2010 Honda VFR1200F DCT first ride review

Face it – automatic bikes don’t have a great reputation. Has Dual Clutch Technology changed all that? Shall we find out?

Posted: 28 June 2010
by Ben Cope

Click to read: Honda VFR1200F DCT owners reviews, Honda VFR1200F DCT specs and see the Honda VFR1200F DCT image gallery.

There are some things that even nostalgia can’t fix: double-denim, the mullet, Hondamatic. No matter which way you look at it, there was no excuse for any of them.

Honda’s semi-automatic gearbox technology was designed for cars but introduced for bikes in 1976 with the CB750A and it was a disaster, paving the way for a universal loathing of automatic gearboxes that lasts to this day.

The Hondamatic gearbox featured two gears, so progress was at best, sluggish even with a 750cc engine. There was no clutch lever, but there was a gear lever so you’d still select the gear with your left boot; the action was much like that of a Honda C90.

Automatic gear changing questioned your masculinity. The Hondamatic failed to appeal to rough tough ’70s bikers who liked their gearboxes full of gears, their gear changes manual and their clutch levers present and correct.

Hondamatic fizzled out in 1983, after Honda launched a series of smaller capacity machines using a parallel-twin 400cc engine. The technology was the same and they were never accepted.

It wasn’t until 2006 that a mainstream manufacturer made another attempt to bring automatic to the people. Yamaha’s flagship sports tourer, the FJR1300AE featured semi-automatic transmission based around a manual gearbox. It was called Yamaha Chip Controlled Shift (YCC-S). A computer controlled clutch and push-button gearshift replaced the clutch lever.

The trouble with the FJR1300AE is that it took off where Hondamatic left and didn’t introduce enough technology to make people stop and take notice.

It was technology for technology’s sake and was never well received by the press. The FJR1300AE was crucified for hampering low speed control. Like the Hondamatic, it’s semi-automatic gear shifting solved a problem that no-one had. We still liked changing gear ourselves. We may not have been as smooth as a computer microchip, but it added to the involvement. The FJR1300AE appealed to a minority but left most first-time riders feeling cold.

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Discuss this story

See, thing is, I like changing gears, and I get bored of playing Playstation in 5 minutes.

So, why not give me the option of changing gears with my left foot, like I've always done, instead of my left hand?

If you change the way bike does things internally (throttle by wire, auto box, etc) but you don't change the way riders interact with the bike (except for maybe eliminating a clutch lever), then it's a win win. Electromecanics do what they do best, and riders do what they like the best. Changing gears with my left foot is one of those things.

People buy the user interface, not the technology.

Posted: 28/06/2010 at 17:47

I can't think of anything more mind numbing to be honest. Its just another thing to go wrong if you ask me.

Posted: 29/06/2010 at 17:06

Although i can see the usefulness for disabled riders.

Posted: 29/06/2010 at 17:07

To all you out there happy to comment without trying please keep your guesses about what this might be like to yourselves. I've ridden both the manual and the DCT (and dozens of other bikes) and this is one of the best machines I have ever ridden. Stick it in sport and just have fun. Stop pretending you are Valentino when a 12 year old Liam Haslam would have left you for dead. This bike changes gear every time better than 99.9% of all riders will ever manage even once. After an hour or so you forget all about the gear changes and are left with focussing on cornering, feeding in the power from a fantastic engine and, of course, dodging the assassins in the tin boxes. In the real world with a typical ability rider on board this is a hugely rewarding bike to ride. This is the first bike I've owned that has made me think that I only need one bike in my garage.

Posted: 04/03/2012 at 10:38

I wonder if I'm allowed to drive this on my automatic motorcycle licence I'm thinking off getting one

Posted: 27/05/2012 at 20:50

I agree Jim, sport mode is the way to go. The riding experience is enjoyed that much more not having any loss of contact with the bike from changing gears ecspiecially when using all of that beautiful engine.

Posted: 08/01/2013 at 23:34

How strange; all the people who diss this bike haven't ridden it and all the folk that love it have.

Posted: 20/01/2015 at 13:17

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