Since its debut in 1975, the Honda Gold Wing has had a five-speed foot-shift transmission. The 2018 Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour offer two options: 1) a six-speed manual or 2) a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

To understand the transmission changes, it’s necessary to see what Honda hoped to achieve with its new, more compact, lighter, and more powerful engine and drivetrain. The previous 1,832cc flat-6 engine had two valves per cylinder with valve timing designed to give powerful low-rpm torque for acceleration with adequate of power for high-speed cruise, passing, and on-ramp acceleration. Little has changed in the model for a number of years, but Honda’s goals for 2018 were to combine unmatched quiet and smoothness with an even flatter and stronger torque curve.

As part of making the engine more compact, cylinder bore was reduced (73mm, down from 74mm), something that might normally require use of smaller valves. To provide greater valve area, Honda adopted four valves per cylinder and a higher compression ratio (10.5:1, up from 9.8:1) was afforded by the more modern pent-roof combustion chamber. Compression boosts torque at all speeds and increased valve area extends strong torque to higher rpm, lifting both ends of the engine's torque curve to make it flatter. The result? Strong acceleration at virtually any rpm.

2018 honda gold wing dct stripped view
2018 Honda Gold Wing DCTCourtesy of Honda

To make the new model compete with the latest auto drivetrains in smoothness, the optional dual-clutch seven-speed transmission has four ratios where the original five-speed had its first through third. With smaller changes in engine rpm at each upshift, greater smoothness in acceleration is made possible. Because the DCT is shifted by a combination of hydraulics and electronic control, it is itself extremely smooth. In providing such smoothness, the slight noises and taps of the shift mechanism became perceptible, so dampers have been provided to suppress them.

The DCT’s sixth ratio is approximately the same as the top gear of the old five-speed, so the seventh (or cruising ratio) is taller yet, bringing engine revs down for smoother, quieter, and, I expect, more economical operation. To accelerate, turn the throttle and the DCT’s control system gives you the thrust you command.

In the Honda DCT, one of the two transmission shafts is split into two elements, each with its own clutch. Odd ratios are on one shaft element, even ratios on the other. During gear changing, the next ratio is engaged ahead of time so that shifting becomes a simple matter of engaging the clutch of the next ratio while disengaging that of the previous ratio. Smoothness and coordination are engineered into the hydraulics—no clunks. Riders who prefer the time-honored way of shifting can choose the foot-shifted six-speed.

The DCT also provides “walking mode” forward and reverse “for situations like maneuvering the motorcycle around a parking space.” Both are powered by the engine—controlled by plus and minus buttons on the left handlebar switch—and limited in speed to 1.1 mph forward, 0.75 mph reverse.

2018 honda gold wing dct illustration
2018 Honda Gold Wing configuration for third-generation seven-speed DCT with reverse.Courtesy of Honda
2018 honda gold wing dct clutch illustration
2018 Honda Gold Wing DCT clutch center damper.Courtesy of Honda
2018 honda gold wing dct reverse mechanism illustration
2018 Honda Gold Wing DCT reverse mechanism.Courtesy of Honda
2018 honda gold wing transmission illustration
2018 Honda Gold Wing GL1800 six-speed manual transmission.Courtesy of Honda
2018 honda gold wing dct with reverse illustration
2018 Honda Gold Wing third-generation seven-speed DCT with reverse.Courtesy of Honda