Honda dual clutch motorcycle transmission coming to VFR1200

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This new transmission will find its first application on the upcoming Honda VFR1200, due for official release later this year. Capable of operating in manual or automatic modes, the Honda dual clutch transmission is similar to the VW/Audi DSG in that it uses two clutches to make shifts faster and smoother than a rider would traditionally be capable of achieving themselves. Unlike the CVT in the Aprilia Mana 850 or Honda DN-01, this is a true manual gearbox with automatic operation and is actually closer in design to the gearbox in the Yamaha FJR1300AE, but will again be smoother and faster thanks to the dual clutch design.

The video below also reveals for the first time the Honda VFR1200′s cockpit and demonstrates how riders will shift gears.
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We first showed you the Honda dual clutch transmission last november,
when it was called the Next Generation Transmission, but this is the
first time we’ve seen anything other than diagrams. Honda doesn’t
intend to keep the dual clutch unique to the VFR1200 and Honda ST1200,
but hints that it could be used in other sportsbikes, where it would
add fuel-efficiency in addition the shifting benefits. It’s interesting
that Honda also suggests it could work with existing engine designs.

The press release follows:

Honda Announces the New Dual Clutch Transmission for Use in Large-displacement Sport Bikes–a World’s First



TOKYO, Japan, September 8, 2009 -

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced that it has developed the Dual Clutch Transmission*1, the world’s first*2
fully automatic motorcycle dual clutch transmission for
large-displacement sport bikes. The new transmission provides riders
sporty riding enjoyment with easy operation, while its superior
transmission efficiency delivers fuel economy equal to or better than a
conventional manual transmission. A new VFR large-displacement sport
bike equipped with the new transmission will be released in Europe and
North America in 2010, with sales to commence in Japan at a later date.

This world’s first motorcycle dual clutch transmission features a
light, compact design that allows it to be combined with existing
engines without substantial layout modification. Further, the new
transmission delivers the precise acceleration control riders require
thanks to electronic control technology that helps ensure smooth,
seamless gear changes. In order to respond to rider demands in a broad
range of situations, the transmission is equipped with three operating
modes, two full-auto modes (D-mode for regular operation and S-mode for
sporty riding); and a 6-speed manual mode, which delivers the same
shift feel as a manual transmission. Honda intends to gradually expand
the deployment of the new transmission to more and more of its
large-displacement motorcycles, particularly sports models destined for
use in developed countries.

Honda will continue to deliver motorcycles that match the needs of
society and users’ lifestyles, spreading the joy of riding and
mobility.

*1 Patents pending: 100
*2 According to Honda survey


The new transmission features a
dual clutch transmission configuration in which independent clutches
are employed for the odd gears (1st, 3rd, 5th) and the even gears (2nd,
4th, 6th), respectively. The two clutches operate alternately to effect
gear changes. For example, when changing from 1st to 2nd gear, the
computer detects the up-shift and engages 2nd gear, then releases the
1st-gear clutch while engaging the 2nd-gear clutch to achieve a
seamless gear change. While some dual-clutch transmissions tend to be
bulky, the new system employs original technologies such as dual input
shafts, exclusive in-line clutch design, and concentration of hydraulic
circuitry beneath the engine cover to achieve a compact design.
Compactness and lightness is further enhanced through the use of a
simple shift mechanism design based on that of a conventional
motorcycle shift drum. Optimized shift scheduling achieves fuel economy
equal to or better than that of a fully manual transmission, enabling
Dual Clutch Transmission to deliver both sporty riding and
environmental performance combined.

  • Deltablues

    A paddle-shift CBR1000….yeah, that might be kinda neat…especially for riding in the rain where smooth inputs really count.

    I wonder if the redline on the VFR1200 is really gonna be as low as they show on this instrument panel in the video?

  • http://www.selfedge.com kiya

    That was a cool video..
    I wonder how much weight this adds to the bike and how easily it’s serviceable by a third party right off the bat..
    Is Honda the only manufacturer this heavily investing in automatic technology?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Honda hasn’t released that many details, but in VW/Audis, DSG is actually lighter than a manual box. Servicing and reliability is another matter entirely…

  • Bill C

    This is very similar to current Formula 1 car gearbox design.

    In fact, when Honda developed their F1 car dual-clutch gearbox design a couple of years ago they called it ‘seamless shift’

  • DoctorNine

    These are the things that bother me:

    “Left foot: No need to manipulate…”

    “So anyone can enjoy riding a sport bike…”

    “Honda will continue to deliver motorcycles that match the needs of society and users’ lifestyles…”

    I’m getting a serious ‘Brave New World’ vibe here. Does Honda realize that most cyclists don’t want to decrease the ‘all four limbs doing something’ involvement that makes cycling a ballet of body straining and machine wailing? When is the machine too smooth? When is the experience diminished by further technological innovation?

    I don’t have answers to these questions.
    But they worry me.

  • Ben(pi)

    Interesting. I’d like to see a decel. comparison, to see when it shifts, and if it will try and block you from downshifting too quickly. Also, a comparison of clutchless upshifting vs their dual clutch would be nice, but something tells me it wouldn’t sell the system as well. Should be nice for the ST.

    Why does everyone need to enjoy riding a sportbike?

    Anybody want to guess the MSRP on the VFR? $13,999 for non abs?

  • Morgan

    I have a Silverwing and the ability to simply stop w/o clutching and shifting in stop and go traffic is awesome. No matter what type of bike you ride, you need to travel in traffic to get where you’re going . . . and the option is there to shift manually if nostalgic or masochistic.

  • Justin Penney

    Being that many top sports car manufacturers (BMW, Porsche, Ferrari) have moved to the twin-clutch “manumatics” I don’t expect this to be a performance hindrance.

    • Rob

      yes, but where’s the soul?
      I grew up around 50′s and 60′s era Porsches, learned to drive standard on a ’72 911 targa.

      Had the opportunity to drive a “new shit” Porsche recently and although the instantaneous shifting was simple, it honestly took away from the experience.

      I’d rather blow a shift or have it take 3/4 of a second, and know that I’m INVOLVED in the process, than push a button and shift in .001 sec.

      +1 DoctorNine and Ben(pi)

  • Kurt

    I have a friend that traded in his manual for a new Honda FJR. After riding off the lot on his way home, came up to a red light. As he was waiting for the light to change he did what he always did – give the engine a little rev. But this time he almost ended up in the back of the car in front of him. Watch that transition!!!

  • http://www.heng.jp Sen

    They could always move the paddle shifter to the left peg, that would also help recreate the traditional feel and reduce panic during emergency situations.

  • http://www.motoflash.ro Paul

    This new Dual Clutch seems like a nice tech development but… I worry that the seamless gear change will cut a lot from the fun factor.

  • Ben

    I keep watching all the VFR1200 updates and become less and less comfortable. Yes, this is interesting. Yes, I think this transmission model is likely the way things will go in the future. But I think about the potential expenses related to it and, as with anything new, reliability. I expect more technological marvels to be announced before a final reveal. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

    2010 will be a new bike for me of some type. Something tells me I’ll have a hell of a hard time making a choice.

  • Doug

    Oh joy! more complexity and weight. Honda, building motorcycles for people who don’t like motorcycles.

  • nataku83

    Well, it seems that Honda has a history of doing this sort of thing with varying degrees of success. I believe the PC800 was supposed to be the ideal bike to appeal to “society” without a lot of the drawbacks of less refined motorcycles – translation – it was a flop. People aren’t buying motorcycles because they’re an easy way to get around, they’re buying them because of the experience of riding, or in some cases, image.

    This dual clutch box actually could have some nice applications, but Honda isn’t marketing it correctly. They could talk about how this eliminates a clutch hydraulic system and a gearshift linkage, potentially how it saves weight, eliminates synchro wear, and the faster / smoother shifts point was brought up, but should probably be emphasized more. I also think that placing the shift toggle on a peg like a conventional shifter, rather than on the handlebars where you may have difficulty actuating it (during the winter, I ride in mittens) would be a good idea. I would also like to see a clutch lever like override that would disengage the engine / transmission from the driveline.

    What they really have to do is stop talking about how they’re making this bike to appeal to people who can’t drive a manual. I think there’s some sort of disconnect here where they treat a manual bike like a manual car. A manual bike is much easier to ride – the clutch is much softer, you have much better control over it due to hand controls, no need to worry about putting it in the wrong gear because of a a vague shiftgate, etc… I learned to drive a manual on a ’65 Dream 305, and it took me all of about 10 minutes to really get it down. This is not a productive design philosophy, and I wish Honda would abandon it.

    • DoctorNine

      You make some great points. I really like the idea of the disengage lever and the peg mounted shifter. That would approximate normal shifting, and I could deal with it. Still leaves the issue of rider serviceability, and complexity, but I could live with that if it really does save weight.

      I don’t agree with the PC800 being a flop though. I seem to recall a lot of them being sold. Wiki says about 14,000. So hardly an unsuccessful run, for a bike built for only 3 years.

    • Ben

      I suppose I’m a bit confused from your comments after watching the video again. I understand the intent of what you’re saying, but the video clearly shows the bike with a proper clutch lever. Will that lever serve any purpose when in either of the dual clutch modes? Not sure. But you don’t HAVE to utilize the new modes of operation.

      I experience some massively roadblocked commutes where an automatic transmission sounds like a miracle. But I wouldn’t want it the other 90% of the time. That’s why this tri-mode transmission is cautiously intriguing to me. It gives me the choice.

      I do agree with the rest of what you’re saying. There’s a way to market things that maintains appeal to riders. And there’s certainly a tendency towards technology for the sake of itself. However, from a high performance standpoint, this seems like a promising development along with all of the other things shaking up the industry – traction control, new ABS systems, etc. As more and more power output is demanded, more aids become important to keep it manageable. Seems like an argument for less power, sure, but that’s not how the market works.

      • nataku83

        I think the video may have been a bit confusing. If I’m understanding it right – they were not showing a tri-mode bike. They were showing a manual transmission equipped VFR AND a bi-mode dual clutch equipped VFR – two different bikes (and I would hope they would offer both conventional manual and dual clutch transmissions on production bikes). I do not believe that the dual clutch equipped VFR comes with a clutch lever or shifter peg.

        @DoctorNine – I’ve always heard of the PC800 being described as a flop by journalists. Articles I’ve read claim that they sat around on dealer lots and needed big incentives to move them, and they didn’t come close to Honda’s expected sales numbers (although price / performance may have been as big of a factor as image). I don’t know how true that is, but I do know they have a big cult following today, and it’s on my list of bikes to own, if only so I’d have something that I wouldn’t hesitate to ride in the rain.

        • http://www.txsbr.com/ Ben

          I see what you’re saying, but don’t see anything in the video that suggests they’re different bikes. Maybe I’m just optimistic as hell. :P

          • nataku83

            Well, if you want to go by the video alone – compare 1:25 and 0:45 – there’s no clutch lever at 1:25, and it’s hard to see, but I don’t believe there’s a shifter peg either. Also, in the video they show manual transmission, then they show dual clutch transmission auto mode and dual clutch transmission manual mode. The article also says that the dual clutch transmission has 3 modes – automatic, automatic sport (I would assume it holds the gear longer) and manual. I don’t believe there would be a manual mode where you use a clutch lever and select with a foot peg and another manual mode where you use a couple of switches mounted on the left handlebar. Definitely two different transmissions.

            • http://www.txsbr.com/ Ben

              You’re right, I’m a moron. I started doing a ton of reading and yeah. Definitely different beasts. There goes that fun.

    • geonerd

      It’s also pretty clear that the guy isn’t trying very hard at all to shift smoothly or quickly on the conventional manual model. But then, I guess that’s exactly what they’re going for. Honda: The Power of Boredom.

  • Ulysses

    At least it seems the new VFR won’t be the huge mammoth some expected when seeing those spy shots. We Hell For Leather readers knew better, “Shamu’s” really not that big.

  • Mike

    Are the armchair critics getting a bit too philosophical on this?

    I abhor slushbox automatics in any vehicle, and will always choose my own gears, period. However, i’m not so attached to my clutch lever that i must have fully manual clutch as well. Honda’s FourTrax off roaders from 20 years ago had auto-clutch, and they worked beautifully. Transmission control has only improved since then.

    If you haven’t driven a car with a dual-clutch “manumatic”, then please do so before commenting with strong philosophical rhetoric. Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, VW, Nissan, and BMW all offer such transmissions that increase the performance of their vehicles with no loss of “soul”. If increased performance (speed, mass, efficiency, etc), then this is the way forward. In these vehicles, the only thing a driver gives up is the need for a clutch lever/pedal. Not a big loss if it means that the transmission is lighter and more efficient, with less wear and maintenance. Cost is indeed a concern, but that will drop. Reliability has been excellent on all these transmissions except Nissan’s, which they are thrashing mightily in an attempt to beat the Porsches and Corvettes around Nurburgring.

    Did you guys complain about synchromesh gearing when it was introduced because it diluted the driver involvement by removing the need to double-clutch when shifting???

  • Mike

    nataku83, I agree with all of your points. Well said!