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Honda’s DCT automatic tranny targets new riders

2014 Honda CTX700D with DCT and ABS

Liz Hochstedler, Managing Editor
August 5, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

It’s no secret that in the U.S., motorcycles are seen much more as recreational vehicles than modes of daily transportation, so it can be hard to convince the younger car-driving generations to pick up riding as it is, but it can prove even more difficult when those potential riders have never learned how to drive with a clutch.

As anyone who has ridden a bike knows, balance is an early skill riders must grasp, but when coupling that with learning how to use a clutch for the first time, converting a non-rider into a rider can be frustrating.

To remove that barrier, companies like Honda have continued to push automatic transmission technology. The OEM has introduced its second generation of the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) technology in its VFR1200F, NC700X, CTX700 and CTX700N models in an effort to recruit more potential riders into the industry.

“A lot of people growing up today have never operated a clutch shift, and frankly don’t want to,” said Jon Seidel, assistant manager, American Honda powersports press. “One of the keys was to bring new people to the market and remove that obstacle.”

Riders who choose the DCT option can use it in three modes — MT, D and S. MT allows the rider to have full manual control of the transmission using two buttons on the left handlebar controls. D and S are fully-automatic modes, with D being used for city and highway riding and S used for greater acceleration performance and additional engine braking. Manual override is available on demand when in D or S modes. The new DCT also has a learning function, which adapts to rider operational patterns in different environments, performing the appropriate shift actions automatically.

The Honda CTX700 (shown), CTX700N, VFR1200F and NC700X all have Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), with two fully automatic modes, as an option.

The Honda CTX700 (shown), CTX700N, VFR1200F and NC700X all have Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), with two fully automatic modes, as an option.

“It’s always constantly shifting, but the advantage is you’re not always using the hand clutch or the foot clutch,” Seidel said.

In addition to the automatic clutch, the CTX700 includes other features meant to lure new riders. The bike has a 28.3-inch seat height; it gets up to 61 mpg; it’s lightweight and has agile handling, and DCT models come with ABS. The price is also attractive, coming in at $7,999 to $8,799 for DCT models (DCT is a $1,000 option).

“It’s just part of the collective package that makes this a unique product on the market,” Seidel said.

Growing popularity

Though news of the improved DCT system is still spreading, the models that include the option are gaining momentum. Bill Savino, motorcycle press manager for American Honda, expects demand to grow as more potential riders learn of the technology.

“We’ve had very, very positive comments in what we’ve done so far,” he said.

Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) models allow riders to use paddle-style buttons to manually shift their bike, or switch to one of two fully automatic modes.

Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) models allow riders to use paddle-style buttons to manually shift their bike, or switch to one of two fully automatic modes.

Though officials at American Honda wouldn’t share if the DCT technology will translate into more models in the future — a similar Electronic Shift Program (ESP) is already available on the Rancher ATV — they indicated that they’re considering expanding it going forward.

“It’s definitely something we’re looking at, and how we can use it to our best advantage,” Savino said.

The goal in creating easier-to-ride bikes is to gain more traction with younger generations and non-riders. As Honda is an engineering company, Savino said it will continue looking at the latest technology to attract new buyers and to hopefully create the right bikes to make more people consider them daily commuters.

“If we can bring more people in, it’s not only good for us, it’s good for the industry,” he said.

 

Comments

One Response to “Honda’s DCT automatic tranny targets new riders”

  1. Greg Faulkner on August 15th, 2013 5:05 am

    I’ve got a deposit on a CTX700 in red with the fairing, but this bike is not only about the DCT which also comes with ABS braking. These options may greatly improve the chance that a new rider will choose a new Honda, but really, a beginner should think more about the size and weight of his or her first ride than the ease of the transmission system only.

    It should be noted, that while the DCT/ABS, noted as “D” on the model nameplates of the CTX700 and CTX700N (CTX700D and CTX700ND, respectively) allows a rider to not have to worry about shifting for city riding, that the D version has some negatives as well. Three drawbacks of the D models: They add a whopping $1,000 to the price of each model, which is as much as a 14% premium; they add a 22 lb weight penalty; and the D models also reduce estimated mpg by 3. Alternatively, when choosing this bike in standard form, it is still a really easy-to-ride and affordable motorcycle due to its low center of gravity and low seat height and low starting MSRP for a bike of this size / features ($6,999 for the N model and $7800 for the fairing model).

    Most of the articles out there about this bike focus almost exclusively on the automatic transmission, but it would be nice if the authors included some of the other technologies and the great value of this bike without the DCT and ABS. Personally, I’m trading a 330 cc scooter for this ride while not sacrificing a single mile per gallon and getting a new bike at a really good price!

    What I’ve found on various forums is that, so far, Honda is attracting a lot of current and former scooter riders who finally see a motorcycle that makes alot of practical sense and some returning riders who have some mobility issues. I’ve also seen a few true newbies considering one of the CTX Ds, but they should consider a smaller bike and/or a used bike and a safety course before jumping on a brand new 700 cc bike, and that’s what the senior members have been recommending to them.

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