On February 9, 2023, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application filed by KTM AG in Mattighofen, Austria on August 2, 2022. The application itself concerns a “manual transmission lock for parking assistance,” which sounds fairly innocuous on its own. However, when you start to delve into the details of the invention, you get a fairly clear glimpse into what appears to be KTM’s future plans for a semi-automatic gearbox on at least some of its 1290 Super Duke variants.
As the patent text describes, parking motorcycles often involves engaging a gear to prevent the wheels from simply rolling away, such as when parked on sloped terrain or during transport. It goes on to describe that in motorcycles with automatic gearboxes (such as scooters), use of either a separate parking brake or a system that engages the existing front and/or rear brakes instead is necessary. However, these things both have certain disadvantages, including either installation of additional parts or potential extra strain on the existing braking system.
KTM’s solution, as described in this patent, involves a gearshift lock with a pawl wheel within the gearbox that can be blocked by a pawl and effectively locked in place. Since the patent concerns this device, understandably, a good deal of the text (as well as the detailed diagram drawings) concerns the minutiae of how this system would work.
Gallery: KTM Manual Transmission Lock for Parking Assistance Patent
However, the part that’s most interesting is what comes next, when KTM spells out what type of gearbox it sees such a system being fitted into. The text reads, “Preferably the gearbox is designed as an automatic gearbox, preferably wherein the gearshift cylinder can be rotated by means of a gearshift motor and/or a gear drive. This means that gears can be shifted fully-automated, or automatically based on an actuation by the motorcyclist.”
It then goes on, a couple of paragraphs later, to say, “In one embodiment, the motorcycle comprises a ‘normally open’ clutch, preferably a centrifugal clutch, wherein the drive motor can be coupled to the gearbox by means of the ‘normally open’ clutch. In this way, the drive motor is coupled to the gearbox only when reaching a certain rotational speed. This is particularly typical of motorcycles with automatic gearbox. Besides centrifugal clutches, other ‘normally open’ clutches are also conceivable, for example hydraulic ‘normally open’ clutches.”
That's great, you might be thinking, but how do we know this specifically has to do with the 1290 Super Duke lineup? If you’ve looked at KTM’s extremely detailed patent drawings, you may already have noticed that some of them are so detailed, they feature part numbers. Naturally, the talented Ben Purvis over at Bennetts BikeSocial did what any reasonable person would do and looked those part numbers up—and lo and behold, he found (and RideApart has confirmed) that they’re already in use in existing 1290 Super Dukes.
It’s worth noting at this point that while the patent application we’re discussing here was filed in the U.S., a very similar patent application (only in German) was also filed with the European patent office on July 22, 2022, and published there on February 8, 2023—just one day prior to its publication in the U.S.
While there are never any guarantees with regard to patent applications and OEMs, and when (or if) we may eventually see what’s been patented on machines that we can actually ride, the idea certainly isn’t without precedent. Honda has been riding high on its Dual Clutch Transmission technology for years, as offered on the NC750X, the Africa Twin, and of course, the Gold Wing. MV Agusta similarly has offered its SCS system on both the Turismo Veloce Lusso and Dragster RR. Why shouldn’t KTM want to tap into similar markets with its own variation of such an idea?