At a family gathering, my younger cousin told me that he found riding a motorcycle too tedious. As I asked him his reasons for this opinion, he told me he did not like the hassle of changing gears while riding. He wondered why motorcycles lacked an automatic transmission like most road cars.
There are very few motorcycles that come with automatic transmissions like Honda Goldwing. However, the automatic motorcycles are big, heavy, expensive, and difficult to work with and only come with DCT transmission, unlike CVT or AMT that you can find in cars.
Automatic motorcycles don’t have high demand, unlike the manual transmission that is why you will see very few of them roaming around you. The most famous automatic transmission motorcycle is Honda Goldwing, and they are the only one who makes different kinds of automatic motorcycles.
He was curious to know more about automatic transmissions and I was more than happy to share my knowledge with him. If you have the same questions regarding motorcycle transmissions, this article will help answer all your doubts.
Read on as I explain how automatic transmissions work in motorcycles. I have listed a few models with an automatic transmission that you can consider if you are looking to make a purchase. I have also voiced my opinions about why manual shifting is more popular than automatic transmission.
And I’ll also share tips on converting the transmission mechanism of your ride. This will help you ride in a hassle-free manner without having to worry about shifting gears.
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Why are Manual Motorcycles more popular than Automatic Motorcycles?
Riding a motorcycle with manual transmission is intuitive and allows for flexibility in riding styles. It is an inexpensive and engaging experience that requires less maintenance and has increased mileage.
Riding a motorcycle is a thrilling activity for many people. The ability to cruise at high speeds while being in control of these powerful two-wheelers makes it an experience that many riders find hard to replace.
Manual transmissions are difficult to figure out initially. Once you get a hang of it, they become second nature. They make riders do the work, but gives them the flexibility to ride exactly the way you want. If you want to aggressively accelerate or cruise at low speeds, you can accordingly shift gears to enjoy your ride the way you want.
Manual transmissions are also lighter and less complex. This improves cornering at high speeds and increases stability at low speeds. The lower complexity allows users to maintain and service their vehicles easily.
This can be crucial for riders going on long-distance rides, as not all mechanics may be skilled to deal with an automatic motorcycle transmission.
Long-distance riders also prefer manual transmissions because of their fuel efficiency. Cruising on highways does not need too many gear shifts. As a result, they can be comfortable and save fuel costs on gas.
Motorcycles with manual transmissions are cheaper and more commonly available. Despite automatic transmission becoming more affordable, many manufacturers do not provide the option in many models.
Higher-end motorcycles with high output torque and power have these systems, as such models have low mileage and focus on rider comfort. Most motorcycle riders prefer manual transmissions, that is why there are only cruising and adventure motorcycles that come with automatic transmission.
Best Beginner Automatic Motorcycles
If you are new to the world of motorcycles or looking to make the shift from manual transmissions to automatic motorcycles, here are the best options that you can consider.
We have made a detailed article about Cruiser or Sportbike for first bike, if you are confused between a sports motorcycle and a cruiser motorcycle. You can read our article ,
Honda NM4 DCT
The Honda NM4 DCT is the automatic version of the hugely popular Honda NM4 (also called the Vultus in some countries). Nicknamed the Bat-Mobile for its futuristic design and great comfort, this power cruiser offers great features and comfort for riders.
The NM4 DCT features an automatic Dual Clutch Transmission that is mated to a 6-speed gearbox. It also has a gear mode selector which allows you to choose if you want to shift manually or let the DCT take care of the shifts.
The NM4 DCT comes with a 670cc parallel-twin engine that is liquid-cooled. The bike also comes with many advanced features that enhance the quality of the ride. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and LED lights improve the safety aspects of this motorcycle.
This motorcycle has a 25.6” ground clearance and rider backrest cum pillion seat, making sure the rider is comfortable throughout. Saddlebags and storage racks are also included, making it a perfect choice for touring
Honda CTX700 DCT
As with other popular cruiser motorcycles from Honda, the CTX700 DCT is the automatic variant offered with the very popular Honda DCT technology. This motorcycle incorporates many design elements from the Honda Goldwing, the most premium motorcycle in its lineup.
The Dual Clutch Transmission from Honda is mated to a 6-speed gearbox. This gives riders the luxury of riding through traffic without having to change gears frequently.
If you want to have the classic manual experience, riders can seamlessly switch to the manual mode with the help of a gear selector button on the handlebar.
The CTX700 comes with a 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine. The engine runs smoothly and produces ample low and mid-end torque, allowing you to tackle urban and highway riding conditions with ease.
Features like the diamond frame, Honda Multi-Action System (HMAS) shocks, and 17” wheels allow riders to handle this motorcycle with ease.
The motorcycle has a comfortable triangular riding position and 28.3” seat height, making it a great choice for riders looking to maximize comfort during long-distance trips. The provision of luggage storage, a large fuel tank, and aerodynamic fairing makes the overall riding experience smooth and comfortable.
Honda NC750X DCT
The last automatic motorcycle on my list is another model from Honda, the NC750X DCT. The motorcycle balances comfort and performance, making it one of the most versatile models available in this range.
Thanks to its sporty design and plethora of features, riders with differing riding styles can still trust the motorcycle to cater to their needs.
The NC750X has the legendary automatic Dual Clutch Transmission system from Honda. This offers riders a seamless experience without having to worry about changing gears often.
The DCT also allows different riding modes and can be deselected with the press of a button, giving you complete control over the transmission when you want it.
This motorcycle from Honda comes with a 745cc four-stroke liquid-cooled engine. The addition of the Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) technology allows riders to choose exactly how much torque is being delivered to the wheels.
The steel truss frame combines well with an under-seat tank, throttle by wire, ABS, and HMAS technology, giving riders improved handling and more confidence around corners. To know more about this motorcycle you can watch this promotional video.
Staying true to its all-in-one motorcycle tag, the NC750X provides an integrated storage compartment and a comfortable riding posture, making it ideal for those who want to ride it for long distances at a stretch.
How Does Automatic Transmission Work on a Motorcycle?
All engines work efficiently in a certain range known as the power band. A transmission system connects the engine to the wheels, providing them with the energy needed to rotate and thus push the vehicle forward.
The transmission system consists of several gears and a clutch. Automatic transmissions engage the clutch automatically and change the gears when the engine crosses a certain RPM. This ensures that the engine is in the power band region, providing the maximum power output and efficiency.
There are different automatic transmissions available in the market today. They have different mechanisms, each of which offers different amounts of power and smoothness while riding.
- The first type is Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). This automatic transmission consists of two clutch plates that control the speed of either the odd or even gears of the motorcycle.
These types of transmissions also allow for a dual riding mode, as riders can switch between manual and automatic modes depending on their requirements.
- The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) eliminates the requirement of multiple gears. It has a drive belt pulley mechanism that connects the input shaft and output shaft.
These shafts are designed in such a manner that allows the belt to change the distance between the two pulleys, allowing it to transmit variable amounts of power depending on the requirement.
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- Centrifugal clutches are used in older models of motorcycles and minibikes. They do have a gear system that needs to be operated by a pedal. However, they eliminate the need of operating a clutch, reducing the workload of the rider.
- Modern-day electric motorcycles use an electric motor to produce the torque required to rotate the wheels. Since they have a much larger power band, it eliminates the need for a transmission mechanism.
Can you Convert your Manual Motorcycle to Automatic?
There are two ways that you can use right now to convert the manual transmission to automatic. Electronic components that assist or complete shifts can be added to the motorcycle. You can also add specially designed clutches that prevent stalls and allow for clutchless shifts.
- Electronic shift transmissions like the ShiftFX consist of several electronic components such as automatic and active clutches, transmission control unit (TCU), and gearbox controls. They sense the speed and RPM of the engine with the help of sensors.
The TCU processes the data and activates the gear change at the precise moment to improve efficiency and riding smoothness.
- Automatic clutches like Rekluse clutches engage with the engine when the RPM is outside the given power bands. It is ideal for beginner riders who cannot get the timing of their shifts right or tend to stall the engine.
These clutches do not engage the transmission itself but prevent the motorcycle from stalling when the engine speed drops below a critical speed. It gives them more time to shift, allowing them to learn how to shift properly without the fear of stalling the engine.
— Also read: Are Sports Bikes Good for Beginners?