Rumors are starting to bubble up that Honda is looking to put their dual clutch transmission in an upcoming refresh to their CBR sportbike range. And, in a move that surprises even myself, I actually think it’s a great idea.
Very basically, a dual clutch transmission (DCT) uses separate clutches to control the even and odd gears, which are done without the operator needing to control either clutch. This allows the bikes to ride in fully automatic mode, or to use paddles to change gears.
Dual Clutch Transmission technology isn’t exactly new, but it’s become more popular lately thanks to bikes like the Honda NC700X. In most cases, at least in motorcycling, it’s been billed as a way to make riding easier and more accessible.
In the same way that trikes or Can Am Spyders had their place in the world to make “riding” accessible to those who didn’t want to worry about balancing, DCTs were for people intimidated by the friction zone or who didn’t want to have to think about being in the right gear.
Due to how they’ve been marketed, many of us who actually like how involved riding motorcycles has looked at DCTs like they’re for old people who want to scooterify (I made it up, don’t worry about it) our motorcycles.
When Honda put one in the Africa Twin, they claimed it was to make riding more accessible by letting people ride in auto mode or shift with their fingers instead of their left foot, which can be tricky while standing. Still, after years of Honda conditioning me to think that DCT meant boring, I was skeptical.
Then I rode the thing. And it was a very good thing. I know none of you have had a chance to ride the thing, because Honda won’t have the thing in the States until May, but soon you too will see that it is a very good thing.
The shifts were much faster than on the NC700 or NM4, and damn near close to seamless. The rev matching of the downshifts was not perfect, but it was plenty close for riding off-road. To everyone’s surprise, everyone from the most experienced to the least preferred and felt faster on the DCT version of the Africa Twin.
So, while my knee jerk reaction is to say to keep your automatic transmissions away from my sportbikes, it could actually be a really cool option. Sure, there will be some added weight and a little power loss from the DCT pump. But, do we really need that extra horsepower?
Many of us praise the Yamaha R1 as the best literbike for most people, despite it being down on power, because it’s the easiest to ride and easiest to ride pretty damn fast.
The current Honda is even farther down on power, but if the next one makes more ponies and then gives up a few so you can paddle shift your way through seamless upshifts and rev-matched downshifts - well that’s something I’d like to try.