Safety Feature written for Wisconsin and Illinois Biker Information Guide in third quarter 2010 by: Bill Gade, Tour on 2 I am of the opinion that most riders ride in the wrong gear. Just because your motorcycle has 5 or 6 gears does not mean that you need to use all of them. As you know I am a professional motorcycle touring guide and when riding by myself or when I am leading a ride I need to maximize the control of my motorcycle for obvious reasons. Many are surprised that when I lead a ride, I may be one or two gears lower than they are riding in. All motorcycle manufacturers publish performance data on their engines. This data is presented in the form of a graph that shows horsepower and torque curves as a function of RPM (revolutions per minute). You will see that there is a point in the torque curve where it peaks and flattens out; this is the optimal power band for your engine. For the motorcycles I ride that point is around 3,000 RPM. By riding at the peak power RPM, I optimize my ability of engine braking and acceleration. It gives me more control to speed up or slow down simply by backing off or getting on the accelerator. This becomes more important when you are riding in mountainous and/curvy roads. The “rule of thumb” for riding in steep, curvy roads, is that you ride down the mountain or hill in the same gear you ride up in. That is, if I ride up a steep grade in 1st or 2nd gear, I ride down the steep grade in 1st or 2nd gear. If you ride up in the wrong gear you “lug” your engine. If you ride down a steep grade in the wrong gear you will need to use your brakes more that reduces traction and control of your motorcycle. When I conduct my tours I will periodically ride at the back of the group to video tape the group. I see many using their brakes when simply being in a lower gear will give them more control, is better for their engine, and will not prematurely wear out their brakes. You can ask any engine mechanic and they will tell you that “lugging” an engine creates more problems than riding at higher RPMs. Engines today have “rev limiters” that keep you from damaging your engine at high RPMs. Riding in a lower gear may affect your gas mileage but it will give you more control of your motorcycle and help you create safer riding conditions. Ride Safe!