What is GP Shifting?

gp style shifting for sportbike

Out of all the vehicles in the world, few embody the notion of freedom like motorcycles. The speed and exhilaration that motorcycles provide is a one–of–a–kind experience that continually draws new generations of adventure seekers. However, there are significant differences between riding a bike along the streets and the demands it can face on the track. These contrasts are largely explained by the differences in shifting used between the two.

GP Shifting vs. Regular Shifting

There are two different shift patterns that can be used on motorcycles: road shift (standard) and reverse shift. Road shift is the more conventional of the two patterns, as it's the standard shift form used on a majority of bikes. It's named the "road shift" pattern because it's the shifting mode that's generally preferred on roads and highways. The way that road shift works is simple: the gear shifts one down and then five up. Almost every bike that rolls off the assembly line is built to use a standard shift pattern.

For new bike riders, the road shift pattern would seem most intuitive because it only takes a simple upward motion of the foot to get from one gear to another. It might also seem like the more linear way to shift gears, since it requires that you shift up between gears two, three and four, five, and six.

rider comfort

Reverse shift — commonly referred to as "race shift" or "GP shift" — is an alternate pattern that’s been popular on race tracks for several decades. On bikes equipped for GP shifting, the gears work in reverse order. Instead of shifting one down and five up, the bike is equipped to be shifted one up and five down.

What Does GP Shift Mean?

Nicknamed after the Grand Prix and popular on MotoGP circuits, GP shifting is the overwhelmingly preferred pattern on race tracks because of the advantages it offers during deep–leaning right and left hand turns. In short, the MotoGP shifter method provides riders with the following capabilities:

  • Ability to shift from first to sixth gear with a downward motion
  • Ability to enter/exit sharp turns and shift at the same time
  • Greater ability to concentrate on the track and less on foot movement

For people who've never set foot on a motorcycle, it might seem odd why anyone would want to shift backwards. Thing is, the speeds and turns that racing entails are much different animals than the challenges that riders normally encounter on streets. For professional and amateur motorcyclists, alternate functions like GP shifting are necessary to meet the challenges that come with racing.

How Can I switch to GP Style?

In most cases, a bike's capability for GP shifting is activated by the owner. It's done by flipping the position of the lever so that it connects to the shift spindle 180 degrees in reverse. The result is that the gear shift turns in the opposite direction from its default position.

GP Shifting upgrade

  • Unscrew the cover in front of the shift rod
  • Unscrew the shift rod
  • Reverse the rod's position
  • Screw the rod back in tight
  • Screw the cover back into place

Please keep in mind not all motorcycles are designed for such easy alterations. For specific details please refer to you owner’s manual. If you have any questions, you can also ask one of our specialists!

What are the Advantages of GP Shifting?

The GP shifting pattern is most beneficial when it comes to making turns along the corners of race tracks. This is due to the tilt that riders take along corners, where the tilted–side foot is brought into close contact with the pavement. The GP patterns make it easier in such circumstances to switch between gears. During a deep lean, it's often necessary to downshift as you enter the turn and upshift on exit. A GP style shift, with its downward motion, keeps the balance of the bike while making the up shift at speed.

In terms of reaching the necessary speeds, the GP shifting pattern is most convenient for racers for the following reasons:

  • No need to shift weight and balance in turns
  • No need to make awkward up–kicks on exit

On rightward bends, the standard shift pattern can be difficult to use because of the kick–up foot movements required to move the shift lever. Considering how far the rider must lean their body to the right and how close their foot is to the concrete, it's difficult to make any tricky foot moves. With the GP shifting pattern, all you have to do is press down on the gear lever with your boot. This puts the bike into the necessary gear.

For a lot of racers, the GP shifting pattern makes racing safer while going around curves because it eliminates the following factors:

  • The close proximity between the feet and the concrete, which can make it dangerous to up–kick
  • The time it would otherwise take to shift up and shift back down
  • The division of concentration between racing, balancing and shifting

Granted, the changing of gears is usually done as an afterthought. For riders who are long used to the road shifting pattern of conventionally equipped bikes, the normal way of shifting can be ingrained to the point that there might be an initial learning curve with reverse shifting. It can also get a little bit confusing if you ride two or more bikes, yet only one is equipped for GP shifting. Therefore, it's best to apply the shifting mode consistently on any bike designated for the race tracks.

GP shifting involves a stamping down motion that, while less awkward than kick–ups on deep turns, takes a certain movement to master. For a lot of riders, it takes practice to master downshifts after making the switch to GP shifting. To ensure that you don't make shifting mistakes when you first make the switch from the road to reverse pattern, be sure to do the following:

  • Practice riding curves with GP shifting to internalize the move
  • Only use GP–equipped bikes on the race tracks to start
  • Place a reminder of the new shifting pattern on the motorcycle’s instrument cluster, such as a sticker that says "GP"

Even though GP shifting is a matter of preference, the reasons for its popularity among professional and amateur racers speaks volumes of its benefits. Simply put, GP shifting makes it easier to shift between low and high gear and back when entering and exiting deep corners. It just takes practice to master. Therefore, if you're trying to decide whether or not to equip your motorcycle for GP shifting, consider the following questions:

  • Do you do a lot of racing?
  • Are you comfortable doing up–kicks while tilted along sharp curves, or would a different move be preferable?

Is GP Shifting Better Than Regular Shifting?

As long as you have to deal with traction, it's generally unwise to move your body in any significant way while going in or coming out of a corner on a race track. When you ride tilted along sharp curves, for instance, you need to stay focused and not allow functions to overwhelm your hands, eyes or feet. After all, if you were to get distracted, it could mess up your posture or cause you to shift in the wrong way. Therefore, your body must be prepared and properly positioned in advance of the heavy braking.

shifting in corners

When you make a sharp move the moment you enter the corner, it can cause a slight disruption to your steering. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on the frame. In some cases, it can overpower the traction of the front tire and cause a low–side crash. For obvious reasons, these are situations that every rider tries to avoid. In any case, when it comes to bike care, one of the most essential skills is to protect the frame. Therefore, when your motorcycle is equipped with GP shifting capabilities, it helps you avoid the following problems:

  • Costly damage to parts of the frame
  • Crashes from loss of traction

When you come out of left–hand corners and are still leaning heavily when it's time to make a shift, the required foot press is a lot easier to achieve. Due to the proximity of your foot to the ground at this moment, GP shifting is safer for your foot, which could otherwise slip below the shifter in a bike that's limited to the standard shift pattern.

The moment where you exit a corner also requires finesse. Here, a lot of amateur riders are too quick to realign their body position. This can result in unbalanced force on the bike, which hinders the balance of the tires, both the churning tire in back and the lighter, fully extended front tire. These are the kinds of situations that can be avoided with the GP shift pattern, which makes it a whole lot easier to shift as you come out of a corner. If you're hanging on one side of the bike, GP shifting is especially advantageous.

For the sake of balance, it's crucial to practice the fine art of shifting gears as you exit the curve. By mastering both the left and right turns, you'll reap the full benefits of GP shifting and enjoy longer spans of maintenance–free performance from each motorcycle that you take to the tracks. GP shifting is not the easiest or most intuitive of shifting patterns for new motorcyclists to master, but its popularity among racers is a testament to its benefits, the likes of which could ultimately be helpful to anyone on the tracks.

So what is GP shifting in relation to the world outside of motor racing? Even though the pattern is primarily suited for the MotoGP style shifting bikes that are exclusively made for bike sports, a lot of motorcyclists decide to use the GP shift technique on the streets once they've mastered the pattern. It really is just a matter of personal preference and comfort.

rearset improvements

Today, GP shifting is employed on 99 percent of all bikes used by professional racers. Moreover, the pattern is widely used at amateur events. In order to keep up with this demand, bike supply companies like Design Corse sell rearsets and quick shifters that adjust to GP shifting patterns.

Rearsets and Quick Shifters

Motorcycle racing is a sport of rugged independence. As such, all racers are fearless individuals. Despite all their differences, however, racers often agree when it comes to bike enhancements that make riding easier and more comfortable. For comfort and convenience on the race track, GP shifting has become the preferred shifting pattern among professional and amateur racers alike. These days, the avid racer is eager to reverse the shifting on each newly purchased motorcycle.

Here at Design Corse, we carry a range of rearsets and quick shifters that relate to the popular GP setup. For reverse shift pattern motorcycles of the MV Agusta and Ducati varieties, our components serve as optimal finishing touches that professional racers use themselves. You too could be among the riders who've enhanced their motorcycles with our rearsets and shifters in our inventory.

If you're handy with tools and enjoy customizing your motorcycle, you might be inclined to reverse the shift pattern and apply the rearsets yourself. If not, you could have your trusted local bike mechanic perform the honors. In any case, your motorcycle can be transformed with a few modifications. As soon as you feel the comfort of the rearsets and experience the ease of GP shifting, you'll never return to conventional setups.



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