2 Wheels

You Don’t Need to Shift to Enjoy These Automatic Motorcycles

With today’s wide assortment of motorcycles, ranging from café racers to dual sports to touring bikes, potential owners can generally find the bike that suits their interests. But there’s one thing most of these bikes share: a clutch lever. And that’s something that can intimidate a lot of newer riders. Even entry-level bikes like the Honda Grom and Yamaha MT-03 require the rider to pull the clutch in and shift with their foot. However, although manual bikes dominate the market, there are still some automatic motorcycles available.

Isn’t an automatic motorcycle just a scooter?

2020 Honda Super Cub C125
2020 Honda Super Cub C125 | Honda

There is one motorcycle that arguably blurs the line between scooter and motorcycle: the Honda Super Cub. While it does have a foot shifter, it has a centrifugal clutch. There’s no lever—to shift, just roll off the throttle, move your foot, and roll back on. However, there is a noticeable difference between the bikes on this list and a scooter like a Vespa.

2018 Vespa Sprint 150
2018 Vespa Sprint 150 | Vespa

For one, as the Motorcycle Legal Foundation explains, motorcycles don’t have step-through frames, while scooters do. And even though the Honda Super Cub looks like it has a step-through frame, to get on, you still swing your leg over the seat.

1981 Honda CM400A
1981 Honda CM400A | Bring a Trailer

In addition, unlike a Vespa, which has a CVT, the Cub’s transmission still requires you to shift. That’s why, although Honda did once sell automatic motorcycles, like the CM400A above, these ‘Hondamatic’-equipped bikes are still motorcycles. Their transmissions, Ultimate Motorcycling explains, still needed the rider to shift manually.

That’s something else the rest of the bikes on this list share. Although called ‘automatic motorcycles’, the bikes here have either dual-clutch transmissions with automatic modes or one-gear transmissions. The former means the rider can manually shift if they desire. And in the latter case, while it doesn’t have a clutch, it doesn’t have a CVT or torque converter.

Honda Gold Wing

2020 Honda Gold Wing Tour
2020 Honda Gold Wing Tour | Honda

The Honda Gold Wing is one of the best-reviewed touring motorcycles on the market. And it’s also fairly quick, able to go 0-60 in 3.3 seconds in Cycle World’s testing.

Following a complete redesign in 2018, the Gold Wing also won Cycle World’s Touring Bike of the Year Award. It’s powered by a 1833cc six-cylinder engine, which put out 98 hp and 108 lb-ft on the Cycle World dyno. Although the bike weighs close to 840 pounds, riding it is made easier through the standard reverse gear and optional DCT. Said DCT also has 7-speeds, one more than the manual.

The base bike starts at $23,800; the DCT is a $1200 option.

Honda Africa Twin

2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin
2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin | Honda

Before American Ricky Brabec won the 2020 Paris-Dakar on a race-spec Honda dirt bike, the company had previously won in the 80s with the first Africa Twin. And now, the Honda Africa Twin is back—and it also offers a DCT.

Updated for 2020, the Africa Twin comes with a 1084cc twin-cylinder engine, which puts out 102 hp and 77 lb-ft. While the base bike is arguably more of a tourer, the Adventure Sports offers some genuine off-road features. These include multiple off-road traction control modes, a larger fuel tank, larger skid plate, more suspension travel and ground clearance, and standard crash bars, Cycle World reports.

The base Africa Twin starts at $14,399; the Adventure Sports model starts at $17,199. On both bikes, the DCT is an $800 option.

Honda NC750X

2020 Honda NC750X DCT ABS
2020 Honda NC750X DCT ABS | Honda

If the Africa Twin is a little too pricey, and you tend to stay on the pavement, the Honda NC750X is a worthwhile alternative.

While it’s branded as an adventure bike, Cycle World reports, the 505-lb NC750X is more of a sporty touring bike. But Ultimate Motorcycling reports it’s also an excellent commuting bike, with a compliant suspension and smooth 745cc twin-cylinder engine. In addition to standard traction control, there’s also an ABS-equipped model. And said trim also comes with a DCT.

Plus, instead of the gas tank being in the front, that’s actually a lockable storage area big enough to house a backpack or helmet. The gas tank’s actually under the seat.

The base NC750X starts at $8099, with the DCT and ABS model costing $800 more.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Although Harley-Davidson’s electric bike hasn’t exactly taken off, the LiveWire is still a worth-while first effort from the company.

The LiveWire can actually out-pace a Tesla Model 3 Performance on the drag strip. And based on each EVs’ range and battery specs, the Harley’s actually more efficient. In addition, it has more range, better handling, and better-quality components than even Zero Motorcycles’ SR/F.

While a 544-lb motorcycle isn’t exactly light, the fact that it has one gear and no need to shift does it make a bit more approachable. That’s why it’s on Motorcyclist’s list of the best automatic motorcycles on sale today. Unfortunately, with a $29,799 starting price, it’s also quite expensive.

Zero Motorcycles

Zero Motorcycles has been in the electric motorcycle business longer than practically any other bikemaker. And because all its bikes are electric, you don’t need to know how to work a clutch lever to enjoy them.

The Zero FX is one of the quickest dual sport bikes on the market. And although the SR/F lost to the LiveWire in Cycle World’s comparison, it’s still an impressive bike. There’s also the DSR/BF adventure bike, the SR/S sportbike, the FXS supermoto, and the SR naked bike.

Because of the wide lineup, Zero’s bikes also cover a wide price range. The cheapest bike starts at just under $9000; the SR/F Premium, meanwhile, starts at $21,495.

Energica Eva EsseEsse9

2020 Energica Eva EsseEsse9+
2020 Energica Eva EsseEsse9+ | Energica

Energica isn’t a very well-known electric motorcycle company. However, Motorcyclist reports it has grown since its involvement with the MotoE World Championship (think MotoGP, but for electric bikes). And in addition to its Ego superbike, Energica also offers the more approachable Eva EsseEsse9.

For 2020, the EsseEsse9, along with Energica’s other bikes, was upgraded with fast-charging compatibility. In addition, the bike features ABS, selectable-mode traction control, and Brembo brakes. The standard bike puts out 109 hp and 133 lb-ft and can go up 124 miles in the city on a charge.

Upgrading to the EsseEsse9+ bumps torque up to 148 lb-ft, and the range up to 250 city miles. And in mixed-riding, the ‘Plus’ model can go up to 143 miles on a charge. Plus, as an electric bike, there’s no clutch to master.

The standard Energica Eva EssEsse9 starts at $17,620. The ‘Plus’ retails at $21,350.

KTM Freeride E-XC

In addition to adventure bikes, Austrian bikemaker KTM also makes well-regarded dirt bikes. And for those who’d like to take an automatic motorcycle through the dirt, KTM now offers an electric dirt bike, the Freeride E-XC.

Initially, Cycle World reports, the Freeride E-XC only had a limited US release in 2017. But for 2020, RideApart reports, the bike has been updated and is more widely available. With a $10,499 asking price, the E-XC is more expensive than before. However, range has increased by over 50% on the trail. Electric Cycle Rider was able to do almost 19 miles on the trail on the 2020 model, as opposed to 11.5 miles on the 2017 bike.

2020 KTM Freeride E-XC
2020 KTM Freeride E-XC | KTM

In addition, Cycle World reports the bike’s batteries are quick-changeable. If one goes flat, swap it out for a fully-charged pack, and get back to tearing up the dirt.

Rokon Motorcycles

Rokon Trail-Breaker
Rokon Trail-Breaker | Rokon via Instagram

Finally, there’s Rokon’s line of 2WD motorcycles. For the off-roading devotees, the Trail-Breaker can haul up to 2000 lbs. And there’s a street-legal version, the Ranger, that Jay Leno recently sampled.

Although Rokon’s bikes have CVTs, they also technically have gears. Only they act more like a 4Hi/4Lo system than traditional gears. 1st ‘gear’, for instance, is meant for steep grades, limiting the bikes to 10 mph. For full speed, the rider will have to select the high-range 3rd gear.

The Rokon Trail-Breaker and Ranger cost roughly $8000. And although slow—top speed for the Ranger is 37 mph—how many other motorcycles can store liquid in their wheels or float on water?

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