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Patrick Patrick is offline
Motorcycles Unlimited
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Houston
Good Article On Downshifting!
by Patrick 12-11-2007, 10:18 PM

Good Article On Downshifting!
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Old 12-12-2007, 02:23 PM   #2
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Changing Gears Like a Pro

Barriers Open Doors

To make real improvement there must first exist a real barrier to overcome or a real result to achieve. These are always based on the rider?s own desires: to go faster; be more in control; have fewer panic situations; put it all together into a smooth flow or simply remove doubts and questions they have relating to those goals: when do the tires slide, how hard can I brake, how far can I lean the bike and so on.

When you look at it you?ll see that there is very little difference, if any, between a riding barrier and a riding goal; they both have the same stumbling blocks. They both have an end result to achieve. They both have some fear or uncertainty or distraction attached to them. There is always a barrier.

The Braking & Downshifting Barrier

An example of a common barrier would be the complications that arise from the hurried and slightly frantic control operations that stem from not learning to smoothly and simultaneously brake and downshift for traffic lights, obstructions and, of course, corners.

Doesn?t sound like a life or death threatening situation but when inspected closely you see what impact it really has on a rider?s attention and how they are spending it.

Check it out, if the rider can?t do braking and downshifting, simultaneously and smoothly, they are forced into one or more of the following attention draining scenarios:

1. Slowly letting out the clutch to make the downshift smoothly. This requires attention to be spent and is the most common way uneducated riders handle it.

2. Having to change gears once the bike is stopped. When the bike is stopped even the best transmissions can be sticky. Gears change more easily and more positively when the bike is moving. It causes less wear on the gearbox to change the gears while you are moving.

3. Having to change the gears after the braking is completed for a turn. That means doing it in the curve. This is distracting and can upset the bike, to say nothing of the rider.

4. Alternately going from the brake to the gas to match revs for the downshifts. This has the bike pogoing at the front. It does not get the bike slowed down quickly in an efficient manner. This is very busy riding.

5. Downshift before braking. This is fine for very relaxed riding situations at slow speeds but is hazardous to the engine if the rider is in ?spirited cornering? mode as it provides the opportunity to over-rev the motor and bypass the rev limiter that protects it. Could be very expensive. In an emergency situation you don?t have time to do this because you should be on the brakes right away. Not only that but some emergencies require you to brake and then get on the gas right away for accelerating hard to avoid things like cars running a light on you. In this case the rider would not have the time to get it done.

6. Forget it entirely and just go through the corner. This forces downshift(s) to be done at the corner?s exit thus losing the drive out and complicating the whole thing by having to make a gear change when they should be rolling on the throttle. This is distracting and not smooth at all.

Coordination And Concentration

It is true that if a rider was uncoordinated and attempts simultaneous braking and downshifting it could be dangerous. For example having the front brake on along with the power can make your front wheel lock up.

On our panic-stop training bike I have seen it many times: the rider aggressively squeezes the brake and unconsciously rolls the throttle on at the same time. It?s spooky to watch. So yes, practice and coordination are necessary, you will have to practice.

More importantly, you have to make a decision. Are the 6 potential distractions above likely to get you into trouble? They do break the rider?s concentration even if only slightly. In other words: if you aren?t a super hero at multitasking each of the 6 is a negative in comparison with braking and downshifting simultaneously.

In Control = In Communication

Continuous perception of your speed is how you control it. Accurate turn entry speed is critical to good, confident cornering. If you are worried about your speed, you are distracted by it.

Finding the right turn entry speed (for you) is far easier when the braking and downshifting are happening in one continuous flow of change. When compared to one that is chopped up, incomplete or creates anxiety like having to shift in the turn, it?s obvious which scenario is better. Your Sense of Speed is a precious resource and is far more accurate when monitored as a steady stream with your awareness.

Maintaining a continuous state of awareness of what the bike itself is doing is another of the true benefits of this technique. You always know where the engine speed is in relation to the road speed and that improves your feel for the bike.

Your communication with the machine improves; no false signals or guess work; no waiting to know how the bike will respond in any of the above scenarios. You ability to maintain communication with the bike is important input.

Naming It

Simultaneous braking and downshifting. I?d like to shorten it to something like brake-down. Car guys call it heel and toe, which is a nice, short and simple way of saying they are simultaneously using the brake pedal with their toe and revving the motor with their heel. In some cars you just put the ball of your foot between the brake and gas pedals and rock your foot side to side to do it, it depends on the pedal arrangement. On a bike, provided the brake lever is comfortably adjusted to fit your hand, they are always in the same position for our maneuver.

Alright, for now it is brake-down. It would be interesting to have a non rider hear about you executing a ?breakdown? coming into a curve; sounds pretty dangerous. How about fist and fingers or palm and fingers or B&Ding, ?

Whatever we call it, it works to simplify corner entries and puts the rider in command of and in communication with his machine to the highest possible degree.

The Sequence

1. Gas goes off.
2. Brake goes on.
3. Bike slows some.
4. Clutch comes in.
Maintain brake lever pressure.
5. Blip the gas rapidly on and off. (Usually no more than a quarter turn).
Maintain brake lever pressure.
6. During the blip make the gear change positively and quickly.
Maintain brake lever pressure.
7. Clutch comes out.
Maintain brake lever pressure until desired turn entry speed is achieved.
8. Release brake smoothly.

Bear this in mind: the quicker you do steps #1 through #7 the better.

Brake Lever Control

Expert use of the brake during this entire cycle means that you can maintain, increase or decrease the pressure as desired, without abruptly stabbing or releasing the brake lever.

Number of Fingers

Some riders let their finger(s) slide over the brake lever as they blip the gas. Others grab the brake lever with the tips of their finger(s) and still get a continuous lever pressure without the bike pogoing up and down.

Whichever way you do it is fine. How many fingers you use for the brake is up to you: one, two, three or four, this is your choice although I recommend you try just two fingers, your index and middle ones.

What?s Important?

Braking is important, it is life and death on the street and vital on the track. Changing gears is not. You can still make it through the corner or get the bike stopped without ever touching the gears. But, riders do have the six above scenarios to contend with if they can?t do the fist/finger, down-brake, palm/finger, B&Ding technique.

Learning How

The fact that riders have a problem doing this technique led me to a solution. I?ve built a bike that trains it. We call it the Control Trainer. It takes you through the technique, step by step.

The trainer?s computer program talks you through the whole sequence and it points out your problems and how to correct them. The computer is hooked up on a static ZX9, you can?t ride it but you do get the coordination/muscle memory necessary to do it for real.

Each of the controls is monitored for: correct sequence; correct timing of the clutch and gear changes; correctly sized throttle blips and consistent brake pressure, throughout the whole process.

With or without my Control Trainer, anyone can learn to do it. Start now.

? Keith Code

Upcoming articles: clutch-less up shifting and clutch-less downshifting.

? copyright 2004, Keith Code, all rights reserved.
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Old 12-12-2007, 04:26 PM   #3
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great info Patrick!
This is one of the main things I need to master as I am still "pogoing" the front somewhat while downshifting/braking. My hands are kinda small, soo I'll have to learn to slide my fingers over the lever more while blipping the throttle.
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Old 12-12-2007, 05:10 PM   #4
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This is the one thing that has left me clueless from day one ... downshifting while braking to enter a turn.

I hope to resolve this with lots of track time lessons next year.
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Old 12-12-2007, 05:26 PM   #5
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Practice making smooth downshifts by bliping the throttle to match RPM while braking everytime you're on your bike and you'll find that it becomes second nature like countersteering. With the clutch engaged you don't need to turn the throttle much. Much easier to practice when coming to a stop at an intersection on the street than with all the added pressure of setting corner entry speed on the track. Just my .02...

Originally Posted by logan5 View Post
This is the one thing that has left me clueless from day one ... downshifting while braking to enter a turn.

I hope to resolve this with lots of track time lessons next year.
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Old 12-12-2007, 05:31 PM   #6
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whoa?! Cliff notes?
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Old 12-13-2007, 12:49 PM   #7
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I've always called it "rev matching" I've tried to master it in my car, but my feet are to big to "heel/toe"
though I do this on the bike fairly often just not as smooth as described here
rev matching even helps when you're leasurely down shifting and not on the brake, it prevents the rear wheel from locking up or skipping
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:35 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by CarbonR 1/2 View Post
whoa?! Cliff notes?
Won't do you any good. When you have time, read it. It's good stuff. Not something you want to skim over or skimp on.
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by [poser] View Post
I've always called it "rev matching" I've tried to master it in my car, but my feet are to big to "heel/toe"
I know what ya mean...I wear a size 13-14 depending on the shoe. So, I use my heel on the brake and toes on the top of the gas pedal (since it's normally quite a bit longer pedal.) Because I quite obviously can't turn my foot too sideways or it just gets all sloppy.... But on my bike, I don't have to worry so much.
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