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ADV Bikes5 Reasons Why DCT on the Africa Twin Is An Asset Off-Road

5 Reasons Why DCT on the Africa Twin Is An Asset Off-Road

 Two clutches can make life off-road so much easier.

Published on 06.11.2018

People are scared of change. It is part of human nature. Yet if nothing changed, we would have no such thing as progress. Honda’s DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) has been around for a number of years and with the debut of the Africa Twin CRF1000L Honda offered two versions of the bike, manual transmission and DCT. We aren’t going to get into the nitty gritty mechanics of how DCT works (click here if you want to know more) in this story. We are focusing on how the DCT Africa Twin can actually make your off-road riding better and a more positive experience.

1. No More Stalls

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT Adventure Motorcycle

One of the main benefits of the DCT system is that you cannot stall the bike. This is one of the biggest hurdles when riding off-road in difficult situations. Or even for the new rider, trying to get going from a stop on a hill can be difficult. In the off-road world, a company called Rekluse has offered what they called an auto-clutch for dirt bikes for years. You still have to shift the bike with the shift pedal but off-road riders, even top professionals, have long been using this system to get them through the toughest of technical terrain. The same applies to the DCT transmission. Without worry of stalling the bike, getting up that sketchy ledge or through those tight trees is so much easier. Just a small lapse in concentration can cause a manual transmission bike to stall and if you are caught off-guard in a precarious position, dropping the bike is a real possibility. If you add up all the stalls in a typical day of off-road riding, there’s a good chance you’d be faster and safer with DCT.

2. Sand Is A Cinch


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Deep sand can cause even the heartiest of ADV riders to tense up and ride with serious hesitation. The problem with deep sand is that there are a lot of different things to think about at once. You want enough speed not to sink, but not so much that you get out of control, while also trying to lean back and steer with your feet, not the bars. With a DCT bike, first off, you don’t have to think about what gear to select – in automatic mode the bike does that for you. And even if you have it in manual mode, you don’t have to worry about modulating the clutch.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT Adventure Motorcycle

If you end up stopped in sand, it can be very difficult to get going. If you are too aggressive with the throttle and clutch, you can just start digging a hole rather than moving forward. The DCT allows the rider to only focus on throttle input and to slowly and smoothly give the bike more gas and let the DCT handle the power modulation. At AltRider’s Taste Of Dakar event in Gold Point Nevada, there was some seriously powdery sand. Riding the Africa Twin with DCT, we could just let the bike choose the gear and focus on keeping up our momentum and steering rather than worrying about stalling or being in too low of a gear and digging in. Also, slowing down fast for a slow-speed turn in deep sand, the sand can often grab the rear wheel and cause a stall if you aren’t partially engaging the clutch (which is also hard to do if you are under full braking force). Not a worry with DCT.

3. Steep Climbs

Getting big bikes up steep hills is hard. When the hill is rocky, tight, and technical, using the clutch to control the power is necessary but takes a good amount of skill and concentration. When we pointed our DCT Africa Twin up these kinds of climbs, it took less effort most of the time since we were free to concentrate on keeping our weight forward (not sliding off the back), picking our lines, and maneuvering the bike around obstacles.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT Adventure Motorcycle

The second benefit is, with the bike in auto mode, it can pick the right gear for the climb. Sometimes the challenge of a hill isn’t slow and technical but the overall steepness where speed and momentum are the only way to make it. With a manual bike, you sort of have to guess which gear to attack the hill in, be it first, second, or maybe third. Then when you’re in trouble, trying to shift can really screw you up. Using lots of sensors telling it how the bike is tilted, its speed, and throttle input, the Africa Twin’s computer can choose just the right gear to keep you climbing.

But this is also where there is a bit of a problem. Of the three “S” modes, S3 is the sportiest and holds a gear the longest while S1 is the least of the sport modes and shifts lower in the RPM. When climbing a particularly steep and soft hill in S3 we found that it wouldn’t upshift and stayed in first gear bouncing off the rev limiter. Switching to S1 allowed the bike to upshift and keep gaining speed. This is where playing and getting comfortable with the different drive modes can really help.

4. Technical Terrain

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L Adventure Motorcycle

This was sort of touched on with the “Can’t Stall” section but there is more to technical riding than just not stalling. We picked some pretty gnarly boulder gardens to test the DCT (sections that would even have dirt bike riders second guessing) and a benefit we hadn’t really counted on was that you are not burdened with moving your left boot to shift and not using your left hand to pull in the clutch. This seems like a small thing but when you’re using all of your physical prowess to balance on a 500 plus pound machine, and shifting your weight and body position to make it through really hard sections, being able to keep your foot firmly planted in the same position on the peg really helps.

This is also where the DCT system can really help new riders and/or rider who are new to off road. With shifting and clutch modulation taken out of the equation, the DCT can give a rider the confidence to take a trail he or she wouldn’t have otherwise.

5. Mental and Physical Fatigue

This is actually the biggest benefit of DCT. We’ve ridden our DCT Africa Twin on some long, hard, technical rides and at the end of the day, we just feel better. Sure, we would have made it just fine on the manual version, but we would have been more physically and mentally drained. And this is not just a trivial notion of “feeling better.” We are talking about being fresher and riding with more control towards the end of the day which increases both safety and fun factor.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT Adventure Motorcycle

Bonus Points

Not that we advocate distracted riding, but there are times when you have to press a button on your GPS or map app on your phone while riding. Not having to worry about keeping a hand over the clutch makes this easier. The last two benefits don’t really apply to most riders but as motorcycle journalists, we sure appreciate them. First, using a point-and-shoot camera while riding is much easier with the DCT shifting for you as slow down or speed up to get the perfect shot. Secondly, not many people are going to be loading their Africa Twin into the bed of their truck very often, but between picking bikes up from the office or Honda HQ we’ve had to load our Africa Twin more than a few times and the DCT makes it so much easier by yourself. We just start the bike, push a button, and let the throttle help us get the bike up the ramp and into the truck. You can do this with a manual bike, and we have, it just increases the stress levels and takes a little more finesse.

A Few Drawbacks To Consider

That being said, it’s not always perfect and sometimes you do get a gear you didn’t want, but most of the time it does what you need. You notice that riding with DCT is less of a strain and takes less effort to go fast. Also, there is a weight penalty of about 30 lbs that can be felt. The DCT model feels a little slower turning if you hop on it right after riding the standard transmission version, but it’s not something you think about on your average off-road ride and you quickly adjust.

Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DCT Adventure Motorcycle

Also, directly off idle there is a slight hesitation in clutch engagement. As you crack the throttle open, you hear the rpm start to rise then a split second later you feel the bike start to move. And that initial motion is a little bit jerky. We bring this up because with a clutch, the rider can make that initial engagement extremely smooth and the DCT doesn’t give you that option. This is, at best, just a slight annoyance when creeping along in first gear looking for a parking spot, or, at worse, it can cause you to not clear a section of the trail. While riding a particular difficult rocky section, there was a ledge that we got the front wheel up, then the back wheel, but started to roll backward. When we cracked the throttle open again the slight hesitation allowed enough time for the back wheel to roll back down the ledge and we were stuck. The good news is that the 2018 Africa Twin(s) don’t have this issue because of their throttle-by-wire system.

So, would we buy a DCT Africa Twin? We are split, to be honest. One staffer wouldn’t only because he enjoys the direct interaction of a clutch and gears too much to give it up. But on the toughest trails, he might second guess that decision. The other staffer would actually buy the DCT over the manual. For one, his personal dirt bike has a Rekluse in it, so he is used to the benefit in technical terrain. Secondly, the confidence boost would let him explore terrain he might not on a big bike and it is also awesome for commuting where maximum focus should be on other drivers.

Author: Sean Klinger

With his sights set on doing what he loved for a living, Sean left college with a BA in Journalism and dirt bike in his truck. After five years at a dirt-only motorcycle magazine shooting, testing, writing, editing, and a little off-road racing, he has switched gears to bigger bikes and longer adventures. He’ll probably get lost a few times but he’ll always have fun doing it. Two wheels and adventure is all he needs. 

Author: Sean Klinger
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5 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why DCT on the Africa Twin Is An Asset Off-Road

  1. My biggest concern with it is that you don’t have a clutch to slip while doing low-speed maneuvering. I remember back to my MSF class and how much trouble I had in low-speed stuff because nobody there taught me to use the clutch to modulate things. It wasn’t until I had some off-road instruction that I learned that technique, and it made a world of difference.

  2. How did you end up using the different “Torque” settings T1, T2, T3 to ride technical terrain vs sand etc?

    • For very soft conditions like sand, loose rock or gravel, or soft dirt, turning off the TC was the best bet and gave us the most control. If you try to ride in the sand with any level of traction control, the bike just doesn’t drive forward. It is always trying to get some traction and doesn’t know how to do it in sand. In technical terrain, unless the rider is a true beginner, we would suggest TC off or T1 since you don’t want the system cutting power if you are balancing in a dangerous situation. For fast fire roads, if you have a good amount of skill and bravery, you can turn it off and slide to your heart’s delight. T1 can give you a good amount of step-out before engaging like a safety net. This is what I preferred. T2 and T3 are good for the street or slick conditions where safety is a higher priority than fun.

  3. Most of the benefits listed above are available with a Rekluse clutch (I have it on both my KTM 500 EXC and my KTM 1190 Adventure R) except for the auto-shifting feature (which can both be a benefit and a detriment).