One of the most typical issues motorcyclists encounter during their riding career is a motorcycle that jumps out of gear.
Gear engagement difficulties commonly result from clutch and oil systems problems and failures within the chains, sprockets, or shifting equipment.
This article explores the typical reasons a motorcycle jumps out of gear and how to prevent it.
Table of Contents
1. Gearbox Interference
A seized or jammed gear or gearbox components gear is one of the most common reasons a motorcycle jumps out of the bag.
- Your motorcycle’s gearbox comprises numerous parts that engage with one another and work together in a unified operation.
- Therefore, an issue with a component as fundamental as gear, shaft, shifting drum, or shifting for can both result from and cause failures with other transmission parts.
Damaged shifting shafts, broken gear dogs, worn gears, improper gearbox installation, or the interference of an alien object jammed between gears can force your motorcycle to jump out of gears while riding.
If you notice rough shifting or an increase in resistance proper to the frequent gear skips, false neutrals, and missed shifts, we suggest you start by inspecting your internal gearbox components.
If you suspect a gearbox failure is why your motorcycle jumps out of gear, there’s no shame in taking it to a pro mechanic for an inspection. Gearbox systems vary from bike to bike in the parts they use and how they function, so we suggest someone familiar with the transmission system on your make and year model moto for a proper diagnosis.
Regardless, gears and dogs in any moto transmission wear down from the friction, heat, and metal-on-metal contact of general use. Routine service inspection will catch these worn components before they cause your bike to skip gears and trigger other shifting and gearbox problems.
Remember, the gear components all work so closely together; it’s only a matter of time before something like a worn-down gear causes irreparable damage to the shifting shaft too.
If damaged gearbox components are causing your bike to frequently jump out of gear or enter false neutral, diagnose and replace the faulty parts asap before they cause more damage, or you’ll have to replace the whole transmission to solve the problem.
2. Excessive Slack in Chain Drive
If your bike has a chain-driven primary and the motorcycle frequently jumps out of gear, it may be due to excessive slack in the chain drive.
Here are the symptoms of a motorcycle chain that’s too loose:
- Chain teeth are skipping over sprockets.
- Inconsistent power transfer to the wheels, erratic movement, and shaking while riding.
- The motorcycle chain jumps off the gear sprockets while riding.
- The slipping chain can rattle, vibrate, or even slap against other components, causing metallic slap sounds from the gearbox while riding.
Motorcycle chains can loosen over time due to engine vibration and the constant oscillation between hot and cold temperatures inherent in most motorcycle engine parts.
That said, if you’re keeping up with the routine service maintenance at the suggested intervals, your motorcycle chains should be lubricated,
A loose motorcycle chain often results from rust or deterioration caused by the neglect of general chain maintenance, especially after riding through mud, water, or corrosive weather/riding conditions.
Another leading cause of chain-drive wear is storing the motorcycle where it’s exposed to moisture, temperature fluctuations, or corrosive airborne minerals or chemicals.
But even the chain drives on responsibly owned motorcycles wear out over time from the friction and trauma of everyday use.
A motorcycle chain struggles to maintain its tension once worn out, even with proper cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment.
Here are a few fast leads to keep your new motorcycle chain lasting long as to prevent your bike from jumping out of gear while you ride:
- Detail clean and adjust your motorcycle chain and sprockets with a cleaning product suggested by your motorcycle manufacturer in its manual, especially after rough rides in severe weather and road conditions.
- Examine, adjust, and lubricate your chain per the service intervals outlined in your bike’s owner’s manual.
- Store your motorcycle indoors or under a weather-resistant tarp to eliminate the moisture, UV, mineral, and chemical exposure that increases the rate of chain wear.
Following this simple method for inspecting your chain and sprockets will prevent your bike from jumping out of gear:
- Wear gloves while inspecting your chain and sprockets to avoid soiling your fingers with grease and road grime or pinching your skin in the chain.
- Pull your motorcycle chain away from the rear end of your back wheel sprocket.
- The chain should forcefully engage the sprocket, making it hard to lift—a worn chain will lift right off the sprocket, revealing half of the dog tooth.
- Inspect the chain for any rust or inconsistencies in tension.
- Spin the back wheel and inspect the whole chain length, watching the sprocket for chips, cracks, rust, and worn or missing teeth.
3. Faulty Chain Sprockets
Worn or damaged chain sprockets are a common cause of shifting issues on a motorcycle with a chain-driven transmission that often results in false neutrals and skipped gears inherent in a bike that jumps out of gear while riding.
A motorcycle’s chain sprocket is critical to smooth and seamless gear-engagement placement.
In the early stages of worn-chain-sprocket-failure, you’ll notice an increase in the resistance between your gearbox and foot shifter while you’re shifting.
If left unresolved, a worn or faulty chain sprocket leads to jumping gears vibrating while shifting, and, eventually, you may find your bike gets stuck in gear.
Fortunately, troubleshooting the chain and sprocket can be done simultaneously.
Follow the troubleshooting steps at the end of the previous section to determine if damaged sprockets are why your motorcycle frequently jumps out of gear.
Make sure to read our articles on signs your motorcycle chain is too loose.
4. Faulty Foot Control Shift Lever or Linkage
Your motorcycle may jump out of gear while riding if your foot shifter lever is faulty. Additionally, if the linkage connecting your shifter to the bike’s gearbox is out of adjustment or missing hardware, you’ll likely experience false neutrals on your motorcycle.
- In some situations, rough riding conditions or gravel and road debris can bend or damage part of the shifter linkage.
- A rock, speed bump, or can be enough to know some of the shifter’s hardware loss, causing the bike to skip gears while shifting.
- If lucky, you may need to replace the hardware and tighten, raise, or lower the foot control.
- Finally, corrosion, dirt, or gravel can get lodged into the linkage, jam up the shifter action, and force your transmission to jump out of gear during your ride.
Rapid temperature changes and regular engine vibration can slowly loosen hardware during everyday use, forcing your shifter’s tension out of adjustment.
A compromised foot lever and shifter linkage need to be replaced, repaired, or adjusted before riding; if the bike jumps out of gear, it can cause a collision and result in injury.
5. Low Oil Levels
Failing to keep your oil at the manufacturer-specified level can cause accelerated damage to your clutch and gearbox, leading to your bike jumping out of gear.
Oil and lubrication are critical components of any combustion motor, especially smaller ones like motorcycle engines.
- Motorcycle engines contain dynamic systems of fast-moving metal parts inside a small space where heat generation is constant.
- Furthermore, these various components work close to one another, frequently contacting each other in friction.
Some motorcycle designs have separate oil supplies for their primary drive; the gearbox on many motorcycles is cooled and lubricated by the main motor oil reservoir.
Low oil’s side effects on your engine include carbon deposits, overheating, increased friction, and accelerated wear-and-tear on the valves, cylinders, and pistons.
Additionally, if your main motor oil supply also lubricates your gearbox, your clutch plates and transmission gears will wear faster if your oil level is low, causing your bike to jump out of gear, miss shifts, or even get stuck in gear or a false neutral.
You can prevent these issues if you know the major symptoms that show your motorcycle oil is low.
6. Contaminated or Inadequate Oil Quality
Manufacturers suggest various types of motorcycle oil depending on the make, model, type of engine, how the bike is meant to be used, etc.
These different oil types include mineral, semi-synthetic, and synthetic.
Using the inadequate type of oil can cause accelerated motor and gearbox wear, negatively impacting your shifting and performance and causing your motorcycle to jump out of gear.
- These different types of oil are also available in various grades or viscosities.
- Some grades incorporate numerous additives and anti-corrosion agents into the oil, which are intended for use on particular motorcycle engines.
- Using a particular grade of full-synthetic oil may be the best treatment for one engine, but it can cause total failure on a machine that requires pure mineral oil.
The distinct types of oils expire at different times and changing the grade, and oil quality also alters the frequency at which the oil needs to be replaced.
If the engine oil you run through your bike’s motor is a different type or grade than the specifications call for, or if the oil quality is diminished from corrosion, moisture, dirt, coagulation, or fuel or coolant contamination, your motorcycle may jump out of gear.
7. Full-Range Clutch Lever Set-Up
Some riders prefer to ride with their clutch hand levers adjusted, so the lever needs to be pulled to disengage the clutch. In contrast, other riders set their clutch to a half-range setup when the clutch disengages entirely while the lever is only halfway depressed.
A full-range clutch lever allows for a gradual disengagement, which means it requires less hand strength when initially depressing the lever.
A half-range clutch lever disengages the clutch more rapidly, thus requiring a more substantial hand input at a less gradual rate.
That said, once the lever is pulled hallway, your clutch is disengaged, and you can easily pull the limp lever the rest of the way after that, to be sure.
The most common reason a motorcycle jumps out of gear is that its clutch lever is set to disengage at full range. The cable loosens from temperature change, losing little tension and failing to disengage the clutch entirely before you shift, jumping the gear into false neutral.
We’ve written an extensive article on how to fix a faulty motorcycle clutch, if you have this problem.
If your motorcycle jumps out of gear, skips a shift, or enters false neutral, constantly shift up instead of down to get the bike back into gear.
Shifting down in a false neutral will skyrocket your RPMs while the gears are still disengaged, causing a rapid increase in gearbox wear.