Home Cars & Bikes BMW Motorrad unveils Automated Shift Assistant for motorcycles

BMW Motorrad unveils Automated Shift Assistant for motorcycles

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Gear up for a smoother and more enjoyable ride! BMW Motorrad has announced that its Automated Shift Assistant (ASA) is set to arrive in South Africa in the third quarter of 2024.

The R 1300 GS large adventure bike will be the first model to receive ASA, but other models with the 1 300 cc motor, like the RT tourer, should be hot on its heels.

Unlike Honda’s dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), BMW’s ASA is an automated manual transmission (AMT). Think of it as a manual transmission shifted by a robot. 

So, the transmission is built just like a normal motorcycle’s sequential manual ’box. But, instead of a primate doing the work, a computer commands actuators (think of them as the robot’s fingers) to operate the clutch and change gears. Sensors monitor engine speed, clutch position, and rider input, feeding information to the control unit for seamless gear changes.

Though BMW has put their own spin on it, AMTs aren’t new. In South Africa, you can find numerous Suzuki cars, like the automatic versions of the Swift and Celerio, using AMTs. Many delivery trucks, as well as a host of other four-wheelers (including the Smart car) have these self-shifting manual transmissions.

Here’s a video from Bosch showing how it works.

No clutch lever, but shifter remains

Motorcycle riders tend to be conservative, rejecting rider aids like ABS, traction control, and cornering brake assist. These luddites are reminiscent of the bumper sticker sometimes seen on the back of ‘classic’ vehicles, like Jeeps, Yugos and Ladas: “NO AIRBAGS. We die like MEN”.

Despite this comical attitude, Honda’s DCT Africa Twin often outsells the manually operated version. Don’t be surprised if the same happens with sales of the R 1300 GS and other BMWs fitted with the ASA.

While BMW has deleted the clutch lever on its ASA-equipped tourers, the gear lever remains in its usual position – by the rider’s left foot. The Bavarian manufacturer probably reckons this will keep some of the traditionalists happy, as it allows them to perform shifts when the bike is in manual mode, as explained here later.

BMW claims the ASA will transform the riding experience by automating clutch and gear changes, all while retaining the thrill of manual control when desired. 

Precision, control, and comfort

According to BMW, starting, stopping, and manoeuvring become much easier, freeing up the rider to focus on the road ahead. It believes the ASA is particularly beneficial for riders carrying luggage or passengers, reducing multitasking demands.

BMW says the ASA isn’t just about convenience; it also delivers exceptional performance. According to the manufacturer, the system boasts lightning-fast, rev-matched gear changes, ensuring a smooth and efficient ride. This translates to better motorcycle acceleration, increased stability, and a minimised risk of jerky movements.

To find out if this is true, you will have to read a comprehensive road test of an ASA-equipped BMW, because these automated manuals can be dissatisfying to ride. Shifts can be slow and jerky, with a frustrating lull in power delivery between shifts. Given BMWs track record, however, I’ll wager money that they have eliminated the above-mentioned ghosts from the machine.

Two modes for tailored riding

The ASA offers two distinct modes:

Manual (M) Mode: In this mode, riders retain complete control over gear changes using the familiar foot-operated gearshift lever, without using a clutch lever. The ASA ensures smooth gear transitions, eliminating the clutch lever entirely, BMW claims. The image above suggests that the rider will also be able to

Automatic (D) Mode: The ASA takes over completely, automatically selecting gears based on engine speed, throttle position, and lean angle. This allows for a relaxed and effortless riding experience, perfect for long journeys or cruising, says BMW.

Enhanced safety and off-road prowess

With automatic clutch control, tackling uphill gradients should be effortless, while off-road manoeuvring benefits from superior vehicle control. Additionally, automatic downshifts in manual mode prevent stalling, providing an extra layer of safety and comfort, BMW mentions in a press release.

“Specific characteristics of the automated shift function are assigned to the different riding modes to ensure perfect shift behaviour in each riding situation. In combination with Active Cruise Control or front collision warning, the networking of functions also brings the future of motorcycling to life,” BMW enthuses.

BMW R 1300 GS

Conclusion

Overall, the BMW Motorrad Automated Shift Assistant brings a welcome new riding experience. Whether you crave a relaxed touring adventure, gravel travel, or a dynamic on-road experience, Beemers with ASA should be as easy to ride as the electric BMW CE 04.

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