British transmission gurus Xtrac is better known for its history in Group A rally racing, and more recently for its work with the Lotus, Virgin, and HRT Forumla 1 teams (resume clients also include teams from IndyCar, Touring Car, Rally, GRAND-AM, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans); but with its latest announcement, Xtrac could add a new bullet point to its laundry list of achievements.
Recently pulling out of stealth mode its newest piece of gearbox madness: the Instantaneous Gearchange System (IGS), Xtrac’s race-bred driveline technology promises to be a lighter, cheaper, and less complex alternative to dual-clutch transmissions (DCT), which have popped up on the Honda VFR1200F & Honda Crosstourer Concept, and is rumored to hit the Honda CBR1000RR and Yamaha R1 in the coming models years. The key to IGS resides in the fact that the gearbox can simultaneously select and engage two gears at the same time, while employing only one set of drive gears, thus resulting in gear changes that have zero power loss to the wheels.
While DCT as a technology is just now making its way into motorcycles like the 2010 Honda VFR1200F, it very well may be obsolete by the time it gains mainstream acceptance in the industry. DCT setups, while adding performance gains in shifting, come with added weight, size, and complexity, issues that on a motorcycle get amplified by the relatively light already existing drive system packages, confined space, and do-it-yourself nature of motorcycle owners. Unveiled at the Berlin International CTI Symposium, Xtrac IGS may not be able to relieve that last issue, but the company’s technology promises to be a more robust solution for motorcycles on the first two aspects.
IGS works by using a ratchet and pawl mechanism between the gear hubs, the main shaft is able to select and engage two gears simultaneously, with only one set of drive gears. With two years of racing on the Instantaneous Gearchange System already completed, Xtrac believes IGS is ready for prime time, and adoption in OEM automobile and motorcycle solutions. We’ll likely see IGS technology end up in hybrid vehicles first, where the gearbox can aid in a more seamless switch between electric and ICE powertrains. As the system proves itself with manufacturers, expect its applications to grow from there.
While the complete adoption of DCT and IGS gearboxes in the motorcycle industry is likely still a ways off, news like this certainly paints the picture on where technology is heading in this space. It likely won’t be long before we start talking about “vintage” manual transmissions, and the good old days when the left hand lever was used for clutch actuation.