all about breaking old habits. For newer riders, it’s going to be a breeze.

No doubt motorcycle purists will throw up their arms in protest at this new fangled technology — now anyone can change a gear with poise and finesse? say it isn’t so! — however, just like Porsche’s game-changing PDK transmission, quickshifters are fantastic for both track and city riding, allowing gears to be changed smoothly no matter whether you’re Aunty Sue on her scooter or Rossie on his superbike. Don’t worry though, the clutch can still be used to make gear changes (and is, in fact, required for the slower downshifts).

Quickshifters are a great piece of technology allowing for smooth and consistent gear changes, yet they do take a little getting used to. They’re no substitute for training and skill, however, so before you go out thinking you’re going to be setting new world records down at the Island, take your time, get used to the change, and enjoy the ride.

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