New Bikes

Honda VFR1200F launch: DCT transmission

Mark Forsyth tests Honda's automatic VFR1200 and finds he's in for a surprise

WELL, I’ve just sampled our future. And, no, I don’t mean electric motorcycles, thank goodness.

Honda’s DCT (dual clutch transmission), an optional extra on their new VFR1200F, is absolutely incredible.

The first thing you might notice is a lack of clutch and gear lever. They’re two pretty big clues that Honda’s boffins have been working their magic. The second thing you’ll spot are the flappy paddle gear shift levers on the left hand bar along with an odd-looking handbrake device. On the right hand switchgear cluster is another button - auto button and a neutral selector button combined. There’s also another option offered by the right hand switch - Sporty or Comfort automatic.

It doesn’t take long to get used to. Some people couldn’t get their heads round it but, personally, I couldn’t see the difficulty.

Start the V4 up and automatic is, er, automatically selected. It’s then up to you to make the choice between sporty (more revs, blips throttle for downshifts, holds onto gear longer and backshifts sooner to keep the revs higher) and cruisy, lazy auto mode, which would be just fine for the road.

Hate the idea of auto? Just use the right hand bar-mounted flappy paddles. You use the thumb control to backshift and your index finger for upshifts. It really is that simple.

In any of these modes the gearshifts are smoother than your best ever pillion-firendly gearshift. Ever. They’re fast, too – particularly in flappy paddle mode or when the auto setting is in sports.

But you know the best bit about all this? It frees up a massive portion of your brain (useful in my case) to think about other things like getting you line right or your braking point.

I think it was pretty brave of Honda to launch a big old sports touring bike on a race track, particularly one like Sugo with all its bad cambers and super-fast entry speeds. But they obviously knew. A great circuit and an impressive bike are made even more awesome by the introduction of this new push-button gearbox. I’ve just done my last session on the manual bike and it really made me realise how much physical effort you have to put into shifting gear. Changing gear with your foot is so passé….

DCT is the future, make no mistake…

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