Should I downshift when I stop? This question is especially common among beginner riders or enthusiasts.
Skipping directly into the first gear without letting the clutch is the simplest way to do it – but is it the right way? Quick hint: no!
You should definitely downshift when stopping on a motorcycle. The correct way to stop is to downshift gear by gear until you reach the first gear and completely stop.
This method allows you to accelerate immediately in case you need to.
For each downshift, you should let the clutch go and rev match while doing it. This ensures you are stopping smoothly and your motorcycle is in gear in case you need to accelerate.
Let me explain more about this. Read on.
Why You Should Always Downshift When Stopping Motorcycle
Downshifting when stopping a motorcycle is important for your safety. By downshifting gear by gear, you ensure that your motorcycle is ready to accelerate again in case of emergencies.
If you do not downshift when slowing down, your currently engaged gear becomes too high for the current slow speed. The moment you let the clutch go for emergency acceleration, your rear tire will lock up and you would probably skid and fall. This is hazardous.
Downshifting gear by gear may seem tedious and can even be a distraction if you don’t know how to do it properly. But trust me, it’s important and is only a distraction till you get the hang of it.
After you have mastered it, you will be the enthusiast that teaches other people in forums on the importance of downshifting. I guarantee it. But for now, I suspect you still have many questions.
Isn’t downshifting bad for the engine? And how do I do it properly? The answers to all these – coming up in the next sections.
Steps To Properly Stop A Motorcycle (Most Efficient Way)
Aside from just downshifting, there are a few other things you need to do when stopping a motorcycle.
Simply using the brake is not enough and may not be efficient – unnecessarily using up your brake pads. Do you know how expensive brake pads are?!
I bet you do. And it’s important to change your braking habits to keep the brake pads well maintained to last a long time.
Here are the steps you need to take, when stopping your motorcycle to a stop. Pay attention and I will explain the ‘why’ right after.
- Slow down with engine braking. It’s a fancy word for letting go of your throttle. When you let go of the throttle, your motorcycle will slow down. This means you can slow down without using brakes and save your brake pads.
- Grab clutch and downshift at the correct speed. While downshifting you need to perform rev matching to ensure the downshifting is smooth. More on this later.
- Let the clutch go and continue engine braking. Use brakes when necessary.
- Continue step 1-3 for each gear until you reach a complete stop and downshift to first gear.
Engine braking, downshifting and rev matching. Dude what? If you are new to these jargons, I have an article here covering all these points – Is Downshifting Bad For Motorcycle?
Will Downshifting Damage Engine?
Downshifting is not bad at all if you do it right. This involves performing rev matching as you downshift. Getting it right the first time is hard. But after a couple of practices, it should become natural.
When done incorrectly, downshifting could cause a minor jerk at best and completely locking your rear tire at worst.
This always happens when the clutch speed is not in sync with the engine RPM. Usually when downshifting incorrectly, the engine RPM is much lower than the speed at which the clutch is operating.
To fix this issue and downshift correctly, you need to make sure the engine RPM and clutch speed are at sync when you downshift – this is where rev matching comes in.
Rev Matching Correctly
Rev matching (also known as throttle blip) is where you flick the throttle right before downshifting to ensure the RPM is higher and matches the clutch speed. This ensures your downshifting is smooth and does not harm the clutch.
When slowing down, you will definitely lose engine RPM. Doing a quick flick on the throttle right before you downshift will get the RPM up and match the clutch speed.
Here’s a video of a rider performing rev matching. Notice how he flicks the throttle right before he downshifts. This does not take long to learn. And once you get it right, downshifting becomes second nature.
This YouTube video at 0:50 shows you exactly what a rev matching or ‘throttle blip’ is. Pay attention to his hand movement on the throttle. Right before he downshift, he blips the throttle to get the RPM up first.
The steps to rev match is usually like this:
- Clutch in
- Flick (blip) throttle to increase RPM
- Downshift to lower gear
- Release clutch
The most common question is how much should the RPM be during rev matching? This really depends on the current speed and what gear you are in.
Generally, you want to blip the throttle at around 2000 RPM before you downshift. This takes practice to identify and it’s different for every bike and engine.
Take a second to pause and think. When you downshift incorrectly (RPM too low), you will see that your bike RPM suddenly jumps up to sync with the clutch speed.
Rev matching is just you increasing the RPM proactively to ensure the bike doesn’t jerk and increase the RPM for you.
More info about downshifting and rev matching here – Is Downshifting Bad For Motorcycles?
Engine Brake Vs Regular Brake
Earlier I mentioned that engine braking is more efficient because it won’t use up your brake pads. But does it mean you have to engine brake as much as you can?
If you are a regular rider that does not ride aggressively, engine braking or regular braking are just the same. Your brake pads could last a long time if you don’t overuse it from riding aggressively.
Plus, using regular brakes activates your light – this indicates to the driver behind you that you are slowing down.
My advice? For maximum efficiency, engine braking is a great choice. Even better when there are no apparent drivers tailing you. For daily riding, using regular brakes are good enough. Just ride responsibly.
You should definitely downshift when coming to a stop on a motorcycle. When done right, downshifting will not cause any engine damage and it keeps you safe in situations where you need to accelerate immediately.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article is the proper way to stop on a motorcycle:
- Slow down using engine brake or regular brake.
- Clutch in
- Rev match
- Clutch out
- Repeat steps till you are completely stopped