• Oct 5th 2007 at 6:35PM
  • 13

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Automatic transmissions in motorcycles are not new, with Ridley being one manufacturer currently producing them. In fact, back in the 1970s, Honda and Moto Guzzi both produced motorcycles with automatic transmissions, each with two forward gears. Honda called its system "Hondamatic" and the bikes are still in demand today because of their shiftless nature. That older machine used an automatic transmission quite similar to the one that came with the Civic, complete with a torque converter. Honda has also used an automatic centrifugal clutch on many of its small-bore play-bikes from the 1950s on. So it's not too big of a surprise that Honda is going to be introducing the DN-01 at the 40th annual Tokyo Motor Show, complete with an automatic of its own called the Human-Friendly Transmission (HFT). After the break, we'll give a brief description of this new transmission. As you'll see, it's a very different animal from what has been offered before.


[Source: Honda]


Those who follow motorcycling news closely may remember that almost two years ago, Honda first showed the DN-01 concept at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show. That bike featured a 680cc V-Twin engine and an earlier version of Honda's still-in-development HFT transmission. Looks like they've finally gotten the development work done, because they are now saying that the DN-01 with its HFT is "a new motorcycle scheduled for market launch". We think that's pretty darn good timing, considering that Aprilia is just about ready to start offering its 850 Mana, which also features a V-Twin and an automatic transmission.

Looking like the result of a Vulcan mind meld between a Honda Helix and the new CBR1000RR, the DN-01 concept from '05 kept the floorboards and low seat height from the scooter and added the wheels, engine and exhaust from the motorcycle. We're not sure if the production bike will keep this same look, but the low seat height should at least stay put. If you hate the looks of the DN-01, consider the Aprillia 850 Mana, which looks much more traditional.

We've got to hand it to Honda here, because it has come up with something pretty creative for production in the HFT. The engine powers a hydraulic pump, which in turn powers a hydraulic motor. By varying the speed between the two, the transmission can either increase the output torque or the output speed, making for an infinitely variable transmission. Honda believes that the transmission will be the world's first variable hydraulic transmission that features lockup, which should cut down the losses of the hydraulic system for greater efficiency and better fuel mileage.

Here is a picture from Honda which might help explain what's going on here:

If that's still not making sense, take a look at the following diagram:

Any help? If not... that's OK just so long as you accept the fact that it works, right? Here's the press release:

Honda Develops HFT, a New Automatic Transmission System for Motorcycles

TOKYO, Japan, October 4, 2007–Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced that it has developed the Human-Friendly Transmission (HFT), a new automatic transmission system for motorcycles using Honda's own infinitely variable hydraulic mechanical transmission. Easy to operate, the HFT realizes outstanding relaxed riding comfort, riding feel with direct response and excellent transmission efficiency. The HFT will be installed on the DN-01, a new motorcycle scheduled for market launch to be introduced at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show.

With Honda's own infinitely variable hydraulic mechanical transmission, this HFT realizes the lightweight and compact configuration required for motorcycles. To meet the wide range of rider needs, HFT offers a selection from two fully automatic shifting modes-D mode for ordinary riding and S mode for a sporty riding experience-or the 6-speed manual mode, which gives riders the option of riding with a manual transmission feel. The HFT creates a unique riding feel through easy operation, ranging from relaxed and laid-back riding to nimble and sporty with direct throttle response. With the aim of providing products useful in the every day lives of customers, Honda has developed and sold motorcycles equipped with easy-to-operate automatic riding technologies. As a pioneer in the era of automatic systems, Honda launched the Super Cub C100 in 1958, equipped with an automatic centrifugal clutch mechanism, which allowed riding without the need of clutch operation. The Eara (750cc), released in 1977, was a first large-sized motorcycle featured a torque converter in Japan. In 1980, Honda put the Tact on the market, a machine equipped with the Honda original continuously variable transmission, the V-Matic, and Honda has continued to develop a variety of new mechanisms up into the present.

A transmission system with a wide range of functions in a single unit, the HFT is a compact and highly efficient infinitely variable transmission system encompassing functions for starting, power transmission and shifting, all on a single shaft. The basic configuration of the system consists of an oil pump for converting engine power into hydraulic pressure, and an oil motor for converting the hydraulic pressure back into power for output. Both are made up of multiple pistons, a distributor valve and a swash plate for piston operation, while the cylinders are integrated into the output shaft, forming the characteristic structure of the HFT.

The HFT also features the world's first lockup mechanism for an infinitely variable hydraulic mechanical transmission. When cruising, this lockup mechanism works to minimize transmission efficiency losses, contributing to improved fuel economy.



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  • 13 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Nice, so if i'm to purchase a bike like this one from Kenya how would you guyz hook me up? mail me & let me know.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm neutral (no pun intended) on the auto trans, but I like the look of that bike.
        • 8 Years Ago
        As a non-rider who appreciates bikes, I have to agree with the above poster. I really love the look of this one. Very cool, and the auto sounds interesting.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Torqued, ever driven an automatic ATV with paddle shifting? IMO, much nicer than a manual one.
      • 8 Years Ago
      To each their own, I guess. I personally have no interest in automatic transmissions on my bike or my car, but I have no problem offering it as an option. Or in this case, on a cruiser I'll never buy.
      I never found shifting to be all that much of an inconvenience. In traffic on a bike with a stiff clutch, yeah my left hand gets a little tired. But does it really take that much attention? I feel like it's second nature to anyone who's driven manuals for more than a month or so.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This transmission is not a novelty for owners of the Honda Foreman quad ATV. They've been enjoying its fine performance and reliability since 2001.
      It is also used on heavy earth-moving type machinery and on aircraft auxiliary generator drives, where they call it a "constant speed drive".
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think push button shifting a la F1 would be awesome. Also a way to force a bike into neutral electronically would solve an issue that has dogged bikers for years. Yea, I know, if you know how to ride a bike you don't have those problems. Leave your superiority on the shelf. I used to ride a Ducati and do track events often (and I was doing the passing) so, I know what I'm talking about. IT can happen to anyone. Button shifting would be great if the tranny was super fast.

      -M
      • 8 Years Ago
      commuting w/ my silverwing scoot is great. not having to shift allows me to focus on people who are likely to cause me harm. i've frequently read that the goldwing will get an auto and that makes sense. there are probably a lot of diehard bikers who might view as an automatic bike as a bit pansy, but for my riding it's a def. plus. i've heard some good comments about the Yamaha FJR1300 and its semi-automatic (Yamaha Chip Controlled-Shift) so full auto seems like the next step.
      • 8 Years Ago
      No thanks. Manual transmissions on my bike and in pleasure cars, please. Automatics in my commuter cars.

      Paddle shifting can blow me.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Same here. Paddle shifters on road cars are a waste.

        And the Hondamatic bikes are in demand by who? Collectors?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Isn't that a tractor transmission?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I welcome technology that puts the sweet-spot of torque to the road. I ride to experience the road. The reason we even have transmissions with clutch is because we had no choice. Purists may cry for traditional means, but its simply old technology. The reason formula and other racecars don't have traditional clutch/shifter is because its not efficient. Oh, and I'm no newbie. I've owned about 20 bikes over 30 years. Aside from this bike being about 100lbs overweight, I'd like a tad bit more fuel capacity, but it looks amazing.
      • 8 Years Ago
      As long as this bike don't park itself.
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