to Shift a Manual Scooter
you've picked up an older scooter, or a retro scooter such as Stella,
you are going to need to learn how to clutch and shift. Period.
For people who've never driven anything with a standard transmission
this can be a very daunting task - a lot more daunting than it truly
needs to be! Seriously, anyone who has ever said to me "I'd
love a Vespa, but I'm too afraid of manual shifting to get one"
is just out of their mind! The fact that you're getting out of the
car and onto a bike would indicate that you don't scare easy, and
if you DO scare that easy maybe you should just stay in the car.
Riding a scooter is going to be an all-new experience for you. No,
it's NOT "just like riding a faster bicycle" at all. It's
a completely new thing unlike just about any vehicle you've ever
driven or ridden. SO, if you're going to be learning how to do something
new and foreign anyway, why should the equally-new experience of
manual transmission be of any difference? Embrace the manual
transmission, don't fear it! With a little practice (and when I
say "a little" I mean less than 25 miles' worth) it will
become like second-nature to you, I promise!
first and biggest hurdle to leap is the act of clutching and shifting
into first gear from a dead stop. You will spend hours stalling
and swearing in your parking lot if you do it all wrong.
thing's first - find your "friction point." In a nice
empty parking lot, start your bike up and give it a few minutes
to warm up. Pull in your clutch lever (left hand, kids) and turn
the handle from the neutral position to the 1st gear position, and
keep squeezing that clutch lever in. Now, give the bike just a little
bit of gas (you'll only need as much gas as it takes to get the
motor to start putt-putt-putting a little faster than it did when
it was idling) and slowly release the clutch lever until you feel
the bike start to move a little. Once you feel this pull the clutch
back in, then slowly release the clutch again, same as you did before.
Do this over and over and over, and think of it as the Mister Miagi
school of de-clutching - that point at which your clutch is starting
to engage the gears is called your friction point - you'll know
exactly where it is by doing this exercise a good dozen or more
getting used to the friction point exercise, we're going to put
your scooter in motion. Put on your helmet, point your scooter in
a safe direction, pull in the clutch and put it into gear. Now release
the clutch a little bit at a time and give the scooter a little
gas. When you find that friction point DO NOT let go of the clutch
too fast or it will stall. The bike will start feeling like it wants
to move, at this point give it just a little more gas and let the
clutch out just a little bit more. The clutch is not an on-off
switch, there are varying stages of "clutched" from
the moment you pull the lever in to the point where it is all the
way out, so when you feel the bike start to move don't let go of
the clutch all the way, just let it out a little, and then a little
more, even after you've started moving. As you're letting out the
clutch you'll hear the motor more and more sound like it wants to
bog-down and stall, turn the throttle a little bit at a time here,
and you'll fix that bogging sound and get the bike moving. By the
time you've moved a good 20 feet your clutch lever will be all the
way out and the bike will be fully in gear and moving.
We're In First Gear...
bike is moving a bit and it's feeling great, but we're not going
to put it into second gear yet. Before you do that we're going to
make the bike stop, and then start it moving again. If the clutch
is the first place at which a new manual-shifter will mess-up, the
second place is going to be when you're in first gear and you slow
the bike down too slowly (or braking) without pulling that clutch
back in. To stop the bike don't roll all the way off the throttle
or you'll stall. Roll slowly off the throttle, and when the motor
starts sounding like it's getting to that bogging-down spot pull
in the clutch all the way. This disengages the gears and you're
now just rolling. Apply the brake to stop altogether. The brake
is another one of those things you don't want to do while the bike
is moving slowly and the clutch is not pulled-in, or you will stall.
Once you're stopped, start all over again with letting out the clutch
and giving it a little gas. Again, you're going to do this a few
times until you've got the action down before you start worrying
about putting the bike into higher gears. A little clutch, a little
gas, and don't drop that clutch all the way - even if you're starting
to move. If you're going slowly in first gear you'll stall if you
close the throttle too far, and you'll stall if you apply the brakes
too much. Just rememeber those things while you're practicing first
gear in a parking lot.
you've got first gear down the rest is going to seem easy by comparison.
To learn where to upshift you're going to need to listen to your
engine. You know the sounds, you've heard enough cars and motorcycles
shifting gears to know what the sounds are when it's time to go
from a lower gear to a higher gear. As you open up the throttle
more and more the engine is going to climb and the pitch get a little
higher. In this climb there is a point at which the throttle doesn't
accelerate nearly as much as it did in the beginning, and the higher-pitched
engine sound is starting to sound like it's high enough. That means
you're going to need to switch to a higher gear to get any more
power. At this point pull in the clutch, close the throttle, turn
the handle to the 2nd gear position, and then slowly let out the
clutch while giving it gas. You'll not need to let the clutch out
as slowly as you did when going from neutral to first, because once
the bike is in motion the gears engage much more easily. The action
is easy: de-clutch, de-throttle, shift, re-clutch/throttle simultaneously.
Practice for awhile, maybe even try third gear once you get comfortable
of the ways to slow a motorcycle is to do what is called "down-shifting."
Down-shifting is done by shifting down the gears one at a time,
with the throttle open a little at the "top" of the lower
gear and then rolling off the throttle to slow the bike, repeated
for 2 or 3 gears. However, this is not something you're going to
do on a scooter. Downshifting on a motorcycle is utilizing the pressure
within the cyllinder to slow down the motion of that piston, but
the cyllinder in a scooter doesn't have enough pressure to actually
slow the scooter, so all you'll be doing when down-shifting from
fourth gear to third is to slam that piston into a much higher RPM
all of a sudden - not good for the bike at all, and it might even
seize the piston.
you're riding your scooter and you want to slow down and stop, you're
going to do so with your brakes. You're still going to mimic down-shifting,
but it's going to be a little different. Let's say you are in fourth
gear and a light about 100 feet in front of you is turning yellow.
You're going to need to stop soon. Pull in the clutch and apply
the brakes to slow down the bike (don't lock the brakes of course).
As the bike is slowing down, while your clutch is pulled in roll
the shifter to third gear (don't de-clutch yet), then to second
gear as it slows further, then when you're completely stopped shift
to neutral. The reason for that slow shifting to lower gears, what
if the light turns green all of a sudden and you need to get moving
again? If your scooter shifter is in the 4th-gear position, but
you're only going at 2nd-gear speed, you're going to need to roll
that shifter handle two positions before you can de-clutch, rather
than just smoothly de-clutching and continuing on.
it. Practice all this and within 25 miles or so you're going to
find manual shifting start to feel like second nature. The important
thing is that you do practice, and that you practice a little every
day. If you let too much time span in between your practice sessions
you're going to have a harder time building up that memory and it's
going to take you longer to get accustomed to manual shifting.
Article by Kevin Montanaro