2003 Honda Rincon series
The 2003 Rincon
A few months’ back Honda released information on the Rincon and instantly our curiosity was stimulated. We could not wait to check out this model for ourselves. Finally, word came from Honda and we were flying to the Grand Canyon for a stay at the Bar 10 Ranch. This is where we would be able to test the unit one on one. The terrain of the Arizona dessert surrounding the Grand Canyon is extreme. The temperature can rise to 120‘F or more and is very dusty, rocky and vast with over a million acres to be explored. These are perfect conditions to test Honda’s best of the best.
Martin Manchester, a spokesman for Honda’s design group, spoke to us about the Rincon’s design. Martin stated the development of the Rincon was a big step for Honda since their customers were completely satisfied with their already impressive line-up such as the Rubicon, Foreman 450 and the Rancher. The Rincon’s unique design enters Honda into a whole new segment known as a ‘recreational-utility’ ATV. In 1999, when Honda’s engineers first hit the drawing board and patterned a blueprint for this Rec-Utility know one knew which direction the market would take. Until now, the Rec-Utility design was unknown and it seems as though Honda’s foresight was correct. The demand for this type of ATV is high and it looks like Honda hit their mark.
Honda has taken a new stance on style, forming a new Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) appearance. Three years ago design engineers started building the Rincon, at that time a decision was made to start fresh and produce something totally new. Honda describes the new design effort as a parallel between SUV’s and ATV’s. In the last ten years, the automotive industry has taken the bare-bones, on-road automotive utility vehicle and transformed a standard 4-wheel drive vehicle into a luxurious on demand 4-wheel drive. Honda’s design team’s goal was to create a high-end ATV with a more refined manner. Featuring sporty styling that would offer a broader appeal to a wider-than-ever range of recreational riders. This was accomplished by blending a number of innovative elements. Such as, a higher fender line for an airy, lighter look. Other ways include, strengthening bumps on the fenders that would also lend a modern and muscular appearance. Full integration of bumpers, headlights and taillights to create a smoothly flowing line and style.
Honda has always been ahead in the technology game. New and innovative trademarks, such as their longitudinal mounted engine and the Rubicon’s automatic transmission. Both additions have sold plenty of ATVs for Honda. When aligning the engine’s crankshaft with the drive-line, a positive and efficient transfer of power to the wheels occurs. By the simple aliment of the driveshafts, along with the crankshaft, power can be transferred with five percent more efficiency to the wheels and with less moving parts in the engine. Honda creates a dependability with less weight. The Rincon’s engine is a 649cc liquid-cooled OHV, semi-dry-sump longitudinally mounted, single-cylinder, four-stroke powerplant. Semi-dry sump, according to Honda, refers to no oil storage in the bottom of the engines crankcase. Instead, most of the oil is being pumped throughout the internal workings of the engine/transmission and the oil cooling system. The new calculated cartridge style oil filter, incorporated into the engines side case, is considered the heavy duty type. The Rincon’s 650cc engine has a bore and stroke of 100.0mm x 82.6mm. Feeding the massive cylinder is a 37mm CV carburetor. Overall-power of Honda’s largest powerplant was adequate. We see where Honda is going with the new recreational utility segment. The SUV feel of the machine makes for a good mid and high end power.
The big question is, “Why would Honda walk away from a supberb transmission like the Hondamatic which powers the Rubicon?” After all, the Rubicon is a top seller. This is a question only Honda can answer. If we were to speculate, it would have to do withHonda’s plan to construct a totally distinct machine. That is amachine with a “no looking back attitude”. After all, Honda has stepped up and formatted a completely new ATV segment, the Recreational-Utility ATV. Think about that for a minute, “Recreational Utility”. “Recreational” meaning able to have fun and “utility” meaning able to work. So, Honda has contrived a fun-able-to-work ATV segment.
After our first Rincon ride, we would have to say the Honda automatic-transmission can handle both work and play. The new unit has two settings automatic and ESP, each setting is selected by a handle bar mounted control lever. The Electric Shift Program (ESP) system lets a rider shift up or down through the three forward gears with the push of a button while a valve body routes fluid to disengage the clutch and then shifts the gearbox and re-engages the clutch. An onboard electronic control unit controls the speed of each shift perfectly after considering engine rpm and countershaft speed. The automatic setting is our favorite, just thumb the throttle and go! The new Rincon uses a true automotive style transmission. A hydraulic torque converter is used to drive three forward gears and reverse. An electronic control unit (ECU) takes data regarding throttle position, vehicle speed, rpms, gear selector position, braking and engine oil temperature to determine the optimum gear selection. For example, if the unit is switched into ESP and is traveling at 40mph.The ECU will determine which gear is best suited for that particular riding situation. Shifting the unit is done by a automotive style shift handle located under the steering stem on the left side of the handlebars. The forward, neutral and reverse settings work excellent. The location of the shifter allows a rider to plow, plant or trail ride without losing grip of the throttle. The only improvement we would like to see is an integrated park gear instead of a handlebar mounted parking brake.
Automobiles have been using torque converters for quite a few years and with great success. Honda has minimized the size of the torque converter and applied its use to replace any type of manual clutch. The Rincon’s torque converter operates in a principle much like other torque converters. It serves as a link applying the power of the engine to the gearing of the transmission and in turn producing power to the wheels. A torque converter can accomplish this because it is a fluid coupling as opposed to a solid coupling. At low engine rpms, the torque converter can slip internally giving the engine the ability to spin independently of the transmission. This allows the engine of the stopped vehicle to idle while the transmission is in gear. When the time comes to begin riding, the engine speed is increased and the torque converter pumps fluid that will transfer the power to the transmission to make the vehicle move. How is this power transfer accomplished? Picture a pair of electric cooling fans facing each other, by turning on one of the fans we can witness the blowing air creating enough force to cause the second fan to begin turning. Concluding the power transfer. In a similar fashion, a torque converter incorporates a driven impeller to pump a fluid that drives the turbine portion of the torque converter. Now, that power is transferred, via fluid to the turbine end of the torque converter, power reaches the transmission’s gearing.
The Rincon’s engine uses the out-put end of the crankshaft to drive the torque converter’s impeller. Fins are used inside the converter to pump fluid resulting in the power transfer. A unique fact about the transmissions fluid is it’s the same oil that produces the engines lubrication. OK, now that we have the torque converter pumping fluid and creating a breaking point for the engines run speed. What next? Next, the fluid is distributed through the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) this unit automatically selects one of the three forward gears or reverse gear putting hydraulic pressure to the proper clutch pack. A computer monitors engine speed, throttle position, and which mode is selected auto or ESP resulting in correct decisions by the ECU control unit.
The problem with automotive style transmissions is when they are in gear the driver must keep their foot on the brake in order to keep the vehicle from moving forward. This is called “creeping”.Honda recognized this as a problem for an ATV and worked out a new and innovative creep control system. The creep control system detects the idling of the vehicle while it is stationary and disengages a hydraulic clutch mechanism within the transmission in order to stop the vehicle from creeping forward. Again, the ECU comes into play monitoring engine speed and throttle position in order to engage the clutch gradually; thus producing a smooth acceleration. Another shortcoming of traditional torque converters is the lack of engine braking. The problem occurs because of the fluid coupling in the torque converter. Power can be transferred through the torque converter only one way; acceleration. In order to produce some sort of engine braking, Honda designed the Rincon’s torque converter with a built in one-way lock-up clutch. This is an industry first, nowhere before has a one-way clutch been incorporated into a torque converter producing lock-up in the engine braking sense.