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Save the Manuals: Dual Clutch Transmissions Coming

Will Honda’s AFrica Twin With DCT breakthrough in North America?

In Europe, DCT is a popular option for motorcyclists, but this columnist doesn’t believe it will translate to North America. Above is Honda’s VFR engine with dual clutch transmission. It was not a huge success in N.A.
In Europe, DCT is a popular option for motorcyclists, but this columnist doesn’t believe it will translate to North America. Above is Honda’s VFR engine with dual clutch transmission. It was not a huge success in N.A.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] see that Honda is once again experimenting with Social Engineering. I’m referring, of course, to the new Africa Twin with DCT. From my experience in the past, DCT has not been a sales success, certainly not in North America. Yamaha has tried it with the FJR1300, and Honda’s tried it with the VFR, CTX700, and recently with the NM4.

I understand that in Europe, DCT is more popular than in North America. I’m not sure why. Maybe Europeans are more dissimilar than we thought. In a continent with autobahns, the Alps, and hundreds of miles of winding coastal roads, you’d think that things would be different.

Car and Driver has been promoting a “Save the Manuals” campaign for some time, but seem to be losing that battle. The last time I ordered a convertible sports car, I had to wait six months because I refused to settle for an automatic transmission. It seems that the masses want to only aim their automobiles, and not really get involved with actually controlling the engine and how it puts power to the ground. It’s even almost impossible to order a pickup with a manual transmission these days.

Sure, there are some cars out there with paddle shifters, and I’m sure they’re fast, but without an actual shift stick and a third pedal, there seems to be something missing; some part of the experience is off. Driving a vehicle with an automatic is, to me, like having sex with your clothes on – you can do it, but you’re going miss a lot of sensory input.

I don’t know about you, but for me, a large part of the whole motorcycling experience is revving a motorcycle up near the redline before shifting, and controlling every aspect of the performance of the engine. I love pushing the speed in the corners; putting pressure on the bars; shifting down before the corner. It’s just me, the bike and the apex. The engine sings, I shift again, and pull myself out of the corner, ready for the next one. You become part of the whole process of riding, one with the machine, as they say.

[pullquote]Some riders shift without the clutch already. Maybe for them a DCT is perfect, although sales numbers in North America are not showing that popularity.[/pullquote]

No DCT transmission gives one that feeling of being part of the bike, and I don’t see how it is possible for that to be so. It’s just pushing buttons. I want to feel the engine, the clutch, and all of the control actual shifting gives me.

I cannot be alone, yet Honda keeps pushing these systems on us that insulate us from the experience. Maybe I’m on the wrong track. After all, the latest thing being talked about is the Autonomous Automobile, where you just sit in the car and it takes you to where you want to go, without any input from us other than the coordinates of the final destination. Of course, we have that now. We call them taxis. Or buses. Or trains. Maybe for a long commute in gridlock that makes some sense.

But give me a crisp autumn day, a windy road, a motorcycle with a shifter and a clutch lever that I can operate as it was meant to. That brings the smile to my face that we as motorcyclists understand at a primal level.

Sure, a DCT works fine. It changes the gear ratios either by itself or by the push of a button. But is that enough? This motorcyclist thinks not.

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