We love a gizmo; anything to make you faster, if not to at least ensure you look faster. You know, fancy buttons on the handlebars, carbon fibre,
anodised valve caps, and the veritable feast of electronic aids that have emerged in 2015. Along with 6-axis gyro thingamabobs that stop you crashing, the must-have fashionista’s accessory this season has to be a throttle-blipper for clutchless downshifting; a gadget that only materialised among certain factory race teams last year. BMW’s S1000RR and the Ducati 1299 Panigale come laden with the luxury in showroom spec, but there’s now an aftermarket option available for the 1199 and 899 Panigales.
Purveyors of exquisite motorsport technology/equipment (and the man behind the Nemesis traction control), Bike Sport Developments have been designing the bolt-on, plug and play kit – to give it its full name, the Blip-Box Pro.
We’ve previously tested an R1 with a Techtronics throttle-blipper, though it was crude, very expensive (for what it is) and you could feel the twistgrip move in your hand when shifting. Clutch-operated versions are also readily available but there’s something a bit ‘left-leg-missing’ about them. So when the guys at Bike Sport Developments rang and offered us a spin on a Blip-Box-kitted 1199 Panigale at Donington Park, sun included, we obviously said yes.
If you haven’t ridden with a throttle-blipper before, but have spent your entire life using the clutch and manual blipping for downshifting, it takes a period of brain recalibration to acclimatise. Must. Not. Touch. Clutch. It’s certainly a bizarre sensation initially.
The Blip-Box is absolutely seamless on the 1199, like it’s been fitted at the factory. Given the gearboxes and ancillaries are identical, it’s no shock that the execution feels identical to the 1299’s blipper. The only slight variance is a positive one, with slicker upshifting thanks to the aftermarket (and much better quality) load cell. The 1199’s can occasional offer a spongy sensation.
But what’s the point? Well, to us mere mortals, at our level of talent, saving time isn’t the only principal advantage of an auto-blipper. The overriding benefit of having the Blip-Box on the 1199 was its improved fluidity and stability in corner entry. Basically, there’s less room for pilot fuck-ups without forfeiting any real involvement.
It’s also the physical exertion saved from not having to whip the clutch lever in before every corner; like quickshifters shave milliseconds off a lap, they also save unnecessary fatigue of the right-hand/wrist/arm. I don’t know about you, but unless you’re some kind of superhuman anomaly that doesn’t suffer from any fatigue over a 20-minute track session, anything to prohibit armpump is a thing of beauty. And the 1199 is one of the most brutal, widow-making rides out there…
Many Superleggera owners (and there are many in the UK) were felt slightly short-changed when the 1299 made an appearance. Fear not, you lucky bastards, as there’ll soon be a Blip-Box for your £55k steed of exotica, plus a kit for the Diavel. There are also plans to branch out for other makes and models (most notably the new R1), though developmental time needs to be considered.
How it works: in layman’s terms, the Blip-Box reads signals from the twistgrip and ECU (thanks to the Ducati’s ride-by-wire gadgetry), and creates a suitable ‘blip’ when pressure is applied to the lever by opening the throttle bodies. Click here to see a vid > 1199_blip
Ducati’s safety conscious software onboard the 1299 only allows downshifting below 10,000rpm, which can lead to ghost shifts and buggered gearboxes in extreme circumstances. The Blip-Box gives you free range to downshift, with the only criteria being revs have to be above 3800rpm and rear wheel speed above 30kmh.
It takes well under an hour to install, and even a tool-shy thundertwat like me could fit one. Perhaps the biggest fitment positive is that your bike won’t need any ECU re-flashing, which has been a bane of contention with Ducatis and warranty claims regarding similar technology.
Blip-Box costs £798 all in, and is well and truly worth the upgrade. If only I could sneak one on my 899 racer…
Huge thanks to Bike Sport Developments for letting us loose on their pristine 1199, and thanks also to No Limits for the track time.