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Heel And Toe/Blipping On Downshifts

Note: This blog was first pulished 15 August 2012.

The other morning I was chuffed to bits, having just used near-perfect heal and toe technique whilst braking for the end of the dual carriageway on my way to work!

I had decided that it wasn’t worth me learning the heel and toe braking technique, as I know far more racing drivers who don’t use it than who do.

As mentioned previously, I suspect it’s one of those big black clouds that people see as the near-impossible difference between us lesser mortals and Racing Drivers.

Either way, I figure this is worthy of a separate blog.

So what IS Heel and Toe?

Well, the basic aim is to blip the throttle as you shift down a gear, which will match the engine revs and result in a much smoother gearshift.  Because the revs are better matched between gears, you don’t get that jolt as the clutch takes all the strain of equalising the revs between gears, and so the tyres are also far less likely to lose grip as you downshift already on the edge of traction.

You need to brake using the ball of your foot below your big toe, so that half of your foot is over the throttle pedal, and as you press the clutch in and change down a gear, you tilt your foot so you catch the accelerator briefly, and then let the clutch out again.

Some keep the top half of their foot on the brake and twist their foot so they touch the accelerator with their heel – hence the name ‘heel and toe’.  I chose to use the side of the foot after watching some YouTube videos of how drivers like Ayrton Senna did things.  You can’t argue with the technique of the best racing driver ever!

It’s kinder mechanically, but also you get that sporty WHOM-WHOM-WHOM sound which sounds beautiful through a tuned exhaust.  Bonus.

On a bike it was one of the first advanced riding techniques I learnt, and I use it all the time as it’s now second nature, just like clutchless upshifting.  For the two-wheel version you simply whack it down a gear with your foot and quickly flick your throttle hand to match the revs.  Far easier than a car, it has to be said!

A few nights ago I got to have a proper play around tight, twisty lanes in rural Worcestershire, and got lots of practice in.  My success rate of using heel and toe jumped from around 2 out of 10 shifts at the start of the week when I first tried it, to a solid 8 out of 10!

Maybe I will have mastered it enough to use it in the ARDS test?

This morning I also had my first crack at it whilst wearing my Vibram FiveFingers.  Awesome.  They are PERFECT for it, because you have all the essential feel plus the flexibility!

It was, however, just pointed out by a cow-orker that driving barefoot is illegal.  I wonder how that would go if I got pulled over driving in the FiveFingers?

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