Picture yourself barrelling down a longish straight that allows you to take your motorcycle to a properly fast speed. Now imagine a sharp corner at the end of the straight. If you drop a cog or two aggressively as you brake hard without caring about rev-matching, you’d experience your rear wheel locking up and getting into an uncontrollable hop, even. With the engine revs spiking up to match the rear wheel’s ground speed, you would probably have caused some damaged to the internal components of your bike’s motor as well. The clutch too, as it was engaged way too abruptly, trying to match the high engine speed, wouldn’t be very happy. This rear wheel hop, chatter and abrupt engine braking is very unsettling for a rider, bad for a smooth, consistent riding style and isn’t the correct way to downshift. So what’s the solution? As the title suggests, the technique is called rev-matching, or blipping the throttle. In this article, we will try and understand the technique, used extensively by seasoned riders on the street as well as by racers on the track. We will also break down the technical nitty-gritty of why and how it helps you ride better. Let’s get going then!
Okay, so this is what happens when you shift to a lower gear as you drop the anchors and prepare for a turn. If you were already in the mid to high echelons of your motorcycle’s rev range, an aggressive downshift would often mean that the rear wheel’s rotation speed is higher than the speed that the engaged lower gear allows. At this point, the momentum of the bike, and the rear wheel’s rotational force would fight against the engine’s back-pressure to push the revs high up. If the angular momentum and force at the rear wheel overcomes the engine’s compression, the rpm will spike up. If it shoots above the safe limits, it may cause damage to the engine as well. If, however, it’s a high compression engine, or if you’re shifting into a relatively low gear abruptly from high speeds, then the wheels would sometimes simply not have enough force to push through the engine back-pressure and engine braking would make them lock up.
Now to prevent this, you need to blip the throttle, pushing the engine revs to a higher point momentarily, where the higher speed of the drive gear can more seamlessly mesh with the engine speed. This significantly reduces the difference between the wheel speed and the engine speed and allows for a smoother, jerk free shift into a lower gear. By doing this, you prevent the wheels from fighting against the engine’s compression force, and thus help the engine components save themselves from potential damage. By blipping the throttle, the clutch is also engaged in a smoother manner, where a small amount of slip allows it to engage in jerk-free manner. This significantly reduces the damage done to the clutch components as well. However, most importantly, from a rider safety and control perspective, blipping the throttle makes the whole process smoother, devoid of the dangerous rear wheel lock-up and puts the rider in better control.
Once you start riding regularly, and get used to how your motorcycle’s engine and transmission behaves, rev matching is something that would start coming to you very naturally. However, for those of you who don’t know how to blip the throttle or rev match properly, here’s a proper method to do it.
To start off, in order to make sure that your downshifts are smooth and optimum to carry the maximum speeds around a corner, you need to have a very good understanding of which gears, at what ground speed would keep your motorcycle’s engine in a healthy rev band. This is important, as before taking a turn, by listening to the sound of the engine revs, you should be able to predict as to, which specific gear would suit a specific ground speed when you enter a corner. For example, if you decelerate from 120 km/h in, say, 4th gear while being in high revs, and want to enter a corner at 80 by dropping two gears in 2nd, no amount of rev matching is going to help you. Your understanding of the gears in this case is wrong, as dropping two gears at that land speed will likely make your bike’s rpm shoot through the red line, make the limiter cut in violently and make the motorcycle’s rear lock up and hop all over the place. You need to have a reasonably good understanding of the right gear for a specific velocity. A gear lower than optimum will over-rev your engine and cause damage, a gear or two higher than ideal would leave you with no drive to power out of the corner.
So once you have a good idea about the correct speed and gear to enter a corner with – following is the methodology you follow for blipping the throttle or rev matching. You apply brakes and bring the bike to a speed where you are ready to drop a gear. Now, at this point, as you disengage the clutch you wring throttle momentarily to bump the engine revs up. At this very same time, you use your right toe to shift down a gear. And you managed to carry out a rather aggressive downshift without any of the unsettling jerkiness associated with it. It’s easier said than done, though, and takes a fair bit of practice before you are able to blip the throttle and rev match to perfection. So our advice to you would be to find a safe set of bends and practice this until it becomes second nature.
While rev matching is an important motorcycling skill, and it’s good to learn it, as it improves your overall control and understanding of how motorcycles work, modern transmission systems, in many cases can do without it. Slipper clutch is something that’s meant to overcome the rear wheel hop, and is pretty effective at it. Similarly, some expensive motorcycles these days also come with quick-shifters including clutch-less downshifts, wherein the electronics take care of everything and allow you to shift without bothering about operating the clutch. Most of the motorcycles in India, however, are not equipped with those technologies, and learning how to rev-match would definitely help you go faster around corners, and with a lot more smoothness and confidence.
We hope this articled cleared your doubts about rev matching to a large extent. If you liked this article, do not forget to share it with your friends who would want to become better riders by reading about and practicing the skill. Do give us a shout out through the comments section or on one of our social networks if you have any questions about the topic. We’d love to hear from you. Ride safe!