How Do You Shift a Semi Automatic ATV? Full Beginner Guide

If you are used to riding a manual or automatic quad, you might be asking yourself: “How do you shift a semi automatic ATV?“. I’m here to tell you it’s not that difficult. With my complete guide to shifting gears on a Semi-Auto, you will be ready to hit the trails in no time!

Shifting gears on a Semi-Automatic ATV is similar to a manual gear system, except for operating the clutch. While on a manual quad you would use a clutch pedal on the left handlebar, with a Semi-Auto you only use the throttle and a foot pedal to shift gears. Start out by letting off the throttle with your right hand, then use your left foot to change gears. In order to shift up, put your toes under the foot pedal and lift up until it clicks. When downshifting, push your foot down on the pedal to change to a lower gear. As for putting the quad in reverse, a Semi-Automatic ATV will have either a button or a lever that needs to be activated at the same time as the foot pedal is pushed down.

If you are a first time ATV owner, this process might seem a bit confusing. Keep on reading for some beginner tips on how to achieve a smooth transition between gears on your Semi-Automatic, as well as a video guide to help you get the hang of it.

How Do You Shift a Semi Automatic ATV?

Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i

Semi-Automatic gear systems are not as popular with off-road riders as manual and automatic, but they have a lot of benefits for experienced racers and beginners alike. If this is your first time riding an ATV or you want to buy your young one their first quad, a Semi-Auto might be the perfect choice for you.

I like this gear system because it still offers you full control over the gear you’re riding with, while eliminating the difficult combination of clutch, throttle, and foot pedal system that you find on a manual. Once you get a grasp on how to swiftly switch gears without jerking your 4 wheeler, you will be able to conquer even the most difficult trails out there.

Whenever I ride a Semi-Automatic ATV, also called a Non-Clutch ATV by some, I look for the user manual. Most Semi-Autos will ride the same, but it’s good to take a look at the gear chart and reverse system which can be different for your model. For instance, Honda has a unique Semi-Auto gear system that operates a bit differently than others.

For today, I’ll go over the most common type of gear shifting that I’ve seen on dozens of ATVs so that you can get to riding right away. The most common gear chart reads as follows: 1-N-2-3-4-5, where N stands for Neutral. Your quad might have 6 gears or have Neutral as the first gear, so make sure to check out your ATV’s manual beforehand.

Starting out in Neutral, I will let off the throttle and push down the pedal in front of my left foot peg for a half-click to reach first gear. On ATVs, the throttle is a lever located on your right handlebar that you operate with your thumb. It’s important to give it a constant push, so that you do not jerk your quad between gears.

Afterward, when I want to shift to a higher gear, I let off the throttle for about half or 3 quarters of the way and push up the foot pedal from underneath, with my toes. Not letting off the thorttle completely will help make the transition between gears smooth and you will have enough acceleration to get to a higher gear faster. If Neutral is located between your first and second gear, make sure to push up enough to get to second gear.

In order to downshift, I will let the ATV slow down or activate the brake, let off throttle, and push down on the foot pedal. If you are going slow enough, you will be able to go from second gear straight to Neutral, but this will take a bit of practice.

Below is a short YouTube video I found that explains how to shift gears on a Semi-Automatic Yamaha Bear Tracker 250. This will hopefully help you visualize the process better and show you how to get into reverse when you have a lever.

How Do You Know When to Shift Gear on a ATV?

Much like on a shift stick car, the engine on your ATV will let you know when to shift gears. You need to listen to the RPM (revolutions per minute) of your quad, which essentially means paying attention to how riled up your engine gets.

If your engine roars with power, then it means you need to give it more gas with the throttle and shift to a higher gear. On the opposite spectrum, if your quad seems like it’s bogging down, then you need to downshift to a lower gear.

Until you get used to listening to your engine, you can learn the speeds of each gear on your ATV and read the speedometer to change gears. To shift up, make sure you reach the maximum speed of the gear you are currently in. To downshift, you need to arrive below the max speed of the gear you’re trying to reach and then push down on the pedal.

Are you looking to buy a new ATV? You might want to check out the article I wrote about the top 5 fastest ASTVs in 2021 where I highlight the best models from each 5-star brand.

Is It Bad to Shift at High RPM?

why do you need an ATV

There are very low risks associated with shifting at high RPM, such as slightly shortening your engine life. Shifting at high RPM is a practice that most experienced ATV riders will do because it gives you smoother transitions between gears and more power. All-Terrain Vehicles are made to withstand difficult conditions, so high RPM shifting will not be an issue for your quad’s engine. Low RPM shifting, on the other hand, can put a lot of stress on your engine and destroy your pistons so it’s best to avoid it.

If you use my guide on shifting gears on a Semi-Automatic ATV, you will not have to worry about long-term damage to your engine. I recommend you take a look at your quad’s manual as well, so you get accustomed to your model’s quirks and needs.

In case you are stressed about your first time riding a quad, you can start practicing in an isolated place. I promise you that you will get the hang of it in no time, especially since a Semi-Auto is easier to use than a manual gear system. Now go out there and shift gears like a true pro!

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at if you want to get in touch.

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