But the biggest news surrounding the VFR is the "Dual Clutch Transmission" that will be available as an option. Basically a semi-automatic gearbox similar in function to the dual clutch pack setups found in Formula One and many high-end sports car transmissions, the Honda system is a far cry from the previous semi-automatic designs for motorcycles. Instead of using an inefficient and heavy torque converter or quirk-prone electro-mechanical clutch, the Honda Dual Clutch setup is a light and compact design that can be retro-fitted to other engines without requiring extensive revamping of the engine cases and other components. In fact, Honda stated that the company intends to "gradually expand the deployment of the new transmission to more and more of its large-displacement motorcycles, particularly sports models." This means that a semi-automatic CBR1000RR is definitely in the cards in a few years.
One of the problems with semi-automatic transmissions is how to shift gears-engaging another gear requires stopping power application so that the gearsets can disengage from one and mesh with another. The Dual Clutch gearbox works by basically having each clutch handle a specific set of gears; one clutch deals with 1st, 3rd, and 5th gear, while the other handles 2nd, 4th, and 6th gear. Instead of having to disengage one gearset to make the shift, the system functions by "pre-engaging" the next gear with a separate clutch; then, because there is no cut in power, it basically transitions to the next gear by disengaging the first clutch and engaging the other one simultaneously. This makes the gearshifts not only seamless, but lightning quick as well, since there is no power-cutoff and the shifts are actuated electro-hydraulically. Honda's patented design uses a dual input shaft to allow a light and compact design.
:: Kawasaki ::
Kawasaki's big Ninja has been updated with some minor modifications aimed at refining its transmission and steering damper action, as well as its overall appearance. Applying the same internal gearbox modifications that were used with the '09 ZX-6R, Kawasaki engineers were able to reduce play in the shift mechanism and provide a more precise feel at the shift lever. The Öhlins twin-tube steering damper also received internal changes, with a separate spring and free piston in the reservoir chamber allowing more consistent pressure in the damping orifices, resulting in more stable damping characteristics. The steering damper also receives a new titanium finish and laser-etched logo for appearance. And speaking of appearance, the ZX-10R's bodywork has undergone some subtle modifications, giving it a more compact look. The front upper fairing is now one piece, with a slightly more rounded leading edge. New inner panels tidy up the area around the handlebars, while sharper and more compact side panels incorporate more flat black into the design to enhance the bike's more focused look. The muffler is also slightly more compact, with a metallic grey finish, dimpled surface pattern, and smaller end cap. MSRP had not been set at press time.
It's been a while since Kawasaki's Z1000 naked street bruiser has undergone some changes, but the new '10 model has some major updates in virtually every area. The engine is all-new, with a larger 1043cc displacement making for a huge 90cc bump in size (and predictably, power as well). The engine is slotted into an all-new aluminum chassis that sports a new horizontally-mounted shock linkage design, allowing a "much lower seat height than previous Z1000 models", according to Kawasaki. Handling is claimed to be much lighter and quicker than its predecessor as well. MSRP was unavailable at press time.
Concours 14 ::
The big Connie sport-tourer didn't miss out on the updates either, with a whole slew of new features that look to be a test bed for future applications on other models in Kawasaki's lineup. For instance, the new Concours 14 now comes with Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), the company's first foray into the TC world. This is augmented by the new ABS system, labeled the "K-ACT II Selectable, Sport Oriented Coactive Anti-Lock Brakes". Details were scarce, but according to Kawasaki press talk, the new system "complements the rider's inputs with supplementary force enhancements for improved braking performance over a wide variety of riding surfaces." The bodywork has undergone some refinements, with a larger windscreen and improved heat management at the top of the list. Mirrors have been relocated to keep the hard bags from obscuring rear vision, and a boatload of touring amenities have been added, including heated grips, "economical riding indicator/fuel economy assistance mode", a relocated electro-locking glove box, tank bag hooks, etc. Suspension settings and the Bridgestone BT021 tires have been redesigned for lighter handling and improved tire wear.