SHIFTING GEARS on the drag strip is a completely new game where time is the essence.
The fastest riders these days use compressed air to shift gears. The compressed air is held in a storage tank, and when you hit a button on the handlebar, it’s released into a ram which forces the gearbox to change up (it also cuts out the motor for a split second to stop over-revving).
A perfect opportunity to have a look at one of these came up recently when Redgrave Motorcycles was asked to supply and install a high quality Pingel air shifter (the type used on top running drag bikes) on a customer’s Buell. This particular Buell is fitted with a 100 ci S&S engine also supplied by Redgrave Motorcycles.
Up until now the owner, Gary, had been using the original foot shifter. With the new shifter installed and adjustments made to the rest of the bike, he’s hoping to break into the 9-second bracket.
As the Buell has a unique frame with a lot of one-off parts, there was no off-the-shelf kit that would fit. The Pingel kit comes with all the necessary components but no specific brackets for attaching any of the components to a Buell frame.
The plunger was set at mid-stroke and a template made for a bracket with this in mind. This will need to be very accurate as any misalignment will load up the ram and cause the system to bind. The template was made using a piece high grade aluminium plate. High tensile bolts were used throughout the installation for the utmost in strength.
120 psi of compressed air is added to the system and is complete with a gauge and the button. To activate the system, the button is pressed and simultaneously air is released to the shift cylinder via the air shifting valve and the ignition is killed for a lightning fast shift.
The Buell is now ready for the drag strip and hopefully a personal best time for its owner.
Feature by Richard Nicolls at Redgrave Motorcycles.