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Are Any Motorcycles Automatic? Facts & FAQs

male rider riding his motorcycle

Historically, motorcycles have been dominated by manual gearboxes, but advances in automotive technology have yielded automatic motorcycles. They haven’t been a huge hit, but they have some dedicated fans.

Whether you’re a beginner to motorcycles or a seasoned vet, you’re probably interested in how automatic motorcycles fare against their manual brethren. Let’s check out the answer to that question, plus more relevant info about motorcycles.

car and road divider Are All Motorcycles Manual?

Motorcycles mainly use manual transmissions because that’s all that’s been available until recently. To shift, the motorcyclist has to first press the clutch, which lets you freely switch gears. Learning how to drive a manual transmission has a steep learning curve, but once mastered, it’s a lifelong skill, like riding a bike.

Today, there are automatic motorcycles widely available, and many people prefer manuals for their smoother acceleration and long-term reliability. Other benefits of manual motorcycle transmissions include better fuel economy (with proper shifting technique) and wider availability, making them cheaper to buy and drive.

Considering that manual motorcycles were the only kind for such a long time, people have also developed a preference for manual shifting. Manual transmissions are less complex than automatic transmissions, which tend to have lots of finicky electronic parts. This means users can usually repair their motorcycles with some mechanical knowledge and experience. There are large communities dedicated to manual motorcycles, giving drivers a sense of community and kinship.

black honda motorcycle parked on the side of the road
Image By: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

How Do Automatic Motorcycles Work?

If manual motorcycles are so popular, why bother making automatic motorcycles at all? Because it opened up the market for people interested in motorcycles that might have been intimidated by or lacked the knowledge of how manual transmissions worked.

Not everyone knows how to drive a manual, but automatic motorcycles let anyone hop on a bike and start driving in no time. As a commuting machine, an automatic bike doesn’t stall and performs admirably even in thick traffic. The bike can automatically downshift, helping it stop faster than a manual bike.

Most automatic bikes have a dual-clutch system where an onboard computer calculates and controls shifting for a smooth driving experience. Some motorcycles are semi-automatic, meaning they typically shift automatically but the driver can manually shift if desired.

There’s a stigma against automatic motorcycles in some circles. Some people don’t consider them to be “real” motorcycles. Somewhat ironically, those folks don’t realize that more motorcycle enthusiasts are good for the community as a whole.

The main drawbacks of automatic motorcycles are that they’re heavier than manual bikes, often cost more because of limited availability, and tend to use more fuel. They usually cost more to repair, too, because of how many electronic components are on the bike. Lots of people claim they’re less fun to drive because of the limited interactivity, but that’s a personal preference.

car and road divider Conclusion

Motorcycles are some of the most fun motor vehicles to drive, but not everyone knows that they come with automatic transmissions now. Both manual and automatic bikes have their pros and cons, but the overwhelming majority of cyclists prefer manual ones. For someone wanting to get into motorcycles, automatics are the perfect entry point.

Featured Image Credit: TSKvado, Pixabay

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