Honda's DCT

10/25/2017 12:51:00 AM

In the world of powersports, no manufacturer is more closely associated with the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) than Honda, and for good reason: While the sophisticated technology can be found on a number of high-performance sports cars, Honda is the only company to offer it on motorcycles, ATVs, or side-by-sides.

Honda has been an innovator with transmissions since 1958, when the 50cc C100 Super Cub featured an automatic centrifugal clutch that enabled riders to change gears with a foot lever without having to also manually operate a hand lever. The 1963 100cc Juno M scooter came with a continuously variable hydraulic transmission, and the 1977 750cc EARA sport bike debuted Hondamatic, an automotive-style automatic transmission with a torque converter. The V-Matic belt-drive system, offered on the 1980 50cc TACT scooter, would become the standard for continuously variable transmissions (CVT), integrating drive and gear-change operations. The Human Friendly Transmission (HFT), offered on the 2008 DN-01 sport cruiser, boasted a compact design that fit in the engine, an improved arrangement for coping with motorcycles' vehicle-packaging challenges.

DCT, however, was a significant step forward, as it offers the advantages of an automatic transmission without the usual negatives; in fact, one could make a good case for DCT being a manual transmission that shifts automatically. The system uses real gears, and there are no belts or pulleys; instead, it utilizes a pair of clutches (hence the name) riding on a pair of shafts—a hollow outer shaft and a second one that runs inside it. One clutch is assigned to odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5, 7), the other even-numbered gears (2, 4, 6). This way, even while one clutch is engaged with the current gear, the next gear is always ready to be immediately engaged when one clutch hands off to the other. The result is smooth, quick gear changes with minimal loss of torque, and an improved overall riding experience.

Honda debuted DCT to the powersports world back in 2009, offering the technology on the stunning 2010 VFR1200F sport-touring motorcycle. Successor to the popular Interceptor, the bike was powered by a V4 engine inspired by Honda's MotoGP involvement. Clearly, if such a machine came equipped with DCT, the technology wasn't limited to motorcycling neophytes. The following model year, Honda followed up with a second-generation DCT that was lighter and more compact, and it was upgraded again for 2012.

Subsequent years saw Honda's DCT continue its evolution as it was offered on models including the VFR1200X and NC700X adventure bikes, NC700S naked bike, Integra scooter, and CTX700 touring machine. This series of DCT-equipped models firmly established Honda as the leader in DCT-equipped motorcycles, but it was arguably with the 2016 debut of the CRF1000L Africa Twin—six years after the technology's powersports unveiling—that the public truly took notice of DCT's potential.

An adventure-touring bike that was developed following a "True Adventure" philosophy, the Africa Twin has enjoyed a warm reception from customers, who appreciate the model's ability to perform capably in applications as diverse as long-distance touring and rugged off-road trails. The fact that Honda would offer a DCT version of the machine confirmed that the technology's benefits extended beyond simplifying the act of riding. Attracted by the sophisticated system's performance benefits, veterans and hard-core riders have opted for the DCT version of the CRF1000L, sales of which have been very strong.

During much of this time, Honda has offered DCT on other, non-motorcycle products. As mentioned above, the technology isn't uncommon in high-performance sport cars, including the Acura NSX supercar, TLX performance luxury sedan, ILX compact sport sedan, and RLX sport hybrid. In powersports, Honda's flagship Pioneer 1000 is the industry's only side-by-side to be offered with DCT, while Honda's FourTrax Foreman Rubicon 4x4 and FourTrax Rancher are the only ATVs to be available with the technology.

Now, Honda introduces the all-new 2018 Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour, and perhaps it should come as no surprise that the latest version of the legendary model is offered with DCT. When you think about it, the technology is well suited to high-performance touring, where riders should appreciate DCT's capacity to enhance the riding experience. The latest-generation version, with seven speeds, new dampers, and a Walking Mode (forward and reverse), boasts fast, smooth, quiet shifting, and is sure to be a hit among GL enthusiasts.