What is a heel toe shifter?
In motorbikes with floorboards, the gear shifting mechanism is usually a heel-toe shifter: two shifting levers connected together in the shape of a V. In bikes with rider foot pegs, there is usually a toe shifter.
To change gears on the toe shift lever, you have to place your foot under the shifter and push up to shift into a higher gear, and pull your foot out, place it back on the lever, and push down to shift down.
With a heel-toe shifter, your foot is on the shifter, and you’d push down with the balls of your feet to shift into first gear, and push down on your heel to shift into the remaining gears. To shift down, you can push on the toe shift again.
You’d have to use the clutch in either situation, obviously.
Disadvantages of a heel toe shifter
One of the main problems of a heel toe shifter is that since it is used in bikes with floorboards, you can’t take extremely sharp, banked turns since the floorboards would scrape against the ground.
However, the kinds of bikes that heel toe shifters are on mostly are more cruising bikes than sport bikes, so you’re not going to be banking too steeply anyway.
Another disadvantage is that most bikers are accustomed to the toe shifters, and switching to a heel toe shifter is quite a learning curve especially if you’ve been riding toe shifters for a very long time.
A lot of people have bought bikes that have heel toe shifters in the stock configuration but they end up removing the heel shift part and only using the toe shift.
A second advantage of removing the heel shift and only using the toe shift is that it makes some more room in your floorboards. It also doesn’t work well for people who have large feet, who may find that their heels don’t fit properly on the heel shifter and that makes it uncomfortable for them to shift up.
However, other people have noted that the transition is quite easy and a couple of shifts will get you used to it.
Advantages of a heel toe shifter
The most obvious advantage of a heel toe shifter is that your boots don’t get scuffed up by pressing them up against the bottom of the shifter.
Some riders have also noted that the floorboards which go together with the heel toe shifters are useful for standing up and taking a break, especially on long rides.
Plus, since the heel toe shifter is simply an extended version of the toe shifter, if you don’t like pressing down with your heel to shift down, you can just use the front part as a toe-only shifter.
How to heel toe shift
Aftermarket conversion solutions
Luckily it’s quite easy to change from a toe shifter to a heel toe shifter and vice versa. There’s no one part that fits all sizes, though, so you’ll have to find a part that will properly fit your bike.
If you want to convert from a heel toe shifter to a toe shifter, you can simply remove the heel part and use a cap(available to purchase) to close the exposed spline.
Converting from a toe shifter to a heel toe shifter is a bit more difficult and requires buying the right part – but you can check out Amazon.com or other aftermarket sites that have a very good filtering system to make sure you get a part that fits your bike.