When I was in my early track day life, one of the (many) issues I had out on track was that I found it difficult to keep track of what gear I was in as I was riding round. At some circuits that required a large number of changes I would sometimes find myself using up a lot of my attention in the braking zone wondering if I was in the right gear.
This was obviously not the best use of my attention when I needed to be thinking about getting my body into position, hitting my braking marker, looking out for my turn point, then soon after my apex point. To then be looking down at my speedo trying to work out how many gears I needed to stamp down to put me in the best gear for corner entry and exit wasn’t ideal.
It was only after I got myself a motorcycle gear indicator that a lot of these problems went away.
Just for those of you that aren’t too sure, a gear indicator is just that. It is an indicator that tells you what gear you’re in at any given time. It works by connecting directly to your bike’s wiring and by using the signals through the electrics it works out which gear is currently selected.
Indeed there are. I know that I personally took comfort from the fact that if I ever lost where I was in the gears, after a brief glance at the indicator I would know exactly what gear I was in. This would then put me in the best position come corner entry as I would know just how many gears to stamp down before the corner.
This is obviously better than the usual guessing method that would often take place, after which I’d find myself in too high a gear so I couldn’t get the drive out the corner, or worse, too low a gear and the engine would be revving its nuts off going in.
With time you may well find you don’t need it as much. Many experienced riders will say they just use the engine revs and judge what gear they need at the time, but that’s something that comes with experience of the motorcycle your’re riding and the track you’re riding on, and many less experienced riders won’t have that knowledge or confidence, just as I didn’t.
With some of the below brands of gear indicator there are two different options. The first is the standard hard wired version which would require you to cut into your motorcycle’s wiring loom and connect up the various wires manually. The second and usually more expensive option is the plug and play version which comes with a cable that plugs the indicator straight into the existing loom.
Which you choose will be down to how much you want to spend and how good you are with wires.
As a guide, I had never touched any sort of electrics before but after following the supplied instructions and a wiring diagram for my bike I was able to fit it in fairly good time, though some bikes will be different to others and may require you to cut into the loom at different points, making it a little more difficult.
So that’s a look at what digital gear indicators are and what they do. Now let’s take a quick look at the three most popular options on the market.
The smallest, fastest and most feature rich choice, this GIpro gear indicator is said to be a doddle to fit and is as plug and play as they come for the money.
Older bikes may have to tag a wire or two direct into the loom, but generally it can be plugged straight in.
The X-Type comes with a programmable shift light function as well as a high speed warning feature. Something that you won’t find in other indicators.
Arguably the most popular choice and claimed as being the most universal, the Acumen comes in two versions; the standard hard wired version, or the plug and play version which will fit most common bikes.
It has been around for a good while and has produced many satisfied customers in that time.
Last but not least is the Datatool DIGI. This is the indicator that I actually own and use myself. It’s well built, well lit and it performs its job perfectly.
There’s not as many of them about it seems, and you may struggle to find a plug and play version now, but if you’re happy to spend a little time and patience fitting it, you can pick yourself up a brilliant little bit of kit for a lot less money than the other two options.
When I was looking around for my indicator, I got the Datatool Digi for such a good price I couldn’t pass up on it, and even now they are quite a bit cheaper than the other options which is hard to ignore.
However if I was buying again and money wasn’t as much of an issue then I would find myself leaning towards the GIpro X-Type. It looks like it’s made a little better, the fitting seems to be very easy and it has the added shift light feature. Based on that I would be happy to spend that little bit more and opt for the GIpro.
In truth though, each of these indicators are going to do exactly what you want them to – tell you what gear you’re in – so you really just need to decide whether you want to pay for convenience, or save a bit of cash and get your hands dirty.