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Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Colorad0, Aug 23, 2019.
I'm lazy, thus the 7 speed. But I'd definitely take a dual range on my 250!
How many additional bikes would it sell?
...there's your answer. It's not going to bring in new riders; and the existing market is so small, pirating other-models' potential buyers isn't a big enough number.
Don't bet on it. It may make a difference if it makes the bike more freeway capable. Besides, we're not really talking beginner bikes, but rather small bore dual sports. Not a lot of beginners do dual sports as first bikes unless influenced by friends and those friends would likely point to a 7 speed as a plus, same with dual range. I'd be a customer for that kind of thing. My KLX250 is geared right for off road, but could use another gear for highway use that happens when dual sporting. I'd love a 7 speed.
Why do you think most bikes have six speeds now? In the 70s and early 80s very few did. One bike I sold would have benefited from the sixth speed - the CMX250C Rebel. It needed one more gear. That was probably the number one complaint from owners and test riders. Guess what the Rebel 300 has - six speed. Cruiser e-zine said 70 mph no problem, capable of indicated 91. There's a bike that demonstrates the value of the added gear. Difference is they aren't dual sports and don't need a significantly lower first gear.
Plus I'm not sure how taking say the CRF250L and adding a dual range to it pirate from other models in their line up? I doubt anyone would say "I'm going for the CRF250L. It has a dual range, instead of that CRF450L or XR650L that don't have a dual range." Just ain't gonna happen. It would just make the bike easier to sell, because now it has full capability without changing sprockets. Not to mention another feature to sell a new rider. And the first manufacturer to take the chance may just gain a good advantage.
I will tell you the high/low range on the ATV was definitely a selling point. I'd been there and done that for a fair number of years - selling new bikes. I know telling a rider that the bike has a high/low range to give them the ability to gear to their riding, using high range for paved road use to get the ability to run 70 mph no problem and a low range to give them great off road capability, would definitely perk some ears and possibly be a deal closer. Same with a seven speed, the ability to have that 70 mph cruising speed yet be able to tackle the tougher single track trails without doing anything more than shifting. Heck you see that with the DRz400, give it a sixth gear and I'm betting sales would increase, maybe taking sales from the DR650, but definitely taking sales from other brands, due to that wider range of speeds without reving the bike so hard.
The market has changed, then to now.
Besides which, emissions regs were coming into being, back then. A lot of things had to be redesigned.
And the makers didn't expect the current shrinkage in sales. Now, a change that is not assured to bring in more buyers, in a smaller market, won't happen.
What will? More automatics, thinks I. Makers will hope it's a way to draw shiftless Millennials. So we'll see varieties of DCT and Suzuki Burgman 650-style CVTs adapted to conventional motorcycles.
There are a few bikes out there with commonly panned gear ratio selections - usually too close together, first too high, fifth/sixth too low. However, there are a few people complaining about the opposite so what are manufacturers to do? Adding another lower gear and/or another higher gear is probably not the best solution. Tuning the engine to comfortably operate over a wider rev range is probably better but still wouldn't satisfy everyone.
So do the manufacturers usually have it right?... Yes!
Do they always have it right?... Absolutely not!
As examples, the DRZ400 definitely needs a sixth ratio, while its predecessor, the DR350, needs the existing six ratios wider-spaced, [insert bike of your choice here] needs [insert relevant complaint here], etc., etc., etc.
No it hasn't I represent the kind of person riding a 250 dual sport and I participate in a couple forums. One of the first things most do is change to a smaller front sprocket for acceleration - then they complain about running higher rpm at cruising speeds. Guarantee many would love a 7 speed to avoid the whole issue. Virtually EVERY DRz400 thread and mention of DRz400s in threads WILL mention the need for an extra gear, because they run a higher rpm than most like at highway speeds.
So no, the market hasn't changed. The manufacturers responded to the calling for an extra gear on most street bikes back in the 80s, even putting them in cruisers. Harley now has six speeds in more powerful motorcycles than when they had four speeds. Why in the world would it not make sense to respond to a perceived weakness in the next generation of dual sports and possibly even smaller bore engines? If any manufacturer does go seven speed on their dual sport 250 I would bet it would become a serious strong seller over those with six. Clearly six speeds took over from five speeds. History does tend to repeat.
You talk about market change, then mention automatics. We heard that all the time back in the 80s after Honda's "Hondamatics" failed to pull good market share. Moto Guzzi's Convert automatic died a quick death too. There is a tendency for any performance oriented rider to go with a manual transmission. But that is another area where I recall ATVs, with the automatic clutch set up and Honda's hydrostat transmission and the sport clutch.
The automatic clutches use a bell style clutch (remember mini-bikes?) and a lever mechanism to disengage the actual manual type clutch when shifting. I've always wondered why none of the makers tried them in a motorcycle. Some riders bolted Honda ATC200 engines into XR200R chassis to get the auto set up.
The hydrostatic transmission was used in Honda's big 650 ATV with both a manual shift and an auto shift set up, no clutch. Could have been done in any mid to big engine motorcycle, a bit bulky but works. Perfect for a big touring rig.
Then the sport clutch gives the new rider the trick set up. Uses a bell style clutch to start from a dead stop no clutch, but has a clutch that is used for the rest of the shifting after moving. Gives a new rider an opportunity to learn shifting without stalling all the time and a performance oriented bike.
But as much as you may think so, automatics are far from the top of the list for riders. If they were in demand, scooters would be far more popular since they are essentially automatic transmission motorcycles using the CVT transmission. Honda wouldn't be making both the dual clutch set up and the manual trans bikes in the Africa Twin and VFR series. Really, if they were in demand you would see them in a Gold Wing, but I'm betting research has told Honda that is not where the demand is.
Motorcycles are still predominantly high performance and I would bet most riders see them that way. They want to shift when they want to, not when the automatic wants to. They enjoy shifting. Personally I haven't owned an automatic transmission vehicle since early 2000s. I prefer the manual trans in my truck partly due to towing a trailer and wanting to control shift points.
But am I out of touch with the dual sports? I think not. Maybe a survey would be interesting.
Would it work to guide the manufacturers?
There are dozens of cars and bikes both, in the last 20 years, built to satisfy the bloggers' howls and after online surveys.
All they lacked is buyers with money/credit coming forward. That's something that most people who participate in these online surveys, do not have.
Is the market growing or shrinking, now? I think it's obvious. So there will be lesser expenditure on new products; and most of those will be adaptations, or done to solicit new riders. Such as the Grom, PCX, ADX, small ADV bikes.
Remember the CB1100? Honda didn't say it, but I wonder if the concept had its roots in some sort of old-duffers' survey. Oh, how great was the CB750. When boys were boys and bikes were awsomeness.
So, at great expense, Honda brought out probably its last air-cooled multicylinder bike...as faithful as they could be to the 750, visually...no balance shafts; they even worked to get the cooling-engine tick down (Honda said this in a publicity release) The crank was not quite flat, to simulate the engine vibration of the 750.
And it bombed. Two years was all. First it had a five speed (which it was fine with) and the second year a six-speed. Didn't matter...flat torque curve. I owned one, briefly...my needs changed, and frankly the most exciting thing about the 1100 was, looking at it. It drove like an old man's bike - perfect candidate for a DCT or even a retro Hondamatic.
But five speed or six speed, no sale. Those who SAID they wanted, stayed hidden when the product was available.
+1 on the high low range, but add a really low geared reverse.
I was spoiled by my Honda Big Red ATC. Hi Lo range and reverse.
My take is, we'll see (practical) electric bikes first.
Meaning NO gearsets. And pulling in a whole new subset of riders. I'm not an electric-car buff, by any means...but the Zero impresses me greatly. If I just had power near my parking cubby...I could almost see laying down that money for a new one.
That will expand ridership. Another gear in the cluster...think of the tooling costs. Easier just to spread the ratios out a bit more, and tweak the engines for a more-uniform or lower-speed torque production.
I think there was an early tourist trophy racing bike that had something like 10 gears... I'll have to see if I can find it.
EDIT: Can't find anything. I swear I saw it in an old documentary about road racing. There was a bike who's powerband was so small and precise it had to be shifted constantly
Seconded! I would gladly own a Zero. But they're just too expensive and limited for me right now. If the price can come down I could justify the limitations. Or if the range went up I could justify price. But I can't get one currently as something like an unforeseen road closure could mean running out of juice trying to get around it in my area. Still, the technology is getting really damn close.
Probably 50cc. I think some of them had more gears than that. Banned of course.
I think you might be right. Time to revisit my saved YouTube docs!
In the late sixties Suzuki made a racing 250 with a 14 speed gearbox as I recall.
Had one of these..
The CB900c had a front and rear air assisted suspension, shaft drive, and a dual-range sub-transmission. The CB900C was derived from the DOHC CB750K, and is closely related to the CB900F and the 1983-only CB1100F, both derivatives of the CB750 line.
The air/oil cooled DOHC 902 cc (55.0 cu in) engine has 4 32 mm Keihin CV carburetors and electronic ignition. The front suspension relies on air pressure for preload while the rear uses air as the main springing medium. The bike has two front disc brakes and a single rear disc.
The CB900C is something of a "parts bin" bike, as it shares components with two contemporary Honda bikes, the CB750 and CB900F. The GL and CX series of touring motorcycles of the time are the source of the final drive and rear suspension assemblies of the CB900C. The frame was derived from the European CB900F, extended 2 inches to accommodate the sub-transmission components. The sub-transmission involves a jack shaft that allows the rider to select a "high" or "low" range for the five gears, effectively giving an overdrive 6th speed for cruising.
That had far less to do with the gears and more with the design. Same thing happened with the Kawasaki W650, Honda GB500, the Kawasaki Zephyr 550/750/1100, the ZRX1100/1200, and recently with the Yamaha SCR950. Everybody wants it, but if it isn't perfect they won't buy - and it never is perfect. How many gears means nothing, it is will they spend the money and usually it is no.
The gear thing I think might fly if someone tries it. When was the last time you saw a 4 speed manual transmission in a new performance car with a manual? In fact, when was the last time you saw one with a 5 speed? Performance cars now are mostly running six speed on the manual trans cars.
Same with bikes, when was the last time you saw a regular bike with a 4 speed? Even the 5 speed is becoming rarer in new bikes. It is almost universal to run six. Used to be the BSA/Triumph/Harley bikes were four speed, only the small Japanese bikes ran five speeds, but they needed it for the performance. Then the bright idea to go to 5 speeds happened. Then sport/performance model bikes went six speed. So why is it so unreasonable to consider a dual range or seven speed for bikes 250 and under? It would increase capability to use power, be able to start out easier or ride off road, and still have gearing for the highway speeds needed on freeways.
It will be interesting if any manufacturer takes the chance.
Would be interesting, wouldn't it?
They have a long way to go to get the price down where it is affordable and battery life up to where the range is more suitable.
As for spreading gear ratios out, why do you think small bikes like the Pentons used a six speed and the Hercules 250GS ran a seven speed? They had to close up the range to keep the bike in the power range. You can only work so wide while still being able to keep a smaller engine in its power range.
Yes, it wasn't uncommon for the 50 Kriedlers and others to have 7-12 speeds:
The Kreidlers were now fitted with three speed overdrives controlled from the twistgrip, which coupled to the standard four-speed gearbox gave twelve gears to help keep the engines at maximum power.
Honda began their first 50 cc GP season with the RC110, announced at the Japanese Motor Show in 1961. Powered by a single cylinder, four-valve engine, and with gear driven double overhead cams, giving about 9 hp (6.7 kW) at 14,000 rpm. It was introduced with a five-speed gearbox, but by the time of the opening GP in Spain, the bikes were upgraded to six gears. Even so, they were badly outperformed. Rider Tommy Robb suggested that more gears might be the answer and was amazed to find a week later at the French GP that the gearbox had been expanded to eight speeds. This still wasn't enough to compensate for the machine's relative lack of power and three weeks later at the Isle of Man TT, nine gears were fitted and the rev limit increased to 17,000 rpm with output now up to around 10 hp. In that season, the machine's designation was changed to RC111, but Honda's records are unclear as to what precise change in the development this signified or when it was used.
In contrast, the Suzuki team were committed to two-stroke technology and their single cylinder RM62 machine featured rotary valve induction and an 8-speed transmission and produced about 10 hp (7.5 kW) at 12,000 rpm. Ernst Degner who had defected from the East German MZ team to Suzuki the previous year, brought with him the secrets of MZ's two-stroke tuning success which undoubtedly helped him and the Suzuki team to secure the inaugural 50 cc World Championship.
- Wikipedia 50cc Grand Prix racers click here
Actually they went away mainly due to the increase in engine size. The 50cc class went to 80cc and I think they did limit the transmissions, but not sure. Then they went to the 125 cc class (remember Rossi with his wheelies and sidesaddle after dominating the races?) and now it is a four stroke 250 class.
I can't say that I'd want more than 6 speeds on a bike, unless it had a 2 speed transfer case type deal.
I like to shift my bike manually, but i also don't want to be having to tap dance on the shifter.
No bike needs a 7th gear more than a GS 1200/50
Why? Those models have pretty flat torque curves. You might successfully argue that the factory choice of gear ratios could be better but I really don't see the need for a 7th gear. In fact, you could probably spread them all out a bit and lose one without reducing the rideability at all.
I don't think most non-race bikes need more than 6 gears, or dual-range gearing. A wide-ratio 6spd is generally pretty versatile. The XT225 had plenty of gearspread for its meager power output and dual purpose, IMO. We should probably generally get better at using a wet clutch.
Well, I was really talking about as the gear ratios are now.
yeah, spreading them out would certainly help. If it was chain drive I would sure loose some rear teeth. (and try like hell to avoid S&G traffic. )