DCT: Clutchless Pants?

No, it's mint, actually

Picked up my long-term-test DCT Crosstourer last week from Honda HQ near Heathrow.

British people might like to notice that this was one of the days this ‘summer’ where the sun was shining. It’s not photoshop and it’s not artificial lighting. It’s that sun thing.

But the moment I lined the front wheel up with my loading ramp, a thought dawned on me. Er, no clutch. This being the dual clutch, semi-auto version, there isn’t even a clutch lever fitted at all. There is a hand-brake, though.

Normally, I load bikes into the back of my Ranger pick-up by walking along side, first gear engaged, engine running and control the loading speed up the ramp on the clutch.

It’s a ridiculously high pick-up bed and when a bike weighs close to a third of a tonne it focuses the mind, for sure. Off road bikes are a doddle, though.

My technique is a two-stager: to kill the motor when the front wheel’s in the back – issue the trusted helper with instruction just to keep the bike level - while I jump onto the tailgate to perform part two of the handlebar operations.

This loading method, while looking very risky to onlookers, hasn’t gone wrong yet After three years and at least one knee-trembling K1600 BMW involved, I reckon I’ve got the technique pretty well licked. I’d best shut up. I might just have tempted fate.

But back to Honda HQ: Matt from Honda had a brainwave. Load the Crosstourer onto a 7.5tonner’s tail-lift, raise it to the appropriate height and then back the Ranger up to it and just roll the bike from one vehicle to another. Three feet up in the air.

I had my video running just in case we were going to get YouTube gold but it worked a treat.

I’ve only clocked a few hundred miles on the bike so far but that massive luggage means you really do find that the car gets used less and less. Hard luggage may look like an ugly ‘lifestyle’ afterthought but boy is it useful. That noise you can hear is myself eating my words. Hard luggage? I’ll take it all back.

Oddly, the Crosstourer’s hard luggage is soft-hard luggage. It’s made of ABS plastic and coloured to look like aluminium. It is, however, very light and pretty good on the waterproof front although is does leak in a monsoon through the hinges as my map-book discovered. The mounting and un-mounting mechanism for the panniers and the top box is a doddle. Simple, quick and clunk-click self-assuring. The lack of ugly pannier brackets (they’re integrated into the pillion footrest hanger and body work) is a design masterstroke.

The most interesting thing about the DCT, though, is other people’s reactions. Pillions love the it. Out back, the ride is rock solid, surefooted (that’s the immense weight and the earth’s gravitational effect pinning it to the ground) roomy and comfortable. The pillion pegs are maybe an inch too high for most, though.

The strange farty sound from the exhaust tailpipe on up-shifts is really popular with pillions, too.

That’s cool farty as opposed to un-cool farty.

It’s only a noise that a big-bore, growly V-4 that changes up a gear in five billionths of a nano-second is capable of emitting. For that reason, it’s a very unique sound. 

I’ve let a couple of people have a quick blast on it, as well. My advice to every DCT first-timer is to leave the flappy paddles alone, stick it in auto-mode and treat it like the fastest scooter you’ve ever ridden.

Someone (they shall remain anonymous) who works for a rival manufacturer had a go on it last week. They (non-gender specific) were blown away and could only utter, ‘that’s amazing, that’s amazing’ to sum up their virgin DCT experience.

For me, on bikes like this that are designed to be ridden a long way, all day and every day, the DCT version offers one obvious and distinct advantage.

Let’s face it; big mileages on a bike are tiring. Anything that lets your weary conscious mind focus better on what lies ahead has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? And the shift up and down the DCT box are immaculate every time – if they weren’t my argument would be pointless.

I hope by the end of (ha,ha) summer I can find things wrong with the DCT. Other than not being to be able to ride it up a ramp into the back of a pick-up bed, that is…

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