Tired of having to use your clutch like a poor person but don’t want to buy a Honda VFR or Africa Twin? A company called Biperformance Development Corporation (BDC) has just unveiled an aftermarket kit called the ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission (EST) that allows you to convert just about any motorcycle to a semi-auto and the ability to ride clutch free.
Correction. We were a little bit off on this article. The idea behind ShiftFX is purely focused on being incorporated with bikes a the point of manufacturing, not as an aftermarket peice of kit. We apologise for this mistake. The original article is below, but please also find an official press resale from ShiftFX as well.
The system combines physical changes to the gearbox coupled with an onboard computer to allow riders to transform their bikes into a push-button semi-automatic or fully automatic shifting. The ShiftFX EST consists of three main components: An active clutch with isolation valve, which retains the standard clutch lever for operation by the rider at any time; a high-speed DC motor and fixed gear reducer that directly rotates the shift drum; and a transmission control unit (TCU) that can be programmed to provide practically any desired shifting characteristics in either semi-automatic or automatic mode.
According to the company, ShiftFX EST provides a much simpler interface that eases a new rider’s introduction into motorcycling by eliminating the need to operate the clutch or manually shift the transmission. The automatic mode also offers convenience for all riders by reducing fatigue in heavy traffic, over long distances, or in adventure-type riding.
In semi-automatic mode, the transmission is shifted by electronic controls and the rider need only push a button to initiate an upshift or downshift, in a manner similar to high-end sports cars that are operated using a paddle shifter. Gear changes are precisely sequenced with engine control and occur in less than 50 ms, with the power cut on upshifts limited to as little as 30 ms.
Now obviously this isn’t a plug and play system and is one that will require a little mechanical know how to install. But will it really work with every bike that’s currently on sale? According to BDC, ShiftFX EST takes advantage of the fact that every major motorcycle manufacturer produces engines with a common clutch and gearbox design and so by interfacing electromechanical and electrohydraulic controls with this existing design, a system offering semi-automatic and fully automatic shifting can be produced that can be adapted easily to an existing engine’s architecture and transmission components.
That seems like a stretch to us. While the principles behind almost every gearbox and clutch may be the same, their packaging does vary and it seems unlikely that a one size fits all approach will suffice. Regardless, it’s a very interesting concept and no doubt would be attractive to some riders and no doubt part of the push by BDC is to play directly with the manufacturers – seeing as only Honda really provides DCT options on motorcycles at the moment, there may be interest from some of the other makers to implement this system (perhaps even as an option on standard models).
At the moment, there’s no word on when the units will become available and for how much.
Biperformance Development Corporation Introduces the ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission for OEM Applications
Following several years of research and development, including the use of materials and technology new to the motorcycle industry, Biperformance Development Corporation (BDC) announces the completion of its state-of-the-art transmission control system for OEM motorcycle applications, the ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission (EST). The system builds on existing gearbox design, adding a sleek, simple rider interface to provide push-button semi-automatic or fully automatic shifting.
For decades, the vast majority of automobiles sold in North America have been equipped with automatic transmissions that allow drivers to conveniently operate their vehicles without having to use a clutch or manually shift gears. This feature appeals just as much to many motorcyclists, and especially newer riders that—being used to driving automobiles equipped with automatic transmissions—may be intimidated by having to manually shift gears and as a result be less likely to purchase their first motorcycle. More recently, high-end sports cars have adopted manual transmissions controlled by “paddle” shifters for semi-automatic operation; these systems offer not only the superior performance and control of a manual transmission, but also the convenience and ease of clutchless shifting and even fully automatic operation.
In both respects, the motorcycle industry has fallen behind the automotive industry, with few models that incorporate some form of automatic or semi-automatic transmission; and those systems that are available fall short in terms of the benefits they offer to motorcyclists. ShiftFX EST addresses these issues, with the performance benefits of push-button semi-automatic shifting and, should the rider desire, the convenience of a fully automatic transmission.
In automatic mode, ShiftFX EST provides a much simpler interface that eases a new rider’s introduction into motorcycling by eliminating the need to operate the clutch or manually shift the transmission. The automatic mode also offers convenience for all riders by reducing fatigue in heavy traffic, over long distances, or in adventure-type riding.
In semi-automatic mode, the transmission is shifted by electronic controls and the rider need only push a button to initiate an upshift or downshift, in a manner similar to high-end sports cars that are operated using a paddle shifter. In this mode, the ShiftFX EST system combines the high performance and precise control of a manual transmission with the speed and smoothness of electronic control for significant overall performance benefits. Gear changes are precisely sequenced with engine control and occur in less than 50 ms, with the power cut on upshifts limited to as little as 30 ms.
The highlights of the ShiftFX EST are:
- Automatic mode ideal for new riders, with simple rider interface and no stalling.
- Semi-automatic mode offers smooth, precise push-button shifting with average shift time of 50 milliseconds.
- Retains manual clutch lever for emergency braking, aggressive launches or poor traction situations.
- Reduces engine, clutch and transmission wear and abuse.
- Communicates with ECU via CAN bus for rpm matching, engine braking and incorporation into OEM riding modes.
- Programmable for any desired load/speed characteristics.
- Applicable to almost any motorcycle, including electric bikes.
The ShiftFX EST consists of three main components: A state-of-the-art Active Clutch with isolation valve, which retains the standard clutch lever for operation by the rider at any time; a high-speed DC motor and fixed gear reducer that directly rotates the shift drum; and a sophisticated transmission control unit (TCU) that can be programmed to provide practically any desired shifting characteristics in either semi-automatic or automatic mode.
Using a high-tech shape-memory alloy, the BDC Active Clutch is an elegant and unique design that allows electrohydraulic control of the clutch in a unit weighing less than half a kilogram. This technology has seen very limited use in automotive applications, and the BDC Active Clutch is the first commercial motorcycle application for shape-memory alloy. An added benefit of the BDC Active Clutch is that it retains the standard clutch lever that has direct connection to the clutch slave cylinder. The ShiftFX EST relies on an auto-clutch for launching and anti-stall.
Gear Control System
The ShiftFX EST system eliminates the shift lever and ratcheting mechanism in a standard gearbox and replaces it with a patented mechanism consisting of a high-speed DC motor and gear reducer that rotates the shift drum directly. This setup allows the transmission to be shifted from any gear to any gear or to neutral, and with advanced controls mitigates the gear-jam problem commonly associated with motorcycle gearboxes. Wear on the transmission components is reduced, and the standard ratcheting system is eliminated.
Transmission Control Unit
This state-of-the-art, compact control unit is fully programmable to provide almost any shifting characteristic based on speed, load, gear position, throttle position or other parameters. The TCU also protects against engine over-revving, limits shifting into and out of neutral, and limits clutch torque transfer during shifts, reducing wear and tear on the engine components. The unit is also capable of communicating with the motorcycle’s ECU via a CAN bus to control engine braking and match engine and road speeds on downshifts. Through the TCU, the ShiftFX EST can be incorporated into a motorcycle’s OEM riding modes, providing specific shifting characteristics based on a selected riding mode.
Overall control of the transmission is through a mode selection switch; here the rider can select either semi-automatic or full-automatic control of the transmission, or put the transmission in neutral. In semi-automatic mode, the transmission is shifted via push buttons near the left handlebar. An optional foot lever can be provided to retain a traditional shifting interface, although the transmission is still shifted electronically through the ShiftFX EST system. The manual clutch lever is retained and can be used to override the BDC system at any time.
In designing and developing the ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission, BDC had four specific goals in mind:
Retain manual clutch lever for clutch override
By using an innovative, patented Active Clutch control, ShiftFX EST retains the standard clutch lever of the manual transmission, allowing the rider to operate the clutch at any time, in either mode. This is useful for many situations, such as reduced traction, low-speed manoeuvres, aggressive launches and emergency braking.
Require no changes to existing engine architecture; utilize standard internal gearbox parts
ShiftFX EST takes advantage of the fact that every major motorcycle manufacturer produces engines with a common clutch and gearbox design; by interfacing electromechanical and electrohydraulic controls with this existing design, a system offering semi-automatic and fully automatic shifting can be produced that can be adapted easily to an existing engine’s architecture and transmission components.
Minimal drivetrain losses; no hydraulic pumps
ShiftFX EST incorporates electronic control of the shift drum and clutch, requiring minimal electronic power to operate. There are no additional hydraulic pumps or drivetrain losses, and the system’s electrical requirements are easily met using a typical motorcycle’s charging system.
Lightweight and compact individual components
The complete BDC system adds less than2 kilograms to a typical motorcycle’s weight. The three main components of the system each weigh less than 400 grams, and some of the additional weight is offset by the elimination of the motorcycle’s shift lever and ratchet mechanism.
Dean Pick, President, Biperformance Development Corporation – “We have developed this technology over several years and feel it’s superior to any automatic or semi-automatic transmission system currently available. The system is compact, light weight, and doesn’t take power away from the engine. Our demonstrator unit is a production motorcycle with ShiftFX EST added on, and it required no major modifications or engine block machining for the components to be integrated. I’m confident that the system will appeal to new riders that want the convenience of an automatic transmission as well as experienced riders looking for the performance and fun of a semi-automatic system. Now that the system has been fully developed on our demonstrator models and our patents have been granted, we are ready to bring the technology to market in partnership with an OE manufacturer.”
For more information about the ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission, please visit www.shiftfx.com/ electronic-shift-transmission.