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Question: Have you ever had the chance to ride a bike with DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission)? If not, and the opportunity arises, then I urge you to give one a try.

In simple terms, because that’s the way I like to operate ‘cos I’m by no means a techy, I just love riding bikes, a DCT is a transmission in which clutch and shift operations are automated, while maintaining the structure of manual transmission with its advantages such as direct-feel acceleration. And it’s exactly the latter that threw me at first, because acceleration is instantaneous. No feathering of the clutch, waiting for that sweet spot, then allowing the bike to roll smoothly forwards whilst upping the revs. Oh no. Principally, the bike is in charge, not you.

Honda NT1100 DCT

Gear change… what gear change?

I first came across DCT whilst with Honda in Biarritz a couple of years ago when we were test riding the Rebel CMX 1100, both manual and DCT versions, on a lovely, sweeping balcony road up in the Basque Pyrenees. If I’m perfectly honest, it took me a while to get used to the DCT and its quick, automatic gear changes, even at low speeds. And yet not once did the bike feel like it was struggling. And that’s the beauty of DCT. You can sit back and enjoy the ride without having to constantly work the gears, especially on serpentine roads. On the other hand, the other beauty is that should you wish to ride in manual mode, you can do that, too, by, well, switching to manual mode and using the paddles to the left side of the bars.

Honda NT1100 DCT

The question is, does it catch your eye, or is that really so important?

So when Honda kindly offered to loan me the new NT1100 DCT, I was pretty much acquainted with the set-up. After a quick jolly around the local villages to get reacquainted, I decided to head off around Lincolnshire’s glorious countryside, taking in the Wolds, up to and along the Humber estuary, not bothering with road signage as I know the coutry pretty well, but this time on roads less travelled by myself, trying to stick to quieter A and B roads as well as a couple of quick squirts and spirited riding on dual carriageways to get the proper measure of the bike.

Honda NT1100 DCT

Up for neutral, down for drive mode, and cream-coloured switch for manual paddles. Oh, and underneath is cruise control

The NT1100 is extremely comfortable, and as it had landed on my driveway already in Tour mode, I decided to leave it there to begin with, so it was simply a case of flicking the DCT mode to D with its easy, early, relaxed gear changes which soon had my up to sixth before I had achieved 40mph. Yes, you read that correctly. As I noted earlier, in D mode, the bike decides what gear is best, not you, although you can try and override it with the paddle shift if you think you are, for example, riding too slowly in a built-up area. But don’t be fooled, because the bike will override anything you may be thinking, and did bring a smile to my face every time I thought I knew better!

Honda NT1100 DCT

Nice rear, my dear

So, with the bike in Tour mode I checked out the power and acceleration, and boy, could it shift. The throttle response was instantaneous on fast overtakes, and there was no need to make use of the paddles. I simply twisted the throttle and let her fly. (I don’t know why many of us adopt the ‘she’ when referring to bikes, because they are normally very masculine in both form and function, but I guess they can look sexy, eh.) Personally, I don’t think the designers at Honda care much either way about its sexuality, because, to be truthful,  the Honda is not really sexy, or a looker in the stunning sense, but what it does have is a character all of its own. It’s not engaging in that you want to glance back at it in an admiring fashion as you walk away, but who really cares about that unless you are walking away from a Ducati Panigale or the like?

Honda NT1100 DCT

The hard panniers come with internal zipped carrier bags… a nice touch

That rather makes it sound like it is bland, but that is not the case, and I’ll refer to the Collins English Dictionary when referencing that word and call the NT1100 DCT ‘affable’; it’s an agreeable companion on a ride short or long. In essence, what Honda has done superbly well is create a brilliant touring bike that won’t make your bones creak at the end of a long day in the saddle. Yes, it might be unemotional, indifferent even, but that is until you sit astride it, fire it up, and allow it to do its thing, and that’s where the individuality comes in, like a warm, balmy summer breeze.

Honda NT1100 DCT

Harrumph… screen and winglets… great… but could I adjust that screen to a higher position…

And talking about  summer breezes, I must mention the screen. Could I adjust it. Could I hellers like. No matter how much heaving I did, I couldn’t budge it, so it remained in the lowest position and all day I could feel the wind hitting my upper chest. Annoying, because it is supposed to be brilliant at deflecting the wind. As you will note from the above image, the NT1100 does benefit from small winglets which help deflect air, but then I did notice the reflection of the positional lights in the indicator. Am I still blinking, or not!

Honda NT1100 DCT

And don’t confuse this with a sports-tourer, because to me anyway, it’s not. And here I am thinking about the likes of the Suzuki GSXS1000GT or Kawasaki’s Ninja thou, both of which I have ridden… and enjoyed, but they are what put the ‘sport’ into sport-touring.  No, the NT1100 is more a utility machine; it does what it says on the tin.

You might, or indeed might not, like the fact that you can be trundling along through town in fifth or sixth gear because it doesn’t feel natural at first, but then if you are crossing gravel or wanting to do a u-turn or, indeed, take control, you can always use the manual paddle shift with no clutch. Yeah, I know that’s weird.

Honda NT1100 DCT

Oh my good Gawd, what the… but… I never actually missed the indicator switch, accidentally hitting the horn or manual paddle below

And finally, the switchgear. If you can get your head round that quickly Gunda Din, you are a better man than I. For starters, should you find yourself riding at night, it isn’t backlit, so make sure you have everything properly set up to your liking before setting off, and, not having a manual with me, adorned with multiple functions and buttons as it is, I am sure my grandsons could have worked it out quicker.

Honda NT1100 DCT

A few miles clocked up, and excellent average fuel consumption

Have I been unduly unkind? No. Have I been disrespectful? No. Do I actually like this bike? Yes. Because, true to form, Honda stuck to its guns and manufactured a bike with a particular rider in mind, and if that rider is you, what are you waiting for…

You’ll find all the specs here… www.honda.co.uk

Gonzo
NB: (Since writing this article, I noted a comment on YouTube that someone had queried why I had left the bike in ‘D’ mode all the time. Fair comment. My point is that whilst I appreciate Automatic D mode is ideal for city riding, and offers the best fuel economy, I wanted to check it out over a longer, steady, relaxed, cross-country ride, and it suited just fine. However, at any time – like most riders once they get used to the DCT system – one could switch to Automatic S mode as it offers a sportier ride, allowing the ECU to let the engine rev higher before shifting up, and it also shifts down sooner when decelerating for extra engine braking. In either D or S mode, you still have the opportunity of manual intervention.

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