> Why are motorcycles around the world "geared" differently?

Why are motorcycles around the world "geared" differently?

Posted at: 2015-04-14 
Street bikes, Sport bikes and Super bikes all vary from 250cc to 1,400cc.

They all have different manufactures and etc but are basically the same.

Then how come they all shift differently.

Some go down, up, up, up

Some go Up, down, down, down

Some go down, down, down, down

And then some go up, up, up, up

Is there is mechanical or engineering reason why the gears have to be arranged in a

certain order.

I've noticed that on small bikes 125cc the gears all go down, down, down, down.

Then on the bigger bikes 500cc-1000cc they go down, up, up, up

Then the super bikes 1100cc-1400cc sometimes go up, down, down, down

I mean when your riding there is no indicator and therefore you have no way of

remembering which gear your in so you may do the wrong thing and cause the engine

to cease. But then again if you practice then you won't have this problem.

I just thought that all bikes should be standard.

I grew up on dirt bikes and my first bike was a 50cc and the gears were

were down, down, down, with an automatic clutch.

My second bike was a 125cc that had standard gearing then I went to a 250cc.

Since the late-70s all bikes for use on the road and were intended for export to western European countries and USA were legally required (originally by the US) to have the same position for the basic controls and the gear shift pattern should all follow the same shift pattern – 1 N 2 3 4 etc. with first being down. This is also why British bikes had to change their gear shift from the right to the left.

The racer shift is inverted so that a racer exiting a lefthand bend and needing to change up does not compromise ground clearance by having to squeeze their boot under the gear change.

You are mistaken about varying gear change patterns (when stock). You are also mistaken about gear indicators – many modern bikes have them fitted (Suzuki started fitting them to the GS series in the 80s), and if yours does not have one it is relatively simple to fit an aftermarket one.

no one else has mentioned the rotary shift pattern!! From neutral up to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th then neutral again.

A truly horrible idea especially as the shifter wore & sometimes didn't shift cleanly into 4th without another prod. If this was a shade too hard (or you forgot which gear you were in) you suddnely found yourself in neutral with the engine doing 20,000rpm!!

The idea was I suppose to enable you to drop into neutral easily at the lights. Mind you the only example I've seen was on an early kawa single with truly terrible brakes so you needed all the engine braking help you could get to slow down.

"I've noticed that on small bikes 125cc the gears all go down, down, down, down."

No, they do not.

"Then on the bigger bikes 500cc-1000cc they go down, up, up, up"

Also wrong.

"Then the super bikes 1100cc-1400cc sometimes go up, down, down, down"

Wrong again.

"...you may do the wrong thing and cause the engine to cease."

The word you are looking for, is 'seize'. And you're wrong about that, too.

For around 90% of modern motorcycles, the shift pattern is 1-N-2-3-4-5(-6), regardless of the engine size. This system avoids ending up in neutral by mistake, when changing down.

A handful of bikes (mainly older, small capacity machines) have a N-1-2-3-4-5 shift pattern.

Some race bikes use a 5-4-3-2-1-N or 5-4-3-2-N-1 pattern (known as 'inverted' or 'race-shift'), for faster shifting on the track. Many older British bikes used the inverted shift pattern, too.

Older bikes had a shift pattern up,up,up.

They got rid of that pattern for safety reasons.

If the rider wan't paying attention to what gear he was in and started downshifting, the transmission would end up in neutral .

The bike would have zero response when trying to get back up to speed in an emergency.

So they changed the shift pattern to end up in 1st when down shifting.

Now when shifting fast and not counting what gear you were in, the transmission would always be in gear. down, up, up, up, up

Neutral being 1/2 shift between 1st & 2nd

99% of every street bike made is:

Down for 1st.


Up for the rest of the gears.

This can be easly changed to "Race pattern" with a connecting rod.

You should be grateful that gear shifter is on the LEFT peg. I've seen bikes with shifter on the RIGHT peg, where the rear brake paddle supposed to be! Good examples are older Triumphs and Royal Enfields... I have never ridden one though, but I can't imagine riding it without crashing!

To the question. Well, I've an old 80's Yamaha YB100 and its gear pattern is N,1D,2D,3D,4D (aka, all down shift patten). Whereas most new bikes have D1,N,2U,3U,4U,5U,6U (also known as, 1 Down, Rest Up)...

Then there's whats called invested shifter aka "MotoGP Shifter". Where gear pattern is 1U,N,2D,3D,4D,5D,6D.

WOW, I find it funny that my old 2 stroke commuter bike that barely makes 7hp has whats now labeled as "MotoGP Shifter".

If I ever sell it on craiglists, I'll label it as "A RACING 2T BIKE WITH GP-SHIFTER". LOL.

My personal preference?

I'm used to "1 Down rest Up" pattern... But on my Track Bike; I would prefer the "1 Up rest Down" pattern as it seems easier for fast up-shifts and just feels more natural to me, specially in case of a "quick shifter"...


You complain about the different foot movements of left foot, a few note the older right foot use like on Sportsters I used to ride or the BSA. younguns with their modern foot shifts- I had my first Harley with a tank left side shift lever and the left foot pushed in a clutch pedal rocker. And the rider training manual in library (antique books section admitidly) still has that shifting drill. And the Indian chief project had other side shift hand lever. Teasing Alert!