Lately, there has been a lot of talk about motorcycles with automatic transmission, but currently, Honda is the only brand that sells models with automatic transmission. Moreover, it is included in engines of different configurations and displacements, which drive motorcycles of a completely different nature. ( How does an automatic transmission motorbike work ) Automatic transmissions have been popular in the automotive world for almost a century, but are a less common solution in the motorcycle industry. The small size of bikes and their light weight are not well suited to automatic transmissions, which tend to be bulkier and heavier. It is true that variable-pitch and centrifugal transmissions have been widely used on many motorcycles and scooters, but they are not classified as automatic transmission motorcycles because they are single-speed and do not have a gearbox. These types of transmissions, known as CVTs, are simple and practical, but their application to high-performance motorcycles is limited. Electric motorcycles are also proliferating today and, although some prototypes and small series production models have a gearbox and clutch, most are also single-speed and have no clutch, as the permanent magnet motor acts directly on the secondary transmission and is even placed on the rear wheel hub. On the other hand, there have been some automatic motorcycles with combustion engines with gearboxes and electrohydraulically operated clutch, but they have not enjoyed much success, nor have they lasted a long time. In 2010, however, everything changed with the introduction of the Honda VFR1200F, a model developed by the Japanese giant in two versions. One is equipped with a conventional six-speed transmission and the other is also equipped with a six-speed transmission, but in its case comes with a dual-clutch transmission and an electro-hydraulic transmission, a system seen on all four wheels that Honda dared to include. This technology is called DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission or Dual Clutch Transmission) and is 12 years old, also installed on the now extinct VFR1200F, VFR1200X Crosstourer, NC700S/X, Integra, and NM4-01 Vultus, today we can find it on the CRF1100L Africa Twin, X-ADV, NC750X, CMX1100 Rebel, GL1800 Gold Wing and on the new NT1100. Therefore, we can enjoy the advanced automatic transport system that Honda developed on different types of motorcycles and on different engines.
How does the dual-clutch work?
DCT is a system that automates the use of gearboxes and clutches. Its main feature is that it consists of two clutches connected to a spindle different from the main shaft since in its case it consists of two shafts, one of which slides inside the other. Thanks to this double shaft, the first clutch is connected to the odd gear (first, third and fifth), while the second clutch is connected to the even gear (second, fourth and sixth). Compared to a conventional gearbox, this system also differs in the absence of a clutch and caliper. The advantages they provide are ease of use and simplicity when performing shifting activities, as well as increased comfort because the rider must perform fewer functions when driving. The DCT also ensures a more effective transmission, as it is responsible for keeping the engine engaged in optimal conditions. Another noteworthy aspect that distinguishes it from the CVT mentioned above is that it allows the engine brake to be used when cornering. It is also worth noting that you can choose from three powertrain modes to suit different driving styles. As a result, the DCT system has two autopilot modes (Drive and Sport), as well as a sequential mode. In the automatic modes, the gearbox is “intelligently” activated in both upshift and downshift. However, in sequential mode, it is the driver who decides when to change gear by acting on two buttons on the left of the steering wheel. In drive mode, the engine runs at low revs for greater driving comfort and lower fuel consumption, and is also more suitable for highways. In Sport mode, shifting occurs as engine speed increases, which means you’ll have a happier drive. The sequential mode, meanwhile, is dedicated to sporty driving, and it is up to the driver to decide when to upshift or downshift.
To choose between different functions, the Drive and Sport automatic mode buttons are located on the right handle. Also on the right edge, there is a switch that allows us to choose the automatic or sequential mode. The operation is simple. After starting the engine and disengaging the parking brake, we will act on the button on the right side to shift from neutral to the inserted gear. When the indicator display tells us that the desired shift mode has been set, we simply press the accelerator pedal to start driving. In addition, it is possible to switch to one of the automatic modes and upshift or downshift at the driver’s request using the buttons on the left, thus turning with the engine at low revs or using the Dynamic. On the other hand, while in the two automatic modes we will never reach the ignition cut-off, as the system always upshifts before or does not allow downshifting, in the sequential mode it is possible because it is the driver himself who decides when to shift. Also, engines with DCT technology allow a choice of different riding modes with a smoother or more direct feel, including even an off-road mode on the Africa Twin and X-ADV models. Likewise, its performance has been coordinated with other driving aids such as traction control or hill start assist. Over the years, Honda has been polishing the operation of the system and each time the gear changes occur more quickly and smoothly, in turn, adapted to the purpose of the bike in question, depending on whether it is tourism, a trail, a utility or a maxiscooter.