How does Motorcycle Launch Control work?

Launch control has been around for a while now on motorcycles, initially used in racing and then trickling down to high-end street bikes. Now it’s available on a wide range of bikes, from street, and naked to adventure bikes.

Launch control is an electronic aid that controls the amount of torque applied to the rear wheel under hard acceleration from a standing start, preventing the rear wheel from spinning or the bike from wheeling.

The bike ECU knows when you are in 1st gear and when you dump the clutch.
As you launch off the line, the electronic throttle valves are feathered open and closed, depending on the feedback from the wheel speed sensors and the IMU measuring the pitch angle of the bike. If the rear wheel is traveling faster than the front wheel (spin), or the pitch angle of the bike changes (wheelie) the throttle valves will be feathered closed, reducing the amount of torque to the rear wheel. If all is good, the throttle valves will continue to open to 100%, reaching the maximum revs and time to change gears.

How do I use launch control?

The way the system is engaged and used on modern-day bikes is similar.
It takes a little while to become confident with using it, but once you let the system do its job, it can become pretty addictive, especially combined with a Quikshifter!

Let’s look at how the KTM system works on my KTM Duke 790.

  1. Select Track mode.
  2. Select Launch Control and turn it On.
  3. Make sure the Anti-Wheelie mode is selected (peace of mind).
  4. Turn the Slip control up to more than 5 (5= brave / 9 = chicken).
  5. Pull the clutch in and engage 1st gear.
  6. Pin the throttle all the way back (9,000 RPM)
  7. TC (Traction Control) lamp will flash quickly.
  8. Don’t dump the clutch or it will stall, let it out controlled, but aggressive.
  9. Hold on and enjoy the ride!

    Note: If the engine coolant temp is more than 140’F or the bike has done less than 620 Miles or 1,000Km you will not be able to engage launch control.

KTM video showing launch control in use

Do I need launch control?

Probably not to be honest, but what fun would that be?

It takes some fluffing around to get them set up, press the right buttons, right sequence as we can see from the KTM Duke 790 above. Also, some manufactures systems are more complicated than the KTM’s.

Sure, getting this setup, launching at the lights a couple of times with your buddies might be fun, but I think it gets old very quickly. Of course, they have their place on the track, if you want to practice MotoGP style starts on a track day, but on the road, not really.

Manufacturers are in an arms race and it’s highly competitive. Anything they can add that will sell more bikes; they will add.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=5]
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=7]

Is launch control bad for your motorcycle?

Dumping the clutch with the throttle pinned over and over cannot be good for the clutch, some of the engine internals, or the drivetrain.

KTM limits its systems to a limit of three (3) launches in succession. Launch control is enabled again after the engine has run for three (3) minutes or is switched off for twenty (20) minutes or a distance of 1.5 km or around 1 Mile has been covered.

Modern-day bikes are very reliable and have some great technology, but like most fun things, use them in moderation or you might just pay the consequences.

What is a MotoGP holeshot device?

The holeshot device works in conjunction with the launch control system. The rider uses his/her body weight to compress the suspension, then activates the “holeshot” device that engages the suspension in the lowered position. Lowering the front or rear of the bike, or both translates into a lower center of gravity. This helps with more mechanical grip at the rear and also helps stop the front wheel from lifting under acceleration at the start of the launch control sequence.

The holeshot device is normally disengaged by the rider before the first corner, bringing the bike back to its natural position. Some riders also use the holeshot device in some corners, giving them a lower center of gravity and more grip under acceleration on the exit of the corner.