Special Feature: Trigger-Happy and Rev-Hungry

  • AUTHOR
    Cycle World
  • POSTED
    Sep 17, 2010
  • POSTED IN
    Street

By: BLAKE CONNER

We’re not making any earth-shattering predictions here, but Honda’s dual-clutch transmission as seen on the 2010 VFR1200F is here to stay.

Honda didn’t pioneer the electronic-shift manual motorcycle transmission, but it is the first to offer a dual-clutch version. The now-discontinued FJR1300AE featured Yamaha’s YCC-S Electric Shift System—with one electronically controlled clutch.

DCT has three modes of operation, including two automatic modes—D (Drive) and S (Sport). In the six-speed “manual” mode, the rider upshifts and downshifts using paddle-shift triggers mounted on the left handlebar. There are no clutch or foot levers.

Shifts are executed via a wonderfully choreographed dance between the two clutches. One clutch controls odd-numbered gears (first, third and fifth), while the other controls even-numbered cogs (second, fourth and sixth). Two gears are always simultaneously engaged. When changing from first to second, for example, the computer engages second and then releases the clutch managing first, executing an extremely fast, smooth gear change.

The compact unit uses dual concentric input shafts (one inside the other) with hydraulic circuitry concealed behind the engine cover. Conventional shift drums provide simplicity.

To get underway, you release the left-bar-mounted parking brake (neutral is automatically selected prior to startup) and then engage either D or S via the right-bar-mounted thumb lever. Alternatively, you can switch to manual mode with the right-index-finger-operated switch or by selecting first with the paddle.

D mode is awfully conservative around town—the system short-shifts up to sixth even at speeds as low as 35 mph, the aim being greater fuel economy. The engine produces enough torque to easily pull top gear and will quickly downshift if necessary, but I found that this mode highlighted driveline lash. Shifts are smooth, but you can feel the mechanical workings below you due to the low-rpm meshing of gears.

S mode is actually ideal for around-town riding or commuting. The tranny only upshifts if you haven’t accelerated for a while, so as to be ready and waiting in the meaty part of the engine’s torque curve. I liked that S mode keeps the gearbox and driveline under load, which helps mask lash. S mode offers virtually undetectable, smooth and instant shifts under hard acceleration.

In manual mode, the computer will not upshift unless you command it to do so. You can ride the bike exactly as you would ride a conventional manual-transmission model. Upshifts are so quick that the chassis doesn’t even have time to react as you flick up through the gears, even mid-corner. Downshifts are much the same, the engine rev-matching and executing perfectly smooth ratio swaps as you enter corners. If you forget to downshift to first at a traffic light, the transmission will automatically select first for you.

With the exception of the aforementioned driveline lash, DCT performs flawlessly. Some may view it as a novelty, but the same could have been said of similar designs introduced in the auto industry a few years ago. Now, as many as 10 car companies offer such systems. With the $17,499 VFR1200F Dual Clutch Transmission, Honda is leading the way on two wheels. Look for others to follow suit.

Originally published in Cycle World.

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