RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
“My new bike has a blipper!”. You’ve probably heard it before. Or a racer complaining about how he or she didn’t ride the desired lap time because the quickshifter didn’t work. What are they? And what’s the difference between a quickshifter vs auto blipper? Let us help you out.
They were once preserved for race bikes, but nowadays you find them on basically any new motorcycle. The motorcycle world has grown fond of them for their street bikes as well. Even All Road motorcycles or adventure bikes have quickshifters these days.
Like we said, quickshifters have become pretty common on motorcycles. But they are far from all the same. Some bikes come with very basic systems, while others have full auto-blippers. Their basic function might be similar, but their technique differ quite a bit. And they can feel completely different to the rider.
In short; both a quickshifter and a blipper help you to change gears on a motorbike without using the clutch.
Let’s talk about the quickshifter first. The most common one that is found on most current motorcycles that roll out of the factory is the one that allows you to up-shift without using the clutch.
It uses a switch in-line with the rod that connects the gear lever to the gearbox. When the lever is pushed up (or down when you’ve got the race shift pattern – LINK), the switch is first compressed and contact is made. A spring then adds weight to that switch. The force being applied to the lever is transferred to moving the selector inside the gearbox, which selects the next gear ratio.
Activating the switch causes the spark plugs to be momentarily cut. This ceases drive. It is the same process as briefly rolling off the throttle while you flick into the next gear. It just goes a lot faster. If you roll off the throttle long enough, the engine speed decreases and matches the speed of the gears when they are driven by the rear wheel. This causes a moment of ‘float’, where the dog teeth that engage the gears are between each other. So clutches upshifts take advantage of float in the gearbox. Doing this all mechanically by using a quickshifter, allows you to upshift without using the clutch lever.
An auto blipper works similar to a quickshifter, but instead of only allowing you to upshift without using the clutch lever, it also allows you to downshift without using the clutch. Sometimes, motorcycle manufactures call an auto blipper a ‘up- and down quickshifter’. Which can cause a bit of confusion since most associate a quickshifter with a device that only allows you to upshift without the clutch.
In the same way that clutchless upshift take advantage of float in the gearbox, clutchless downshifts require the engine speed to match the wheel speed.
As you are off the throttle, the rear wheel is driving the engine, but the speed of the wheel is higher than the engine speed. Blipping the throttle increases the engine speed. This will cause the gearbox to float again, which is the moment you can downshift without using the clutch. You can do this by hand, which most older racers will know. It just takes a decent amount of technique and timing. It is a lot harder than a clutchless upshift by hand.
Since the modern era is all about ‘let’s not make it too difficult for ourselves’, the industry developed a device that does it all for you. Which resulted in the auto blipper. It does the exact thing above, but does it mechanically. So all you need to worry about, is when and where you want to up- or downshift. And just use the shifting lever properly.
So basically, the difference between a quickshifter and an auto blipper is whether it is a one way or two way street. You can do clutchless upshifts with a quickshifter and you can do clutchless up- and downshifts with a blipper.
If a manufacturer states that a certain motorcycle has a ‘up and down quickshifter’, it in fact has an auto blipper.
Quickshifters and auto blippers originally were mostly used on race bikes, since the advantages are highest when riding high speeds. Nowadays, almost any new motorcycle – both race and street bikes – have quickshifters and/or auto blippers from the moment they roll out of the factory. The speed advantages – which is the main reason for installing a quickshifter or blipper on a race bike – won’t really make much difference on the road, but many riders simply appreciate the feel and sound of a quickshifter.
When you often ride pillion, it can also be a nice addition to your motorbike. A quickshifter allows for smoother shifting, which will prevent your pillion from being thrown back and forth. So less helmet banging.
Fitting an aftermarket quickshifter is one of the modifications that is most done on a motorcycle. While not fitting a quickshifter properly can do serious damage to your gearbox, fitting an aftermarket auto blipper can cause even more harm.
Like we explained, an auto blipper matches the engine speed with the rear wheel speed. So it blips the throttle mechanically for you. This requires any auto blipper device to take control of your motorcycle’s throttle. When the device takes control, it takes the control away from you as a rider.
Let that sink in for a moment. And let us portray the worst scenario possible. If an auto blipper device gets it wrong, it could kill someone.
When a motorcycle rolls out of the factory with an OE quickshifter (even if it is an up and down quickshifter A.K.A an auto blipper), that OE quickshifter is integrated into the system. So it is part of the ECU. Which in almost all scenarios means that if the quickshifter fails, the bike just shouldn’t run at all. ECU’s hardly ever fail or go wrong. They are often also put to the test with way more extensively than aftermarket products.
When you install an aftermarket auto blipper, it is not part of that ECU. Lots of auto blipper systems work by constantly reading what the rider is doing with the throttle. They then pass that info on to the ECU, adding to it when needed. If something goes wrong in that chain of reactions, it is possible that the last signal sent to the ECU could be maintained, even though the action of carrying out a downshift has already ended. Just imagine that signal to be ‘open throttle’, when it is not supposed to. That can cause some seriously scary scenarios.
So if you are thinking about installing an aftermarket auto blipper, please don’t go cheap. That doesn’t mean you should get the most expensive blipper on the market. There are some very good ones out there that are somewhat reasonably priced. But make proper installation the highest priority. If you are no mechanic yourself, or electronic expert, then please let someone who is take care of it.
If you really want to do it right, you get yourself an aftermarket auto blipper system that has a default state that removes it from the throttle circuit. So unless a downshift is being carried out, the blipper device is out of the circuit that controls the throttle position. This way, it should not be able to give the wrong signal at the wrong time. Since it’s not engaged unless a downshift is carried out.
These advanced auto blipper systems run self-checks in milliseconds, whenever a downshift is commanded. If the device is ‘happy’ with all of those checks, it will activate itself into the throttle circuit. When it does, it also activates a timer. This means that if the processor somehow froze, the timer would continue to run. And then still take itself out of the throttle circuit, so an ‘open throttle’ cannot be held open.
While one quickshifter feels clunky and heavy, another feels buttery smooth. Why is that?
That is actually a pretty technical question. And has to do with different factors. The mapping of the ECU, the mechanical set-up and even factors like chain tension contribute to the feel of a gear shift. And therefore the quickshifter. Also the time the engine is cut for the gear shift to happen will make a big difference. That is why it is important to install a quickshifter and/or auto blipper properly.
No quickshifter and/or auto blipper can give seamless upshifts at every speed and throttle opening. Especially when you ride on lower speeds, it can’t function the way it should.
So when you ride at town speeds, the gearbox is turning relatively slow. It can be no means create enough float to seamlessly shift gears without using the clutch. It will always feel clunky. And remember; whenever feels feels clunky or difficult, something is not right. And it won’t do any good to your gearbox. So do not use a quickshifter and/or blipper whenever you ride through town or cruise down the highway at relatively decent speed.
In the end, quickshifter and auto blippers were built for speed. So you have to give your bike some, in order to let the quickshifter or blipper work properly.
You could install a quickshifter to any motorcycle. The selector arm has to be long enough to accommodate the strain gauge unit. But besides that, there hardly are any restrictions. A blipper is a different thing though. For you to be able to install a blipper, the motorcycle needs to be ride-by-wire. So most older bikes won’t be compatible with modern-day auto blipper devices.
Both quickshifters and auto blippers are commonly found on most new motorcycles. The difference between a quickshifter and an auto blipper is the fact that a quickshifter allows clutchless upshifts while an auto blipper allows you to up- and downshift without using the clutch. Installing one of the two on your motorcycle will give you the most advantages on track. Or at least when riding high speeds. But a quickshifter can also provide comfort (or fun) on a street bike. Just be mindful when installing one. And using one. Using a quickshifter or auto blipper at low speeds might do more damage than good.
Oh, and mind your shifting pattern. Some quickshifters and blippers require you to buy the device that suits your chosen pattern.