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How To
Beginner Advice

How To: Change Gears on a Motorbike - Rookie To Rider


Courtney S · February 04, 2020

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Rookie to Rider Series by Courtney

The Rookie to Rider series is written by experienced rider Courtney, who first hand has faced the many challenges and fantastic experiences that two wheels has to offer. The series aims to help all riders improve their skills and get more out of life on two wheels.

The second part of the Rookie to Rider Series can be found below. Enjoy!


One of the most important aspects of learning to ride a motorcycle is changing gears. When you book your CBT a portion of your day will be spent mastering this skill. With practice, changing gear should become a fluid motion that you can do without even thinking, allowing you to focus on what’s going on around you and helping to keep you safe while out on the road.

Step 1

Take time to get comfortable with where the clutch, throttle and gear shifter are on your machine. The clutch is in front of the left handgrip while the gear shifter is a bar in front of the left foot pedal. The throttle is located on the right handgrip.

Step 2

Practice controlling the clutch and moving through the gears before you try the real thing. You can go through each of these steps, just skipping Step 3, where we actually turn the machine on!

Step 3

To start the motorcycle, squeeze in the clutch and press the starter button located on the right handlebar. Make sure you are in the neutral position. A green “N” light will usually appear on the tank to represent when the bike is in neutral, but if you’re unsure then be careful when releasing the clutch – if the bike is in gear it will lurch forward. If you release the clutch and roll on the throttle without the bike moving, then you are in neutral.

Step 4

Pull in the clutch lever, then press down on the gear shifter. You should feel the gear shifter “click” down a gear into first.

  • If the motorcycle is starting in neutral or is in second gear, then you would shift down into first gear. Tapping the gear shifter one up at a time will then take you into second, third, fourth and then fifth gear.

Step 5

Once in first gear, slowly ease the clutch out. (It’s important to let the clutch out slowly to avoid the motorcycle jumping forward!) While slowly releasing the clutch, gently ease the throttle with your right hand by pulling back towards you (this is known as “rolling on”). The further you pull back, the faster you go – so do this with caution to begin with! Then to slow down and ease off the throttle, roll the throttle towards the front of the motorcycle (aka to “roll off”).

Step 6

As you ride faster, you will feel the bike needing to go up through the gears. Repeat Step 4, this time shifting your foot underneath the gear shifter so that you can tap up into second, third, fourth and fifth gears.

  • Shift down again to click back down through the gears. The standard gear pattern is one down, and five (or six) up. Neutral is found between first and second gear.

With some practice this process will become second nature. Initially it can be a little tricky to keep up with which gear you’re in, but once you’ve got a feel for your machine – along with some miles under your belt – this will be simple!

Once you become a more experienced rider you may not even operate the clutch at all. Clutch-less shifting is a technique used by many riders who race motorcycles as it can save time and give a smoother transition between gears. But as a beginner, you will want to practice your clutch control and going through the gears (which you can learn more about here). (link to Rookie to Rider: how to improve clutch control)


This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.