In MotoGP, MotoGP

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MotoGP
, the top category of world motorcycling, is a fascinating and complex world full of advanced technologies and innovative technical solutions. Prominent among these is the reverse gearbox, an element that arouses curiosity among enthusiasts and novices alike. But why do MotoGP bikes adopt this particular type of gearbox? In this article, we will explore the reasons, history and advantages of the inverted gearbox, as well as understand how professional riders adapt and train with this configuration.

Introduction to MotoGP and the reverse gearbox

MotoGP is the premier class of motorcycling, where the fastest and most technologically advanced motorcycles in the world race. The technical details of these bikes, including transmission systems, are designed to maximize performance and safety on the track. One of the most unique features is the inverted gearbox, a configuration in which the order of gears is reversed from road bikes.

In a conventional transmission, gears are downshifted by pushing the shift lever down and upshifted by pulling it up. In reverse shifting, on the other hand, you downshift by pulling the lever up and upshift by pushing down. This configuration may seem counterintuitive to those accustomed to riding a road bike, but it offers several advantages on the track.

Reverse shifting was first adopted by professional riders to make it easier to shift gears during turns, where body position and the angle of the bike can make it difficult to use a traditional gearbox. The reverse configuration allows riders to shift gears without having to significantly alter their riding position, thus maintaining greater control and stability.

This technical solution is now a standard in MotoGP, adopted not only for its practical implications but also for the level of precision it offers. Most MotoGP riders have been training since the minor categories with the inverted gearbox, making it an integral part of their riding skills.

Motorcycle shift

History and origins of the inverted gearbox

The origins of the inverted gearbox date back to the 1970s, when drivers began looking for ways to improve their performance on the track. The first reverse gearbox configurations were experimented with in the minor categories and in endurance racing, where the need for quick and safe gear changes was particularly keen.

One of the pioneers in the use of the inverted gearbox was Kenny Roberts, an American rider who dominated the motorcycling scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Roberts adopted this configuration to improve his cornering effectiveness, a choice that contributed to his many successes and influenced many other riders.

As the years went by, the inverted gearbox became increasingly popular in the racing world, thanks in part to growing competition and the constant search for innovative technical solutions. Motorcycle manufacturers began to produce race-specific models with this configuration, making it easier for riders to adopt and perfect it.

In the 1990s, the reverse gearbox became a standard in the MotoGP-then 500 class, adopted by almost all teams and riders. This standard has persisted to the present day, becoming a distinguishing feature of racing motorcycles as opposed to road bikes.

Advantages of the reverse gearbox in MotoGP

The main advantage of reverse shifting is the ease with which it allows riders to downshift gears during turns, especially in left-hand turns, allowing smoother and faster gear changes without having to change body position too much.

Another significant benefit is increased security. With the inverted gearbox, drivers can maintain a more stable and focused position while driving, reducing the risk of mistakes that could lead to accidents. This is especially important in a discipline where fractions of a second can make the difference between victory and defeat.

The reverse gearbox also allows for better engine power management. When exiting corners, shifting gears quickly and precisely allows you to make the most of acceleration, Improving the overall performance of the bike. This is a crucial aspect in MotoGP racing, where every detail can affect the final outcome.

Adaptation and training of professional pilots

Adaptation to inverted shifting requires a specific training period. Drivers begin familiarizing themselves with this setup as early as the minor categories, where they can devote time and resources to develop the necessary skills. This process is essential to ensure that once they get to the more challenging championships or MotoGP, they are completely comfortable with the reverse gearbox.

Workouts include specific exercises both on and off the track, with simulations replicating race situations. Riders work on quick and precise gear shifts, getting used to using the lever intuitively. This type of training is essential for building muscle memory and automating the process of shifting gears.

The mental aspect is also important. Drivers need to develop the ability to stay focused and calm during more complex maneuvers. Familiarity with the inverted gearbox thus becomes a natural part of their technical arsenal, allowing them to focus on other aspects of driving such as strategy and analysis of race conditions.

The reverse gearbox is one of the many facets that make MotoGP such a unique and fascinating championship. Its adoption comes from a combination of technical innovation and practical necessity, and its benefits in terms of safety, efficiency and control are unquestionable. For drivers, adapting to this configuration requires dedication and training, but the results in terms of track performance definitely make it worth it. Ultimately, the inverted gearbox is a perfect example of how the pursuit of technical perfection can lead to innovative solutions and constant improvements in the racing world.

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Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Managing Director for RTR Sports, Riccardo graduated in law at the University of Bologna. He began his career in London in PR, then started working in two and four-wheelers. A brief move to Monaco followed before returning to Italy. There he founded RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company which, eventually, he moved back to London.
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