Do you need to blip the throttle on a
Changing down the gearbox isn't one of the easiest jobs we have to
do on the bike, but demands both a clear understanding of the need
for good timing as well as some competence with the controls.
One of the perennial arguments amongst riders is whether or not you
need to "blip" the thottle to raise the revs momentarily to make a
correct gear change.
Like many things to do with riding, there's no clear cut "yes" or
"no" answer as to whether it's right or wrong. So rather than come
down on one side of a fence or the other, let's sit on it and weigh
up the pros and cons on either hand.
First, let's just remember that I'm a road rider and not a track
jockey, and that as such we're not in a rush on the road. You will
find a use for matching revs on the track on a bike without a
slipper clutch to avoid locking the rear wheel on a downshift.
So let's look at some the reasons that are offered for doing it.
It's essential for a smooth change
First, the technique itself is a hangover from clunky old gearboxes
on things like Guzzis and BMWs from years back (well, OK a bit more
recently on Guzzis )... I've not ridden every single bike ever
made, but I genuinely can't remember the last time I rode a Japanese
bike that really DEMANDED a blip of the throttle to match revs
Now, that's not to say that raising the revs momentarily on a
downshift won't make it a bit smoother, and in certain circumstances
- such as a downshift to a better gear for overtaking or maybe
climbing a hill - I will twist the throttle slightly to lift the
revs a little because if I don't, the shift can be clumsy.
However, when I do blip, I do not give the throttle a big twist to
send the revs rocketing skyward, it's a subtle movement with a
subtle result. It's always seemed to me that the big handful
approach is not only obtrusive in terms of environmental
sensitivity, it's as ham fisted and just as unlikely you'll match
revs accurately as simply dumping the clutch with the throttle shut.
It's kinder to the gearbox
I've seen it argued that blipping the throttle stops the dogs in the
gearbox clashing as they engage, thus resulting in a quiet and
mechanically sympathetic change. This might be so, although to be
honest, you'd have to judge the revs just right to avoid any loading
as the various mechanical bits try to catch up with each other, and
that seems unlikely to me.
However, I've never broken a gearbox and I've taken quite a few
bikes to the far side of 70k miles and one to well over 140,000
miles. That last was a GS500, with a transmission originally
designed in the mid 70s, and that bike was was JUST starting to
whine in second... that wasn't a dog though! The reverse load
doesn't wear the clutch out at any appreciable rate either.
I'm not saying the reasoning is wrong... but I think in terms of
wear and tear it's not something that the average rider needs to
worry about on most road bikes within the life of the bike.
Blipping is a more skilful technique
Why is using a complicated technique automatically equated as
greater skill? Shifting gears smoothly is one of the hallmarks of a
competent rider. How you do it is the important choice and
particularly for a novice, smooth downshifting properly poses a
To blip successfully, you either:
dispense with braking with the front brake whilst
you twist the throttle - and we wouldn't want to get into the habit
of trying to straight line brake with the rear brake only would we?
learn a technique that allows you to brake
smoothly with your fingers whilst twisting the throttle at the same
time - easier said than done because if you don't get it right, the
bike will stop in a series of jerks rather than a smooth progression
Not very straightforward for a new rider is it?
So it makes sense for a rider coming to terms with riding the bike
and manipulating the controls to use a simpler technique if there is
And there is - slipping the clutch. You do it to pull away, don't
you? The reason the clutch is fitted is to smooth the transition
between the various parts of the transmission, and it can equally
well be used on down changes as well as up changes. Just letting the
clutch out slowly and using the friction of the plates will spin the
gears gently back up to speed.
I get my decelerating done using the brakes and the gear changes are
timed so that I'm changing as I slow. I mostly avoid block changing.
On a straight approach to a roundabout, it's easy to shift one at a
Rather than blip, you can simply let the clutch out sloooooooooowly.
With the clutch smoothing out the gear change, you can then
concentrate on using the front brake effectively and smoothly
without the complication of the consequent twisting of your wrist
tweaking the lever whilst you're trying to brake at a consistant
It stops the back wheel from locking
Many riders get the idea that to slow from high speed you need to
change down very early. You don't. So long as the motor is always in
a gear and somewhere around the middle of the rev-range, you're in
the right gear. Skipping on the downchange is usually a symptom of
shifting down too early and forcing deceleration with engine braking
rather than by using the brakes correctly.
Racers do it
I'll leave the reader to work out the answer to that one.
It makes a nice noise
Fortunately I'm not too grown up that I can't listen appreciatively
when I hear a big single, twin or triple on the overrun. However,
though I ride several of them, I can't feel the same about a four
cylinder engine. And the environmental aspect of annoying the
neighbours should be a consideration too. A wailing can might sound
good on the track but a quarter of a mile from the local bypass and
roundabout, it gets a bit wearing.
OK, so you've learned to use the clutch to smooth out downshifts and
still want to blip?
So let's do the obvious thing to make the task in hand SIMPLER so
you can perfect bits of it, one thing at a time.
It may well help to roll off the throttle earlier than usual so that
you don't have to use the brakes to slow, and thus can practice
changing gear smoothly at the appropriate moment to avoid locking
the rear using the clutch-slip approach - that'll will get your
It may well help to use the simpler clutch-slip technique of
downshifting so that you can now practice braking more firmly.
Having mastered the timing with the first exercise, try to roll off
rather than brake and THEN practice the blipping technique - this
way you won't need the front brake and can concentrate on the
throttle action and timing. Remember the object of the exercise is
NOT to bounce off the rev-limiter on every blip, but a subtle
adjustment of the revs upward to allow the smooth selection of the
Having got each individual skill correct, then start trying to blend
them together. Slow down from the same kind of distance you were
using for the roll-off method, but this time try using the brakes
very gently and blip at the same time. You won't be worrying about
running out of road, but will have plenty of space to play with, so
that if the braking/blipping doesn't gel it won't matter.
So... blip if you want to... learn to blip if you can't... but don't
feel ashamed that you don't.