Getting used to right hand shift

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Jul 18, 2005
I've had my recently purchased 70 roadster out for a couple of short runs, short by necessity as I had to have the bike picked up and taken home both rides. Anyway, with all the helpfull posts on the forum I'm sorting things out, most of the problems I'm having are ones Debbie has sorted out so I'm benefiting from her misfortune.

My real question though is does shifting on the right ever become intuitive? I have four other bikes, all left shifters so when I ride "Snort'n" I really have to concentrate then when I get back on a "regular" shifter like today it takes a bit of sorting out. Does it ever become automatic or intuitive and something you don't have to work at?

Thanks for any insight.

Oh yes, the brakes on these bikes are everythig I've heard them to be, I sailed right through the red light at the first intersection I came to, fortunately there was no cross traffic at the time.

In time, a dozen or so rides, you will get a false sense of “instinctiveness” about shifting right and braking left. In fact, you will grin with glee about your new accomplishment.

But when you suddenly encounter an emergency stop situation - guess what? The old right-hand brake instincts take over and you end up hopelessly pounding the shift lever, thinking it’s the brake.

Fortunately, my latest Norton shifts on the left, so no problems!.

Wishing you all the best with your new shifter and brake layout,

Glad to hear my postings have been helpful to someone! :D

Stick with it, riding a well-sorted Norton makes all the pain fade away!

My Norton shifts on the right, my other bikes shift on the left. To me it's not a big deal but I'm pretty ambidextrous. One thing you can try is starting your ride with a deliberate hit on the rear brake as you "program" your mind to the correct pattern!

I'm planning to convert Chugley (my Bullet) over to right-hand shifting this winter. Those crossover linkages tend to make shifting unnecessarily stiff and notchy.


Speaking of Chugley, have you been on any long distance adventures with him? Do you have any interesting tales to tell?

I know this is a Norton and not a Royal Enfield forum, but it won't hurt to give us a Chugley update, just this once.

Hi Feliz!

Well, easy to say: you will have to get used to it! It will become standard procedure to switch from left hand to right hand gearlevers. Just always savour every ride on your Norton and take your time, buddy! As you have to really keep attention to everything you do while you ride the bike (hint the brake power…) anyway, it will become second nature.
I hardly ever get hectic when I ride my 750 S-Type, just totally relaxed. You can give it some stick, but don’t need to because of the midrange torque.
Oh, by the way: my troubles concerning the engine dying al of a sudden are solved! Guess what, you were right. It was the choke lever not being properly closed and the battery as well… it runs like a dream again!
I will be attending my first ever vintage race on my S-Type this September, so I keep my fingers crossed that it stays that way.

By the way, i found a brilliant summary of the charms of a Norton motorcycle (CLASSIC BIKE 10/99) that hits the nail on the head:

“Ah! Norton Commando… how we love her, respect her and enjoy her. So temperamental, so finicky, so imperfect. Light come on, lights don’t come on.Oil leaks from the primary drive today, oil leaks from the gearbox tomorrow; starts one kick today, starts after seven kicks tomorrow. Who knows if she will start on the third day? How imperfect, but how much pride there is in owning one.” (Joseph Chavez, British Marketing, CA, USA)

Just wanted to share this one with you guys!
Hey Feliz, don't sweat the shift thing! I have had over 30 bikes and only have previously ridden one with the corect shift pattern, on the right! Fortunately it was the first bike I ever rode, which was a 55 bsa a7 500cc twin when I was 13. Having owned old and new bikes, from dkw and guzzi, to such modern bikes as Hayabusa, ducati, gsxr, etc, I think the progression in mindset keeps getting more and more hyper, six speed trannys and high rpm. My newly acquired 73 commando was a change, and I love it, but by thinking back to 1965 on that first bsa ride, it just came back with only 1 missed shift. But I had to THINK about it! Just go back to remembering that you boutht a norton to enjoy the ride, and slow down! Many things are better if you relax. You aren't going to set any records with the bike anyway, so take it slow and THINK, whenever you have to shift, and the new pattern will come to you almost instinctively. Some people take a magic marker or tape and put RIGHT or something similar on the handlebar or tach to remind them, but your brain is better!The brake thing is another story! I am following the lead of michael morse from VINTAGE BRAKE in california on upgrading by braking capability. I don't want to go into all of it right now, as I just installed the upgrade he proposed, and am still wearing them in, but this guy knows his stuff! (, I think. Google will find it. Take it easy, and enjoy!
As mentioned, this shifting thing will go into a sort of automatic thinking thing.......but you have to THINK about which bike you are on. I learned on the right shifter, and this is to me still the best and most logical way to do it, but even I, with thirty years behind me, can slip into the old, hit the right brake thing. I ride four machines, all different, shift on the handlebar, tank, left, right, brake with pedaling backwards,left, right, etc...and you can learn anything, and every way will become second nature once you get a bit down the road, but you have to always be aware of which machine you are riding. I find myself reminding myself before a town, or an interesetion sometimes. will get it, and then you will be fine. Most of us ride at least, both types of common shifting/braking patterns, and if we can do can you.......
Right shifting

I ride my Norton a couple times a week, and my BMW maybe 4 or 5 times a week. I sometimes ride them both in the same day. The two machines are so different that I have no confusion whatever! My BMW is huge, fairly upright seating position, and my Norton has clip-ons and rearsets, riding is quite crouched down.

Shifting on the right will become natural after a few more rides.

good luck, Stuart

Well there you have it!

Seems I’m the only one in the Norton world that has confused the brake lever with the shift lever. So, based on this statistical sample, you should have no problems shifting your Norton.

No, Jason you are not the only one. I've tried to upshift brake pedals, brake down on shifters, I get em all confused for about two blocks, then I am good to go.
Like most, I started on left foot Jap bikes, converted to right foot at 19
and rode strickly Nortons and Bultacos. (Showing my age here)
Went back to left foot shift, now I have some right foot Nortons again.

My routine is to start very slow, go through several braking and shift routines to get programmed, then I am fine. However I started this young and I have wondered many times if I could train myself competently at age 51 (there I said it) to do this.

Many times I have thought of starting a thread to discuss which is better, right or left. I have very strong feelings on this so I will fire the first shot.
(paying homeage to Chris Barrett's handle 'Keep one in the Chamber')

I feel right foot shift is not only better but superior to left foot and here's why. BALANCE!!!!!
The operation of a motorcycle requires balance and everything you do affects everything.
When you operate the clutch on the left side, one shifts on the right to give
some balancing action of moving actions on each side of the bike, instead of on one.
Big deal you say, it is so minor to be of no significance.
Oh yeh, what about braking. Better yet, PANIC braking. In a full on panic brake with the left foot braking and right hand pulling hard one has better balance than if all the braking forces are on the right. Think about it, which is better, to have all your braking forces on one side or to split it??
For those that have bikes with both shifting patterns and that actually have brakes, try it. You'll see as the suspension loads, it is easier to keep the left braking bike upright.
I'll go a little further, I am right side dominate which means I would rather put my right foot down at stops, this is easier to do with a left foot brake.

I'll go even further on shift patterns. I prefer the Norton's up for first and down for the others. As the motorcyle accelerates, the front end lifts, by shifting down for second etc, it makes a little forward motion encouraging a little more front bias. When one downshifts by lifting up it encourages a more upright sitting position which is what we want for deceleration.

I am curious what others think.
Hey MichaelB, I think that I can solve your conundrum regarding left-right-up-down with a real world example!! Valentino Rossi does pretty well with the shifter on the left, but.......the GP shift pattern IS up for first, down for all other gears! We are all half-right! Have fun.
Personally, I wouldn't want to trade right shifting for the uncomfortable and downright illogical left/up pattern. I have to deal with it, but you have to deal with all sorts of crappy things in life. My point stands though....Feliz will be able to adapt...and maybe even come to see the points brought out by Mike, all valid. Valentino could drive like he does, with one hand tied behind his back....something most of us couldn't master.
Thanks for all the comments and encouragement. I can't wait to get Snortin up and running again and get the right foot working.

I envy folks that live in a rural area and can just fire up their bikes and ride. While not in a really big city I'm in the middle of about 2-1/2 million people and have to head out of my driveway into a maze of traffic. I think I'd feel less apprehensive about the shifting/braking if I could spend a few hours on a lonely country road sorting things out but who said owning a Norton was going to be easy. Thanks again for the comments.

Debby, sorry I spelled your name wrong in my earlier post.

Oh, that's ok Feliz.

Hey, here's a thought for you. When you're ready to ride next time, why not rent or borrow a trailer. You could haul the bike out to a less congested area and practice a bit without the traffic worries.

Debby, that's not a bad idea. If I did that I would head down your way, I love Colorado and Utah. Before my mother-in-law passed away she was in a home in Colorado Springs, we visited her a lot and I really got to like it down there. I could test ride Snortin up and down Pikes Peak. :lol:

I may look into doing as you suggest locally before I get carried away though. Thanks for the suggestion.
Hey Funhog, Valentino Rossi can out ride me with a hand shifter on the rear fender and a foot clutch on the front.

I am surprised I haven't gotten more response positive or negative. I have tried to debate this before and all I usually get a glassy eyed, so what. I guess that's happening here.

I have wondered about GP bikes, is the shift pattern so because it is better or because way back when the shifter had to be turned around for rear sets.

Anyone know?
shift patterns

I'd like to jump on the tail end of this thread as it has turned to up or down shift patterns. My problem is when I have to stop quick for whatever reason I have difficulty down shifting quickly with the one up three down pattern. (I'll have to admit here that Parkinsons Disease has been kicking my ass for the past two years. The words slow and stiff have taken on new personal meaning. There are those around me who question my riding the bike at all. I figuere what the hell, better to die with your boots on and the exhaust pipes still hot and smoking).
Anyway, I know previously in this forum there has been discussion of reverse cam plates and/or rearsets that flip the shift lever. I wonder if anyone who has done this could comment as to whether or not they felt it was an improvement, especially regarding the ease of shifting.

George Baker
Hi MichaelB!

There you go: racing bikes (MotoGP etc.) have got the „down-for-up”-gearlever assembly to give the possibility to shift gears when going through tight bends at high speeds (check the angle!). If it was the usual gear shift pattern, a racing pilot would not be able to get his foot under the gearlever…to shift gears.

I do not really care about down-for-up or vice versa… as long as all the gears are all in there somewhere… :wink:
Matt.....are you sure that is why?

Couldn't it rather be traced back to the days of riding horses......when you urge a horse to take off, you lean forward(down) and push the reins forward. When slowing him down, you lean back(up) and pull the reins........down is forward, up is back. This fact is also reflected in the gas pedal of an auto...right foot down for go, up for slow.
The body makes these moves without even thinking about it, a truely instinctive way of shifting.

Then again.......maybe I've spent too many days in the saddle. :lol:
feliz burn the bridges behind you mannnnnnn. The Norton is running great in that cool dark air in those rocky mountain roads u are now cruzzin and your mind is a wanderin.... any other bike you would have to shift for that next curving climb up to the next 1000 ft but u are on a Norton with ooodles of tourque available to you... should I shift or just add more coal on the throttle...... life is good.
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