Shift faster without using your clutch

A dirt bike clutch is there for 4 reasons:

  1. To shift from neutral to 1st (or 2nd) gear and get you going from a dead stop.
  2. To keep the bike from stalling under heavy braking.
  3. To keep the bike from stalling while in the air, by pulling the clutch in and twisting the throttle a few times.
  4. To launch the bike out of a corner.

Those 4 reason above are the only time you should really be using your clutch! You don’t have to use it while shifting – up or down – it will only slow you down. Your bike will shift up and down just fine without using the clutch, although shifting up is harder then shifting down, since your engine is under heavy load when accelerating.

The hardest time to up-shift without using the clutch is probably right out of a turn, going from 2nd gear to third gear for example, since that’s when you put the most load on your engine. If the gear won’t shift up, you then have 2 choices,  and one of them is using that good old clutch. The other method is one I use very often, and that’s lessening the amount of engine load by doing a tiny “bunny hop” and barely decelerating at the same time.
Let me explain…when you come out of a turn and you’re on the gas, most of the time you’re sitting down on your seat, or you’re barely standing up, either way you’re putting a lot of weight on the rear wheel and increasing engine load. You can do a small “bunny hop” by pushing down on your foot-peg hard with your whole body,  and releasing the pressure right away while making yourself as light as possible. This will make your bike’s suspensions compress and decompress very rapidly, lessening the engine load. As soon as your suspensions decompress,  let go of the throttle for a split second shift  up at that time. If you do all that correctly and with the right timing, your bike will go into the next gear like a breeze.

This technique isn’t easy by any means so don’t try it during a race or something important. Make sure you practice it a lot during the week or the next time you go riding, and keep practicing it until you feel comfortable with it. You could always use the clutch in those situations (and sometime you have to, no matter what you do), but really, who wants to take the easy way out? If you want to go that way, make sure you just flick that clutch lever really quickly, just enough for the gear to slide up, and you won’t loose too much time.

If you want to add anything to this quick tip, of if you disagree with something, please leave your comments below. Thanks for reading.

  • nick

    Or sand like he said

  • nick

    Naw only heavy load so don’t shift with gas

  • Ashley

    can’t not using the clutch screw up your transmission???

  • Rashad Cole

    When let clutch go bike take off

  • Rashad Cole

    I got a ques for four stroke dirt bike

  • I am sure there might be some subtle differences when riding quads, but in general you should be able to apply those techniques there as well.

  • No it won’t mess up gears 🙂

  • travis

    as far as using the clutch for the 4 reasons above, does that go equal for riding quads? I ride a Yamaha Raptor 660R. Thanks!

  • Tj Edens

    this wont mess up gears in anyway then?

  • Chav20

    Hi mate how hard would it be to put a manual clutch in my crash gear engine the only reason is when I put it in first to take of it go straight up on to the back wheel I no it’s fun but not when u trying to race

  • Collinremember

    So you can shift up or down on straight sways and shift down when turning around without clutching? YES! THAT’S SO MUCH BETTER FOR ME!! thanks so much man

  • Edit: Ok Yves, I changed your first comment and removed the part you ask me to remove. SR

    Hahaha no worries, it wasn't that negative anyways 🙂 I'll take it down when I have a few minutes. SR

  • Edit: Ok Yves, I changed your first comment and removed the part you ask me to remove. SR

    Hahaha no worries, it wasn't that negative anyways 🙂 I'll take it down when I have a few minutes. SR

  • Oh Stepane… i probably should'nt have made such a negative comment about other MX teachers. Is it possible for you to erase that comment? (i didn't realized it would be published on the internet for many months ( I see you have comments from 9 months ago). I do appreciate other techniques they offer as well, and it was not fair of me to have said that. THANK YOU

  • Thank you Stephane. We'll stay tuned for more riding tips from you soon.

  • Hi Yves,
    to answer your first question, every Pro rider uses that technique for shifting, all the time. It's faster and easier as well. The only scenario when using the clutch to shift is necessary is when you put too much load on the rear wheel (eg: riding in deep sand or mud, or coming out of a turn) and the shifter won't go up…that's when you quickly grab the clutch and shift at the same time.

    For the second question, it's really up to you whether or not you leave one finger on the clutch at all times. I always felt more comfortable and more in control when I had one finger on the clutch all the time, and the only time I would grab the left grip with all my fingers would be in long straightaways full of bumps, and i would put my finger back on the clutch before reaching the turn, to be prepared.

    BTW, thanks for the riding tips ideas, Target Vision is definitively a good subject!

  • Hey Stephane,
    First time on your blog and loving the riding tips…. That was always one of my complaints with other MX teachers (G. Bailey & G. Semics etc) … it's very general knowledge… they have very few “specific” tips… mainly “elbows up, center of the bike…” Yeah right, elbows up is gonna make you a better rider! Look at Villopoto. Elbows up will make you a “better looking” rider, that's about it.
    So anyway, I love your approach. It's something I can actually pratice next time I ride.
    So quick question… In your opirion, what percentage of PRO MX racers use this “no clutch” technique? And another question… which may be a future topic for you… should we or should we not leave 1 finger on the clutch at all times?
    Check out my blog here i have a few Mx pix in there and
    feel free to follow me on twitter here :!/yvespire
    Here's another future topic for you… and this is what I have been struggling for 20+ years: TARGET VISION… which target point should I point my eyes to? Where should I look exactly? In corners, straight lines, rythm sections, whoops, tabletops, double jumps… for instance … do I look far, say 100 feet, then scan back the ground back to 10 feet in front of me? What would be good is if you would were a helmet cam and do 1 lap around the track, then go back with an editing software and place a red target where you were looking at while riding.. Thanks again. -yves

  • dacool85

    For Sure!!! How cool is this to race against Roncada ^^ although its just ps3 it would be really cool!!!

  • Hahaha that's funny dacool85 🙂
    It is true that the faster you go, the less you need to use the clutch!
    So you're my team manager on I need to come race with you guys one of these days!!!

  • dacool85

    i also tried every time to use the clutch as less as i can, but in Germany the so called ” Pros” where all the time telling Use more Clutch! So i think u US Guys are so much faster than the European Guys. So im proud of my style now 🙂 but it didnt helped me saving from serious injuries 🙁 . But i don`t think thats the clutchs fault ;).
    By the Way Stephane, ure 1 of my childhood stars and thanks for so many spectacular races!!!
    So im proud to say that i Manage your Team 🙂

  • Now it's your turn to tell someone they don't need the clutch to shift, and then argue with them on whether it's true or not. At least you can tell them “Roncada said so!!!” and they'll have to shut up….lol

  • Now it's your turn to tell someone they don't need the clutch to shift, and then argue with them on whether it's true or not. At least you can tell them “Roncada said so!!!” and they'll have to shut up….lol

  • gomes615

    funny the other day a guy told me that the clutch wasn´t necessary for shifting and i didn´t believed loool… But now i´m sure , now it´s Roncada saying! ahah

  • Hi Travis, you can ask as many questions as you want here, my goal with putting together this site is to help people just like you who have unanswered questions!

    For your first question, I would indeed say yes, it works for trail riding as well (I have done so much trail riding and uphill climbing during my racing days…). You can downshift while still twisting the throttle without having to use your clutch, just quickly tap down on your shift lever right after you decelerate a little bit (makes the gear go down much easier if you're not wide open). You can completely let go of the throttle and shift down at the same time, which will make it easier, but you have to do all that really quickly, like within half a second or so if you don't want to loose speed.

    As for question #2, you can read about it in my newest quick tip: Is clutching different between a 2 stroke and a 4 stroke? (thanks for giving me the idea!).

    For you last question, I would have to say that yes, you're probably doing more damage to your gearbox by not using the clutch while down/up shifting. But the extra damage is pretty minimal and worth the risk if you wanna go faster. Dirt bikes are build to endure hardships like that so I wouldn't feel too bad about it. Then again, I never had to pay for a new gearbox or any bike parts so it's easy for me to say that, but you're definitively not going to blow up your bike by shifting without the clutch!

    Hope this helped 🙂

  • Travis

    Stephane, great to see you posting back up again. Would you say this works for trail riding as well? I know some of my biggest problems come with I'm hillclimbing and when I need to downshift because loss of momentum, pulling in the clutch just kills the entire run – sometimes I can gain the momentum back, othertimes not so.

    Also, would you say there's different techniques on when to/not to use the clutch with a 2-stroke versus a 4-stroke?

    Lastly, are you doing any additional damage by foregoing the clutch in scenarios other than the 4 you mentioned when you SHOULD use the clutch?

    Forgive my ignorance. I've never raced, only trail ridden for 15+ years, and have no formal training or instruction.

  • Hahaha ooops….thanks for pointing it out, it's fixed now 🙂

  • pizzacorner

    launch not lunch