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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE HEEL-TOE SHIFTER"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
The heel-toe shifter. Such a little thing, that yields such big benefits. The heel-toe shifter is something that David Snow turned me onto when he had his bike, Rebelene. Until then I was of the toe-shifter-only-crowd. Yup, I admit with some shame. I was a conformist when it came to shifters.
The heel-toe shifter until I was converted by the Right Reverend Snow, represented to me an artifact of Garbage Wagon Land---something that righteous bros tossed as they stripped their full dressers in favor of smaller and lighter. "Less is more" the thinking went. However, in dumping this wonderful item, bikers were divesting themselves of an advantageous piece of technology. Now fully proselytized, I think that the heel-toe shifter is a case of "more is more." More ease and fun, that is. Yeah, you read that right: more fun. Shifting is actually more fun in addition to being easier.
With the heel-toe shifter, a biker has two fulcrum points with which to change gears, instead of a measley single point. There's nothing as satisfying as winding up Mabel's stroker motor to redline, and then slamming my heel down to upshift to second as we wail down the road, man. Then on to third and finally fourth gear as we sail past cages on our way to 80 on the highway? Pure ecstasy in motion. May I suggest that it's a highly sexual act?
Upshifting with a heel-toe shifter on your Harley becomes an act of extreme machismo! It's like slamming yer old lady when she's in heat.
No missed shifts because with the heel-toe method, the weight of one's leg comin' down on that sucker produces more leverage than pulling up with yer weak little toes. There's no wasted effort. It's simply a matter of letting the weight of your leg drop down on the shifter for the next higher gear. This produces a satisfyingly convincing shift. No ambiguity here, friends.
Think about it. The next time you're pumping air into your tires using your handy little stand up bicycle pump by pushing down on the plunger---imagine how much harder it would be to be putting those PSIs into your Avons if you had to pull up on the plunger instead pushing down with your body weight. With a heel-toe shifter, it's all push and no pull, man.
I rest my case.
This was an example of how much influence Snow had one me---more than I believe he knew. To wrest me away from my ingrained prejudices regarding the heel-toe shifter as a remnant of garbage barge styling, was no small thing. This one huge act of changing my mind about the fundamental technique of changing gears, has enhanced my riding pleasure beyond measure. Thanks David!
Exponentially, I owe it to David for every single year that I enjoyed shifting Mabel's classic 4-speed trans since I was converted to heel-toe shifting in 1993. That's a lotta years, man. If every year represented a c-note, I'd owe Snow $1,700 by now. Taken by the shift? I'd of made him a millionaire! I'm grateful to Snow for turning me onto a motorcycle part that's made my riding life easier and more fun. There seem to be other motivations though---for using the heel-toe shifter. Not all heel-toe shifter converts are card-carrying members of the Tough Guys Union.
Check out what this clown has to say:
".....either stick your toe underneath front toe lever and lift up, does the same thing as pushing down with your heel on the back lever, its like a see-saw action on a V shaped lever. Some people like to use the heel shifter so not to mark up the top of their boots also. On my Honda VTX, its this ways anyways...."
Leave it to a Honda rider to worry about his snakeskin boots. Man, wotta pussy. Others have voiced some concern about injuring 'emselves in the very dangerous act of shifting to the next highest gear. Check out what this other guy has to say about it:
"....Personally I love the heel/toe shifter. But it did take some getting used to. Once you get the hang of it, it is easier. Since I do not wear steel-toed riding boots, I occasionally would bruise my toe and have to shift with the side of the sole of my boot. Sometimes that didn't always work either. Just personal comfort for me!..."
Hey man, can I get ya a band-aid for your toe? "Boo-hoo...I hurt my toe....sniff...sniff..." Hey whatever. But you get their point. The heel toe-shifter gives miles and miles of comfy shifting. What's more, it's fun! What more can ya want? Check it out and get one. I guarantee that you'll enjoy the act of shifting gears as a separate entity more, and will add gobs of pleasure to your riding experience.
I heartily recommend the heel-toe shifter to any of ya neanderthals out there who disparage this great component as a vestige of Garbage Wagon Life, or an effete affectation for the toughness-challenged. If it's good enough for my righteous Harley stroker and me, then it's good enough for you. Later.