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Downshifting/braking Options


cellige
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I posted this over at advrider but this might be a better place to ask :)

 

From what I can tell the recommended technique (mainly without a slipper clutch) is to downshift while braking, releasing the clutch for each gear, finishing your braking/downshifting before you lean the bike, lean the bike and then immediately after done leaning, roll on the throttle.

I would like to know why there is an advantage doing that method instead of: braking, downshifting through each gear with the clutch held in, leaning the bike and immediately after leaning getting the clutch in the friction zone/rolling on the throttle/getting clutch all the way out.

 

Note, in both methods I am talking about getting on the throttle at the same spot on the track, in option 1 the clutch is already out and you crack on the throttle and in option two you get the clutch in the friction spot and crack on throttle.

So whats the deal?

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Here are some disadvantages to holding in the clutch while downshifting multiple gears:

1) You can't really be sure that each downshift occurred - if the bike fails to shift a gear, went one too far, or hit a false neutral you wouldn't know until you started letting out the clutch, and if you did that while leaned over you could have a big problem. If you do each gear separately you can feel the gears change and know where you are.

2) It requires holding the clutch in longer so the rpm falls off a lot during that time, so when you do start letting out the clutch in the final lower gear, the engine speed will be too low to match the speed the rear wheel is spinning, which can cause the rear tire to slide, unless the clutch is let out very slowly, or the throttle is used to match the revs. (Slipper clutches help with this problem.) Usually you would use a quick throttle blip during your downshift to match the revs but that is a lot harder to judge properly when you drop multiple gears at once.

3) You have no engine braking while you are holding the clutch in, which means the bike is free-wheeling into the corner, which can feel too fast and cause a feeling of panic or cause overbraking, and also means that all the load for slowing the bike is on the front tire.

 

Generally the most reliable way to downshift is to do it by shifting one gear at a time, blipping the throttle to match revs, which prevents rear tire lockup and reduces strain on engine and clutch. It can be done very, very quickly, especially if you can learn to do it without the clutch; you can do a forum search for "clutchless downshifts" for more info on that.

 

You also mention letting out the clutch while already leaned over - certainly this is possible but it would take a LOT of attention on getting the clutch let out at exactly the right rate. While leaned over and trying to get back on the gas, any error with the clutch (letting it out too slow or too fast) OR the throttle (too much, too little, or too late) would compromise your traction and could cause a slide. Concentrating on getting the clutch let out at a perfect rate to maximize traction while also paying attention to lean angle, throttle, speed, and direction sounds like a lot to manage all at once!

 

At the school we have a braking/downshifting drill to coach riders through learning to brake and downshift simultaneaously (with or without the clutch), while blipping the throttle and matching engine revs. Once a rider is comfortable with this it can all be done prior to leaning the bike into a turn which makes turn entry a lot simpler overall!

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Thanks for the detailed response !

Couple of follow up questions:

My bike doesnt seem to be totally smooth when I crack the throttle on even the smallest amount, is that common?

Is it not common to have corners where you need to brake as hard as possible?

- I was under the impression that once you brake harder than engine braking alone provides you are then slowing the engine with the brakes which would increase braking distance.

- Seems like getting the blip and clutch out per gear would be tuff under maximum braking.

If you mess a blip up and blip to high it pushes through the front brakes and/or causes a rear slide, is that not a huge concern in practice since your not leaned over?

 

Needless to say I am not proficient blipping and/or clutchless downshifting. But for those that are, is the clutchless downshifting totally smooth as one can achieve with the clutch? Is it possible some bikes just won't clutchless shift smoothly?

 

Thanks !! Wish I was out in California to get to the school !

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Here is a video of our mechanic, Will shifting clutchless:

I find it much easier.

"- I was under the impression that once you brake harder than engine braking alone provides you are then slowing the engine with the brakes which would increase braking distance." I think modern brakes have enough power to slow the bike, the engine, and power left over to launch you to the moon, or at least do a sweet stoppie! Seriously though, if you think about lifting the rear off the ground under braking, it wouldn't be possible for the engine to increase braking distance.

I think it may be easier to blip under heavy brakes? I've never thought about this and for me it works well under heavy or light brakes but if light brakes means 10 psi on the lever and you mistakenly add 3 lbs when you blip it would be noticeable but if heavy brakes meant 50 lbs (arbitrary numbers) then that extra 3 lbs might not be noticed?

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Some bikes with big flywheels, or that don't carburete cleanly (I'm sure I misspelled that) or modern fuel injection, if the mapping isn't clean enough.

 

Just about anything else will do it smoothly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had no idea that clutchless downshifting was even possible until I read it on here. Tried it on the road and then on the track the other day and I'm completely sold. Far easier straight away. Felt much more comfortable in the braking zones, to the point that my braking markers were deeper yet I was more relaxed on the bike.

 

Brilliant technique.

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I had no idea that clutchless downshifting was even possible until I read it on here. Tried it on the road and then on the track the other day and I'm completely sold. Far easier straight away. Felt much more comfortable in the braking zones, to the point that my braking markers were deeper yet I was more relaxed on the bike.

 

Brilliant technique.

Excellent! Glad to hear it worked so well for you, and I completely agree - it takes a lot of the complexity out of braking and downshifting together and makes it all quicker.

 

I got an opportunity to drive an open-wheel race car on a track recently, which required me to use the heel-toe braking-blipping-shifting technique. I have gotten so used to shifting without the clutch on the bike that it took some real concentration for me to re-coordinate using a clutch and getting the timing of using the clutch and blipping the gas properly!

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That's pretty cool! How did the race car compare to your race bike??

Hm, that's an interesting question. Well, with four wide race tires it felt like it had an incredible amount of cornering grip, but it was a mid-engine car and was inclined to want to spin on the exits of turns, particularly on cold tires if you got on the gas while still turning. Being an open wheel car it felt sort of like a giant and very LOUD go-kart!

 

Some noticeable differences from being on a bike: it felt cramped, with a very narrow cockpit, and the sensations of being pressed against the sides of the car during hard cornering were foreign, compared to a bike. It was lower to the ground and felt more stable than a bike so it was less intimidating to push hard entering and exiting corners - I didn't want to spin out, but at least I didn't have to worry about highsiding!

 

Driving it overall seemed to take less muscle effort (I didn't have to hang off!) compared to a bike but felt more physically abusive since I banged and bruised my ribs, knees, and elbows due to bumps and cornering forces bringing me and the sides of the car together a lot. I imagine with a properly fitted custom seat much of that could be eliminated (the seat was too big for me and I was sliding around)... but not all of it; I think many drivers wear rib protectors.

 

It was fun, for sure, and had its own type of thrill... but I have to say, nothing I have ever ridden or driven has compared to the S1000RR for sheer mind-blowing acceleration. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Any tips on the clutch less downshifting technique? I have yet to try out of respect for my gearbox but would love to if I knew the "correct" technique. One less control being used while braking, downshifting and rev matching sounds like a wonderful thing. :)

 

P.S. Tried searching and only found this topic.

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Thanks!

 

I have actually already clutchless downshifted but only out of desperation. Broke the clutch on my FZR and wanted to verify that all the gears were still there and did it on the stand with a single finger. On the stand with no load its a lot different than on the road or track though. :)

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Thanks to Lnewqban for those links.

 

It's mostly a timing issue. If you mis-time it, the bike won't shift. If you stomp it in, or constantly ride the lever, that can be bad, but see if those other threads give you enough info.

 

Cobie

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Thanks to Lnewqban for those links.

 

It's mostly a timing issue. If you mis-time it, the bike won't shift. If you stomp it in, or constantly ride the lever, that can be bad, but see if those other threads give you enough info.

 

Cobie

 

Yeah. I'm going to at least try it. Going from 4 control's to 3 is one less thing to think about when entering a turn. If I can get the downshifting without a clutch worked out it will be like having a sequential manual box on the new bike because it has a quick shifter. :)

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Meh...I'm not so enthusiastic. Sure, you avoid having to use the clutch, but what is your left hand doing anyway? I don't find clutching difficult. What I find challenging is rev-matching for downshifts with the throttle while simultaneously braking hard with the right lever.

 

I don't blip at all. I clutch and downshift without blipping, and let my very functional slipper clutch do its job. Meanwhile, my right hand has nothing to do but work the brake lever.

 

If you can threshold brake and blip the throttle simultaneously, more power to you. I'm not that coordinated.

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Meh...I'm not so enthusiastic. Sure, you avoid having to use the clutch, but what is your left hand doing anyway? I don't find clutching difficult. What I find challenging is rev-matching for downshifts with the throttle while simultaneously braking hard with the right lever.

 

I don't blip at all. I clutch and downshift without blipping, and let my very functional slipper clutch do its job. Meanwhile, my right hand has nothing to do but work the brake lever.

 

If you can threshold brake and blip the throttle simultaneously, more power to you. I'm not that coordinated.

 

At the end of the day the most important thing I suppose is something that works well for you. I ride a lot of different machines and can't really count on a slipper clutch being available to me at all times. I certainly prefer having a slipper clutch available as an extra margin of safety in case I have a brain fart even if I don't take full advantage of it.

 

The braking and blipping part is so much easier than you think. There's a "trick" to it. The trick that I have figured out is "why" the back of the brake handles have a curved section on them. That's the area you let your fingers slip over the lever as you blip the throttle.

 

I learned in two parts. I started blipping for downshifts only and then added in braking later on. It's tricky at first but VERY satisfying and quite worth the effort. My MV Agusta sort of forced the issue with me. It sounds absolutely glorious when you do it correctly and absolutely hates you when you don't. Here's a sound bite of someone running an F4 Senna through a tunnel and enjoying some rev matched downshifts before the sonic assault.

 

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YD,

 

How quickly can you let the clutch out when you do it w/out blipping? Most do it slowly (costs some attention that might be useful elsewhere), or it can potentially over-rev the engine (it does stress clutch, chain and engine). Some other factors can be, did the bike go down the right amount of gears? Sometimes not at all, more rarely more than 1--but one doesn't know if the clutch isn't let out between each shift.

 

This for sure is the single most complicated part of riding a motorcycle, and many don't really know how to do it, or why it's a good idea.

 

When we do the drill to train riders on this, about the biggest thing is to break it down into small, bite size skills, and do one at a time: simply learn to blip. Then blip and use the clutch, then add the gear change, then add the tiniest bit of braking, sliding the fingers over the brake lever and keeping it steady. Can be trained! Consider it!

 

OK, pep talk over :).

 

Best,

Cobie

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It seems we have conflated two issues in this thread. I do let the clutch out between each downshift. What I don't do is downshift without clutching at all, which is what we started talking about halfway through the thread.

 

I used to blip on (clutched) downshifts, but with the slipper clutch I now find this to be disadvantageous - brings no advantage and just reduces my ability to brake effectively.

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Thread has been interesting ! Inspired, I have been doing drills out in the nearest open space I can find (would loooove to get out to the school) putting all this together and have noticed a few things.

 

- Some kind of intelligent linked brakes like the honda system that work well and operated solely with the right foot would be fantastic to free the right hand from braking, anyone every go such a custom route?

 

- Not so hard to avoid excess brake input when i use my middle, ring and pinky to brake leaving my index and thumb for throttle, as well as giving me the leverage at the end of the lever for hard braking. Also doesn't run the risk of pinching the fingers in a panic brake. When i had the brake lever adjusted to work with my index and middle finger, it was way out there to avoid pinching my other fingers, and then the blip was more difficult..

 

- Even with repetitive multi day practice, still very very hard to blip and clutch in/out very quickly to keep up with very hard braking and NOT have the suspension bob. This isn't so hard to do when not braking because it can be done slower and very smooth, but I just can't get it when braking at max due to the speed needed and then lack of accuracy.

Funny enough though, there is bob under the hardest braking, and the lightest braking, but the least on just mild hard braking, since mild hard braking gives me that pressure difference in brake force to lever force that lwarner was saying as well as a little time to get it done, at least I think that's why.

 

- I ride a vstrom daily and have noticed that on street tires at least, i can not get the back wheel off the ground on braking, it will lock up first. I assume this is due to it being a heavy, long wheel base bike that is not a total sport bike. I have access to an R6 that I will test out though. Things brings the question back up though that if the wheels will slide first, that doesn't remove the engine from the equation and it would seem then that I could stop quicker with the clutch pulled in.

 

Just what I have noticed and I am sure I still have some misconceptions, and definitely am not satisfied with less than smooth braking, but will keep at it !

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- Some kind of intelligent linked brakes like the honda system that work well and operated solely with the right foot would be fantastic to free the right hand from braking, anyone every go such a custom route?

 

One thought on the use of a foot control to operate the front brake, I don't think it's such a good idea. For the same reason that Mat Mladin prefers to use the clutch to control wheelies rather than the rear brake like most people.

 

Edit >> Here is the video showing Mat Mladin controlling wheelies with the clutch. Have a watch and be amazed! Actually the whole series is a great watch, very interesting if you haven't seen it already. :D (The riding technique info starts from around 5:15, the wheelie/clutch info starts around 6:50.)

 

 

Actually Mladin mentions a good reason there for keeping a finger on the clutch... Perhaps clutchless downshifting and getting into the habit of leaving the clutch alone is not such a good thing? Maybe better to clutchless downshift and still leave a finger on the clutch?

 

How much feeling do you have in your fingers, compared to your feet (through the sole of your boots, no less)? Easily 10x more feeling through your gloved fingertips, right? So when you're operating the most powerful control on the motorcycle (the front brake), do you think it would be better to use your hands, or your feet? ;)

 

Blipping with or without brakes does take practice, to develop your coordination and timing. Just keep at it whenever you're riding, it doesn't need to be a big noisy 3k rpm blip, just a little bit and you'll get the feel for it.

 

I admire your determination to test the limits of your VStrom brakes on the street like that! Hopefully not around too much traffic, eh?

Yes the type of bike and even your body position will play a large role there. I'm sure you can help it along by bouncing the suspension, moving up out of the seat and forwards and timing all that correctly to get the rear wheel off the ground, but that's not really the point... It's possible, but not on every bike in every situation.

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