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Honda E-Clutch System Promises More Than a Quick-Shifter

We recently tested an MV Agusta Brutale with a unique (for street bikes) auto-clutch system developed in cooperation with Rekluse. Honda has now announced the similar E-Clutch that it intends, apparently, to apply to several manual transmission models in its existing lineup.

According to Honda, it will be easy to add this feature to existing models. Here is how Honda describes the functionality of the E-Clutch:

In situations where the driving force changes, such as starting, shifting and stopping, electronic control technology provides instantaneous, fine-tuned optimum clutch control, enabling smooth starting/shifting/stopping without the need for the rider to operate the clutch lever.

Even during electronic clutch control, the rider can operate the clutch in the same way as in a normal manual transmission vehicle by simply holding the clutch lever. By accommodating a wide range of riders’ riding experience and skills, it allows the rider to comfortably concentrate on the pleasure of riding.

Essentially, it appears that the E-Clutch allows a manual transmission motorcycle to be operated – started, shifted and stopped – without ever touching the clutch lever. We do not know when we will begin seeing this feature on production models. Here is a short video from Honda:


  1. Amazed says:

    I totally agree with EZMARK. I have two DCT bikes and love them and my 3rd bike that has a clutch is thankfully, an easy pull or I couldn’t even ride it.

    After riding bikes for close to 50 years my hands are shot and I’m lucky I can still even ride them. I will definitely check into this system if I live and ride long enough.

  2. mickey says:

    Been riding on the street for 57 years. My CB 1100 has a manual 6 speed transmission, my NC 750 has a DCT 6 speed transmission, and I truthfully find joy in riding them both. The DCT is a brilliant transmission.

  3. Frank says:

    Hey Honda, here’s an ides. Build a semiconscious self driving motorcycle that doesn’t need us, and we can stay home and watch football on the week-ends!

  4. TimC says:

    I only use the clutch on my bike for starts and the (increasingly balky – about time for a tranny rebuild I think)(it sometimes misses and goes RZZZZZZ too) 1-2 shift, or when I’m tired and forget. Usually I just rev-match.

    Edit: AndwhatImeantosay is this is what I so enjoy about manual transmissions, and it won’t ever be the same.

  5. A P says:

    Honda seems to be doing all it can to make its bikes more like cars. (As an aside, it seems Honda has been transplanting their car racing engineers into its Bike HRC team. Given how badly their MotoGP efforts are going, is this part of the problem?) Linked/anti-lock brakes, anti-dive front suspension, traction control, DCTs. There was a reason Hondamatics didn’t sell.

    The first thing I did on my original version F6B was to have RaceTech springs/cartridge fork internals installed, because Honda in its infinite wisdom had cartridge damping in one fork and damper rod in the other. I found the OEM system had a fair amount of stiction harshness, apparently due to the imbalance between the damping curves causing a side-to-side rocking motion. This mod also eliminates the anti-dive function, which was also only on one fork leg. Voila, a bike that handles like a bike.

    At the local twisties coffee shop, I don’t see many of the latest Gold Wings with all the bells and whistles. Most riders with the latest GW version didn’t opt for the DCT version due to parking lot awkwardness. Nice idea in theory, not so much in practice it seems.

    I have already decided I probably won’t go 3-wheeler when my 2-wheel days are done. At 70+, those are closer than I would like… A fun-handling 2 seater like the Mazda MX-5 or similar has more appeal than a 3-wheeler of any configuration that embodies the worst handling characteristics of both 2 and 3 wheel vehicles. I’ll take creature comforts like a convertible top, heater/AC and windshield wipers, and a car that handles like… a car.

    • YellowDuck says:

      I really doubt the stiction in the stock setup was due to the damping imbalance in the forks. Lots of great setups have rebound and compression damping separated between the forks, and there has also been testing with vastly different spring rates in the two fork legs, with no effect on fork function right up to the point where one leg had no spring at all. Talking about modern sportbikes here – might be different with weedier setups.

    • Artem says:

      Maybe there were a kind of stuffing information, but somes like to drive with natural clutch. At least you know the ability of motor (sound or whatever). Faster and less fuel consumption.

  6. yellowhammer says:

    Why bother investing in anything related to internal combustion engine motorcycles?

    • Gary in NJ says:

      Simple, because the battery technology that will provide an electric motorcycle with adequate range at a reasonable weight, does not yet exist. Electric motorcycles (much like airplanes) require something on the order of 1KW/kg whereas current technology is sitting at around 350w/kg.

    • Mick says:

      Because motorcycles are too small, and I would like to say light but we’re talking about street bikes here, to make an electric with realistic range for people who aren’t city dwellers.

      I’m going to Tennessee this weekend for some riding in the area where The Tail of the Dragon and other interesting roads are with a bunch of my friands. The thought of trying to do something like that with a bunch of electric bikes is ridiculous. Have you ever even seen a place with your own eyes a place where five or six electric bikes could pull up and charge simultaneously where there was something not super boring to do while waiting for the bikes to charge?

      We almost never stop for lunch and we get kind of fidgety when we do. Mandating a long languid lunch every day? Forget about it.

      There’s still plenty of time to make a new model and sell it for twenty years. Change comes slow. Particularly with super powerful lobbies fighting it every step of the way.

      But I suppose advertising never ceases to amaze. It wasn’t long ago when I watched sport bike guys turn into Harley guys overnight, like there was absolutely nothing in between. Well, then they killed road racing and the sport bike with it. Up comes some the chopper shows on TV and people are suddenly buying those things, ew, you kind of wonder what happened to them all. Now there must have been some kind of adventure bike TV show because you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting two or three super overblown dirt bike looking things. I suppose all they really need to do is hire a couple of handsome witty guys to send off with a camera crew and a couple of electric bikes and the lemming hoard will run off in that direction.

      I got rid of my television thirty years ago. Since that time I have been amazed to watch how it changes people. Crazy fads pop up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.

      • todd says:

        Charlie and Ewan floundered along on some adventure bikes that now just so happen to be the strongest selling model. Guess which bike that was? They also did a tour on some Livewires where they would roll the bikes into the dining room of an overly gracious home owner in a third world country so they could use up what little power they had. They were followed most the way with a giant diesel generator and a Sprinter van but gave up part way and built a bus to haul the bikes in. The show was painful to watch.

        • Mick says:

          I wonder who the genius was that didn’t see that coming.

          It’s pretty funny though. You can’t even pay people to act like touring on an electric bike is remotely practical.

          Did they sit on the bikes and make vroom vroom noises while the bus drive drove them to another little town where they could unload and go bar hopping on their electro Harleys? That sounds like riviting spine tingling entertainment.

          Livewire says 70 miles of highway range. But nobody wants to ride 70 miles and then push. So you’re looking for charging infrastructure in forty to fifty miles. On my regular trip from NH to MN that would basically mean that I would have to spend about 40 minutes at just about every single rest stop along the way. Then good luck riding a Livewire up Highway 53 through Wisconsin. Once you finally made it to Duluth you could sit down and write a memior called “Why We Drink”.

          Full disclosure. I drive a tuck to Minnesota. It can easily make the 1500 mile trip in two stops if you start with a full tank of fuel. If you could ride a Livewire all the way flat and charge it all the way up, which according to Livewire takes and hour in perfect conditions, you would spend 22 hours charging the bike on the trip. But of course if you ran the battery all the way flat on the highway it would then be hot and it would take more than an hour to charge. This friends is why you can’t even pay actors to pretend that touring on an electric bike is remotely practical.

  7. Gary in NJ says:

    It’s an interesting topic. My initial first reaction is “no thank you” because shifting is part of the joy of riding. It’s an integral part of riding a motorcycle. And then I think about my experience with cars.

    I’ve been driving since I was 16 (45 years ago). My first car was a manual as were every single one of them up until my current car. I’m a manual guy. My wife drives a manual. My kids all learned in manuals and still own them. But my latest car has all of the latest features; lane centering, adaptive cruise, automatic braking – it will drive itself in stop and go traffic. These types of features aren’t available on manual transmission cars (for obvious reasons) and for that reason I don’t miss a manual transmission. I much prefer the convenience of a car that can “help me out” when I need it and do the horrible task of stop-n-go traffic driving. It’s a joy.

    But I don’t ride a motorcycle for the same reason I drive a car. Motorcycles are 100% engaging and require 100% of my attention – and that’s what I love about them – the total escapism and immersion. If I’m no longer 100% involved in every aspect, every decision – I don’t think I want to be on a motorcycle. I’m not anti-technology on a motorcycle, I fully understand the benefits of IMU assistance (although I’ve never ridden a bike with that tech), but I don’t see an e-clutch enhancing the motorcycle experience for me. Of course if I have trouble with arthritis in the future I may quickly change my mind. That’s a use case that is obvious – but one with a limited market – and Honda doesn’t chase a limited market.

    • Dave says:

      It is and I’ve thought about it a lot over the past several years. I was a manual shift driver for most of my life but I’m pretty much over in for cars. I just don’t “drive” anymore. While I appreciate all of the tech you cite above and comfort, a car is an appliance to me.

      When pondering the same question for motorcycles I also enjoy rowing the gears but when I really thought about what was important to me regarding control of the motorcycle what I really value is intuitive handling, traction and precise control of thrust and braking. That’s it. When I think about the ultimate sport riding experience, there’s no shifting and there’s only one brake lever. My right hand has perfect control over the thrust/drive traction and shifting gears becomes a distraction from that. We’ll probably only ever get there with electric power and that’s another can o’ worms.

  8. Doc Sarvis says:

    Rekluse with no foot pedal and the clutch lever used to actuate the rear brake. Ride it like a mountain bike. Pure magic.

  9. Mick says:

    I put Rekluse clutches on several of my dirt bikes. I like to ride fairly technical singletrack. So instead of have to clutch four million times a ride, I can just fan the thing whenever I want to blast out of a corner. Bob’s your uncle. Ain’t no way I would ever do that on an observed trials bike, even the electric trials bikes have clutches. I can’t imagine even trying to ride a trials event without a manual clutch. But I suppose a very carefully tuned Rekluse kind of thing would work if you got used to it.

    One a street bike I suppose one would come in handy if you’re stuck in traffic trying to get in or out of some urban cesspool, have arthritis, or other issues. Other than that you don’t need to operate the clutch on a street bike very often. If I were to go to the trouble of adding a feature to a clutch on a street bike I would add a slipper clutch. Slipper clutches are a nice feature on any bike power by a four stroke engine. Two strokes, having been designed by God for the benefit of man, don’t need them.

  10. joe b says:

    I think this will be like a quickshifter, at first most people will think its for children who never learned how to use a clutch, but seeing how it works, it will be liked my most anyone after using it. After some 50 years in the field of repair, on the surface it looks pretty slick, and it looks like it will retrofit, to models that dont have it. I can see this being on big sport bikes first, then later to smaller lesser cost vehicles, as it want be an arm and a leg in cost, but it will add some cost, so to have it, add it, to say a Grom, its percent of total price will be more than a VFR, CBR, or other large sport model. Cant wait to ride one, I know I will like it. (and I’ll bet many of those that say, they wont like it, will change their minds once they ride one).

  11. My2cents says:

    Personally I prefer using a manual clutch, but in certain situations a automatic or eclutch would be superior. On large displacement ADV motorcycles travelling on less than perfect surfaces. Stopping while climbing a slope on rough terrain the task of using the brakes to hold position while easing out the clutch and not lose traction would be eliminated. The ability to crawl over obstacles at speeds too low for smooth clutching is again a plus. But on a twisting well paved mountain road the orchestra of clutch, brake, gear selection, and direct engine braking is irreplaceable.

  12. EZMark says:

    There are 4 types of people who this will be great for.
    1) People who have no desire to learn to clutch.
    2) People who struggle to learn to clutch.
    3) People who physically struggle to clutch.
    4) People who are just tired of using a clutch.
    My wife falls into the first category 1 and 2.
    I fall into the category 3 and 4.
    I have arthritis in my fingers. I ride a Tmax scooter so I don’t have to shift, especially in town. I would rather ride an ADV bike with 100 hp, but it is painful to do so.
    Also, I’ve been riding since 1973 and I’m just sick of shifting. I no longer want a clutch on my bikes anymore than I want one in my car.
    The riding population is aging and an automatic clutch might keep people riding for many more years.

    • joe b says:

      … and anyone who drives a truck, with an automatic transmission.

      • EZMark says:

        I drove a 9 speed manual truck 20 years ago. My friend just started driving this month for Prime trucking. All of their trucks are 12 speed automatics. I had no idea that was the norm now.

    • todd says:

      The older I get, the less likely I’ll ever buy something without a manual transmission. Shifting has become so “automatic” for me that most of the time I never remember doing it. However, whenever I get into a rental car, I am just utterly amazed at what lousy shifting in automatics that people put up with. I am convinced this is the reason for the whole “instant torque” exclamation from the electric car proponents. They are so used to automatic cars always being in the wrong gear and needing to wait for the car to respond to your inputs. They blame it on the gas engine but my motorcycles and cars have instantaneous torque response to my throttle inputs. I just happen to always be in the right gear and I can somehow anticipate my own needs and desires much faster than and computer or valve ever can. I have noticed that bikes with “slipper” clutches have a much lighter clutch pull. Maybe that’s all you need to get you back on the bike of your dreams.

  13. Jeff Prunkard says:

    This looks like a slam dunk for a cheaper “automatic” motorcycle setup.

    Some folks may not have the dexterity to run a clutch. This can make bikes more approachable for those who are later to the motorcycle world and the clutch scares them.

    All in all, MORE options are good, especially if it brings more people to bikes.

    • EZMark says:

      I agree. Honda has an automatic on the Rebel 1100, when it really needs automatics on the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500. Other smaller bikes suitable for beginners would benefit from this as well. The 300 Versys, Yamaha MT-03, Royal Enfield singles, etc.

      • Dave says:

        It’s a classic problem, a technology that benefits the user who’s least likely to pay the premium for it.

        Seems like the research continually says manual clutching/shifting is a big obstacle for incoming motorcyclists and they keep not buying in when Honda offers solutions. Hopefully this gets some traction.

    • jimmihaffa says:

      Spot on. I would just add that in the hectic urban environment, it’s one less worry and a measure of security for the folks you cite in your comment.

  14. todd says:

    I think it took me ten minutes to learn to use the clutch when I was a kid. Why is it so hard for some people? They would rather pay extra for all this complexity than to spend a tiny bit of time to learn something new.

    • ScotocS says:

      Also with modern Slipper and Assist clutches as well as Up / Down Quickshifters, it doesn’t seem like this should be necessary. The left hand has a relatively easy job already.

    • joe b says:

      … say your heading into a corner with a modern large displacement sport bike, hard and fast, leaned over with the front brake pushing the front tire for good contact, and you want a downshift or two, you learned how to use your clutch for smooth downshifts without undulating the bike, when you were a kid? and in ten minutes? Oh, you mean, it took you ten minutes to learn how not to stall the engine, driving off from a start. I can see this as a performance item, not as something specifically for those that dont want to learn how to use a clutch. todd, does your truck have an manual, or auto?

      • todd says:

        You downshift before you are in the corner and you do that by rev matching. That didn’t take long to learn either. You need to learn how to maintain a higher corner speed and your corner entry otherwise sounds very sloppy.
        My truck(s) all had manual transmissions but I sold those. I can stick my dirt bike on the back of my Westfalia (manual) for events and it’s much nicer to camp in. I rent a trailer or a uhaul (automatic) when I need to haul more stuff.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve been riding since I was 8 years-old (56 years). For me it’s not about knowing how to use a clutch, or not being proficient at it, as much as it is the inconvenience of using one all the time. I live in a suburban area with stop lights, seemingly, every couple of blocks, and they’re poorly timed so you have to stop at most them. I’d be lying if I said using a clutch that often never gets old. It’s even worse in a car (my left leg was once noticeably larger than my right leg from depressing the clutch so often in a manual shifting car). I enjoy using the clutch in more open riding situations, like when riding in the mountains. This system sounds like it will give you the best of both worlds. I am open minded to it.

      • Jeff Prunkard says:

        Thanks for the personal input. Riders like you are often cited as theoretical, but it’s nice to hear you exist!

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