For many riders, the reason for their enduring love for riding is because of the feeling of being connected to their steeds. Riding, after all, requires constant mind and body coordination.
Unlike with cars, a rider must be precise with his or her throttle control, clutching and shifting, and even weight-shifting, as any mismatch in these aspects can be easily felt in the power delivery or handling. It's a lot to handle but is also more rewarding when you master it.
However, these days, more and more modern motorcycles come equipped with rider aids to make it easier to ride. These aids help the rider focus more on the road than on, for example, shifting gears or keeping the engine revs at the right level just to maintain traction on the road.
One of these new aids is Honda’s Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). Just like in cars, it works by taking over clutch and shifting duties. DCT's are designed to rev-match the engine to the appropriate gear, giving the rider the sporty feel of a manual with the convenience of an automatic. The rider can still shift with its “manual mode,” through buttons on the bike’s handlebars.
While there are detractors to this technology, a lot of riders also praise the system. After all, it lets them focus more on riding than having to balance the revs and time the clutch release.
Kawasaki is developing its own semi-automated transmission, but unlike Honda's Dual-Clutch, it will use a single clutch and the rider still has the pleasure of shifting.
Based on the new patent filed by Kawasaki, the system still uses the good ol’ fashioned single clutch and shifter. The shifter is connected electronically to the transmission (shift-by-wire), while actuators do the shifting to the appropriate gear.
This design, according to Kawasaki, makes transmission design simpler and easier to maintain, compared to a dual clutch. Another benefit is being able to move the shifter pedal anywhere on the bike, without having to worry about connecting a shift rod. It will be especially useful for cruisers and tourers that have a feet-forward position.
To put it simply, the new design will make the bike’s shifter somewhat like a remote control, telling the gearbox what gear it should be in.
There's already something like this in cars. Suzuki has fitted it in the DZire and it's called an Auto Gear Shift +.
Who knows, maybe in the near future, this shift-by-wire tech could lead to even crazier designs and riding positions.