Engineers have tried and failed for decades to build motorcycles with automatic transmissions. Honda finally gets it right with the new DN-01 “sports cruiser” bike. Conventional automatic transmissions, like those in cars, lag when you hit the throttle and can throw a bike off balance during turns. Honda’s HFT (for Human Friendly Transmission) responds to the throttle instantly by using hydraulic pumps instead of standard gears.
The HFT offers a range of gear ratios similar to a conventional six-speed manual, and it has about the same weight and dimensions. The motorcycle goes on sale in Japan this year, though a price has not been set. Honda hasn’t yet decided if America’s weekend rebels will get their own auto-shifting bike.
Dan Carneyhas been riding motorcycles and driving cars since before it was technically legal for him to do so. Along the way he has picked up automotive journalism awards from the International Motor Press Association and Washington Automotive Press Association for his work, and he wrote books about two significant sports cars, the Honda S2000 and Dodge Viper. He has been a PopSci contributor since 1998.