March 12, 2021 6 min read
Your motocross bike was made for thrilling competition, but racing your dirt bike can be an intimidating adventure, especially if you are new to the sport. To ensure that you have the most fun possible while racing, you need to understand the process of shifting gears and when and what gears you should be in at various points during the race.
Pro motocross racers do shift but won’t typically use the clutch after takeoff.
To use the clutch on a dirt bike to take off from a stopped position, you need to:
There is often a debate about whether or not you should use the clutch when shifting gears, but typically most serious racers skip the clutch. By reading on, you can learn all about shifting gears as well as which gears are appropriate for different situations.
One of the first things you should know is that riders will not typically use the clutch as they maneuver their bike through the track. However, just because they aren’t hitting the clutch doesn’t mean that they aren’t shifting. You can just press the shift lever without needing to hit the clutch to shift, though this isn’t recommended for when you upshift. The reason for this is because when you shift up, there is torque and momentum from the power of the higher speeds.
If you are new to dirt bikes, there are plenty of things that you should know about shifting which can help improve your riding experience. One of the most important things to know is how to know what you need to shift. It’s important to know when to shift, otherwise you could risk the dirt bike stalling out or making an ear-piercing grinding noise. To determine when to shift your bike, you need to listen to what your dirt bike is saying.
It can get relatively intuitive to know when to shift up or down, which is why this is something that you should practice regularly until you get used to it. One of the trickiest parts (when it comes to shifting properly) is that you can very easily accidentally shift into neutral when you are trying to go from first to second gear. Again, this is something that you will feel instantly as soon as you get more used to the process of shifting.
There is a misconception that shifting requires using a clutch, but as previously mentioned, this isn’t a must when shifting gears every single time. The amount of damage that could occur to the dirt bike’s transmission and engine when you don’t clutch-shift into gears is minimal and often barely noticeable. Using the clutch when shifting is a good idea to do when you are just starting out as a rider, but most serious riders don’t use their clutch when shifting down and barely use it when shifting up.
While it does take more practice for you to learn how to shift without the clutch, knowing how to use the clutch is important because it is easier on your dirt bike’s engine to use the clutch when shifting up. It’s also a lot easier and not as complicated to shift up when using the clutch.
A question that you may have is why you don’t need your clutch when down-shifting. When you shift up on the bike, there is torque and momentum that can wear down your gears. Even though it can cause only a little wear, it’s still a good idea to use the clutch in this situation. But when it comes to down shifting, you won’t typically have any or much throttle. Since the throttle is barely existent, there’s no torque that can wear the gears if you shift without your clutch.
The concept of using a clutch when shifting gears is actually a highly debated topic among riders. Some riders believe that you should clutch every time that you shift. Others disagree with that belief.
A lot of beginners struggle when it comes to getting a great start during races. One of the biggest problem areas is that people don’t know what gear they should be starting in. So which gear do racers start in? The answer can depend on the rider, the bike, and the track terrain. A lot of drivers prefer to start in second gear, but new racers or racers with a smaller bike engine should start in first gear. If you are riding on sand, you may find it’s better to start in third gear. Again, this can depend on personal preference. You may want to practice to see which approach you prefer.
Typically, racers will stick to second or third gear during the race, though they may shift as needed depending on the track. Shifting up can help prevent the engine from braking away, but it’s important to remember to down shift before you take a corner. The gear that you use when racing can also come down to what your own personal preferences are when racing. For more information about the start of a motocross race, check out these related articles:
Shifting gears in supercross races is similar to shifting gears in motocross. The same principles apply when racing. You may not notice racers shift gears, but that’s typically because they won’t use their clutches. A rider with a lot of experience will know which gear they prefer to use, depending on the specific track that they are riding on. It can also depend on the bike that they are using. The more experience that a rider has, the better they will know how to easily shift into the gear that’s needed for each situation.
It can take some practice for you to get used to shifting gears, especially as you get used to shifting without a clutch. Once you do get used to which style of shifting suits you, you will need to practice shifting while racing. It can take some trial and error for you to figure out which gears you prefer to use when supercross racing, but eventually you will find the sweet spot for your preferred racing gears.
As previously mentioned, most racers tend to stay away from the clutch when they are shifting gears. However, that doesn’t mean that the clutch goes unused during the race. For most of the race, racers use the clutch to keep the RPMs in the zone they benefit the most from. In turns, ruts, and deep parts of the track are all areas where the clutch is used to keep the RPMs up on the bike, which makes keeping your momentum much easier.
Some professional riders use this more effectively than others. Ken Roczen is one that is very easy on his clutch and is able to carry momentum without relying on fanning his clutch. Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia are two riders that rely on their clutch often. This is all a personal preference, although relying on your clutch too much can cause issues. Tomac has had issues in the past of burning his clutch up, which makes the performance of the bike drop off significantly, or even malfunction enough to cause a DNF.
Serious dirt bike riders find it more efficient to skip the clutch, especially when downshifting. However, it’s always a good idea to learn how to use the clutch just in case you decide to use it so that you can get more used to the different feel of the various gears. This can help you develop more intuition when it comes to when to shift gears, creating a more enjoyable experience as you ride. Dirt bikes transmissions and engines are more rugged and better lubricated than the ones in cars, so they can handle changing gears without requiring the use of the clutch. Ultimately, which approach you use to shifting gears will depend on your own personal preference.
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