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Downshifting & ”Blipping” the Throttle
By Kent Kunitsugu
Photography: Kevin Wing

1. Downshifting smoothly on a sportbike, especially while braking hard from high speed, requires a definite measure of skill and dexterity. In order to avoid upsetting the bike, the engine rpm must be matched to road speed when the clutch is fully disengaged, otherwise the rear tire will momentarily "chatter" and upset the bike as the engine is forced to match road speed involuntarily. This means that the rider must "blip" the throttle to raise the engine rpm during downshifts-but he must do this while simultaneously pulling on the front brake lever to slow down. While this riding skill is obviously necessary on the racetrack, it can also pay big dividends in street-riding situations where riding smoothly is a must; for instance, any situation where you are cornering and braking at the same time.

2. The idea of blipping the throttle between downshifts can be intimidating for the uninitiated, but with a little practice, the technique can soon become second nature. First, make sure that your levers are adjusted so that they are comfortably in reach of your fingers when sitting in a normal riding position, and that your throttle is adjusted for minimal play in the cable. The front brake lever should be angled downward enough to be easily gripped with your hand in the closed throttle position. With the engine running in neutral, try blipping the throttle slightly while pulling firmly on the brake lever-note that it doesn't take much throttle movement to get the revs up. Then practice simultaneously pulling and releasing the clutch quickly when you blip the throttle (remembering to continue pulling on the brake lever as if you were slowing for a corner).

3. The next step is to practice this technique while riding in a safe area with no traffic. As you brake and begin your downshift, simply perform the same practice drill as before, but add the act of downshifting. The action of blipping the throttle and the downshift should be simultaneous and quick, and it doesn't take a whole lot of revs to match the engine to road speed; unless you're riding at racetrack aggression levels, all it will require is a slight throttle blip. With practice, you'll know just how much is necessary at various speeds. Note that mostly the palm of your hand handles the act of moving the throttle because your upper body weight is centered on your palms under braking anyway, and your fingers are busy actuating the brake and holding the bar. All it takes is a slight wrist movement to blip the throttle. You'll find this will help avoid affecting your braking action due to influencing your fingers' grip on the brake lever.

4. If you find that you still have problems with this technique, try adjusting your brake lever in so that it's easier to reach (without hindering your ability to pull the lever in for maximum braking, of course). If you still have trouble, you will have to employ the "non-blip" method many racers (such as AMA perennial front-runner Eric Bostrom) still use. This simply means the clutch is released gradually after the downshift so that the engine rpms can progressively match road speed without the rear wheel chattering. The downside is that the rider loses the added engine braking while the clutch is disengaged and the bike "freewheels," and he must compensate with the additional use of the brakes during this time. Also, it requires even more skill at manipulating and controlling the bike while simultaneously releasing the clutch lever slowly and gradually.

Source: Sport Rider
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