General Bike Maintenance

Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. July 27, 2017
Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle

You must have noticed that changing gears on your motorcycle becomes harder during the colder months. It starts making loud sounds when you try to shift the gear, and the clutch even refuses to slip. You may feel that the clutch is not fully disengaged, and you start worrying about what wrong it could be. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out why is it hard to change gears on your motorcycle.

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  1. Understanding a motorcycle’s gear system
  2. Symptoms of hard gear change on a motorcycle
  3. Hard gear shifting due to gear problems
  4. What to do
  5. Conclusion

Understanding a motorcycle’s gear system

A motorcycle has three controls to change the gears, which are the throttle, clutch and gear selector. You select a gear pattern by clicking your left foot on a lever. The gear pattern typically involves 1st to 6th gears, and a neutral. If you need to shift your gear, you will have to follow these steps:

  1. Disengage the clutch
  2. Use the shift lever to select the right gear
  3. Twist the throttle to rev the engine
  4. Release the clutch gradually
  5. Feather the throttle to accelerate the motorcycle

During cold season, this entire process does not remain as simple as it seems to be. The main reason why it is hard to change gears on your motorcycle is because fluids tend to freeze, and the gear shifting process becomes harder and more difficult, creating a stiff gear shift.

Symptoms of hard gear change on a motorcycle

During cold months, changing gears becomes difficult, almost impossible. You may feel lots of resistance and sluggishness, especially when you go back into first. Once you drive for a while, you don’t really notice any problem though. Every manual motorcycle becomes stiff during cold weather, and remains so until its fluids warm up. Once the gears get warm, they start running as usual. If you are experiencing similar symptoms with your motorcycle, then perhaps it’s due to cold weather only, and there’s nothing to worry about.

There are several reasons for which it becomes hard to change gear on your motorcycle during cold season. The oil becomes thicker and the gear oil turns into a paste when the temperatures go low. Lubrication is extremely important for operating a motorcycle smoothly, and cold season is the worst enemy for the condition. The motorcycle won’t even start when the fluids are chilled, and even if it does, you will find it very hard to change gears.

Hard gear shifting due to gear problems

When you pull in the clutch, this may not be adjusted correctly, making it difficult for the gears to shift from one another, as there will be an extra load on the primary shaft of the motorcycle's transmission. Another symptom that will help you detect this problem is the fact that you will also hear a loud banging noise. The friction may also get worse in the winter. For more information, take a look at our article on how to diagnose common clutch problems.

Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle - Hard gear shifting due to gear problems

What to do

If you are having problem while you change gears on your motorcycle during cold season, here are a few things that you can do:

  • The best thing you can do is to let your transmission warm up a little. When you ignite your motorcycle, leave it in neutral and let it warm up for a few minutes. Once the fluids melt down, it will become easier and smoother to change your gears while driving
  • Pre-loading the shifter before you shift your gears is a recommended process to ease up the shifting. While you are driving in the first gear, apply upper pressure on the gear shift using your toe, before you pull the clutch in. The pressure should not be too much to shift the gears, but just enough to feel the lever through your footwear. When you apply this pressure before pulling the clutch in, the motorcycle will shift to the next gear smoothly when clutch is pulled and throttle is rolled off
  • It becomes more important to keep your engine oils clean during cold months, as dirty oils with impurities make the gear shifting process much harder than usual. If you have not changed your oil for a long time, and your gears are shifting hard, then the problem will probably be solved by changing your oil

On the other hand, if you find it hard to change gears on your motorcycle due to a clutch problem, do the following:

  • Get a wrench and loosen the locking adjustment slightly.
  • Meanwhile, give the clutch handle a little play while you move the handlebars to the right and then to the left.
  • Making sure the handlebar movement does not take up slack, disengage the clutch.
  • This should loosen the gears and should make it easier to shift.


Winter season takes a toll on your vehicles, and it becomes harder to operate your motorcycle during cold months. Most vehicles take some time to start in the cold, especially during early morning and late night hours. Even if your motorcycle is running, you may find it difficult to change your gears while driving it. So, take a few precautions and follow these steps to make your gear shift process smoother and faster even during winters.

Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle - Conclusion

If you want to read similar articles to Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle, we recommend you visit our Motorbike Maintance and Repair category.

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Why Is it Hard to Change Gears on your Motorcycle