Every rider wants to be faster. Even being 5-10%  faster would be sufficient for most. And not everyone can keep upgrading the bike. And in most of the cases, you don’t need to be upgrading. It is time to see if you are actually utilising the full power of your existing bike. Read on.

We will be discussing following points in this article:

  1. What is Power and Torque?
  2. What is power band?
  3. Optimal Gear shift points
  4. Should you up-shift if your target destination is only 50-100 feet away?
  5. Quick Overtaking while touring

Let’s first get into some technical discussion. Everyone has heard the terms bhp. And most consider that higher bhp, faster you can go. WRONG. Power (bhp) and torque (Nm) are two different things.

“Power determines a vehicle’s top speed and torque determines how fast a vehicle can reach this top-speed.”

Note: We understand that there are many important factors like weight, aerodynamics, gearing, etc. which contribute to determining a vehicle’s top-speed and acceleration. In order to keep it simple and easier for everyone to understand, we have assumed these factors to be constant and not discussed them in this article,  Also note that the explanations in this article are kept as non-technical as possible. So please excuse us if there’s a variation of 0.0001 in some figures.

So what exactly is Power and Torque?

Power:

It is one of the most important factors which determines a vehicle’s top-speed. Higher the power of a vehicle, higher is its top speed. (refer to note about this being simple explanation above)

Automobile manufacturers in India use bhp or PS as units for power. In some other countries, ‘kilowatt’ (kW) is used. ‘bhp’ is an abbreviation for ‘Brake Horse Power’ and ‘PS’ is an abbreviation for ‘Pferdesträrke’. PS and bhp are virtually interchangeable terms because of insignificant difference between them.

1 PS  = 0.98632 bhp

Torque:

Torque helps a vehicle in its acceleration. Better the torque of a vehicle, better is its acceleration. In India, automobile manufacturers mostly use Nm as a unit for torque. In some other countries, ‘pound-foot’ (lb-ft) is used as unit for torque.

I hear you saying, enough with this technical stuff and tell me how to go faster.  Thoda Sabar karo aura age padho: Before we explain you about optimal gear shift points, you’ll need to know a little bit about ‘Power-band’:

What is power band?

In simple terms, power-band is that rpm range of your motorcycle’s engine where it makes more amount of torque and power. In another words, power band is the rpm range wherein your motorcycle performs at its best.

How do you know when you’ve hit the power band?

Whenever we take a look at a vehicle’s brochure, we always see terms ‘Power’ and ‘Torque’ in technical specifications placed near to each other. These are placed near to each other so that a prospective buyer can guess a vehicle’s characteristics. Power band starts slightly lower than peak toque rpm and ends at peak power rpm. So even without riding the bike, you would know where the power band is.

If you are the kind of guy who wants to ride and find it out.  Here is the practical way - Motorcycles like R15, Apache 180, Pulsar 220, CBR250R, Ninja 250R/300, etc., while accelerating, you’ll observe that they feel sluggish till certain engine rpm level. But once you cross that certain rpm level, you’ll feel a sudden change. They will start accelerating faster. This engine rpm level is the point when their power-band starts.

e.g. Yamaha R15 V2.0 feels sluggish till 5,500 rpm. From 5,500 rpm, it starts accelerating faster because R15’s power-band starts at 5,500 rpm. R15 then keeps accelerating faster till it hits 8,500 rpm from which, it again starts accelerating in a sluggish manner. This means that R15’s power band ends at 8,500 rpm. So in simple words, R15’s power band is from 5,500 rpm to 8,500 rpm. To achieve the best performance from Yamaha R15 V2.0, you’ll have to keep its engine rpm between 5,500 rpm and 8,500 rpm.

Note: ‘Sluggish’ is a relative term. Sluggish for a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade can be much faster than a Hero Splendor at its peak power.

Some motorcycles have their power-bands in higher engine rpm range while some have it in their lower engine rpm range. It depends on the engine configuration.

Motorcycles whose power-band is in higher engine rpm range:  Yamaha R15, TVS Apache 180, KTM Duke 390, Kawasaki Ninja 300, Yamaha R1, Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade etc.

Motorcycles whose power-band is in lower rpm range:  Royal Enfield Bullet (all variants), Harley Davidson motorcycles, etc.

Royal Enfields have their power-band in lower rpm range and hence when you ride a Royal Enfield Bullet, you get a sudden pull of acceleration from the beginning and then, it starts feeling sluggish as engine rpm climbs.

Now that you know what power band is, we can take a look at optimal gear shift points:

Optimal Gear Shift Points:

Optimal Gear Shift Points

Up-shifting point:

The term ‘up-shifting’ means shifting from lower gear to higher gear. For example, shifting from 1st gear to 2nd gear, 2nd gear to 3rd gear and so on. Many riders have a misconception that fastest way to reach top-speed is red-lining the engine (in other words ‘up-shifting at redline’). It is wrong. The fastest way to reach your motorcycle’s top-speed is up-shifting at peak power (i.e. end of power-band).

If you’ve observed, whenever you up-shift, your motorcycle’s engine rpm drop by 1000-2000 rpm. Gearboxes of vehicles are designed in such a way that if you up-shift at end of power-band, your vehicle’s engine rpm will fall near its peak torque giving you better acceleration.

Conclusion:  The optimal up-shift point for your motorcycle will be at end of power-band i.e. at peak power of your motorcycle.

Down-shifting:

Down shifting is shifting from higher gear to lower gear. For example, shifting from 5th gear to 4th gear, 4th gear to 3rd gear and so on.

To achieve the best speed from your motorcycle, you need to keep it in its power band. If your motorcycle’s engine rpm fall below the power band, it will be sluggish in picking up speed. So, the optimal down-shift point is where your motorcycle’s power-band begins.

If you’ve observed, every time you downshift, your motorcycle’s engine rpm rise by about 1000 rpm. A gearbox is designed in such a way that, if you downshift at beginning of your motorcycle’s power-band, its engine rpm will rise near to its peak torque. Hence if you downshift at the starting point of a motorcycle’s power-band, you’ll be getting best acceleration from your motorcycle.

We hope that above explanation is sufficient for you to identify when to upshift / downshift. Now let’s look at some practical questions:

Should you up-shift if your target destination is only 50-100 feet away?

NO, you should not up-shift if you’re that close to your target. Continue in the same gear. Because by the time you up-shift and open your motorcycle’s throttle, you would’ve already reached your target destination.

Quick Overtaking while touring:

While on longer rides, we usually run our motorcycles in in higher gears (and out of power-band). Riding in higher gears (and out of power-band) usually provides a smoother ride because of lower rpm and better fuel economy. But at the same time, it doesn’t provide good acceleration. Quick acceleration is very important for quick overtakes.

In order to overtake in the quickest manner possible, a rider should shift to a gear, which makes his motorcycle’s engine rpm fall to start of its power-band. By doing this, a rider will get better acceleration and he will be able to overtake the vehicle in front of him with ease.

Drag racing:

While drag racing on public roads should be avoided, if you intend to do drag racing with friends on empty non-public roads, remember that you should shift your bike to first gear, rev the bike till peak power point and GENTLY release clutch. If you know what you are doing, you would be much much faster than your friends. If you don’t know how to control your bike, you will end up with broken bones and broken down bike.

Hope this article helps you in finding hidden power in your bike.


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