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 Motorcycle Safety
 Contrary Opinions
 Putting it in neutral at stop lights
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6886 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  9:26 AM                       Like       
The topic of whether to keep the motorcycle in gear of shift to neutral keeps coming up and the consensus seems to be that you should keep it in gear in case you need to make a quick getaway when someone coming up behind you doesn't look like they can stop in time.

I find that I have a contrary opinion on this one. It takes me less than a second to get my bike into gear and get underway. If I'm keeping an eye on my mirrors I can identify a potential problem and be shifting into first while I'm analyzing the situation and making the decision of whether or not I need to take off. Meanwhile, if it looks like the oncoming driver might not be paying attention, I can cause my brake light to flash a few times to give them added reason to notice me.

It's not like one of my hands or feet would be busy doing anything else when the need to shift back into first gear suddenly arises. My left hand is always right there at the clutch and since I normally put both feet on the ground when stopped at lights, lifting my left foot up to the shifter still leaves me properly balanced with my right foot on the ground. In the rare case when I'm holding the bike with the brakes in an uphill position, I'll leave it in gear so I can keep my right foot on the brake, but that's a very rare case in my riding.

I suppose one thing that reinforced the need to be in neutral at stop lights was when I broke my left hand a couple of years ago. I had a hard time keeping the clutch in for very long when I was still recovering from that injury. I've since fully recovered my strength, but I just don't see the advantage of holding the clutch in for a minute or two every time I get stuck at a light. Or maybe it's because in all of my years of riding, I've never once had the need to suddenly take off through a red light, although I'm still always prepared to do so until I get one or two cars stopped behind me.

It is my opinion, then, that it is best to shift the motorcycle into neutral when stopped at a traffic light, but be ready to shift into first and make a quick getaway should the need arise. It's less tiring for the left hand and forearm and eliminates any friction between the clutch plates while you're stopped.

So that's my contrary opinion, even though I know I'm in the minority on this one.

md2lgyk
Male Standard Member
228 Posts


Harpers Ferry, WV
USA

Honda

Shadow VLX

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  9:36 AM
I actually do it both ways depending on circumstances. There's always plenty of traffic here, so it usually doesn't take long before someone is stopped behind me. I keep the bike in gear and watch the mirrors until then. Once that happens, I generally shift to neutral so I can relax both hands (some lights here are a 3-4 minute wait).

In over 30 years of riding, I've never had to quickly get out of the way. Of course, I probably just jinxed myself LOL.
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timbo
Advanced Member
594 Posts


Uxbridge
United Kingdom

BMW

R1100S

Peer Review: -1

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  10:22 AM
Scott

You're my hero!!
I was going to post a contrary opinion too, but you beat me to it.

I never did get James' "Finding first is a start up activity" point of view.

Tim
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jollyroger
Advanced Member
2157 Posts
[Mentor]


St. Charles, MO
USA

Harley-Davidson

Springer Classic

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  11:58 AM
quote:
Originally posted by timbo


I never did get James' "Finding first is a start up activity" point of view.

Tim


You didn't get it because you weren't trained that way...

As to going in neutral, truth be told, I've got to "hunt" for neutral--it's just easier to poke down through the gears to first.
On the other hand it's easy for me to kick it down to first without the clutch pulled in...been there, done that.
However, I've never made the bike accidentally jump with the clutch pulled in, in gear.
As for clutch hand discomfort, I happen to posess super-human strength, I guess...
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kiddal
Male Advanced Member
1561 Posts
[Mentor]


SE, Indiana
USA

Kawasaki

KLR650

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  1:01 PM
This one is just a no-brainer for me.

How many have heard about, read about or seen someone rear-ended? I assume everyone. What are the consequenses?

How many have heard about, read about or seen someone accidently slip off the clutch? I never have. I'm sure it happens sometimes, but what are the consequnces?

Plus, it's actually extra work to go to neutral and then back to first. Who needs that?

If someone has a physical problem holding the clutch lever, they either have a very stiff clutch or very weak hands. I recommend an exercise program.
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Sox Fan
Male Senior Member
419 Posts
[Mentor]


Kerhonkson, NY
USA

Suzuki

DL 650

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  3:27 PM
In my not-so-contrary-as-it-could-be opinion, the most important thing is not whether you have the bike in neutral or first, but that you are aware of someone approaching you from behind when you are stopped. As Scott stated (correctly, I think) it's easy enough to shift into first when you see someone coming. I leave my bike in first, but it's got a pretty light clutch pull. I do on occasion put the bike in neutral at a long light if there is a vehicle stopped behind me.

I also like the notion of flashing your brake lights at approaching vehicles to increase their chance of seeing you. I've started doing that myself lately.
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jollyroger
Advanced Member
2157 Posts
[Mentor]


St. Charles, MO
USA

Harley-Davidson

Springer Classic

Posted - 07/29/2005 :  12:14 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Sox Fan


I also like the notion of flashing your brake lights at approaching vehicles to increase their chance of seeing you. I've started doing that myself lately.


If you had Kuryakyn's run/brake/turn controller plugged in to your rig, you wouldn't need to flash--it does it for you...
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md2lgyk
Male Standard Member
228 Posts


Harpers Ferry, WV
USA

Honda

Shadow VLX

Posted - 07/29/2005 :  1:32 PM
Amen. That was the first accessory I bought for my new bike last year.
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StarsAllSeemToWeep
Junior Member
26 Posts


Cottage Grove, Wi
USA

Suzuki

IntruderLC

Posted - 07/30/2005 :  1:08 AM
I have never put any bike I have owned/ridden in neutral at a stop lite. (not that I havent thought about it, believe me, we have some really long ones here in the Madison area). For me I guess it is habit as most of the bikes I have owned (untill now) have not been the greatest "neutral finders". I guess I have never wanted to deal with the possible confusion of having to find neutral. Who knows what one can miss by spending time trying to find neutral. My current bike is different though, as finding neutral is a piece of cake. Perhaps its just one of the many differences between a current crop metric cruiser and an old hardtail triumph.

I am of the belief that what ever one feels most comfortable with for themselves is best for them.

Doc.
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kiddal
Male Advanced Member
1561 Posts
[Mentor]


SE, Indiana
USA

Kawasaki

KLR650

Posted - 07/30/2005 :  8:32 PM
quote:
Originally posted by StarsAllSeemToWeep

I am of the belief that what ever one feels most comfortable with for themselves is best for them.
While true in subjective areas (like this topic I suppose), I disagree with this for important issues (i.e. safety). I'd like to find the best approach to something and then work to make it comfortable and natural.

That's what coaches do. We're our own coach out there. We have no innate ability to ride motorcycles. We have to come up with our own plan, strategy, knowledge, skills and reflexes.
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vneal
Junior Member
40 Posts


houston, tx
USA

Honda

2005 GOLDWING

Posted - 08/01/2005 :  9:19 AM
I think it is safest to keep the clutch lever pulled in for quick getaways if a vehicle is coming to fast, convience when the light turns red, and to inch up if the car in front moves or the car behind you inches too close. I would buy putting it into neutral if the car behind is stopped and you are waiting on a l o n g train.
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Sox Fan
Male Senior Member
419 Posts
[Mentor]


Kerhonkson, NY
USA

Suzuki

DL 650

Posted - 08/01/2005 :  11:31 AM
quote:
Originally posted by jollyroger

quote:
Originally posted by Sox Fan


I also like the notion of flashing your brake lights at approaching vehicles to increase their chance of seeing you. I've started doing that myself lately.


If you had Kuryakyn's run/brake/turn controller plugged in to your rig, you wouldn't need to flash--it does it for you...



Now why would I pay for a gizmo to do something that I can quite easily do myself, and which has already become habit for me in just the 2 weeks since I started doing it?
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jollyroger
Advanced Member
2157 Posts
[Mentor]


St. Charles, MO
USA

Harley-Davidson

Springer Classic

Posted - 08/01/2005 :  1:21 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Sox Fan

quote:
Originally posted by jollyroger

quote:
Originally posted by Sox Fan


I also like the notion of flashing your brake lights at approaching vehicles to increase their chance of seeing you. I've started doing that myself lately.


If you had Kuryakyn's run/brake/turn controller plugged in to your rig, you wouldn't need to flash--it does it for you...



Now why would I pay for a gizmo to do something that I can quite easily do myself, and which has already become habit for me in just the 2 weeks since I started doing it?


Two reasons:
1) it flashes the brake lights consistently, every time, without having to pump your brakes, or having to remember to do it
2) it enables you to use your rear turn signals as running and brake lights, illuminating the back end like Christmas...more visibility= more safety

I haven't lied to you yet, have I?
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lupo
Junior Member
84 Posts


Bergen
Norway

BMW

F650GS

Posted - 08/03/2005 :  10:51 AM
Hi Scott!

You're usually very sensible, but this time I don't get it at all.

>It is my opinion, then, that it is best to shift the motorcycle into neutral when stopped at a traffic light

You explained why you personally prefer to go into neutral, giving your left hand an easier time. Is there any other advantages of going into neutral other than relaxing the left arm?

That's a moot point in my view. As already pointed out, if you can't hold the clutch, you've got a big problem with the bike or your arm! I use two fingers on mine, btw, a handfull should definitely do the trick for anyone.

Giving the notion that neutral is something everyone should do every time they stop is plain wrong in my opinion. The second it takes you to shift into gear before pulling off may be a second too much. A second is a huge amount of time in an emergency!


>In the rare case when I'm holding the bike with the brakes in an uphill position, I'll leave it in gear so I can keep my right foot on the brake, but that's a very rare case in my riding.

Have you ever experienced any problem keeping the clutch pulled in when you do that?


Andreas
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Jerry Godell
Male Senior Member
441 Posts


Kansas City, kansas
USA

Harley-Davidson

FXD SuperGlide

Posted - 08/03/2005 :  3:04 PM
Solo riding, your choice.
Group riding, keep in gear.
I don't have to make a choice, always in gear!
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marsam
Male Advanced Member
510 Posts
[Mentor]


Birkirkara
Malta

Yamaha

Dragstar & Vmax

Posted - 08/03/2005 :  3:31 PM   Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
I am usually always in gear at stop lights. Most of the time you are not the first vehicle to hit the red so the wait is not always a long one. At times there is barely the time to search for neutral when the lights have turned green and traffic gets moving again.

The only time that I am tempted to put it in neutral is at a busy intersection when the lights take a rather long time to change (compared to other less busy junctions). However I only do so when there are at least about 5 cars behind me. So in the event of an unexpected rear end shunt, I would probably not be the one to get hit if I don't put the bike in gear and scramble away in time.

The Vmax clutch is very heavy compared to the Dragstar and after a ride in traffic with many gear shifts in the process, my left hand would be begging me for a well deserved rest at these lights, provided the situation behind me, as I explained above, is ideal.

Edited by - marsam on 08/03/2005 3:36 PM
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hoot
New Member
23 Posts


USA

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  10:31 AM
similar to what jollyroger has posted, i use a tailbones unit and flasher for the same features (and a headlight modulator, pros and cons for these too). the unit works electrically and not mechanically so you don't have to remember to work the brake lever and it works when slowing down, not just stopped. don't know how much wear there is on the brake components when using the levers. and i too keep my bike in gear when stopped. with both feet down and possibly hands down too, it takes more time to pull in the clutch and get the bike in gear and moving.
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Gs82Seca650
Male Advanced Member
1990 Posts
[Mentor]


Southern, PA
USA

Yamaha

1982 XJ 650 R Seca

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  2:04 PM
I do a little of both. I fall in the middle here. It all depends on where I am and how tired my left wrist is. I usually find that my right wrist hurts more than the left usually, but that's probably because I have some carpal tunnel in my right hand/wrist.
If it's a long light, I go to neutral, but I always look to the rear until I see someone come up behind me (and slowing down). I also like to keep my right foot on the rear brake, put my left foot down and stand upright to stretch my back at lights. The riding position on the Seca is a little bit forward, but comfortable most of the time.
I would bet that Scott needs to stretch his back riding those ducati's too!
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FRE
Standard Member
219 Posts


Albuquerque, NM
USA

Kawasaki

Ninja 500

Posted - 10/19/2005 :  12:28 AM
I wait in 1st gear, even though neutral is very easy to find on my Kawasaki Ninja 500. I've found that shifting from neutral to low is not foolproof when standing completely still and that if I do it, the bike sometimes jumps into neutral when I engage the clutch. That can be embarrassing, so I shift to low just befor completely stopping to avoid the problem.

So far as making a fast getaway if a car from behind comes up too fast, often there is no place to go safely anyway, especially if I am the front vehicle. Taking off into the intersection could be fatal. However, if there are cars in front of me, I could go between them.

I was once hit from behind while stopped, but it happened while I driving a car.
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BadaBing
Male Advanced Member
1196 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Harley-Davidson

Heritage Classic 04

Posted - 10/21/2005 :  10:46 PM
I think we are all a products of how we were taught and for me I haved grooved my muscle memory to put it in first gear with a vigilant eye on what is happening behind me. For me it is not so much moving forward in a straight line but rather moving more to the center stripe to allow an inattentive cager to see how they could have caused an accident.

Ciao,

BadaBing

Edited by - BadaBing on 10/22/2005 8:42 AM
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mfmaloney
Starting Member
3 Posts


Shakopee, MN
USA

Honda

VTX 1300

Posted - 10/26/2005 :  10:05 PM
OK, I may be a little "older" than you but with tennis elbow and carpal tunnel, an exercise program won't cut it...
I stay in gear until there are a couple cars behind me then I relax my left hand. I did the America's 911 ride this summer (1200 bikes on a tour of all 3 9/11 sites) by the time I got back to Minneapolis, I had done 3600 miles - I could hardly move my left hand. If shifting into neutral is what it takes to keep riding, I'm out of gear - when there are a couple cars behind me.

quote:
Originally posted by kiddal

This one is just a no-brainer for me.

How many have heard about, read about or seen someone rear-ended? I assume everyone. What are the consequenses?

How many have heard about, read about or seen someone accidently slip off the clutch? I never have. I'm sure it happens sometimes, but what are the consequnces?

Plus, it's actually extra work to go to neutral and then back to first. Who needs that?

If someone has a physical problem holding the clutch lever, they either have a very stiff clutch or very weak hands. I recommend an exercise program.

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