The Gear Change FAQ
compiled & edited by Kristian #562
Please read the Disclaimer before attempting any work in this FAQ.

For Replacement Clutch Levers (On Handlebar) refer Aftermarket Levers FAQ.

Clunky/Difficult Gear Shift
compiled by Kristian #562


The F650 gearbox can be very clunky especially between 1st and 2nd gear and it can be difficult to find Neutral. This FAQ is not a treatise on Clutchless shifting, which can be done on the F, particularly shifting up, but takes some practice.


So here’s what you can do;

First Here's what you should NOT do:

OIL: See the Detailed FAQ on Oil for a Huge Discussion on Synthetic Oil usage.


Clutch Adjustment:


Rotate Gear Shift Lever/Check Tightness


Aftermarket Gear Shift Lever/Footpegs


Drive/Shift Differently:

1. Preload Shift Lever.
2. Change your Shifting RPM.
3. Disengage the Clutch a little less.
4. Try Boots.



Live with it (Finding Neutral)

If none of that helps, you may have a bent selector, but gearbox repair will require the engine to be removed from the frame and dismantled, I believe. Big $$$ if your dealer does it, or lots of your time, if you do it. See this FAQ.


Clutchless Shifting


By Flash #412

October ‘01


'Blipping' the throttle to match internal component speeds to each other is the LEAST damaging way to shift your engine. Here's a workable technique, I read about it in a racing context, and damned if it doesn't work on the F:


To Downshift:


1) Roll off the gas, let engine and road speeds decline

2) Apply downward pressure to the shift lever. Don't stomp on it, just press.

3) Blip the throttle. This means a quick on/off. Don't take it to full throttle, don't hold it open.

4) While blipping, pull in on the clutch lever. Not all the way, just get it a bit into the friction zone to make things smooth.

5) Watch as your foot magically goes down and the bike switches gears deadly smooth.

6) Release clutch, apply whatever throttle your situation now requires.

If you skip step four in the above downshift process, and you do it right, you'll have learned how to FLAT downshift. The only thing is that you need to blip harder for clutchless downshifts.


Clutchless downshifting is simple. You have the throttle closed because you are slowing. Everything is "loaded" bassakwards from the way it is normally loaded. So do everything backwards from the way you do a speed shift and it works fine. i.e.: Crack the throttle OPEN as you apply pressure to the lever. When it hits the "sweet spot" where everything matches, it'll pop out of the gear you're in and, to get it to pop into the lower gear, blip the throttle once real good. The shift is complete. Close the throttle. (Yer tryin' ta slow t.f. DOWN, remember?)

Upshifting is similar, but with everything reversed. You don't really need the clutch at all to upshift, I find.


The transmission in your F has a shift drum and shift forks. There are six DETENT positions in which the shift drum can reside. Of course, there are an infinite number of positions where it can reside. The six DETENT positions are 1st, neutral, 2nd... 5th gear. When you shift between 2-3 or 3-4 or 4-5, there is a requirement that the gear you are coming FROM disengage BEFORE the gear you are going TO is entered. If it didn't, you'd be in two gears at once and your transmission would "explode", shedding gear teeth like my Samoyed sheds fur at this time of year. So... for a brief period, the gearbox is not in any gear. This is NOT the same as NEUTRAL. These are called FALSE Neutrals. If you find one... coast along in it for a while, hit a few bumps or blip the throttle and the odds are, you'll suddenly find yourself in one gear or the other on either side. Car gearboxes force you to physically move the lever though the neutral position, REAL neutral. There is no detent there, due largely to the fact that the gearbox functions without a shift drum.


It does no harm whatsoever to the transmission or clutch to shift (well) without the clutch. But if you screw up... it can be a bad thing, no worse than grinding the gears in any gearbox, however.

Replacement Gear Shift Lever


Can't change Gear past Second/Lost Second Gear

by Flash #412 (CO)
Additional comments by Martin, HsN
Refer also the Engine Removal F650 Classic FAQ



So is this a Clutch problem or tranny one?

The original shift forks were superseded by ones that are polished, harder, and tested. Bad news is you must drop the motor to split the cases to get to them. A shift fork costs about $35 or so. You might have a bad detent-wheel rivet, like I did, too. It sounds like your pawl rivet may be loose, allowing the "wheel" on the end of the part to lose its place in the detents of the shift drum, not rotating the drum. Mine did that at about 22,500 miles. You are NOT going to like when the dealer tells you how much labor is involved in changing that US$10 part. You must drop the motor and split the cases. You can do it yourself with only one special tool. I am going to post a write-up after I get mine reassembled the SECOND time. There are no special tools required to do the job, with the exception of the ~$22 alternator rotor puller. The job is long, but not difficult. I have the first draft on the "dropping the motor" FAQ done. But have not even begun the "splitting the cases, fixing the trans and reassembling in reverse order" FAQs."

Try HOLDING the gear lever in place until you have let the clutch out completely. What year model? The second gear shift fork on the earlier bikes were crap. BMW won't say when they changed the part. If you have to hold the lever to keep it from jumping out there is something wrong with the gearbox. Shift dogs are SUPPOSED to be undercut, so that the load PULLS the thing INTO engagement when you make an incomplete shift.  There should really be no need to hold it in place. You either shifted or you didn't shift or your box is broken.

BMW will not do anything for you unless you took it to the dealer for the same problem before you warranty ran out. Your dealer probably said, "Let's wait and see..." Shank sez that what that means is, "Let's wait until the warranty runs out and see how much you're gonna pay to get it fixed."

I dunno what the flat rate is on dropping the motor and doing the trans repairs. But I bet you can call and they'll tell you it is WELL over US$1k.

Are you at all mechanically inclined? Dropping the motor is not a real big deal. Splitting the cases is not a real big deal. Replacing the shifter bits is pretty simple. There are only about three things you need that you might not have already. The education is well worth it.

Figure 10 hours to drop the motor and split the cases the first time you do it, especially if I give you a bunch of tips. Figure about 5 hours to install the new bits and reassemble the motor. Maybe 8 hours to get it hung back in and all hooked up. (These times all drop drastically upon repeating the tasks.)

Alternately... do not use second gear. Take off in first, wind it all the way out and then double shift into third. You can milk the bike until the middle of winter like that.


The Shifter in More Detail


Take a look at this picture. Transmission Bits. Note how the fork on the left has smooshed engagement dogs (the things near the tips of the tines). Note how the fork on the right is a different part. The one on the right is the REDESIGNED second gear shift fork. Note how it is polished. That is because it was hardened. In fact, when you turn them both over, you can see in this other picture Rockwell how the shift fork on the right has two tiny dimples. These are caused by Rockwell testing. In fact, on this fork, it was tested not once but twice.

BMW is going to tell you that there is no "class issue" with the transmission parts. That is horseshit. Why would they redesign the part if it wasn't an issue. My '96 in popped out of second gear. My '98 got so bad that I opened it up to replace the shift fork, and the detent roller, too. That is the other part in the first picture. The "wheel" is mounted to the arm with a rivet. Mine had about +/- 15 degrees of PLAY in the wheel due to a loose rivet. This can't have helped the shift selector drum stay in position. A loose detent exacerbated the problem with the smeared shift fork to the point where even holding the lever up with my foot wouldn't keep the transmission in second gear.

This is an F650, with a Japanese-looking, Italian five speed gear box. There is a fork for 1/3 one for 4/5 and one for 2nd. I replaced my 2nd gear fork in January cuz it was popping out of second. The new part is VERY improved, including TWO Rockwell tests on the SERIOUSLY polished surfaces. (I have pictures if you care.) I also replaced the detent pawl because the old one had a loose rivet that allowed the "wheel" to wiggle about +/- 15 degrees or so. I figured between the worn detent and the f'd fork, the gear had enough slop to pop. It was FIXED.

OK, so now I know how it works. There is NFW that the drum "went around". Can't happen. The slots the heels of the forks ride in END. There are THREE forks dis-allowing the drum to over-rotate.

There is a piece of nylon (or summat) at the bottom of the drum on which the neutral switch rides. In that nylon is a bb-sized bronze contact that allows uh... CONTACT to light the light. HOW the fuck can it be in fourth gear and that thing make contact? OK, maybe something ELSE is making contact in there. But WHAT? And why doesn't it fall out when I shift gears or ride it like that for 65 miles?

I hypothesize: 4th and 5th are distinct gears selected by a sprog that rides between them. The sprog is supposed to be unconnected in neutral and gears 1-3, chunked into the 4th gear in 4th, chunked in to the fifth gear in fifth. The fork whose job it is to hold that sprog in the middle is always pushing the sprog into 4th.

Alternatively, one or the other gear is always driven, but the shaft is supposed to be disconnected in gears 1-3. Whatever sprog disconnects the shaft has failed to the engaged position.

Thus, in gears 1 through 3 (including neutral), the transmission is in two gears. If one them is neutral, voila! you're in fourth. Otherwise, the transmission locks trying to turn the wheel at two speeds.

The effect should be that the shifter goes:
1/4 neutral/4

Without a great deal of hand-waving or more personal acquaintance with the design of the transmission I can't explain why you didn't have two fourth gears (one with, and one without, the neutral light on).



Flash's Notes for when you DO the work:

The Pawl


Transmixer Problem