According to patent filings, Kawasaki is working on a new type of quick-shifter for street bikes. Traditionally, quick-shifters were designed for racers looking to eke every fraction of a second from lap times without the potential damage from clutchless shifts. Designed to work at the upper reaches of the rev range, they worked by momentarily cutting the ignition during the shift. Kawasaki’s system is designed to work similarly at high revs, but can also automatically actuate the clutch for smoother shifts and lower engine speeds. As such, the new system will be very well suited to normal street riding, and not just high revving track work.
The patent drawings feature a modified Ninja 1000 SX, proof that the system is meant more for street duty. A separate computer (distinct from the ECU) decides when to use the clutch and when to use the ignition cutout by taking into account engine speed, throttle opening, gear selection, gear lever pressure, vehicle speed, and other external factors.
The patent also describes a hybrid electric version, with an all-electric mode, electric and internal combustion mode, and internal combustion only mode, with different shift strategies for each.
How is this different than other motorcycles with computer controlled clutches, like the Yamaha FJR1300? The fact that the system still uses a more conventional “ignition cut” paradigm for shifts at high revs appears to be the biggest differentiator. It is not a dual-clutch system like Honda’s, either. But the Kawasaki patent drawings show a lack of a clutch lever, which might indicate that the system operates similarly to the automatics in the Yamaha and Honda stables.