Motorcycle riding delivers an exhilarating sense of freedom and adrenaline. The ability to lean into turns, accelerate rapidly, and feel completely connected to the road creates an unparalleled experience.
For many riders, maximizing performance and minimizing the time spent changing gears is an important part of heightening the riding experience.
This raises the question: do you need quick shifters to get the most enjoyment out of your motorcycle?
Here are the key takeaways regarding quick shifters:
- Allow rapid upshifting without clutch or throttle input
- Originally meant for racing but now widely available
- Offer tangible benefits for aggressive track/street riding
- Seamless shifts enhance corner exit performance
- Mostly beneficial for expert pace unattainable on the street
- Convenient for commuting in stop-and-go traffic
- Fun, but not mandatory for enjoying motorcycling
Quick shifters allow seamless upshifting without needing to roll off the throttle or operate the clutch. This technology was originally developed for racing, where fractions of a second matter over a lap.
However, as quick shifters have become more prevalent, they’ve made their way onto production motorcycles, too.
The ability to keep the throttle pinned while banging through the gears is undeniably fun and addictive. But are quick shifters a must-have for the street? Let’s delve deeper and explore the pros and cons.
How Do Quick Shifters Work Their Magic?
On a standard motorcycle transmission, shifting gears requires a synchronized “dance” between the clutch and throttle. Here’s what’s involved in a normal upshift:
- Roll off the throttle slightly to unload the transmission.
- Pull the clutch lever to disengage the gears.
- Shift to a higher gear with the shift lever.
- Ease out the clutch lever while applying the throttle.
This brief process interrupts power delivery and adds time between gears. Quick shifters shortcut the need for these steps by using electronic wizardry.
Integrated into the shift linkage is a sensor that detects when the shifter is actuated. This triggers the ECU to cut the ignition spark for a few milliseconds when a shift is detected.
Cutting ignition unloads the transmission, allowing the next gear to engage. The entire process happens seamlessly, without any clutch or throttle input from the rider.
Shifts are lightning-quick, keeping the drive uninterrupted. Quick shifters also free up the rider’s focus since shifting becomes a single, thoughtless movement rather than a synchronized dance.
For track and racing use, quick shifters offer tangible performance benefits. On the street, they’re just a really fun, convenient feature that makes any bike feel sportier.
Nearly every manufacturer now offers quick shifter technology integrated into production bikes or as an option. They’ve progressed from exotic, track-only equipment to a more commonplace performance upgrade.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Quick Shifters
- Seamless acceleration: Keeping the throttle pinned through upshifts enables continuous acceleration. Quick shifters maximize momentum when exiting corners or overtaking on straights.
- Corner entry speed: Grabbing an upshift mid-corner without rolling off the throttle maintains corner speed. Quick shifters allow remaining in the powerband when approaching the corner exit.
- Convenience: Without needing to coordinate throttle and clutch, shifting becomes thoughtless. Riders can devote full attention to navigating twisty roads.
- Fun factor: Quick shifters inject excitement into everyday street riding. Hearing rapid-fire shifts riiip up the gearbox never gets old!
- Modernizes older bikes: Quick shifter kits are an easy upgrade that adds a high-performance feel to vintage and classic machines. Riders can modernize the shifting experience on treasured bikes.
What is the disadvantage of a quick-shifter?
- Cost: OEM quick shifters increase new bike prices by a few hundred to a thousand dollars. Retrofitting older bikes is similarly expensive. The kits cost as much or more than a premium exhaust system.
- Mechanical complexity: More sensors and an ECU alter how the powertrain functions. This electronic shift management comes with the potential for occasional hiccups or glitches.
- Not useful in slow riding: Quick shifters only function at higher rpm, usually above 2500 rpm. At low speeds or off-road, they provide no benefit. Riders still need traditional clutch/throttle skills for maneuvering parking lots.
- Affects clutch feel: Relying on auto-shifting minimizes the use of the clutch lever. Over time, some riders report degraded clutch feel and control.
- Redundant for many riders: Quick shifter performance benefits only start to accrue at a very high, expert pace. Most casual street riders won’t utilize the full capabilities on public roads.
The upsides clearly center on convenience, excitement, and speed. But those advantages aren’t essential to daily street riding. Quick shifters excel at enhancing aggressive performance that few riders actually experience on the street. They don’t fundamentally transform the motorcycle experience. While fun, quick shifters aren’t mandatory to enjoy motorcycling.
Quick Shifter Use Cases – Who Benefits Most?
Here are the riding scenarios and situations where quick shifters deliver the most value:
- Track days and amateur racing: Quick shifts optimize lap times, acceleration, and corner speed and minimize distractions when wringing out a bike at its limit. Quick shifters offer a real competitive edge.
- Commuting in heavy traffic: Stop-and-go traffic involves a lot of rapid downshifting and upshifting between 1st and 2nd gear. Quick shifters simplify the constant gear changes in this use case.
- Group rides with fast riders: During aggressive group rides, quick shifters allow staying in the powerband to keep up with fast company. They prevent getting caught out in too high a gear when the pace rapidly increases.
- Spirited backroad riding: On curvy roads, quick shifters maximize momentum when carving through sweepers and elevating corner exit speeds. They enhance an athletic, aggressive pace.
- Riding large touring motorcycles: Big tourers with heavy clutches benefit from quick shifters to reduce fatigue and physical effort when shifting frequently. Quick upshifts also aid in overtaking on highways.
- Riders with injured hands/wrists: For those recovering from hand injuries, quick shifters limit the need to pull heavy clutches, reducing pain and strain.
The common thread is using quick shifters facilitates riding at a swift, performance-oriented pace. For mellow cruising or relaxed sightseeing rides, quick shifters provide negligible benefits.
They truly shine when hustling a motorcycle through twisty roads or around a racetrack. Quick shifters amplify excitement during 10/10ths riding.
Maximizing the Quick Shifter Experience
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your quick shifter:
- Adjust settings properly: Most aftermarket quick shifter kits allow tweaking parameters like shift sensitivity and ignition cut duration. Take time to fine-tune for optimal smoothness.
- Keep RPMs up: When upshifting, stay above 2500 rpm to ensure uninterrupted power delivery. Don’t lug the motor too low in the rev range.
- Preload the shifter: Applying slight upward pressure to the shift lever helps ensure crisp engagement during full-throttle upshifts.
- Use rear set shift pattern: A GP-style shift pattern with 1st gear at the bottom facilitates much faster upshifts. Retrofitting rear sets enables this setup.
- Consider auto-blip: High-end quick shifter kits integrate auto-blip downshifting for clutchless downshifts. This amplifies the performance experience.
- Stay sharp with clutch skills: Periodically practice normal shifting using the clutch to maintain finesse. Don’t let those perishable skills fade away.
By fine-tuning the setup and maximizing the ideal conditions for quick shifting, you’ll get the most grins per mile. But don’t become so reliant on quick shifters that traditional clutch/throttle coordination skills degrade.
Quick Shifters – Must-Have or Luxury?
While tremendously fun and useful in certain scenarios, quick shifters aren’t mandatory to get joy from motorcycling.
Plenty of riders relish carving canyons and hitting apexes without ever experiencing a clutchless upshift. Quick shifters offer incremental convenience, not a revolutionary enhancement.
Because they don’t fundamentally transform the riding experience, deeming them a necessity is misguided.
However, if your riding style leans toward aggressive pace and performance, then quick shifters deliver tangible benefits.
They align nicely with spirited canyon riding and racetrack days. Quick shifters also relieve stress when dealing with unpleasant tasks like commuting in heavy traffic.
For many riders, the novelty may wear off quickly, though. The smoothness and speed gains only help at an expert pace unattainable on the street. Quickly banging through gears loses its luster during mellow weekend ride-outs. Plus, the cost is difficult to justify if you only experience the benefits occasionally.
While awesome to have, don’t feel like you’re missing out without quick shifters. You can have epic adventures, covet cornering precision, and constantly push your riding skills all without auto-blipping your throttle.
Quick shifters amplify the thrill but aren’t fundamental. Focus on wringing every ounce of performance from yourself and your bike—with or without this tech. The difference comes down to preference, not necessity.
The Bottom Line
While quick shifters provide a legitimate performance advantage during 10/10ths riding, they aren’t imperative for typical street use.
As with all motorcycle technology, the utility depends heavily on your individual riding style and needs. An objective cost-benefit analysis suggests quick shifters fall into the “nice to have” rather than “must-have” category for many riders. Their greatest appeal is enhancing excitement, not improving fundamental function.
As you consider modifying your own motorcycle, reflect on when and how you ride. If you frequently push aggressive pace or race, quick shifters are well worth the investment.
For those who prefer a more relaxed style, that same cash might be better spent on comfort, convenience, or cosmetic upgrades you’ll appreciate every ride.
With a myriad of ways to amplify enjoyment on two wheels, choose the ones that best match your needs. And most importantly, get out and ride!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are quick shifters bad for your transmission?
No, quick shifters don’t harm your transmission when used properly. The short interrupt in power reduces stress compared to forcefully shifting without the clutch. The ignition cut allowance is calibrated for seamless shifts without impacting durability.
Can you install a quick shifter yourself?
Many quick shifter kits allow DIY installation, but it requires disconnecting the wiring harness and engine readings. Unless you’re technically proficient, it’s wise to have a shop install it. Improper installation can cause poor performance or even engine damage.
Do quick shifters work on downshifts?
Some high-performance quick shifters integrate auto-blip functionality for clutchless downshifts. This is an additional feature that briefly blips the throttle to match revs. Most quick shifters only function for upshifts, not downshifts.
Can quick shifters be disabled?
Yes, there is generally a way to disable a quick shifter if desired. Some bikes have a physical toggle switch, while others require disconnecting or programming the module. Check your owner’s manual for how to disable it.
What’s the difference between a quick shifter and autoblipper?
Quick shifters allow clutchless upshifts, while autoblippers enable clutchless downshifts. Autoblippers blip the throttle to match revs when downshifting, while quick shifters just interrupt ignition on upshifts.
Quick shifters certainly make motorcycling more exciting by enabling lightning-fast, clutchless upshifts.
The technology heightens performance potential and injects fun into routine riding. While not mandatory, quick shifters provide tangible benefits for certain riders and use cases.
Before investing in this technology, carefully consider if your riding style can truly justify the cost. An honest evaluation will help determine if quick shifters are a smart upgrade for amplifying your enjoyment on two wheels. But the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference, not necessity.