Talking about Revolutions

I’ve developed a sort of poor man’s Gear Position Indicator on my motorcycle.  I had noticed this correlation a while back, on the SV, and noticed that it carries over to the V-Strom more or less the same.  It is this:

When the needles “match up” you are in 4th gear.  +/- 1000 RPM or 10 MPH per gear.

5000 RPM at 50 MPH = 4th gear

6000 RPM at 60 MPH = 4th gear


5000 RPM at 60 MPH = 5th

5000 RPM at 70 MPH = 6th

5000 RPM at 30 MPH = 3rd, et cetera.

Once you get used to this it takes only a quick glance to see if the needles are matching, or if the left one (speed) is lower or higher than the right one (RPM).  The mental math is actually easier on the V-Strom than the SV, since it has side by side analog dials.  The SV has digital speed, analog RPM


On my Strom Rally group ride last weekend, we were sitting around at lunch talking about “spirited” riding (I like the word “spirited”, rather than “aggressive” and all that implies, for that kind of riding — it is spiritual, on one level.  And in the spirit of the sport. And it lifts your spirits.  And is addictive like …spirits.  )  The rider that was behind me said that he thought I might be riding one gear too low, because I would sometimes tap the brake before entering a turn.  If the bike is in the right rev range, engine braking alone should be enough to slow the bike for the turn.  The power band he mention should be from 5000-7000 on the Wee (the DL650).  My fear had always been having too much power connected to the rear wheel, possibly breaking the traction.  And it seems smoother at lower RPM’s, less jumpy.  But as a result I was coasting in to the entry with too much freewheeling speed, and would tap the brakes at the last moment before tipping in, then lug out of the turn.  A no-confidence chicken move.   That afternoon I tried keeping it within that rev range and the results were much better.  Indeed, in the power band range, I found that subtle throttle inputs can be used for de- as well as acceleration.  More of the concentration pie was spent on smoothness, less on shifting and braking.  I also practiced some lean techniques that I had watched on an instructional video.  Not necessary at these speeds, as I watched many of the faster riders in the group fly through the turns sitting bolt upright.  But the leaning and body english (not “hanging off” per se), as well as some nifty visualization exercises,  helped separate me mentally from the bike, the dashboard in front of me, the pavement rushing under the front wheel, and the perception of speed that freaks you out as you barrel down on a turn.

Getting back to the RPM.  Another tidbit that I gleaned from my riding group – some of whom had recently attended a performance riding clinic – was a good rule of thumb for corner speed in the mountains:  If the suggested-corner-speed sign says 30mph, use 3rd gear, 20mph use 2nd gear, etc.   It took me a while to get used to this – not being used to having my bike rev that high.  I  usually found myself rounding up, especially if the sign said 25 or 35.  Assuming your entry rpm is 5000, rolling up to an exit rpm of 6000 RPM, that translates to an entry of 40mph and an exit of 50 mph in 3rd gear in a 30mph-labeled curve.  That last part is academic, since glancing at the dials is the last thing you would be doing as you dive in to a turn at 40 mph.  By that point, with enough practice, it’s all by feel.

Recommended article, more or less on the same subject: The Pace – Separating street from track, riding from racing From the February, 2009 issue of Motorcyclist,  by Nick Ienatsch, who is a much better phrase turner.

The racetrack measures your speed with a stop watch and direct competition, welcoming your aggression and gritty resolve to be the best. Performance street riding’s only yardstick is the amount of enjoyment gained, not lap times, finishing position or competitors beaten. The differences are huge but not always remembered by riders who haven’t discovered The Pace’s cornering pureness and group involvement. Hammer on the racetrack. Pace yourself on the street.


2 thoughts on “Talking about Revolutions

  1. How wonderful to ride with a group of riders of the same type of bike. You get bike-specific advice like “you should be in this gear when entering this corner”. That doesn’t translate to the amalgam of bikes and riders I ride with. The power, weight and acceleration characteristics of the Buell 1124r, Suzuki DR650, Honda VF750C, etc., are so fastly different that we can’t share specific tips or advice like that.

  2. I’ve heard that the most common error — and it’s not so much an error as it is a mistake in technique — is being in too high a gear immediately before the turn (thus having RPMs too low). This creates a particularly vicious cycle when riding downhill twisties.

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