The Next Great Debate……Shifting Gears?

So let’s talk about the big stories.  What will Donald Trump will say next?  Will the Iran nuclear deal pass?  What will the Feds find on Hillary’s server???  Who cares…these are nothing more than mass media attempts to distract you from the real news.  If you haven’t already heard, Yamaha is putting a freaking MANUAL transmission in a sport SxS! OMG!


Yesterday when we all found out the new Yami would have a 5 speed “manual”, we didn’t really expect to see a third pedal along with a manual stick shifter in the new entry from the blue team.  However, according to patent documents recently posted here on, that might actually be the case!

We know a few things for sure.  First, this system will be a 5-speed with a single, multi-disc, wet clutch.  Gears will most likely be selected sequentially. Yamaha also seems to be focusing closely on clutch durability and serviceability judging by certain excerpts from the patent shown below.


Now, here’s what we found to be really interesting.  According to additional verbiage within the patent shown below, it appears that the transmission may actually be manually shifted by the driver, as opposed to electrically operated by a rocker or paddle switches!

Manual Shift

With that said, the patent does leave the door open for an automatically shifted manual transmission (see below).  In this case, electric actuators will likely be used to control the clutch and shift rod, with shifts coming at the command of the driver through wheel mounted switches or controlled entirely by the ECU with an automatic mode.  Ultimately, this is where we expect Yamaha to go in order to appeal to a larger market.  Consider the Yamaha FJR1300 motorcycle, which has employed similar tech since the 2006 model year.

Transmission Styles

Why is this such a big deal you ask?  Well, this will be the first alternative to the CVT transmissions currently dominating the sport UTV market, and could significantly change the driving experience as we know it.

Now, we certainly don’t expect this technology to immediately take the entire SxS world by storm.  With Polaris recently doubling down on CVT tech with all new clutches on their XP turbo, and Can-Am releasing new clutches on the XDS, rubber belts won’t be going away anytime soon.  What this will certainly do is provide another source of debate.   And to help get that debate started, let’s hit the highlights:

Manual Transmission

What we will like:

  • No belt – No more eyeballing the belt temp gauge all day like it’s trying to steal your girlfriend.  No more nights spent digging a melted rat’s nest that used to be a drive belt out of your clutches.
  • Higher efficiency – With the manual transmission comes a potential reduction of power loss through the driveline.  Manual transmissions are commonly seen to apply as much as an additional 10% of crank horsepower to the tires when compared to a CVT.
  • Fun factor – If you don’t think paddle shifting your way through the woods pretending to be an off-road F1 car will be fun, you are wrong.

What we won’t like:

  • Increased potential for driver error – A well tuned CVT is amazingly easy to drive, whereas a manual may allow you to be in the wrong gear at the wrong time.  Perhaps more importantly though, any focus allotted to finding the right gear could distract you from other important tasks….not hitting trees, for example.
  • Not as easily modified – CVTs are easily tuned for specific riding conditions or modifications.  If you want to change the way your 5-speed shifts in auto mode because you put 38” Terminators on your ride, that’s likely to take the help of a custom tuner.
  • Torque management – It’s almost certain that the engine’s power will be reduced by the ECU during gear shifts, done by altering throttle position, ignition timing, and fuel injection, in order to make transmission parts live on a machine of this size.  How quickly and seamlessly can Yamaha make this happen? We can’t wait to find out!


Final thoughts?  This is great for the industry, and we’re excited to add ‘transmission type’ to the list of things we already argue about.  For going fast, a well tuned CVT is going to be tough to beat.  For durability, I think we’re all tired of worrying about belts already.  Maybe an electronic “smart” manual is the best of both worlds?  Maybe the SxS industry is about to “shift gears”?  Tell us what you think in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

1 Comment on "The Next Great Debate……Shifting Gears?"

  1. Just the fact the Yamaha came out with something is exciting .. We know this is just the beginning. They will be on top before you know it . Once the after market world over it , Exhaust, Turbo , programmers etc…

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