Honda’s CB650R and CBR650 might be the Rodney Dangerfield of Big Red’s lineup—they just don’t get no respect. Too bad, because they’re very sensible bikes in the real world, and for 2024, they’re getting a few key updates. Most notably, this is where Honda chose to debut its E-Clutch technology.
The E-Clutch is a new electronically-managed clutch that allows you to shift gears without using the clutch lever. Think “quickshifter,” but the E-Clutch also works when you slow the bike down. You don’t need to haul in the clutch when you’re stopped, just like Honda’s old ATVs and motorcycles with centrifugal clutches. And yet, when you’re rolling, you can choose to use the clutch lever if so inclined, keeping your bike’s control under your own old-school skillset.
It’s an interesting idea, and apparently it weighs very little, about 2 kg more than a standard clutch. If the cost can be kept sensible, it will be much easier to convince experienced riders to shift to this tech (keep those puns to a minimum, please!—Ed.), since you can effectively ride the bike exactly the same you did before the E-Clutch was a twinkle in its designer’s eye.
However, it’s likely many riders will grow to appreciate the clutchless shifting characteristics in certain circumstances. Ever been stuck in stop-and-go gridlock, where you had to keep your clutch lever clamped down in case you needed to react quickly to changing traffic? The E-Clutch is made for situations like that. It’s kinda like a quickshifter and a DCT had a baby… but that baby was also closely related to a standard clutch.
Honda also says it offers more precise shifting, and seems to think experienced riders will appreciate its performance when compared to a standard clutch. We’ll see!
Aside from the E-Clutch, Honda’s 650 series gets a new TFT dash, an upgrade that carries them into the 2020s, finally. There’s some new styling as well, but nothing too crazy. The bikes’ engines still make 94 hp and 46 lb-ft of torque, and the Showa SFF-BP fork is still standard, with a basic shock and basic brakes as well.
We’d think Honda would bring both of these bikes to Canada, but in today’s weirdo moto-economy, there are no guarantees. It would be a big surprise, though, to see Big Red introduce the E-Clutch and then decide not to show that tech off in North America.