Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clutching At The Future

It’s not easy to know what motorcycle manufacturers are thinking, because they tend to think years, sometimes decades, in advance—that’s how long it takes to bring some ideas to fruition. We can, however, use hindsight to see what Honda has been thinking about in recent years, like ABS on sportbikes, the Human Friendly Transmission, and now a dual-clutch transmission for the soon-to-be-released 2010 VFR (read about it here, here, and here). Is Honda trying to turn motorcycles into cars? Is the company taking all the fun out of motorcycling, or changing the playing field in a way that will catch the competition flat-footed?


biodsl said...

Just like the FJR1300AE: answering the question no one asked.

Poustman said...

Jerry, I'd be curious to get your take on what fun elements of motorcycling are being removed.

For myself I think that the grunty shifting and the visceral elements of internal combustion engines as we know them are indeed fun. However, I also think that electrics like the Zero or the Brammo also offer fun-- some of it the same as gas engines, some different.

Anyway, would be interested in more from you on this. You're the expert. :)

Jerry Smith said...

In fact, Poustman, I agree with you, especially about the electric scoots. Show me on that'll go 100 miles at freeway speeds on a single charge, comes with a solar panel for the roof of my house so I don't have to go on the grid to top up the battery, and doesn't cost as much as a small nuclear power plant, and I'm in.

I don't think innovations like the dual-clutch transmission will take the fun out of motorcycling. But not everyone will agree with me. I've been riding long enough to remember when electronic ignition replaced points, kickstarters disappeared, and fuel injection obsoleted carburetors; riders howled that motorcycles were getting too complicated, taking the fun out of the sport.

Well, I don't miss filing and gapping points, or messing with carb jetting, and if I never have to kickstart another motorcycle, that'll be fine by me. And if someone wants to design a fully automatic motorcycle transmission that doesn't give away anything in terms of performance to a foot-shifter, I'll be first in line to try it out.