Automatic Motorcycles You Don’t Need to Shift to Enjoy
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. And that’s something that can intimidate a lot of newer riders if you’re not familiar with manual transmissions. Even entry-level bikes like the Honda Grom and Yamaha MT-03 require the rider to use a clutch to shift. However, although manual bikes dominate the market, there are still some automatic motorcycles available.
Isn’t an automatic motorcycle just a scooter?
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 that requires no lever to shift. All you need to do is 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.
For one, as the Motorcycle Legal Foundation explains, motorcycles don’t have step-through frames like scooters do. Even though the Honda Super Cub looks like it has a step-through frame, you still swing your leg over the seat.
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, these are still motorcycles. Ultimate Motorcycling explains, that their transmissions 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.
1. Honda Gold Wing
- Strating MSRP: $23,800
- Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT): $1,200 add-on
The Honda Gold Wing is one of the best-reviewed touring motorcycles on the market. It’s also fairly quick, with the ability to go 0 to 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.
2. Honda Africa Twin
- Africa Twin Starting MSRP: $14,399
- Adventure Sports Starting MSRP $17,199
- DCT: $800 add-on
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. Now, the Honda Africa Twin is back and 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, 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.
3. Honda NC750X
- Starting MSRP: $8,099
- DCT: $800 add-on
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. The 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.
4. Harley-Davidson LiveWire
- Starting MSRP: $29,799
Although Harley-Davidson’s electric bike hasn’t exactly taken off, the LiveWire is still a worthwhile 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 quite expensive.
5. Zero Motorcycles
Starting MSRP: $9,000-$21,495
Zero Motorcycles has been in the electric motorcycle business longer than practically any other bikemaker. 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. 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, SR/S sportbike, FXS supermoto, and the SR naked bike.
Zero’s bikes cover a wide price range. The cheapest bike starts at just under $9,000 while the SR/F Premium starts at $21,495.
6. Energica Eva EsseEsse9
- Eva EssEsse9 Starting MSRP: $17,620
- Eva EssEsse9+ Starting MSRP: $21,350
Energica isn’t a very well-known electric motorcycle company. However, Motorcyclist reports it has grown since its involvement with the MotoE World Championship, which can be thought of as the MotoGP for electric bikes. In addition to its Ego superbike, Energica also offers the more approachable Eva EsseEsse9.
For 2020, the EsseEsse9 and Energica’s other bikes were 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.
7. KTM Freeride E-XC
- Starting MSRP: $10,499
In addition to adventure bikes, Austrian bikemaker KTM also makes well-regarded dirt bikes. For those who’d like to take an automatic motorcycle through the dirt, KTM offers 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. The E-XC is more expensive than before. However, range has increased by over 50% on the trail.
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.
8. Rokon Motorcycles
- Starting MSRP: $8,000
Rokon’s line of 2WD motorcycles for the off-roading devotees, includes the Trail-Breaker that can haul up to 2000 lbs. 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. For instance, first ‘gear’ is meant for steep grades, limiting the bikes to 10 mph. For full speed, the rider will have to select the high-range third gear.