Honda Brings Dual Clutches to Motorcycles
NEW YORK — The biggest news to come out of an otherwise lackluster New York Cycle World International Motorcycle Show was Honda’s announcement that the sculpted VFR1200F sport-touring motorcycle will come with an optional dual clutch transmission. Although the technology is becoming increasingly common in automobiles, this is the first time anyone’s bolted it onto a motorcycle.
Putting a dual clutch gearbox on a motorcycle offers the same laundry list of benefits you find in automotive applications. That means independent clutches for odd- and even-numbered gears, über-rapid shift times, thumb-operated shifting, no discernible clutch grab and smoother shifting without driveline lurch. As if that weren’t enough, the system offers two automatic modes (“D” for drive and “S” for sport) if you grow weary of running through the gears manually. Long story short, Honda says the system shifts faster and more seamlessly than anyone who isn’t named Dani Pedrosa. On paper, it offers the best of both worlds — the performance of a manual with the convenience of an automatic.
“With the dual clutch in the manual mode, it is literally milliseconds,” says Jon Seidel of American Honda Motor Co. “As quickly as you can use the paddle shifters, the gear engages.”
Just like in your car, choose “D” mode and the dual clutch transmission defaults to gearing that optimizes fuel economy. If you’re feeling saucy, flip the switch to “S” and you’ll be able to rev that sweet V4 engine higher in each gear to milk more power from it. Manual mode gives you total control — the engine won’t shift up until you tell it to, even if you’re at the redline. The ECU keeps you from downshifting too soon and over-revving the engine.
Some automotive purists winced as race-inspired semi-auto gearboxes flooded the automotive marketplace. The fact that you can’t buy a new Ferrari with a proper gearshifter seems to some as shocking as it is blasphemous. But consumer demand for the technology has seen it move from high-end Ferraris to more mainstream cars like the Volkswagen Golf. Only time will tell if motorcyclists also embrace dual clutch semi-auto gearboxes.
“Difficult to say at this early point,” Seidel said. “As this is the world’s first application of this technology on a motorcycle,the initial response has been extremely positive.”
Honda hasn’t said what the optional gearbox will cost, saying that depends on the value of the Yen when the VFR1200F (pictured above) is released in March. And because this is the first time we’ve seen it on a motorcycle, Honda was hesitant to predict its penetration rate.
“The dual clutch transmission is an innovative new technology,” Seidel said. “Will it replace manuals? Probably not. But it is technology that works and adds fun and excitement to riding. Riders will also appreciate the fully automatic mode for stop and go city driving”