– Honda DCT Transmission Explained / FAQ + Question / Answer Section + How to Ride Automatic Motorcycle –
Is an Automatic Motorcycle the best beginners and learners motorcycle you can buy? It’s hard to argue against that as it does let you focus on many other aspects of riding. You’re allowed to put more of your focus on everything else going on around you so you aren’t worried about using the clutch and changing gears. You won’t be worrying about whether or not you’re in the correct gear to match your speed or stalling the engine while taking off etc.
Is an Automatic Motorcycle nothing but a glorified scooter? Are Motorcycles with an Automatic Transmission only good for beginners? Are you any less of a motorcyclist if you own an Automatic Motorcycle? Nope and nope to all of above.
DCT Automatic Motorcycle / ATV Transmission Video Overview
The largest misconception with automatic motorcycles though is what I touched on above. The majority of riders and even the non-riding average person believe that an automatic motorcycle is nothing but a glorified scooter but they couldn’t be more wrong than if they said this is the color red. We’ve been programmed since we were younger to think anything with an automatic transmission takes away your “man card” whether it be a motorcycle or sports car. The tides are turning though and automatic cars have gained popularity as of lately. I’m not referring to your average run-of-the-mill conventional automatic transmission though as they aren’t performance orientated in any shape form or fashion. Thanks to technology and “flappy paddle gearboxes” as the famous Jeremy Clarkson would say, we have automatic transmissions that are faster and smarter in every sense than our slow counterparts. We just can’t out-shift or out-smart the DCT / Dual-Clutch Transmissions offered today. Please keep in mind I’m not referring to the transmissions you will find in the average econo-box automobile that gives you paddle-shifters to row through the gears when you’re not in their auto modes. Those are conventional automatic transmissions and share nothing with the high-end, performance orientated DCT setups. Why am I mentioning cars when you’re here to read about motorcycles? It’s to give you a comparison. A lot of people who would typically never be caught in an “automatic” car are giving some of the sports cars with DCT options a try and fall in love instantly when compared to their normal manual clutched 5 or 6-speed transmissions.
I’m going to dive into explaining the DCT Automatic motorcycle transmission now and go over all the inner workings that set the Dual-Clutch Transmission apart from any other transmission you have used to row through the gears with.
What is the Dual Clutch Transmission?
Dual Clutch Transmission is a motorcycle transmission that automates clutch and shift operation while retaining the essential structure and direct acceleration feel of a manual transmission. Since clutch operation is not required, the rider is free to focus on operating the throttle and brakes. Moreover, Dual Clutch Transmission offers acceleration and shifting while minimizing the power gaps that occur during shifting with a manual transmission.
Honda’s development of an automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) for motorcycles and ATVs represents smart technology with broad appeal, particularly for riders new to motorcycling. While clutch manipulation and manual shifting are second nature to experienced motorcycle riders, the fully automatic shifting DCT technology offers a simplified learn-to-ride experience for new riders, and creates a very rider-friendly experience for re-entry riders and seasoned enthusiasts alike.
Choosing a model equipped with an automatic DCT gives riders a unique approach to shifting gears on a motorcycle or ATV, one that’s both fun and easy to use. Honda offers an automatic DCT in a wide variety of motorcycles including the rider-friendly CTX family of new-concept motorcycles, plus models suited for riders with more experience, such as the popular NC700X, NM4, CTX700, CTX700N, Africa Twin, VFR1200X, VFR1200F. The FourTrax Rancher AT features DCT technology, and was the first in the world of all-terrain vehicles to do so followed up by the FourTrax Foreman Rubicon 500.
Honda’s automatic DCT is truly a game-changer in the world of powersports because it features a light and compact design. This design allows it to be combined with a variety of new and existing engines and chassis without substantial layout modifications.
As the dual-clutch name implies, Honda’s DCT system incorporates two clutches. One is used for start-up and it also controls 1st, 3rd and 5th gears. The second clutch controls 2nd, 4th and 6th gears. The two clutches operate alternately in making gear changes. The use of this technology in a motorcycle is a world’s first.
For example, when changing from 1st to 2nd gear, the system detects the upshift and engages 2nd gear, then releases the 1st-gear clutch while engaging the 2nd-gear clutch to achieve a smooth, seamless gear change.
By pre-selecting the next gear and using the clutch not currently driving the motorcycle, this system delivers fast and efficient transitions that result in extremely quick shifts. The resulting smooth-shifting nature adds to the fun of DCT, and it also makes the ride smoother and more comfortable for passengers.
Honda’s DCT design features dual concentric input shafts—that is, there’s one shaft that runs inside the other hollow shaft. It’s a very compact design that also includes an inline clutch, and the linear solenoid valves and hydraulic circuitry tucks neatly away beneath the engine cover. Compactness and lightness is further enhanced by using a simple shifting mechanism based on a conventional motorcycle shift drum, and it also uses conventional transmission gears for proven durability.
Automatic DCT Transmission vs Manual / Clutch Transmission side by side Video Comparison
With the Honda DCT, motorcyclists can enjoy simple twist-and-go operation via two modes of fully automatic functionality. There’s the D mode that’s ideal for city and highway riding. In sporty S mode, the transmission lets the engine rev a little higher before shifting up, giving greater acceleration performance. It also shifts down sooner when decelerating, offering additional engine braking. For more rider control, there’s a manual mode (MT) that allows the rider to select and change gears using two buttons on the left handlebar controls—a paddle-shifter style of control.
The newest versions of Honda’s motorcycle automatic DCT offer immediate manual override on demand in either automatic D or S mode. The rider simply selects the desired gear using the MT mode shift buttons; this is particularly useful, for example, when preparing to pass another vehicle or when approaching a tight corner on a twisty, hilly road. And when the rider is done using the push-button controls, the system seamlessly reverts to full automatic mode without any further rider input being required.
This new-generation DCT also has a new level of sophistication: a learning function has been added that allows the ECU (engine control unit) to detect a variety of rider input/operational patterns performed in riding environments from city streets to mountain passes during each selected running mode, and the DCT then automatically performs the most appropriate shift pattern in keeping with that particular style of operation.
Honda’s automatic DCT is truly ingenious because it’s such a light, compact and efficient design. Also, because it uses conventional transmission gears, it’s as rugged and durable as Honda’s manual transmissions. The Honda automatic DCT is an especially valuable and useful option because it can make motorcycling all the more accessible for new riders and enjoyable for all riders.
Dual Clutch Transmission offers AT Mode for automatic shifting and MT Mode for rider-controlled shifting. In addition, AT Mode comprises D Mode for daily riding and S Mode for sporty riding.
- In AT Mode, the system performs all shifts automatically.
- The rider may operate the shift switch even while riding in AT Mode.
- In MT Mode the rider performance all gear changes via paddle-shifters on the left handlebar.
Thanks to its ability to respond to riding conditions, the system is able automatically to return to AT Mode from MT as needed and to maintain a selected gear during cornering. By monitoring riding conditions based on vehicle speed, engine rpm and other factors, the system is able to select gears with extreme precision.
Internal Configuration of the DCT / Dual Clutch Transmission
Now, we’ll look at how the Dual Clutch Transmission automatically operates the clutch and performs shifts during acceleration and deceleration.
⇓ ⇓ Start Up
⇓ ⇓ Up-Shifting
⇓ ⇓ Down-Shifting
How Dual Clutch Transmission automatically shifts gears
With a regular manual transmission, the rider changes gears with the left shift pedal. This action rotates the shift drum, and shift forks slide the gears into position. In Dual Clutch Transmission, the shift control motor performs this same function, turning a gear shift spindle. (With the optionally available shift pedal, the mechanism is identical.)
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Making Dual Clutch Transmission accessible to even more riders
Dual Clutch Transmission lets the rider enjoy the riding feel of a manual without the need for shifting or clutch operation. To make this system accessible to as many riders as possible, Honda offers it on a variety of different motorcycles, optimizing its structure to match the engine and model characteristics of each bike.
If you have written-off at least taking one of Honda’s DCT motorcycles for a demo / test ride and haven’t considered even giving one a try, you’re missing out. Hopefully the information I’ve covered in this post shows you that you can have just as much fun with one of these transmissions and that it’s not your “typical” automatic transmissions you’ve probably grown to despise – these are definitely the wave of the future. If there was ever a person that didn’t like the idea of an automatic motorcycle when Honda first released the DN-01 back in 2009, it was me. I didn’t believe you could have any fun with an automatic motorcycle. To me, I couldn’t see anything touching the fun factor of slamming through the gears with my foot at 15,000 RPM on my CBR as she howled asking for more and more! I finally put all of my preconceived notions to the side and gave the DCT automatic motorcycles a try. A true shot without letting my head or male ego in the way. I won’t dive draw this blog post out any longer on my opinions about the DCT transmission but I can say with 100% honesty that my previous opinions took a 180 degree turn. Motorcycles are still fun even without a clutch and you’ll be amazed at how much you fall in love with the fact of not having to use a clutch while in traffic. It may just be me but I also found that I noticed more things going on in my peripheral vision and just seemed to be more aware of other things both on and off the road as strange as that sounds. I found myself not paying attention to anything but my surroundings. It’s quite the nice feeling when riding in the city. It takes some getting used to it, we all have to ride like every cage driver is out to get us so we are prepared when they “don’t see us” as they all love to say so the more attention you can put towards your surroundings the better. There’s many more small tidbits of my opinion I could share but I’ll save that for another day. Now, lets get to the DCT Automatic Motorcycle Question & Answer session below…
- What is a Dual Clutch Transmission?
- A. The Dual Clutch Transmission is Honda’s most advanced automatic transmission system for motorcycles. Its layout and manual-like feel are strikingly similar to conventional sports bike engines and their transmissions.
- Is the Dual Clutch Transmission an automatic transmission?
- A. Yes, but with a difference. Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission utilizes a computerized electro-hydraulic control system to switch between the gears of a conventional six-speed transmission. It is equipped with two clutch packs, and gear selection can be manually controlled by a pair of switches located on the handlebar. The system also has an AT (Automatic Transmission) mode that offers virtually fully automatic gear change control.
- Is manual gear operation possible?
- A. Yes, individual gears can be selected using a pair of switches built into the left handlebar switch pod. The thumb switch is used to downshift, and the index finger switch is used to change up a gear.
- Is there a clutch lever?
- A. Since the system’s two clutches are operated entirely by way of electronic control, the handlebar has no clutch lever.
- Is operation possible using a shift pedal?
- A. As the transmission cannot be mechanically shifted by foot, no shift pedal is provided.
Note: A foot shifter kit is also optionally available for some models in some countries.
- A. As the transmission cannot be mechanically shifted by foot, no shift pedal is provided.
- What is new about this Dual Clutch Transmission?
- A. Today, most of the automatic systems designed for motorcycles are continuously variable transmissions (CVT) similar to those used by scooters, etc. In a radically new approach, Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission features advanced electronic control technologies to achieve smooth and precise acceleration, including a learning function that finds the most suitable start, gear change and running operations for a motorcycle.
- What is new about this Dual Clutch Transmission?
- A. Yes, Honda has long been a leader in tackling the many technological issues involved in developing motorcycles that offer smoother and easier operation. Since its founding, Honda has strived to realize a more enjoyable riding experience by reducing the difficulties often associated with motorcycles.In 1958, Honda developed an automatic centrifugal clutch, introduced on the C100 Super Cub (50cc), which allowed riders to start and change gears without requiring manual clutch operation. In 1963, the Juno M (125cc) scooter was the first ever equipped with a continuously variable hydraulic transmission. In 1977, the large-displacement (750cc) Honda EARA sports bike featured a Hondamatic automatic transmission with a torque-converter like that used for cars.The Honda TACT (50cc) released in 1980 was Honda’s first scooter equipped with the V-Matic belt drive system, which integrated drive and gear change operations, and later became the standard for simple, continuously variable transmissions (CVT). In 2008, the DN-01 Sports Cruiser debuted equipped with its own Human Friendly Transmission (HFT). And now Honda’s specially developed Dual Clutch Transmission system for sports motorcycles offers the same feeling of direct operation as a manual transmission.
- What are the main merits of the Dual Clutch Transmission?
- A. First, the Dual Clutch Transmission offers smooth, precise operation that provides confident, undistracted control and a more enjoyable riding experience. Its ECU has been specially programmed to automatically control the hydraulic clutch system to intermittently engage the clutch in place of the rider’s left hand, while a motor instantly changes gears in place of the rider’s left foot.As its Dual Clutch name implies, this compact system incorporates two side-by-side alternating clutch packs, one for odd numbered gears 1, 3 & 5, and one for even numbered gears 2, 4 & 6. In the minute interval before actual gear shifting operation begins, the system automatically prepares itself for the transfer of drive power between gears by starting up the rotation of the gear to be changed to. Its two independently actuated clutches then smoothly transfer rotation speed from one gear to the next without zeroing out the drive force transmitted to the rear wheel. This greatly minimizes the shock of gear engagement, even when changing gears during hard acceleration or deceleration, thus realizing highly precise gear shift operation and smooth, seamless riding enjoyment.Also contributing to a smoother ride, the Dual Clutch Transmission system’s ECU is programmed to minimize unnecessary gear changes by monitoring riding conditions on curvy roads like mountain passes. This allows the rider to better concentrate on the road ahead, and more fully enjoy the sensations of acceleration and braking, as well as the surrounding scenery. As a result, since the basic mechanism is virtually the same as a manual six-speed transmission, its smooth, highly advanced control delivers precise gear shifts that even expert riders will marvel at, and a higher level of smooth and skillful riding capability that anybody can fully enjoy.
- What sort of mileage does a motorcycle equipped with a Dual Clutch Transmission get?
- A. Generally, fuel consumption can vary widely depending on such factors as vehicle speed, engine speed, acceleration method, loaded weight, and such weather conditions as wind direction. In comparison tests of the NC700X, the NC700X ABS and the NC700X with Dual Clutch Transmission, it was found that all three averaged about 41km per liter based on a constant speed of 60km per hour. In other words, motorcycles equipped with Dual Clutch Transmissions proved to be virtually identical to manual transmission models in terms of fuel efficiency.
- Is the Dual Clutch Transmission difficult to operate?
- A. Operation is not much different from conventional motorcycles, although it does allow one to ride without operating a clutch lever and gear shift pedal. Normally, when starting out on a regular motorcycle, one would first squeeze the clutch lever and select 1st gear with the shift pedal. However, on a motorcycle equipped with the Dual Clutch Transmission, after starting the engine, one simply switches from Neutral (N) to Drive (D) using the S–D-N thumb switch located on the right-side handlebar, and then turns the throttle to start and accelerate.
- Doesn’t it feel strange not having a clutch lever and a shift pedal?
- A. When first trying out a Dual Clutch-equipped motorcycle, many riders who are used to operating a manual transmission unconsciously grab for the non-existent clutch lever with their fingers, or attempt to operate the shift pedal with their left foot. However, anyone can grow accustomed to the user-friendly Dual Clutch Transmission in about an hour’s riding time.
- Aren’t manual transmission models more fun to ride than those fitted with the Dual Clutch Transmission?
- A. For sports bike riders, all the operations and techniques associated with riding, including clutch and throttle control, and clicking swiftly through the gears, make up the fundamentals of riding enjoyment. If we look at the Dual Clutch Transmission systems used in professional race cars and some high-end sports cars, we can see that gear changes are performed much more quickly than possible with a standard shift lever. Also, since their paddle shifters are integrated into the cars’ steering wheels, drivers never have to take their hand off the steering wheel, and can thus better concentrate on the intricacies of driving.In professional motorsports, where races are won with quick acceleration and minimized accumulated time loss, the Dual Clutch Transmission also has the advantage of allowing gear changes to be performed virtually instantaneously. Honda’s latest Dual Clutch Transmission is a compact and lightweight system developed exclusively for motorcycles. We hope you will take it for a test ride and experience for yourself the delight of riding with such precision control at your fingertips.
- Do Dual Clutch bikes have engine braking capability? If so, how does it work?
- A. Engine braking on models equipped with the Dual Clutch Transmission is generally initiated by closing the throttle. For stronger engine braking response, the electronic system can be downshifted much like a standard motorcycle. This is done with a press of its downshift thumb switch located on the left handlebar. If the system detects that a lower gear could result in sudden engine over-revving, it will ignore the operation of the downshift switch. Usually, though, manual downshifting can be initiated at any time by simply tapping the downshift switch, even when operating in Drive mode.
- Can a bike with a Dual Clutch Transmission be parked on a slope?
- A. All Dual Clutch models are also equipped with a manual parking brake, which should be used whenever stopped.
- Since Dual Clutch Transmission models are operated by merely opening the throttle, do they have front and rear brake levers mounted on the handlebars like scooters?
- A. No, to minimize confusion, Dual Clutch Transmission models are equipped with the same right hand front brake and right foot rear brake operation used on general sports bikes.
Do you have some questions that weren’t covered above? Ask below in the comment section and I’ll answer any of your questions.
2016 Honda DCT Automatic Motorcycle Model Lineup / USA: CTX700 DCT (CTX700DG), CTX700N DCT (CTX700NDG), NC700X DCT (NC700XDG), Africa Twin DCT (CRF1000LDG), VFR1200X DCT (VFR1200XDG).
2016 Honda DCT Automatic Motorcycle Model Lineup / Worldwide: CTX700 DCT (CTX700DG), CTX700N DCT (CTX700NDG), Integra DCT (NC750DG), NC750X DCT (NC750XDG), NC750S DCT (NC750SDG), Africa Twin DCT (CRF1000LDG), VFR1200F DCT (VFR1200FDG), VFR1200X DCT (VFR1200XDG).
If you noticed the NC750X mentioned above, it is not a typo. We do not get the larger 750 cc engine in our adventure NC 700 X model here in the USA at this time. You’ll also notice there are a few other models mentioned above that you may not be familiar with. We are a very and I mean very small part of the market share when it comes to the worldwide motorcycle market. If you don’t follow the model lineups overseas that never come to our side of the pond you would be blown away at how large that number is of models that don’t come or can’t per sat. Many are due to certain countries and their regulations and or they think it won’t sell well etc to where it’s not worth the time in their eyes.
We are only a few days away from the EICMA & IMS 2015 Show… I will have more new 2016 Honda motorcycle model announcements at that time as Honda is slated to bring their A-Game to this event with some surprises. Keep an eye here or follow me on social media via the links below for instant notifications once the new model information and updates are allowed to be released to the public.
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