Of revs and gears

Bike India tells you all you need to know about gear selection in various riding conditions



The right gear you engage for a corner varies depending on the nature of the curve. If it is a sharp hairpin turn, you may have to shift down to as low as the second, or sometimes even first gear, while some fast sweeping corners can be taken flat out in the highest gear. There should be enough power on tap and the rev meter should read at least 4000rpm (on most Indian bikes) so that you are not left struggling for power. Remember if you are a clean rider, you should have selected the right gear before entering a corner as shifting gears mid-corner is never advisable. The toes of your feet, not the trough between the toe and the heel, should rest on the footpegs. Keeping your feet in that position helps you shift your weight more quickly, aiding you not only in carrying more speed through a given corner but also equipping you better to tackle any surprises.

On a racetrack, you have the liberty to take the bike to its absolute limit. The aim is to go as fast as possible. As most of us know, a bike produces its peak power in the last few thousand counts of its rev range, known as the power band. While slowing down in a corner, the downshifts should put the bike bang in the middle of the power band or atleast at the beginning of it. If you shift in a gear higher than ideal, you won’t have enough power at hand thus leading to lower acceleration and loss of time. Shifting in a gear lower than ideal will make the engine hit the rev limiter and you’ll have to shift up again. The result again will be loss of valuable time. In essence, while riding around the racetrack, gear shifts should be such that your bike is in the power band at all times

Overtaking requires the bike to be in a gear where sufficient power is at hand to accelerate swiftly yet smoothly. One has to match the ground speed with the revs and understand its relation for every bike. As an example, if you wish to overtake a car ahead of you, moving at 70km/h and you are in the fourth gear with the rev needle placed happily at say 4500rpm, then you don’t need to shift down or up. Just open the throttle and you should be able to surge ahead on most 150cc+ Indian bikes. If you elect to downshift, the bike will get jerky. If you upshift, you’ll witness the car ahead of you pulling away as there won’t be any power left to accelerate. Different bikes have their power and torque reservoir in different bands. It is imperative to stay within that band to get past a vehicle briskly

Riding uphill
Riding up a hill is different from riding on the plains. It’s all the more difficult for the bike to keep moving as it has gravitational force working against it. Select a gear that keeps the bike in a relatively higher rev band. If riding between 4000-5000 revs keeps you moving with great reassurance, you’ll have to keep the bike at about a thousand revs more to negate the effects of gravity. This also prevents the bike from running out of breath in case you upshift.

Descending downhill
Riding downhill doesn’t require any effort from the engine but that doesn’t mean you should put the bike in the highest gear possible. While coming down a slope one needs to be in a gear which makes sure that the bike experiences some engine braking when you roll off the throttle. Engine braking is very smooth and reassuring, and aids traction. Make good use of it while descending a hill as it puts you in better control than just relying on the wheel brakes.

Fuel efficiency
It is imperative to keep the engine in the right band to extract maximum fuel efficiency from it. Under revving an engine will make it splutter while over revving will increase fuel consumption manifold and reduce its life. Keeping the engine within a rev band of 2500rpm to 5500rpm on most Indian bikes will let you have sufficient power and torque on tap and will also make the bike deliver the best fuel economy. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule, but most four-stroke air-cooled singles will operate optimally within the indicated band.

Fuel efficiency
Does the bike accelerate and decelerate smoothly and responsively (not jerkily) when you open and shut the throttle? If that’s the case, then you’re riding in the right gear. If the bike accelerates very slowly when you open the throttle, and if the engine tends to die down when you shut it, then you need to shift down. Is the bike twitchy, snappy and oversensitive to even the slightest movement of the throttle? Do the forks dive if you shut the throttle? You may have gone down too many gears – try shifting a gear up for a smoother ride.

Revs, gears and the planet
Some would argue that riding the bike in lower gears will lead to lesser fuel efficiency and would advice you to ride in as high a gear as possible at all times. Not only does riding in a higher gear than optimal makes you go slow, it is also hazardous, especially on highways. A look at a normal four-stroke air-cooled bike will reveal that it produces its maximum torque between 3000rpm and 6000rpm, and that’s where the engine is running at its maximum efficiency. If you ride correctly within that band, the bike will return you a fabulous fuel efficiency figure.





Bike India Team – who has written posts on Bike India.

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