What's the dual clutch transmission on the Honda VFR1200 DCT like?

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We always knew it would work, this Dual Clutch Transmission thing. It’s a Honda, after all, and when it comes to engineering, Honda doesn’t do duff. But that doesn’t mean all the questions are answered, and the two big ones are, do you want it? And will we get it on sport bikes? Here’s what it’s like to ride the 2010 Honda VFR1200F DCT.
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Editor’s Note: We asked England’s premier motorcycle reviewer, Kevin Ash, to tell us what he thought of Honda’s DCT technology. Kevin is held in such high regard in England that each and every Visordown staffer proudly sports a tattoo of his face on their right buttocks. You can read his full Honda VFR1200F DCT review on his website.

Car drivers want Dual Clutch Transmissions because those with manuals
don’t like waving their arms and legs about to find new ratios and the
changes are slow. Those with conventional auto boxes are putting up with
slushiness and reduced efficiency. A dual clutch system gives them the
efficiency of a manual (well, closer to it than a torque converter) with
super-rapid cog-swops and the option of paddle controlled manual or
full automatic – finger wiggling in place of limb waving, much easier.

Changing gears on bikes though really isn’t too tough. Wiggle your left
toes and that’s it. Upchanges, and even going the other way if you’re
good, can be done without wiggling your left fingers, leaving the
clutch’s prime duty as getting you off the line and a favored tool for
airing the front wheel when necessary (like, there’s a fit bird on the
sidewalk).

Honda’s DCT is novel and it’s different, but given time you might start
to wonder if the $1,500  you’ve added to the already hefty $15,999 price
was really money well spent. Normal gearchanging wasn’t so bad was it?
And for a lot less you could have the same ultra-quick gearchanges with
an ignition kill quickshift from the aftermarket. Get over the initial
curiosity and you’ll pine for a clutch lever, especially as DCT takes
away the option of feathering the power with your left hand in very
tight manoeuvres – full lock turns on the throttle alone aren’t easy!

As for sport bikes, no way. Glue a second clutch on the end of the
first, add two hefty hydraulic pumps to operate each and you’ve just
bolted 22lbs onto a bike that already has more than enough avoir dupois.
So maybe here on Shamu it’s not noticed, but on a superbike – let alone
a supersport 600 – that’s like pulling a plug lead off. And worse, the
extra mass is rotating with the crank, so the engine response is dulled.

It’s a good couple of inches wider than the stock VFR engine too, which
on a lean-happy Fireblade might cause some Tarmac interface problems.

Finally, as you’re always riding with one of the clutches lifted and
slipping, transmission efficiency’s reduced and even bigger losses are
incurred through the energy sapped by those hydraulic pumps. It’s like
the drag you get when you switch on your car’s air conditioning.

Brilliantly executed, but mostly relevant to amputees.

Kevin Ash

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D.

    …Honda, who THE FUCK shifts before 4,000 RPMs?!?! What a weird video.

    • HondaTurbo

      Finally a bike that isn’t a tourer, sports tourer, naked, super sports, cruiser etc etc. It is just a bike! A bike that DOES MOST THINGS WELL. A torquey, flexible, shaft drive, comfortable, fast ( sufficiently fast- who needs 200bhp and 200mph, it can almost do a 10 sec 1/4) bike. It is also cutting edge, radical and a little quirky. I have been looking for such a bike for 30 years – since i bought my CX 500 Turbo. Well done Honda. Just need to decide which colour I want. Can also add luggage, centre stand and wind deflectors for screen and fairing. A little heavy and i need to raise some $ to buy it but…………..

      • HondaTurbo

        Sorry that was not a direct reply Mark, intended as a general post.

  • http://sumdubito.blogspot.com Jonathan H

    @Mark: People with big tourers and riding through town where trickling along is better than revving frustratingly, that’s who.

    My problem with this bike, apart from the way it looks, is: why? As you pointed out in the article, there’s not really a big enough advantage to make up for the weight and efficiency losses.

    Tellingly, BMW chose to go with a power shifter instead.

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D.

      It just doesn’t seem to jive with the “Sport” side of the marketing equation for this bike (its not an st1300, right?). I kept think, “Ok, now he’s going to open it up a bit!”…and then disappointment!

      It is a cool technology. I doubt it will get any new riders on a bike, but there will likely be a trickle-down effect. It would be perfect for the aforementioned “Missing Link” bikes.

  • Rob

    really cool, but I really couldn’t care less. Fits the VFR riders I suppose

    • betarace

      this is NOT a VFR, nor does it appeal to the rank and file VFR rider

  • ez

    Honda is like microsoft, giving you a bunch of sh!t that you dont want, dont understand, and dont use really… As brilliant people work for microsoft so goes for honda…too bad they both make products I dont want

    • Trojanhorse

      maybe you should put a bit more work into your designs, then?

  • powermatic

    “I’d like to buy a brand new Honda motorcycle, but I just can’t figure out how to shift!”

    /words I’ve never heard spoken

    • Ninjah

      A coworker of mine was into scooters, and worked his way up to a Burgman 650 for daily commuting. He wanted to get into motorcycles, but didn’t know how to clutch-shift a bike, and didn’t want to lose any of the storage space from his big scooter.

      He bought a big-ass FJR1300A – with the “A” standing for automatic clutch. It was his bridge into motorcycles.

      I think people are out there that would like a bike like this – it just happens that we don’t know many of them. Yet.

    • Core

      Nice.

  • http://www.ninja250blog.com Mark Ryan Sallee

    Read Bike’s impressions in the last issue and some quotes from Honda suggesting the DCT is intended to make the bike more attractive to new riders.

    New riders that want a 150 hp, $18,000 motorcycle to start with.

  • Isaac

    If a new rider is that afraid of a motorcycle that he/she feels they need and easier bike to start off with; should go buy a Vespa and STFU. I’m sure automatic transmissions on R6′s and S1000 RR’s will be next.

  • Penguinius

    This seems like a case of good ol’ Honda masturbation. Honda R&D love to pleasure themselves with ‘Look how clever we are’ engineering, some times it works – CBR with ABS, very tasty. Some times it doesn’t – Oval Pistons anyone?

    Either way, Honda seem to be the kind of company that like to try different things for the sake of trying them and I think it is no bad thing, would I buy a DCT bike – No. But does Honda trying it mean they might figure out something really clever later on – Maybe, who knows. The fact someone’s done it means that bike tech moves forward and that can only be a good thing. Honda, keep doing that thing you do.

    What I’d like to see is a litre sportsbike with CVT, that would be impressive and i’d put good money on it being unstoppably powerful (There is a good reason F1 cars are banned from using CVT gearboxes and the IOM TT banned them in 1913)

  • Joe P.

    Someone will buy it, dare I say there is probably an audience for it. As for me, I’ll shift my own gears by way of left hand and foot.

  • http://www.urbanrider.co.uk Urban Rider

    We have a regular customer who has bought one. He started on a Vespa, caught the bike bug and has been riding a 650 motorcycle up until now.

    His reasoning is that he wants something capable for touring but with the ease of use of a scooter in town. Twist’n'go.

    That way he doesn’t need a scooter and a motorcycle.

  • sofjr

    Honda has a long history of doing stuff “just because”. Think of all the bikes, cars, etc. that Honda has brought to market just to prove a point that Honda could do it. Sales success was not always assured. I think this is one of those things. Congrats Honda for trying some new stuff when nobody else is!

  • MotoRandom

    Maybe we’ve got this thing all wrong. Maybe Honda was not really even trying to make a motorcycle and instead just wants for Shamu to be the most awesome scooter ever. It almost starts to make sense when you look at it like that. Unfortunately, this does nothing to explain the DN-01. I think that I might enjoying working in the Honda marketing department, just for the surealism of it all.

  • Dayyan

    I would pay extra to not have the DCT. I enjoy being able to manage my engine breaking with the clutch, as well as using it to do tight maneuvers. I would not want that stuff on any of my bikes.

    • PhilMills

      Seconded.
      I own a Yamaha FJR1300-AE (_A_BS, _E_lectronic clutch) and the only complaint that I have about it is that the lack of a normal clutch makes it pretty challenging to do low-speed work in parking lots.

      It is the absolute bomb in traffic, though. No clutch to hold in when you’re doddling along in stop-and-go because of a lane merge ahead is a great thing (I really hate road construction season).

  • robotribe

    Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with manual shifting, CVT trannies or this latest creation from Honda from a user perspective. That is to say, there is probably a rider and riding situation where each preference shines brighter than the other.

    The only fail I can see is the added weight and power-suck this Honda solution brings with it. Is it something that someone, no matter how uncommon they may be, can use? Sure. Still, given the penalties the auto-transmission/dual clutch comes with, it’s a technology relegated to the fringe. This goes for the Aprilia Mana as well.

    EV bikes will eliminate this debate altogether. I just hope they work out a way to “fake” controlled engine braking.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Regenerative braking works a little like engine braking. Hope fulfilled.

      • robotribe

        True, but can it be controlled by degrees, a la moving through diff. gears on a manual shift bike?

        If so, one major box has been checked off my list of requirements.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          It’s more constant as there’s a single speed. On the Vectrix scooter you rotated the twist grip forwards to activate regen which slowed you down almost exactly like engine braking, but yeah, you’re not kicking through gears.

          On bikes without regen you don’t miss the engine braking, some back brake or whatever can always be used.

  • Chris Y.

    You all realize that the “other” VFR, the one with the 6mt, is available, is cheaper, and is the volume seller? The DCT sells to those who ride through the city, tours, and wants something unique and technologically advanced. Similar tech might run to their car line too (that’s how VTEC for cars came about).

    Or yeah, as Mr. Ash alluded to, if your left leg is crippled or useless, you can still ride a bike (technically you can also ride with a non-existant left leg and a bum right leg too, but I digress).

  • Mr. Jones

    I have ridden the both VFR1200F with and without DCT. I think DCT is pretty nice. I too was dismissive of the DCT until I rode the bike. Now I’d rather have the DCT version. Shifts in manual mode were smooth and fast. I think people are missing the point, this isn’t a crutch for the lazy or a handicapped rider. It’s for people who want a high performance and technologies from high end sports cars on a bike.

  • Jeff66

    Who in the hell wants a sport bike with some kind of automatic transmission? This monstrosity is not a sport bike and it is not a sport touring bike. It is too heavy and has a small gas tank and the worlds uglyist muffler. Too expensive. This thing is just like the DNO1 – a looser.

  • Kevin

    Overkill on a motorcycle but try and get the excellent DSG trans on a Honda car where it belongs in the first place. No dice. Also no direct injection and no diesels for the USA. Honda is very smart….just not very wise. They need a few pragmatic street worthy guys with some say so in the company. One can sure tell Soichiro died 20 years ago.

  • zeke

    it helps get new riders because when you first get on a bike never having driven a manual. you are slow at wiggling your fingers and toes often dumping the clutch and flipping over or not giving it enough clutch and simply stalling. and what does a 18 year old who just got his bike license want? o a crotch rocket. they hit a market. will i buy one? only if i can’t operate a normal bike any more.

    • Grive

      If your first bike costs more than a car, has over 150bhp and weighs over 600lb, operating a sequential manual even one with neutral sneaking around between gears will be the least of your concerns on the road.

      Just sayin’.

      On the contrary, I see this market as somewhere completely different. I know dozens of recreational bikers who don’t care about pure performance, they care about comfort and the fun of riding on a bike, even if they’re not going nearly as fast or revving as much as everyone else on the road.

      For these people, a 1200cc V4 sport-tourer with an auto transmission could sound mighty interesting.