Suzuki V-Strom Current Gear Indicator

[Iron Jungle] just finished building this gear indicator for his motorcycle. It uses a red 7-segment display to show the rider what gear is currently engaged. This hack is pretty common and makes us wonder why all motorcycles don’t come standard with the feature? But then again, if they did you wouldn’t have a reason to hack them.

The motorcycle does have a gear sensor; apparently it only lacks a way to display this data. The sensor outputs a signal between 0 and 5V which [Iron Jungle] reads using a PICAXE 18M2 microcontroller. Patching into that signal wasn’t hard at all. Once he found the correct wire he simply removed a portion of the insulation and soldered a lead to the conductor. This should stand up to the vibrations encountered in an automotive application like this one. Since the computing power is already there, he also included a DS18B20 to take ambient air temperature readings. Check out the quick demo after the break.

This is not the first time we’ve seen the V-Storm get a custom gear indicator. But if you really want to go all out, perhaps you need to build an interface for your tablet or smart phone.[youtube=]

34 thoughts on “Suzuki V-Strom Current Gear Indicator

      1. OK, I also have heard that solder joints in vehicle wiring are inferior to crimped connections. However, I don’t think the NASA Workmanship documents support this.

        Link: IPC J-STD-001ES, Space Applications Electronic Hardware Addendum to J-STD-001E Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies (except Chapter 10). (From this page.) I don’t see anything in this document about joining wires, only about terminating wires to circuit boards.

        Now, in the NASA Workmanship Standards: Pictorial Reference, <a href="; section 4.01, the following is mentioned:


        The solder sleeve has been properly installed and tightly shrunk. Strain relief is acceptable. Overlaps are of sufficient length to meet minimum electrical spacing. Solder fillet is visible, fully flowed and smooth.

        NASA-STD-8739.4 [11.4]

        In conclusion, crimped connectors with good strain relief are the best, but in some cases a well-done solder joint may be acceptable (with proper strain relief to prevent fatigue). It’s also worth noting that the NASA guidelines are based on leaded solder… for lead-free applications, I imagine that wire-to-wire solder joints are even less desirable.

    1. Probably nothing. You don’t solder connections in cars/motorcycles, ever. Solder is far too brittle. Crimp connections are much much more reliable, which is why they’re the only thing used in cars.

      1. That’s funny because I’ve taken apart many ECUs and my MAF and all have solder joints. It’s very common to find solder joints on a PC board in an automotive/motorcycle application.

        I’ve actually made my own patch harness for the piggyback fuel and timing controller in my car by soldering stranded wire directly to a PCB mount connector. The trick is to absorb the vibrations and provide strain relief with adhesive lined shrink wrap tubing.

  1. You used to see gear indicators on some bikes, but not anymore. Aftermarket indicators, for some reason, run well over $100 and aren’t always accurate.

    Some veteran riders argue this: If you strive to be a proficient rider, you’re supposed to train yourself to always know what gear you’re in. To a new rider, the gear indicator becomes an obstacle to understanding what your bike is doing by feel and sound alone.

    Plus, the electronics would probably fail and give an inaccurate reading at the most inconvenient possible moment.

    1. Yeah, the specific gear you’re in is not all that important. It’s all relative… When you’re accelerating, you shift up at redline or somewhere past the torque peak. When you’re decelerating, you shift down to keep the engine rpm up in a usable range. When you’re cruising along, you select a gear that lets the engine run smoothly and efficiently.

      I like microcontroller projects, so I like this… But you can count me in as someone who doesn’t “get” gear indicators.

      1. I imagine I might find a gear indicator useful when a red light turns green as I’m slowing down.

        I find myself feathering the clutch a bit in those situations to make sure I’m in a suitable gear.

    2. I remember the first time I tried to ride a bike (I’m a total newbie, my total riding time probably doesn’t even hit 2 hours).

      My friend just told me this: don’t let the bike tilt to much when you’re stopped or you won’t be able to hold it; this is your front brake and this is your back brake, this is your clutch, you shift sequentially up and down. Be very gentle when taking or, bikes are a lot more sensitive than cars, you will fall back if you don’t be gentle. Well, now go. That being said I just went, never felt the necessity of a gear indicator. Didn’t know the gear I was in either; after all it’s a matter of listening to the engine and feeling the bike.

      Funny thing, only after I got it going he remembered to say “oh, forgot to mention you have no rear brakes. have fun!” Since it was mostly a gravel road, I remember thinking if it would ruin the bike using the engine to help braking. I’m wanting a bike for myself since then!

  2. I’m a pretty active member of SVRider, a forum dedicated to the sportbike wrapped around this same motor. This has been discussed and attempted by several users, including myself, and one guy actually made a very nice unit for his SV650 that he installed in the speedo. The biggest hurdle for the first guy that posted about it was actually the noisy electrical signal due to the high-voltage spark coils. The vibration of the motor was never really an issue for anyone that attempted it.

    1. My first thought when I saw this project was, mmm…no electrical noise suppression. It’s probably a good idea to always include protection on circuits that are going to be attached to a car or motorbike. Not only on the power wiring, but sensor wiring as well.

  3. I’m a memmber of the TL forums ( and a ton of people there have done this mod to their TLR/TLS (similar engine to the V-Strom) with varyling levels of success. I never needed one for my TLR though, like Alex said…being a good rider means knowing what gear you’re in and what gear you need to be in for any given situation. Simple as that.

  4. He did it the hard way.

    The “NEUTRAL LIGHT” switch can be replaced with a multi position switch that will give a true gear indication instead of trying to assume based on RPM and speed.

    guys have been doing this mod using the right switch (it’s common, just use the one off of their geezer glide motorcycle that has the indicator) for well over 20 years now.

  5. For the benefit of none riders like myself, are motorcycle transmissions sequential shifting? (i.e. you can’t skip gears?)

    If sequential shifts, actual gear is less relevant, because you really only have just one option in any given situation.

    1. Nope, every bike I’ve ridden goes 1-N-2-3-4-5-. . .
      Mostly sequential, but not quite. And the overlap in what speeds the bike is comfortable with in each gear is often very different. The Honda I took my training on could start from second without stalling, or jump from 1st to 3rd if you got close to redlineing. 2nd gear didn’t get quite fast enough to jump to fourth, though.

      And apologies to the mods, mobile site puts the report button right where I scroll and requires that report be hit before reply is visible.

  6. Just what the world needs, noob riders taking their eyes off the road to look for a digit display to tell them what gear they’re in.

    If you need something like this, put the training wheels back on, you’re not ready to ride on the street.

    1. Well, you can see my comments on this above, but if you need more than a split second to read the gauges on your instrument cluster, maybe *you* should be the one handing in your keys.

  7. Neat project, I did something very similar for my gs 500.

    I used an Attiny87 for mine though.

    To address the comment about noobs needing this. It’s winter time here and bikes are put away, if you enjoy making things and have the know how to do something like this why not?

  8. Suzuki has had digital gear indicators on their bikes since the 1970’s. Had one on every Suzuki I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned several. Probably why you found the sensor in place and not the indicator. Just easier to outfit the bike with the same gear even if it isn’t going to be used.

    1. While many of their bikes might have a digital gear indicator the gs500 doesn’t. in fact it doesn’t even have a sensor from the factory. Someone from gstwins pointed me in the right direction to find a gear position switch from another Suzuki that fit on mine.

      The switch itself, grounds an output when in a gear.

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