Automatic Motorcycle Options

An automatic motorcycle could be a fine option for an urban commuter or a casual rider.

Honda NC700X on-road action
Honda NC700X on-road actionHonda

Over 90 percent of all cars sold in the United States have automatic transmissions, but we can't say the same for motorcycles. That’s changing now, especially with the rising popularity of “manumatic” (manual-automatic) transmissions, which you shift by simply pushing a button, instead of pulling in a clutch lever by hand and then pushing a shifter with your foot. Some riders resist automatic motorcycles, saying they remove the joy of shifting from the ride. Not us. The current level of technology is very good and bound to get better. For urban commuters or casual riders, automatic motorcycles are already a fine option. Here’s what’s out there now.

NO-SHIFT AUTOMATICS

These transmissions are also known as CVTs (Continuously Variable Transmissions), are popular in scooters, and they're even simpler than the automatic in your car. There's no shift lever at all—not even for neutral or reverse. You just twist the throttle and go.

DUAL-CLUTCH MANUMATICS

Built with two clutches for odd and even gear sets, and allow the user to operate in automatic mode or shift manually. Advantages include a rugged internal design (compared with the conventional automatics in cars), genuine compression braking, and stall-proof operation. They can also offer excellent fuel economy. The biggest advantages are ease of use and convenience. You can also ride around with a cup of coffee or a giant cigar in your left hand (not advised).

CENTRIFUGAL-CLUTCH DESIGNS

These aren't true automatic motorcycles—you still need to shift them with your foot—but there's no handlebar-mounted clutch lever. Once popular on small motorcycles like the Honda Cub, now they're mostly found on all-terrain vehicles and some entry-level 50-70cc dirtbikes. Still, if you ever rent a scooter in Vietnam or Thailand, this is probably what you'll be riding.