While semi-automatic gearboxes for motorcycles are nothing new, the one KTM is developing is far simpler and more cost effective
Even when the shift to electric is inevitable, OEMs continue to invest in developing newer technologies for their ICE-based motorcycles. A recent example involves KTM that is developing an automatic gearbox for its 1301cc LC8 V-twin engine. This engine is in use with most of KTM’s touring-oriented motorcycles such as KTM 1290 Super Adventure S/R and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. New versions of these bikes for 2024 or 2025 are also under development.
While the responsiveness and sense of control associated with a manual gearbox is always desirable, an automatic gearbox has its own set of benefits. For example, users can focus more on riding and avoid the possibility of stalling. An automatic gearbox is also useful when negotiating heavy traffic.
KTM automatic gearbox – How it works?
With its automatic gearbox, KTM will be looking to improve competencies against rivals. For example, Honda already has a DCT system. The company has sold more than 2 lakh motorcycles in Europe, which are equipped with the DCT gearbox. However, Honda’s DCT system is quite complex. It has advanced electronic and hydraulic systems and the clutch and shifter cannot be used in conventional manner. KTM’s automatic gearbox is much simpler in comparison.
KTM automatic gearbox comprises a centrifugal clutch that connects the engine and transmission. This is different from the SCS (Smart Clutch System) being used by MV Agusta. KTM automatic gearbox engages at rev range higher than idle, allowing users to start and stop without having to use the clutch lever. While riding, gearshifts can be achieved without disengaging the clutch with the use of an up-and-down quickshifter and blipper system.
Solution to prevent the bike from rolling on a slope
Patent application filed by KTM reveals a solution to a common problem associated with centrifugal clutch. When parked on a slope with gear engaged, the motorcycle will start rolling. This is because the centrifugal clutch is set to disengaged state by default, disconnecting the engine from the transmission. This is just the opposite of what happens with a normal, manual clutch.
A solution to this problem is having a separate parking brake. OEMs like MV Agusta are already using this solution. However, KTM has developed a different solution altogether. KTM has developed a unique locking system that is placed inside the gearbox itself. It stops the bike from turning, which prevents the rolling away of the bike off its side stand.
An L-shaped pawl is used to control the turning of the transmission. The pawl is controlled by the shift drum that will engage the pawl only when the user selects ‘Park’. This stops the transmission from turning.
One of the key supporting components of KTM’s automatic gearbox is an electric actuator. This is used to move the shift drum. With an electric actuator, the working can be controlled by the bike’s electronics. It could be manual via dedicated buttons or fully automatic. The parking lock is designed as such that it is automatically disengaged when a gear is selected.