This is a common question that many riders ask, and it often causes a lot of bickering. What is the best way? Well, that depends on a couple things. Really, it mainly comes down to what kind of riding you do, and rider preference. One way can be faster than another, and one can possibly cause more harm than others… Or can it?
With the Clutch
There are two ways you can shift through the gears while using the clutch. The first one, if you are conscience about the longevity of the transmission in your bike, is probably the easiest on it. When you go to shift, pull in the clutch and let off the throttle simultaneously, then shift and release the clutch. Not only are you taking load off of the transmission by letting off the throttle, but you are also reducing the load by dis-engaging the clutch. This is the most common way of shifting that is taught to new riders. If it is what you are comfortable with, by all means, continue to do so.
The second way to shift with the clutch is usually the fastest, and a lot of professionals do it this way. Instead of letting of the throttle when shifting, you hold it open. Sounds bad? You want to time it right so that it’s still in the power-band when shifting. When you go to shift it up a gear, hold the throttle wide open and give the clutch a quick pull while shifting it up to the next gear at the same time. It’ll sound like it’s over-revving, but it’s only for a split second if you’re fast enough. This is why four-strokes have a rev-limiter; so it stops revving higher before something breaks. Two-strokes don’t have a rev-limiter because they stop revving before anything would happen. Not only is this way of shifting fast, it also keeps the RPM in the meat of the power-band when you get to the next gear.
Without The Clutch
This next one is still easy on the transmission, and the way I usually do it when riding around the farm/trails for fun. It’s the same as the first one, except you are not using the clutch. So it’s just: let off the throttle, shift up a gear, then get back on the throttle to accelerate. For some reason, many people think that dirt bike transmissions are like cars transmissions and say you need to use the clutch to shift, otherwise it will destroy the gears. This is not true, as dirt bikes have a constant-mesh transmission, allowing you to shift up or down through the gears without the need for the clutch. However, you can only shift up or down one gear at a time, unlike a car where you can select any gear at virtually any time.
The last way to shift through the gears is probably the hardest on your transmission. Although it is made to take the abuse, many people would not recommend using this technique. Professionals do it because it’s faster, but they are using race-bikes that are expected to have a much shorter life-span. When going through the gears, keep the throttle wide open, and when the power starts to run out near the end of the RPM range, firmly shift it up to the next gear. This takes a little more practice, as you do not want to shift it while accelerating under a heavy load. Once you get to the end of the power-band, but before redline, is when you want to shift it. The bike will lose a little power at really high RPM, which will reduce enough load off the transmission to allow you to shift it.
In the end, I believe that it’s personal preference and what kind of riding you are doing that should determine how you shift gears on your dirt bike. I am just telling you that it’s not going to blow up your transmission if you shift without using the clutch. I would know, because I’ve been doing it for years with no problems.
This is a good illustration on what your transmission is doing when you shift.