Kawasaki working on automatic clutch system

The recent discovery of a patent filed by Kawasaki last year shows that the Japanese manufacturer is working on an automatic clutch system. This new innovation will work in tandem with a quickshifter to deliver smooth clutchless shifts even at low RPMs and small throttle openings.

  • Could eliminate the need for a clutch lever altogether
  • Clutch is electronically actuated, with decision making carried out by control unit
  • If it goes into production, it’s likely to debut on the Ninja 1000SX

The need for automated clutching

Quickshifters have been one of the biggest developments in motorcycle transmissions in recent years, but even though they’re now pretty commonplace, their functionality isn’t flawless. At high RPMs and large throttle openings, they do a good job of clutchless shifts, but under more docile riding conditions, the shifts can be rather jerky and clunky. Kawasaki hopes to fix this issue with the help of an automatic clutch system.

Kawasaki automatic clutch system: how does it work?

Above a certain RPM threshold, the quickshifter will work as normal, using ignition cuts or fuel cuts to deliver a clutchless upshift. But below that RPM threshold, the clutch will be automatically, electronically actuated to deliver a smooth upshift, without any rider input required at the clutch lever. A control unit determines this RPM threshold for each shift, based on a plethora of data that includes RPM, throttle opening, vehicle speed and even things like coolant temperature and atmospheric pressure.

Kawasaki automatic clutch system:debut models

The patent drawings show the system deployed on a Ninja 1000SX, and that seems like exactly the sort of bike where something like this would be most appreciated. The Ninja ZX-10R superbike is built solely with performance in mind, so smooth shifts at low RPMsand small throttle openings aren’t a high priority, but on a sports tourer like the 1000SX, they take higher importance. So, if this technology does go into production, expect it to debut on something like the Ninja 1000SX.

Kawasaki automatic clutch system: further applications

It’s also worth noting that, in these patent drawings, a traditional handlebar-mounted clutch lever is entirely absent.This hints at the possibility that the complete clutch function could be automated, right from setting off from a standstill to accelerating up the gears and then sliding back down the ‘box and coming to a halt. This wouldn’t be groundbreaking, since MV Agusta already offers an automatic Rekluse clutch on some of its 800cc models, and Honda is also working on a clutch-by-wire system that could automate clutch function.


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