Riding a KTM 690 Duke with ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission

Brave new e-shift world

ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission close-up view
BDC’s goal with the ShiftFX EST was to not adulterate anything or water down the riding experience. Proof? This EST-equipped 690 Duke still wheelies.Jeff Allen

Motorcycling as we know it will not always be “motorcycling as we know it.” Technologies will continue to advance, the riding experience will evolve, and in the push to make motorcycles more accessible to a wider range of consumers, cutting-edge systems will begin to change what it means to ride a motorcycle.

One of the technologies that will transform the riding experience most, and one that many manufacturers have already shown interest in or experi­mented with, is automatic transmissions. Biperformance Development Corporation (BDC) recognized that shift and has gone on to develop its ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission, which it does not plan on making available to the aftermarket world but rather to manufacturers for use in their production motorcycles.

What sets ShiftFX's EST apart from current systems, like Honda's DCT, is that it uses a motorcycle's existing gearbox and doesn't add, at least in that example, an extra clutch or hydraulic pump that could result in parasitic loads. "The only difference between the standard engine to one with EST is a custom case cover," ShiftFX's Dean Pick says.

KTM 690 Duke on-road action
The EST’s active clutch uses a technology called shape memory alloy to pull in a piston much like how you’d pull in a clutch in a hydraulic clutch control system. It’s separating the basket, and the company uses a variety of control techniques to control the amount of torque passing through that clutch.Jeff Allen

A handful of pieces make this all possible and add only 4.4 pounds. These include a gearbox control system, which directly rotates the shift drum; an active clutch, which uses a technology called shape memory alloy to control the clutch; and transmission control unit, which communicates with the throttle-by-wire system to manage things like rev matching. A mode switch and buttons—for shifting when in semi-automatic mode—are the only pieces that suggest something is askew, as the lever for the APTC+ anti-stall clutch remains (and can be used).

In our time with a KTM 690 Duke that'd been outfitted with EST, we rode everything from city streets to canyon roads. And while that ride did suggest there's still room for small refine­ments in the programming, we did see how EST could be a selling point for inexperienced riders or those tired of fighting a clutch in around-town riding; simply push a button to put the bike in gear, and in automatic mode, EST does the rest.

ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission detailed view
Biperformance Development Corporation (BDC) recognized a shift to automatic transmissions and has gone on to develop its ShiftFX Electronic Shift Transmission.Jeff Allen

Semi-automatic mode was still better—if not because auto mode struggled ever so slightly with understanding which gear we needed in aggressive riding situations, then because of how it gave us complete control over shift points.

Because there’s a clutch lever, you can do wheelies, which is not something you can say about all automatic transmission motorcycles. And shifts are still precise, which is nice.

For manufacturers who don’t want to develop separate engine platforms but want to be able to offer con­sumers an automatic alternative, ShiftFX’s EST really could be a great option.