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Everyone who has heard about Honda's VFR1200F motorcycle and its Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) wants to know how efficiently the system works and how it benefits the rider. After spending a day aboard this technological masterpiece from Honda at the MMST race-track near Chennai, I got answers to the above queries and some more. Firstly, the DCT is not an automatic gearbox. The system employs a conventional 6-speed transmission equipped with two independent clutches that engage and disengage for seamless and rapid shifts based on data gathered from four sensors - front and rear wheel speed, throttle position and crank position, which determines when to shift and what the rider is intending to do. The Dual Clutch queues up two gears simultaneously, one looking after the odd gears and the other taking charge of the even gears, with only one gear actually engaged at any given time so that when a shift is initiated the gear-swap happens almost instantly.
The VFR is what Honda calls as, a road-sport machine - a new segment that combines sport riding and sport-touring in a very practical yet enjoyable manner for newbie as well as experienced riders. The DCT unit on the VFR1200F offers three different modes to choose from and each one of them is suitable for different riding styles. The fully automatic 'D' (Drive) mode is for leisurely slowpaced and laid-back riding, wherein the transmission goes through the cogs as quickly as possible with ultra-smooth shifts taking place under 3, 000 rpm. So, by the time it reaches the 70km/h mark, the transmission has already slotted into sixth gear for effortless cruising. However, the gearshifts are mildly perceptible in the 'D' mode.
But a race-track is not exactly a place to ride any bike at a leisurely place. It is an environment built specifically for speed. And for that all you need to do is gently flick the right-handlebarmounted trigger to shift into the 'S' (Sport) mode, (it can be done on the fly too). Once in Sport mode, there are two options to use the DCT. In the Sport auto-mode (AT), the transmission will shift gears automatically albeit at a higher rpm than in the 'D' mode depending upon the data gathered from the throttle position and other sensors. With throttle pinned to stop, the DCT shifts into higher gears just shy of the 10, 200rpm redline. Gear shifts in 'S' mode happen with blistering pace (under 0. 5 seconds) and are also a lot quieter than in 'D' mode - which is chiefly because the additional mechanical inertia helps in smooth high-rpm gear shifts when the 'S' mode is engaged.
For those who like to take matters in their own hands, there is an option to slot the transmission into the Manual (MT) mode, where the rider can change gears via paddle-shifters. Yes, just like Formula 1 racecars! Going up the gearbox is taken care of by the left index-finger trigger placed on the switchgear unit while to drop gears, one needs to simply use the left thumb on the trigger located where usually the horn button is. Although more fun, the MT mode will be best suited to seasoned riders as it takes a little experience and deep understanding about the shift-points of the VFR1200F if one wants to go fast while riding with the manual configuration. Honda has trashed the clutch lever and the conventional foot-operated gear-shifter on the DCT-equipped VFR1200F, which means that there are almost zero rider inputs necessary in the gear-shifting process.
There is a lot more to the new VFR1200F than just the highly-advanced DCT. Honda's V4 engines were introduced to triumph at the race-track and they have done a splendid job at it and continue doing so even today. Powering the new VFR is a 1, 273cc liquid cooled 76-degree V4 engine that takes a lot of cues from Honda's MotoGP V4 racebike development, the RC212V and has Honda's 27-year long V4 heritage behind it. The front two cylinder banks are spread wider than the rear two cylinders in order to keep the engine narrower at the rear. This allows the bike to be slimmer at the waist and also more comfortable for the rider.
Tipping the scales at 278kg, the VFR1200F is a heavyweight but efficient mass-centralisation and lower centre of gravity hugely changes the way the bike feels when riding around twisty corners. The rolling chassis of the VFR1200F centers on a lightweight and rigid four-piece aluminum twinspar diamond-configuration frame. Another first from Honda on the VFR1200F is the Throttle by Wire (TBW) technology for higher degree of control and feedback. Rightfully paving the way for technologies developed in motorcycle racing and adapting them in production motorcycles for real-world riding and street-use.
The new VFR is not a track-day motorcycle but a sport-touring machine, purpose-built for the street. Fast, composed and luxurious, the new VFR is an ideal tool to go weekend sport-riding with your mates. Anything further away and one will be forced to reconsider his options as the rather undersized 18-litres of fuel tank would play spoilsport for long-distance riding. That said, the VFR1200F is an eclectic mix between the legendary Honda VFR800 Interceptor and the Honda 1100XX Super Blackbird hyper-performance tourer. Bringing performance and luxury within the bounds of tenderfooted motorcyclists as well as trained right wrists, the new VFR1200F, priced at Rs 17. 5 lakh (exshowroom, Delhi), is indeed a different breed in itself which is a lot of things to a lot of riders - whether it is fast-paced travel, laidback commuting or spirited cornering on a Sunday morning. It does all of it and more. Well done, Honda!
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