I recently ( and successfully ) rebuilt the engine of my '09 Honda Rebel; she's running well but doesn't want to change gears when idling.

If I'm moving she shifts gears without any hanging, grinding, or difficulty. When I'm at a stop, she refuses to change gears.

I did learn that I needed to coat the shift tracks and forks with moly grease before re-assembling the engine, so I'm about to open her back up and do this. Are there any other causes I should look out for?


I'm assuming that the bike shifted better at a standstill before the rebuild, otherwise you wouldn't be asking...but nonetheless, many motorcycles are difficult to shift at a standstill, it has to do with the engagement of the "dogs" on the gears. When the bike is at a standstill, the output side of the transmission is also at a standstill, so the dogs either line up or they don't. If they don't, shifting is impossible. In this case, you need only to roll the bike a bit or slowly release the clutch while maintaining pressure on the shift lever. This will create some relative motion of the gears and at some point the bike will drop into gear.

While moving, the output side of the transmission is turning, so shifting is easier, the dogs will always drop in at some point due to the relative motion of the gears.

This site has some good images and animations of the dogs in action.

  • Indeed; shifting at a standstill before the rebuild was fairly easy. I've tried rolling forward under slight power, or even rolling backward, but neither seems to make shifting easier. Thanks for the help!
    – BrMcMullin
    Feb 28 '13 at 22:22
  • hrm...sorry for the non-answer then.
    – mac
    Mar 1 '13 at 14:28
  • good points to note for others that cant shift at standstill.
    – Mauro
    Mar 8 '13 at 8:15

Turns out the problem had nothing to do with the shift fork, the issue was that the shift lever was contacting the wrong part of the shift drum assembly. Instead of contacting the pins, it was contacting the shaped piece of metal attached to the end - the one that keeps it in the gear the rider has chosen.

To fix it I needed to pull the left side cover off to expose the shift lever. There was a shaped piece of metal at the top of the shift drum - it holds the pins in place and works with a lever to keep the shift drum in a particular orientation.

I had to remove the lever and the plate in order to move the shift arm into the correct position - with the pins at the end of the drum in the gap between the teeth of the shift fork.

After that I simply bolted the plate and the arm back in place.

  • 1
    if you could add some images I am sure that it would prove useful to someone else in future.
    – Mauro
    Mar 8 '13 at 8:16
  • She's all closed back up and running now, but I'll see if I can find some creative commons photos I can add for reference.
    – BrMcMullin
    Mar 8 '13 at 18:20
  • I'm having the same problem with my Ninja 250 09, my friend fell on the left side and since then I'm having trouble shifting at idle. I`m not sure if I understand how you managed to resolve your issue. Did you need to open the transmission to replace any components? A detailed answer would be really nice!
    – user3136
    May 9 '13 at 18:54
  • Hi there, welcome to Stack Exchange! First, this kind of response usually goes as a comment rather than an answer :) Second, I'm afraid it's a bit hard to explain, and may not apply to your bike, but I'll try to update the answer with some helpful info.
    – BrMcMullin
    May 9 '13 at 19:06
  • Updated the answer; now time for a few questions: 1) When you pull the clutch lever, do you feel any resistance? 2) Have you pulled off the side faring, and is there any visible damage on the side with the transmission on it?
    – BrMcMullin
    May 9 '13 at 19:17

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