Changing gears on a motorbike takes a lot of coordination and concentration to get it right, let alone do it at triple-figure speeds. Even when done correctly, shifting gears with a standard manual gearbox can result in an occasionally disconcerting lurch, which may be highly tense-inducing if you need to change gears in the middle of a turn. But what about MotoGP riders; do they have gears to shift?
Like regular street bikes, MotoGP bikes have gears, and riders can switch between them using a foot lever. However, some variations in the gearbox design and the gears’ arrangement on MotoGP bikes help the rider change gears smoothly to achieve peak performance.
The seamless gearbox used by MotoGP bikes is a significant improvement because it allows for quick and simple gear changes. Continue reading as we thoroughly examine the MotoGP seamless gearbox, how the transmission works and how it benefits MotoGP riders.
Contrary to what you might think based on the silky-smooth sound of a MotoGP bike and the apparent lack of clutch-hand action in the TV footage, MotoGP bikes have manual gearboxes. But all of their gears are “upside-down” compared to traditional motorcycles, and MotoGP riders no longer need to engage the clutch lever or release the throttle to change gears.
A gearbox with ultra-smooth gear changes, or one that can be operated without the clutch or throttle to assist the gear change, is known as a seamless shift gearbox. The innovative design of seamless gearboxes sets them apart from street motorcycle gearboxes.
This design enables the rider to select two gears at once, with the following gear essentially “waiting in line” for them when they need it. This results in smoother gear changes as well as faster gear changes.
So, when a rider accelerates out of a corner and shifts into a higher gear, the bike stays stable and is easier to control with less front-end disturbance. There is also an “auto-blip” feature that automatically blips the throttle to prevent jerkiness or a loss of stability when changing the gears when a rider is slowing down and wants to select a lower gear.
During a race, any inefficiency of the motorcycle or rider causes a loss of speed, which might make the difference between winning and losing. Every MotoGP bike has a seamless gearbox, enabling the rider to shift gears without temporarily losing efficiency.
The seamless gearbox differs in that it can engage two gears at the same time, though this happens only briefly. This allows the engine always to be driving the rear wheel, except for the few hundred milliseconds required for the gear change. This lessens the speed and power loss typically occurring when changing gears on a traditional motorcycle.
A MotoGP gearbox must be highly effective at delivering power and torque because it transfers engine power to the wheels. A slight power loss of only a few watts over time can make a difference in a setting where time is measured in thousandths of a second.
Every component of a MotoGP gearbox is constructed from the most robust metal or, if possible, lightweight titanium. Many of its parts are custom-made because the cost is not an issue, ensuring that they fit together perfectly, but this has the drawback that some parts are not easily interchangeable with another gearbox of the same type.
Since the gearbox plays a crucial role in determining the bike’s acceleration, every component inside must be manufactured to extremely tight tolerances. Any component that deviates from tolerance by a few thousandths of an inch must be replaced. Since top performance is required constantly, most components will need to be replaced after one or two races.
Before being utilized in a race, each gearbox is calibrated for a power output determined under test conditions. The constant advancement of gearboxes necessitates the modification of an existing gearbox to accommodate the changes. Rider feedback is carefully considered to make ongoing adjustments because they are acutely aware of how abruptly or smoothly the gears shift.
The MotoGP gearbox is an expensive piece of machinery with high levels of sophistication that is made with the best components and design engineering. The engine’s raw output power is transformed, so the rider has complete control over it. To be as effective as possible is the only goal that guided its design.
It requires a specialized cooling system because it is built to deliver maximum power while operating in extreme heat. Liquid coolant is brought into contact with the areas that produce heat before being circulated to dissipate using pipes and a small pump. Various systems use water, oil, or a different coolant.
In the past ten years, quick-shifter devices have made their way from the brains of brand-new, gleaming production motorcycles to plug-and-play kits that are now available for many of the motorcycles we love but didn’t come with a quick-shifter as standard. Generally speaking, seamless gearboxes and quick-shifters work toward the same objectives:
- Faster gear engagement
- Omit the need for a clutch and a throttle
- Keep momentum loss to a minimum
The load on the gearbox is reduced, allowing the desired gear to be selected by “killing” the throttle input when a sensor on the gear lever assembly detects movement from the rider selecting a gear. Such quick, exact actions can be carried out each time, thanks to the harmony between these systems and the ECU.
The seamless gearboxes found on MotoGP bikes aren’t the same. They have a lot of intricate features built right into them to prevent momentum loss, which benefits, for instance, handling and braking more than acceleration.
Riders in the MotoGP shift gears by utilizing a foot lever. The rider can change gears with a minimum amount of engine and gearbox separation thanks to a sophisticated slipper clutch system connected to the foot lever. As a result, there is a smooth transition with little jerk or vibration.
When opposed to a conventional street bike, the gears on a MotoGP gearbox are in reverse order, so the rider must press down on the foot lever to gear up. The highest gear in the gearbox is at the bottom, with the lower gears above.
Neutral is found between the first and second gear. Additionally, a specific lever on the bike’s handlebars must be engaged to allow the bike to be put into neutral. This is now standard procedure on all MotoGP gearboxes.
The slipper clutch is advantageous while slowing down and shifting gears because it stops the engine from over-revving by partially slipping until the engine speed matches the bike’s speed. Slipper clutches have found their way to street bikes, with several manufacturers offering to put them in their regular motorbikes for an extra fee.
MotoGP bikes have manual gearboxes, but they are designed specifically for racing. MotoGP riders use a foot pedal to change gears with a sophisticated slipper clutch mechanism, and they don’t need to use a clutch or release the throttle when changing gears.