Through our Stayin’ Safe on-road training program, we’ve seen several consistent rider habits. One is failure to shift to an appropriate gear for corners. Riders often pick a low-rpm gear and stick with it, counting on the engine’s torque to do the work. But every motorcycle engine—including a large V-Twin—has a performance sweet spot. Which gear puts it there? Allow me to bend a classic fairy tale to explain. Once upon a time, a golden-haired rider was exploring a delightful section of back-road blacktop. Through long sweepers the rider loped along in high gear, the engine calmly burbling and chuffing. Venturing farther into the forest, turns became tighter and more daunting. With the tachometer needle hovering on the left end of the gauge, the rider pondered a shift. “This gear is too laid back,” the rider concluded. “It’s sluggish when I need power and seems to freewheel when I roll off the throttle, causing me to rush the corners.” So, the rider boldly clicks down a couple gears. “This gear is too low!” the rider yells above the now screaming engine as the tachometer needle shoots toward redline. “It’s much too twitchy and abrupt.” Our pilot shifts to a gear between the two extremes and the tach needle lands precisely midway between zero and redline.
Immediately, the rider finds plenty of available power on demand plus abundant, manageable engine braking to help modulate speed when the throttle is closed. “This gear is just right!” the rider exclaims joyfully.
The moral? Riding twisties in the wrong gear can be a real bear. When riding in the forest—or on twisties anywhere—continually select the gears that keep the needle squarely in the middle of the tachometer. And, like the rider in our story, you too will be…ahem…golden.