Everyone wants to be like their favorite racers, so reverse-shift patterns have become popular at the amateur tracks. But like everything, they have their ups and downs.
AllAboutBikes.com Staff Writer
For some, it’s simply the cool talk in the pits. For others, it’s a gateway to faster lap times. No matter what the case, the reverse-shift pattern, also know as GP-shift and race-shift, is popular at all amateur track meets. And it must help, considering it’s found on 99 percent of professional race bikes.
It obviously works for giants like Ben Spies and Valentino Rossi, but how about the average track-day junkie? Many companies, such as Woodcraft Motorsports and Sato Racing, sell reverse-shift pattern rearsets, or engineer them to switch between reverse and normal. But what are the ups and downs, so to speak, of reverse-shift?
First is that upshifts are much easier while hanging off or dragging a knee during the exit of a right- or left-hand corner, although for different reasons. If you’re hanging off the bike riding out of a right-hander with limited traction, it’s much easier to click down the shifter to upshift rather than reaching under the shifter to lift up, which would possibly upset the chassis, maybe causing a high-side. One of the most basic racing skills is not to upset the chassis, especially when traction is limited.
During the exit of a left-hand corner, upshifting will obviously be easier on a reverse-shift pattern due to not having to reach under the shifter. The farther the lean, the closer that left toe is to the ground, so pushing down is much easier than pulling up when upshifting out of a corner.
The advantages are easy to explain, but with the pros comes the cons. With a normal-pattern shift, it simply makes sense that pushing down is a downshift. And also, when you’re grabbing a gear under acceleration, all your weight is naturally pulled back, so pulling up also seems natural.
And along with the physical action of reverse shifting, remember it’s also a conscious decision, one that may divert your mind and decrease other learned track skills. It’s said that building a muscle memory is best for certain race aspects, like keeping a consist line at a track, and this will also prove true for reverse-shifting. Just remember this when you get back on a normal shift pattern bike. And if you’re thinking about reversing your shift pattern for the street, the fastest racers say there’s essentially no benefit to it.
Again, most professional racers use the reverse-shift pattern. But it’s been reported that six-time AMA Superbike title holder Mat Mladin, World Champion Kevin Schwantz and John Hopkins, who earned two AMA titles during only three seasons of racing, still utilize the normal shift pattern, and it’s obviously worked for them. But reverse-pattern shift at the track is worth a try. Give it a test, and see what your results are. And if you utilize a separate bike set up with reverse-shift just for the track, don’t forget your street bike still has a normal shift pattern…transmissions aren’t cheap to fix, and neither is your body.