Superbike manufacturers are always trying to step-up the technology on its bikes, especially with the litre-class offerings. For example, Yamaha was the first to offer a cross-plane crankshaft on the R1 in 2009 – technology only seen on MotoGP bikes. Similarly, BMW’s HP4 RACE brought a carbon-fibre frame to the table, which had been developed for MotoGP; and this brought about a game-changing reduction in the motorcycle’s kerb weight.
Now, judging by the looks of this patent image, it appears as if Yamaha wants to be the first to offer a MotoGP-derived seamless gearbox on its litre-class superbike, the YZF-R1.
If you have used a quickshifter before, you would know how much quicker it is to a conventional clutch-pulled upshift or downshift. However, Honda engineers at the company’s factory team back in 2011 had already thought that gearshifts could be even faster (even if it were by milliseconds) and that’s how seamless transmission came to be.
Simply put, a seamless transmission does not go into neutral between disengaging the gear you are in and the gear you are about to go in. It engages the next ratio while the current ratio is still running. The system is extremely advanced on MotoGP bikes, where it has many small pawls inside the gear wheels which lock and unlock the gears in a 'ratchet' fashion. So you can have two gears engaged at the same time momentarily, but the slower gear freewheels on the pawls, which means that there's no interruption in drive at all.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the quicker shifts, but the smoothness of the shifts that impressed the MotoGP riders. This gave them the confidence to shift gears even while cornering at high speeds; and we believe this is what Yamaha could be aiming to offer with the next-gen YZF-R1.
As nice as it sounds, though, this high-tech gearbox is hugely complex and prohibitively expensive to build. The annual lease cost for a seamless gearbox just a few years ago was 3 lakh euros (Rs 2.49 crore)!
Patent drawings may hint at future products but they aren’t always a solid indicator of what will finally make it to the production models. Nevertheless, if this gearbox were to come to a production bike, Yamaha will obviously have to have figured out a much more cost-effective solution – and it will be very interesting to see what that is.
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