Honda’s back at it. After flogging the dual clutch transmission (DCT) since 2010, and various Hondamatic and centrifugal clutch models before that, a just-discovered patent shows Big Red is now working on yet another semi-auto shifting design.

What, exactly, is the idea behind Honda’s new design (see it here), and why is it necessary? It’s all quite clever, really. The new setup is basically a quickshifter. When you want to change gears, the motorcycle’s electric brain senses that it needs to cut power while you’re banging your way through the gearbox. Normally, you’d do this by manually operating the clutch lever, but now the ECU will take care of that for you, thanks to a sensor array that measures throttle position, shift load, vehicle speed and other factors.

That’s an improvement over Honda’s previous semi-auto designs. In the 1970s, Honda built the 750 Hondamatic, which had no manually-operated clutch, just a two-speed gearbox that sapped much of the engine’s power (the 400 Hondamatic seemed a little better-liked, but was still no rocket). Honda also included a centrifugal clutch on the CT line and similar step-throughs, but this setup seems to only be suitable for smaller-cc bikes, as Honda never installed it on any of its larger machines. So, neither of these semi-auto designs seemed to work for riders who wanted to go fast.

Then, in 2010, Honda introduced its DCT design, and has really been pushing it hard ever since, particularly on the Africa Twin series. The DCT design allows clutchless shifting, as well as auto shifting, on much larger, faster bikes, but is also complex, and complexity adds fragility and expense.

The new design would avoid both those pitfalls, in theory, and since Honda’s drawn it in conjunction with the standard six-speed gearbox of a CB1100, it could probably be easily integrated into Honda’s lineup, only requiring minor changes to existing models. Does that mean we’ll see it soon? Maybe, maybe not, but this is certainly an idea that Honda is very¬† much in love with.

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