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What is a Quickshifter?
A quickshifter is an electronic device that allows you to change gears on a motorcycle without having to dip the clutch or roll off the throttle.
They enable faster gear changes and therefore they improve the performance of a motorcycle.
Most quick shifters will only enable a clutchless upshift but there are shifters that will also allow you to clutchlessly downshift. These also also known as auto-blippers as they ‘blip’ the revs on a downshift to reduce the chances of the rear wheel locking up. This is something that advanced riders and racers will do naturally on a motorcycle without a quick-shifter.
How do they work?
A motorcycle quickshifter employs a sensor switch connected to the gearshift rod (or lever). When the gear lever is compressed, the switch senses this pressure and prepares the electronics for the shift.
As you apply more pressure to activate the gear change, the switch momentarily cuts the spark plugs, which causes a similar effect to when you roll the throttle, which you would usually do when changing gear on a motorcycle without a quickshifter.
When the ignition is cut, this essentially takes the load off the gearbox and allows the gearchange to happen. While the gearbox is under load, you won’t be able to change gear but by dipping the clutch or rolling off the throttle, you enable this ‘break’ in load and the gear can be changed.
A quickshifter does all this in the blink of an eye (usually under 50 milliseconds), meaning from the moment you go to change gear by putting pressure on the lever, the quickshifter is ready to go, it cuts the ignition, you change gear and it activates the spark plugs again.
Most motorcycle quickshifters work using the same principles, although each manufacturer employs different technology, components and ways of enabling a clutchless gear shift.
What motorcycle featured the first quickshifter?
One of the first factory-fitted quickshifters was fitted to BMW’s HP2 Sport (but they were a very special and expensive limited run bike, which some would argue means they’re not a ‘real’ production bike).
So step forward a year and the first proper production motorcycle with a quick gearshifter was BMW’s K1300s back in 2010. It was called Gear Shift Assist and it was clunky, to say the least, but it did work.
The time-delay between cutting the ignition and re-engaging was comparatively huge compared to modern quickshifters. So much so that when you went to change gear you’d almost headbutt the headstock when the ignition cut, before being yanked back as the mighty K1300S unleashed a 160bhp onslaught a moment later.
To be fair to BMW, they never claimed it was a ‘proper’ quickshifter, hence it was called Shift Assist but essentially it did the same thing.
A decade on, BMW’s Gear Shift Assist Pro features on a vast range of their motorcycles, from the R1200GS to the R1250RT and it’s as slick as anything on the market.
Motorcycles that come with a quickshifter as standard
Quick-shifters have been around for years and are very popular in racing and trackday circles.
If you’ve ever come up against a motorcycle on track that’s using a quick-shifter, you’ll see how with every gearchange they pull a good few feet on you. They really do work.
These days, quickshifters feature on a huge variety of motorcycles, not just Superbikes.
Here is a selection of motorcycles that feature a quickshifter as standard:
- Aprilia Tuono V4R
- BMW R1250RT
- BMW S1000RR
- Ducati Monster 1200S
- Ducati Panigale V4S
- Honda CB650R
- Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- Kawasaki Ninja S2
- Kawasaki ZX-10R
- KTM 790 Duke
- Triumph Daytona 675R
- Yamaha Tracer GT
What is an auto-blipper quickshifter?
An auto-blipper indicates that the quickshifter will also work on downshifts as well as upshifts.
When you shift down on a motorcycle without a blipper, the idea is that you ‘blip’ the revs (also known as rev-matching) so that when you re-engage the clutch you reduce the risk of the rear wheel locking up due to the engine revs being too low.
An auto-blipper works in a similar way as any quickshifter down when you are changing up through the gearbox but it also blips the revs to ensure that when you press down on the gear lever, the down change is smooth.
Over the past few years auto-blippers have become more popular on standard motorcycles but they tend to be more common sportsbikes.
Motorcycle quickshifter demonstration
The video below shows a Kawasaki ZX-10R, fitted with a quickshifter and being run on a dyno. You can see the dyno operator takes his hand off the clutch once the bike is up and running and you can see how quick and seamless the gearchanges are.
Motorcycle autoblipper demonstration
The video above demonstrates an auto-blipper on a Yamaha YZF-R1 (it also demonstrates the launch control, quickshifter and a pitlane limiter). You can see how once the clutch is initially released, the operator doesn’t touch it for the duration of the run. It’s very cool.
Quickshifter Pros and Cons
They’re not for everyone. Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of a quickshifter.
- Faster, smooth gear changes
- They’ll help you reduce your lap times
- They can reduce gearbox wear
- Less upset to the chassis when shifting mid-corner
- Allows you to focus more on riding
- A quickshifter upshifts sound cool as f***
- Early quickshifters can feel spongy or numb
- They remove some of the manual action that many riders enjoy
- They’re another electronic component that could go wrong
- They add cost to any motorcycle’s price
- Trackday riders
- Those with a weaker clutch hand
Not so great for
- Low speed or low rev gear shifts
- Commuters (they can be clunky in town)
- Single-cylinder bikes (lots of vibrations can mess with a quickshifter)
Can a quickshifter damage a gearbox?
It’s very unlikely but not unheard of.
A factory-fitted quick shifter has a very low chance of causing any damage to your gearbox or engine.
However, there are stories of aftermarket quickshifters causing damage to bikes and some even claiming their gearbox was destroyed because of one.
It is very hard to quantify these claims as there are a) a lot of different brands of quickshifters on the market b) a lot of different bikes in various states of roadworthiness c) incorrectly fitted quickshifters and d) riders who treat their machines differently.
Reputable companies, like HM Racing, Dynojet and Bazzaz produce well-proven quickshifters that are reliable and won’t damage your motorcycle. In fact most experts agree (see Sources section, below) that a quickshifter will reduce the wear on your motorcycle’s gearbox and engine.
What’s the best motorcycle quickshifter?
There are a lot of different quickshifter manufacturers on the market and the technology being used on OEM equipment is catching up with some of the aftermarket brands.
With the technology evolving all the time, it makes it impossible to choose the best motorcycle quickshifter but below we’ve listed the most popular manufacturers with a quick overview of the company and their quickshifter range.
HMQuickshifter are a UK company who specialise in motorcycle quickshifters but they also produce lap timers, dashboards and pitboards.
They’re used in all forms of the highest level of motorcycle racing, from MotoGP (90% of the Moto2 grid run HM), to BSB, World SBK and they’re also widely used on the Road Racing scene.
HM’s quickshifters differ from most of the rest as they are a true strain gauge. According to HM’s own website: “A strain-gauge or load-cell quickshifters completely eliminate all of the problems associated with conventional quickshifters. This is because there are no moving parts at all. The quickshifter works by measuring the molecular change in the shift rod when a force is applied to it. This makes them very precise devices, and this is why high budget race teams use strain gauge quickshifters—they are far superior in every way.”
You can change your bike from road shift to race shift and you won’t need to change anything parts the HM Quickshifter. You can also adjust the parameters so the duration of retardation can be setup to suit your bike.
As mentioned above there is no best quickshifter but HM are very popular and many people swear by them. Tom Sykes, pictured above on the 2020 BMW S1000RR WorldSBK uses HM’s Quickshifter.
The price for an HM quickshifter starts at around £350.
Bazzaz is an American firm that specialises in motorcycle engine management. The started in 2003 and they’re well known in the American Superbike series, AMA.
They produce various electronic gadgets for motorcycles, from traction control systems to fuel controllers (similar to a Power Commander) and even a gadget called a Z-Bomb that eliminates the built-in electronic governers that some motorcycles are programmed with.
If you want to change from road shift to race shift, you’ll need to buy additional parts.
Their quick shifters cost around £390.
Dynojet are famous for their Power Commanders and Dynos but they also sell a quickshifter.
The Dynojet Quickshifter works in conjunction with a Power Commander 3 or 5 (PCIII or PCV) by plugging into the expansion port.
You can either fit it with a push sensor or pull sensor depending on whether you want to stick to the road shift or switch to the race shift.
You can also adjust the ‘kill’ time to ensure it’s perfectly suited to your motorbike.
They’re priced from £170 for the quickshifter but don’t forget you’ll need a Power Commander too.
Translogic quickshifters are used in motorcycle racing championships around the world, including MotoGP, British Superbike and World Endurance.
Their systems are designed to be plug and play and have adjustable parameters.
They offer two different products, the QSX Quickshifter and the Intellishift. The iS4-ECU in the intellishift claims to be the same seamless shifting technology used in top-flight MotoGP.
It dials in a ramp-in then cut and then ramp-out – not just an ignition cut. This is designed to make the whole shift a lot smoother. At lower RPM this will also mean the shifter isn’t snatchy, as some systems can be. Some claim it’s the closest you can get to a MotoGP seamless shift on a road bike.
Translogic also claim to have tested their shifter to over 1-million gearshifts. That’s a lot of laps of Donington!
The prices start at £239.99
Motorcycle Quickshifter FAQs
Are quickshifters just for racing bikes?
No. Although they are popular on race bikes and trackday motorcycles, they are also fitted as standard to a range of bikes, from Adventure motorcycles to Tourers
Why does my quickshifter feel spongy?
Older quickshifters, especially factory-fit ones are less advanced than the latest offerings and therefore they cut the ignition for a longer period of time, which can make the gap between going to change gear and the system ‘allowing’ you to change gear feel like a long time. This can make the gear change feel numb and in some cases, slower than what you could if there wasn’t a quickshifter fitted.
Can you fit a quickshifter to any motorbike?
Yes in theory you can, although you might not want to fit one to your Harley-Davidson. However a downshifter is limited to motorcycles that have a Ride-By-Wire throttle.
Can you get a push-button gearshift for a motorcycle?
Honda has a range of automatic motorcycles and these have buttons on the left-hand switchgear that allow you to shift by pressing the button. There are also aftermarket products available that use either a gas-shift or are electrically powered. You can press a button on the bars and the system will change gear for you, without you needing to use your foot. These are popular with disabled motorcycles riders, older riders or those with limited movement. Check out Pingel who manufacture these types of shifter but there are lots of other companies out there.
Are quickshifters worth it?
This depends on what you want to achieve. If you are looking to improve your lap times on a track, they’re a worthwhile investment. If you only commute into a city-centre, you could easily live without one. For most riders who do a bit of sporty riding, no matter what type of bike they’re on, a quickshifter adds to the enjoyment of riding.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this motorcycle quickshifter guide:
Husqvarna Vitpilen photo credit devoncodrington.com