Say What? Honda Shows off Its E-clutch for Motorcycles

Honda’s new E-Clutch system allows you to shift without using the clutch lever. The company says the system can be retrofitted to existing motorcycles running a conventional manual clutch. (Honda/)

Honda announced its new E-Clutch technology on a global website last week, and from what we could glean on social media, the reactions were mixed—naturally. The innovation was roundly praised by most—and subsequently slammed but others as another electronic nanny system or as an enabler for lazy riders. It raised a host of questions too, not just for the usual hardcore skeptics but a gamut of curious riders and non-riders alike.

To understand what’s stirring the pot, it’s best to start with an explanation of what the E-Clutch is. As Honda says, it’s an electronic system “that provides instantaneous, fine-tuned clutch control [for] starting, shifting and stopping…more natural than a rider’s manual clutch operation.” The bigger hook here is that the regular mechanical linkage remains, and so you can turn it off and operate the clutch normally if you so choose.

Mechanical linkage is unchanged, so you can always switch the system off and ride the motorcycle normally. (Honda/)

Over on social media, we found a pile of similar questions: “Who or what was this E-thing for?” “Honda already has DCT transmissions, so how is this different?” “Which models would it appear on?” To… “Good grief, people are so soft these days!”

Turns out there’s nothing all that ominous to hyperventilate about. Honda bills the E-Clutch as the “world’s first automatic clutch control system for a multi-gear manual motorcycle transmission.” It’s controlled by the ECU and uses a pair of electric motors geared together to engage or disengage the clutch, thus automating the process on virtually any bike with a conventional manual clutch. Unlike the constantly refined DCT transmission seen on the likes of the Africa Twin, Gold Wing, and Rebel, you still have to use your left foot to change the ratios, and while the lever still remains, you won’t have to use it to manipulate the clutch.

With the E-Clutch there’s no tweak to the mechanical linkage so you can feel the gears changing with your foot; the system disengages the clutch when you come to a stop, allowing the bike to simply idle, and when you open the throttle, the clutch is reengaged. It seems like Honda’s way of bridging the gap between a manual transmission and DCT; the rider still has to manually shift, but won’t need to simultaneously work a lever when starting, changing gears, or stopping (patents also mention a system that would allow the E-Clutch to intervene to prevent stalls).

The E-Clutch uses a pair of electric motors geared to engage or disengage the clutch. (Honda/)

ADV and enduro riders felt that the system would be useful in the latter scenario, while others appreciated the ease of use for riders with arthritis or other limitations who still wanted the visceral feel of a motorcycle shifting. The potential of converting almost any manual motorcycle to a semi-automatic machine without losing the “feel” seemed to appeal to many posters, and the benefits of an automatic clutch would be obvious to new and learning riders. Also calming nerves was the fact that you could just ride your moto as usual knowing the E-Clutch can be simply switched off or overridden.

Furthermore the E-Clutch can be retrofitted to existing bikes without the need for a major overhaul. To quote Honda:

“As the compact system can be installed without major changes to existing engine layouts, Honda plans to apply Honda E-Clutch to its Fun motorcycle models over time.”

For reference, “Fun bikes” are generally acknowledged as youth-oriented models, or at least that’s the case in Australia: Honda’s Fun range there includes the CRF50F, CRF110F, and CRF125F. Remember, this is a global

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By: Andrew Cherney
Title: Say What? Honda Shows off Its E-clutch for Motorcycles
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Published Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2023 16:40:25 +0000


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