Learning how to safely ride a motorcycle is equal parts thrilling and intimidating. And for those who don’t drive stick, learning how to work a clutch lever makes it even more so. But admittedly, the need to master that skill and the connection it brings is exactly why they enjoy it. However, there’s a growing number of automatic motorcycles that eliminate that part of riding. And with how good the transmission is on the Honda Africa Twin DCT, that might not be a bad thing.
The 2021 Honda Africa Twin is just one of several automatic motorcycles available today
Like its classic forebear, the 2021 Honda Africa Twin pairs a liquid-cooled two-cylinder engine with a manual transmission. Only instead of a V-twin, it’s a parallel-twin engine, and instead of a five-speed, it’s a six-speed transmission.
However, the 2021 Africa Twin offers something the classic model never did: a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And it’s not the only bike on sale today with an automatic. It’s not even the only Honda automatic motorcycle.
Honda first introduced its DCT automatic transmission for the 2010 model year, Bennetts reports. It’s now in its third generation and has found its way into several US-market Honda bikes. Besides the Honda Africa Twin, the DCT is available on the Rebel 1100, the NC750X, and the Gold Wing. The Gold Wing’s DCT even comes with both a seventh gear and a reverse gear, Cycle World reports. Plus, the DCT automatic isn’t only limited to the brand’s motorcycles; Honda also uses it in several ATVs and side-by-sides.
But Honda isn’t the only company with automatic motorcycles. The Harley-Davidson LiveWire, the Energica Eva EsseEsse9, and indeed, all electric motorcycles are technically automatic, Motorcyclist points out, since they don’t have clutches. Something like the Honda Super Cub or Trail 125, on the other hand, is ‘semi-automatic.’ On these bikes, you shift gears, but there’s no clutch lever.
It’s also worth pointing out that the DCT is just one kind of automatic transmission. Several scooters use CVT transmissions instead. Honda’s even working on a modern version of its torque-converter ‘Hondamatic’ transmission, Cycle World reports. But as Road & Track recently discovered, the DCT works more than fine for enjoying the ride.
And actually, it may even make the ride better for some.
The Honda Africa Twin DCT’s automatic transmission “is a wonderful achievement,” Road & Track says
As RideApart and Cycle World note, there’s an emotional appeal to riding a manual motorcycle. And with modern cars adding “layer upon layer of isolation, filtration, and electronic safety nets,” R&T explains, the “raw mechanical purity” of a motorcycle is immensely appealing. Hence why many riders like having a clutch lever and shifting gears themselves.
Except, that’s the beauty of the Honda Africa Twin DCT and the other automatic motorcycles with that transmission, Bennetts explains. You can always shift gears yourself using toggle buttons, similar to the shift paddles in some modern sports cars. Or, if you want, the DCT functions like a ‘conventional’ automatic and shifts gears for you. You can also change the shift points by toggling between different modes.
It’s the ‘automatic’ part of the Honda Africa Twin DCT that changes the game, R&T and RideApart explain, especially when it comes to off-roading. Rather than having to pay attention to smoothly balancing the clutch and throttle, you can pay more attention to your surroundings. You can watch the landscape go by, spot obstacles, smell what’s on the wind, and practice perfecting your countersteering on a fun, twisty road. And it’s not like you’re isolated from the transmission—you can feel it working, Roadshow reports, in a good way.
More to the point, it makes getting into riding easier, RevZilla points out. It lets people who might otherwise never want to or be able to ride a motorcycle get up on two wheels. Older people, those missing limbs—no clutch, no problem. Since the DCT became available on the Gold Wing, Honda claims “well over 50% of sales” come from the automatic motorcycle, Autoweek reports. And “roughly one third [sic]” of Honda Africa Twins sold have the DCT.
Is getting a DCT or other automatic bike worth it?
In short, the DCT on the Honda Africa Twin brings “you closer to the pure joy that motorcycling offers,” R&T reports. But should you get it on your next bike? Or should you invest in an automatic motorcycle, Honda or not, at all?
The answer depends on a few factors. For the Honda automatic motorcycles, the DCT option costs anywhere from $700-$1200, depending on the bike. So, if you were looking to get an automatic adventure bike like the 2021 Africa Twin, that means spending $15,199. And in some low-speed technical off-road scenarios, having a clutch lever is preferable, Cycle World reports.
That being said, a 2021 Rebel 1100 DCT costs just under $10K. And if you spend a significant portion of your time riding in traffic, an automatic is significantly easier to live with than a manual. Ultimately, you need to consider your budget and your riding destinations and style before deciding.
But if you were on the fence about buying an automatic motorcycle, the Honda Africa Twin shows that there’s plenty to enjoy about it.
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