Are Automatic Transmissions the Future of the Motorcycle Industry?

Gross sales are up! The motorbike business in America is definitely experiencing an upsurge, particularly in grime bikes and side-by-sides. Grime bike gross sales are up over 50% for the primary six months of 2020, in keeping with the Bike Trade Council’s retail gross sales reporting. Gross sales of road bikes are largely flat however are nonetheless important. There are round 450,000 or so new bikes offered within the U.S. per yr. That is excellent news, particularly since just some years in the past the business was fairly bleak, taking seemingly perpetually to crawl out of the recession of 2008-2009-etc.

You would credit score the latest months’ gross sales improve in grime bikes to a bunch of Individuals cooped up inside for months and months, determined to get out and experience. Regardless, let’s look longer-term right here. What will save the motorcycle industry long run? I say, automated transmissions. And electric motorcycles. Possibly each. Have a look.

Honda is manner forward of every other bike-maker relating to automatics, or extra exactly, DCT dual-clutch transmissions, which is a quick-shifting variant of the automated. In any case, you don’t must function a clutch and even change your throttle place to shift gears. The motorbike does that for you. On the Hondas you’re even given the selection of shifting with a pair of buttons on the left-hand grip. Or you should buy a guide. However the straight-up DCT transmission doesn’t require any enter from the rider apart from a twist of the throttle. I gotta assume that function can have an amazing attraction to each older patrons and relating to luring in new riders of all ages.

The Honda Gold Wing’s sprint is as elaborate as a contemporary automotive.


“Presently we provide three on-road bikes with a DCT possibility: Africa Twin, Gold Wing, and NC750,” stated Honda Bikes’ Colin Miller, who factors out that Honda has DCT transmissions in lots of its SXS and ATVs as nicely. “The DCT transmission really initially debuted on one in every of our ATVs in 2009.”

And it’s a giant vendor.

“We’ve got offered over 20,000 DCT transmission bikes because the VFR1200 got here out in 2010 (that mannequin has since been discontinued). Total gross sales don’t present an enormous share of the overall bikes however once you take a look at the fashions that do have the DCT possibility you begin to see the image. Because the DCT debuted on the Gold Wing, nicely over 50% of gross sales have been DCT. As for DCT on the opposite two fashions that provide it, roughly one third of the Africa Twins and one fourth of the NC750s are offered with it.”

Phrase is getting out concerning the shiftless possibility.

“Loads of clients actually choose that,” stated Giovanni Perez, a buyer care specialist at Bert’s Mega Mall in Covina, California, one of many largest motorbike sellers within the nation. “It makes it simpler on the cease mild, particularly on hills.”

Perez has a cause to understand the DCT on Hondas.

“I actually dig this know-how on this clutch as a result of I’m lacking my left arm (he misplaced it within the Military in Afghanistan). Clients are particularly in search of that DCT. They’re actual particular. They know them from the high-end supercars, like Ferrari runs them in all their automobiles. Hottest is the NC750 DCT; they need a lighter bike, they don’t need the clutch.”

Electrical bikes are by design similar to DCT bikes in that there is no such thing as a clutch to function on an electrical motorbike, you simply twist the throttle and go.

“In 2019 gross sales (of Zero motorcycles) grew up close to 1,500 within the U.S. and for the primary time over 1,000 in Europe,” stated concerning the Zero electrical motorbike.

Harley-Davidson all-electric LiveWire has no shifter.


Iconic bike maker Harley-Davidson has pinned plenty of hopes on the all-electric (and shiftless) LiveWire mannequin.

“The LiveWire doesn’t have a clutch so there is no such thing as a shifting,” stated Harley spokesperson Jennifer Hoyer. “It’s one a part of the rationale shoppers are drawn to the general efficiency of LiveWire: its ease of experience, its prompt velocity, the short cost and vary.”

I’ve ridden each the LiveWire and several other Zero electric bikes and have loved all of them, significantly the way in which the regenerative braking capabilities to gradual the bike getting into corners in the identical manner downshifting does that on a traditional, shifter bike.

However I additionally received one other likelihood to experience the brand new Honda Gold Wing with the DCT not too long ago. Not that I’m getting older—I simply turned 61—however I actually grew to understand the consolation and ease of motion the Gold Wing’s DCT transmission provided. As chances are you’ll recall from the brand new mannequin’s introduction in Autoweek two years in the past, the brand new ’Wing is powered by a brand new 1,833cc (1.8-liter) liquid-cooled flat-six. Honda doesn’t launch energy figures however clever guesses have put it at 125 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. That’s formidable for a motorbike that weighs round 800 kilos, relying on the way you load it up.

My take a look at bike was totally loaded, “Loaded up like your lounge ground on Christmas morning,” I wrote in my notes: parking brake, four-speaker stereo, reverse, heated grips, heated entrance and rear seats and infotainment that appears like what you’d discover on a automotive. You possibly can elevate and decrease the windscreen electrically. There are folding mirrors. Three baggage compartments (none of which might maintain my full-face helmet, btw).

Using round city was a bit of like piloting the starship Enterprise. So comfy. It took a short while to cease ghost-shifting the ghost-clutch, as a result of it wasn’t there, however as soon as I broke myself of that behavior, it was pure cruise management (one other function, cruise management on a bike!). You possibly can see why retired {couples} saddle up with these and head out to search for America.

It couldn’t be all issues to all riders. I by no means received to the place I felt comfy pushing it exhausting on a twisty mountain street, although I did see a trio of them on the very prime of Angeles Crest Freeway whose riders appeared to be having a nice day’s experience. It’s a cruiser bike, not a sport bike or perhaps a sport touring bike.

honda gold wing looks cool, requires no shifting

Honda Gold Wing parked subsequent to its brother Honda CT1300.

Mark Vaughn

I put over 700 miles on it within the time I had it and loved virtually all of them. It’s the form of motorbike that’s so comfy it simply makes you wish to get on it and experience in no explicit path for no explicit cause. Whereas I would select a sport tourer, I can actually see the attraction of this Gold Wing to a big and rising viewers, as all these child boomers retire into their extra comfy using years. And the DCT transmission can solely assist with that.

“Bike clients didn’t ask particularly for automatics early on, however the market has at all times moved in direction of higher merchandise and experiences,” stated Honda’s Colin Miller. “New fashions and new options have at all times moved the gross sales needle. Honda’s Twin Clutch Expertise had been in place for a few years on ATVs and Honda noticed the chance to innovate within the two-wheel market to satisfy this unspoken want. Similar to electrical begin on grime bikes overcame early resistance from traditionalists and took a while to turn into a normal function, DCT know-how has gained market acceptance and we’ve seen rising demand. We count on demand to proceed to extend and can supply DCT on future merchandise to proceed to fulfill the market want. We count on that guide transmissions will most likely be the vast majority of gross sales for the foreseeable future, however DCT will proceed to increase its share and assist to fulfill altering buyer wants.”

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Different motorbike producers are additionally desirous about improvements.

“We see the development to be extra concerning the transfer from inner combustion engines to electric-powered bikes and scooters,” stated Garrett Kai of Suzuki. “The following decade will see many adjustments in transportation. With electrical motors because the drivetrain, they’re largely automated with no shifting whereas using. One other attainable development may very well be efficiency mannequin electrical bikes which have guide clutches and transmissions which supply a extra conventional using and shifting expertise and extra of a efficiency really feel.”

Some lifetime bikers are able to make the leap to DCTs or automatics.

“As a automotive man, you’ve seen the decline of guide transmissions,” stated Ty Van Hooydonk, of the Bike Trade Council. “Hell, each Ferrari I’ve pushed had paddle shifters and I don’t assume they make any extra automobiles in Maranello with that gated shifter. Would extra automatics on bikes, not simply scooters, open up the market? You’d assume. I’ve ridden the brand new Gold Wing and it’s the primary one, due to its extra sporting nature, comparatively talking, that I might really see proudly owning. And if I purchased one, I might choose the DCT mannequin, little question. So what does that say?”

It says automatics, DCTs and perhaps even shiftless electrical bikes are the long run. Or at the least a rising a part of it.

Now let’s go experience!

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