Automatic or Manual Motorcycle?

One of the early questions you may find asking yourself is ‘should I learn to ride an automatic or manual motorcycle?’ This is an important question to answer because if you pass your tests on a motorcycle with automatic or semi-automatic transmission, you’ll only get a licence for those types of motorcycle.

If you want to ride a manual at a later date, you’ll need to resit your tests using a manual motorcycle. To help answer that question, we shall cover some of the benefits and disadvantages of both automatic and manual motorcycles.

Do Motorcycles Come in Automatic?

There are a number of automatic motorcycles on the market, though a much smaller percentage when compared to manual. Motorcycle manufacturer Honda are generally considered to be leading the way in automatic motorcycle transmission.

What is a Manual Motorcycle?

Riding a manual motorcycle requires that the gears are changed by the rider manually rather than automatically. Gears enable the rider to match the power of the engine to the speed on the road. Low gears for low speeds and higher gears for higher speeds. Gears are changed via the gear selector pedal typically located to the left-side of the motorcycle just in front of the footrest.

To change gears, the rider must first operate the clutch lever located on the left handlebar. The rider will pull in the clutch lever which disengages the transmission, they then select the appropriate gear and release the clutch lever which engages the transmission. See motorcycle controls explained.

Automatic vs manual motorcycle comparison
A look at the good and bad points of automatic vs manual motorcycles

What is an Automatic Motorcycle?

An automatic motorcycle takes care of all the gear changing automatically. Many modern automatic motorcycles use a dual clutch system (DTC) whereby two clutches are used to enable smooth and quick gear changes. The actual gear changing is taken care of by an onboard computer.

What is a Semi Automatic Motorcycle?

A semi-automatic motorcycle utilises the same DTC clutch that an automatic has, but rather than a computer deciding which gear to use and when to use it, this is controlled manually by the rider.

Automatic or Manual Motorcycle?

Let’s take a look at how your decision to ride a manual, automatic or semi-automatic may influence choices and enjoyment.

Automatic Motorcycles are Easier

As an automatic motorcycle takes care of all gear changing and clutch work for you, then they are easier to ride. If you are looking for a mode of transport that will get you from A to B with the least hassle possible, then automatic is the way to go. Ideal especially in urban environments. Think commuter!

Another advantage with the ease of automatic motorcycles is that if your priority is to get on the road, fully licensed as easily and quickly as possible, then a fully auto bike will help with that. Part of learning to ride a manual motorcycle is to learn the gears and clutch control and in order to pass tests, you’ll need to demonstrate these to a high standard.

Manual Motorcycles are More Fun

If riding a motorcycle is something you’re passionate about and gain a significant amount of enjoyment from, then many will tell you that a manual is more engaging and is the way to go. A manual will offer you total control over the vehicle.

Are Semi Automatic Motorcycles Fun?

A semi automatic motorcycle fits nicely between a full automatic and manual. If operating the clutch offers you little excitement, but being in full control of the gears, a semi automatic is the way to go. With modern technology and the DTC, gear changing is significantly faster than most riders can achieve manually. It really comes down to personal preference which bike is the most fun.

Which Bike is Safer, Manual or Automatic?

This is relative to riding habits, where you like to ride and somewhat down to opinion. An automatic motorcycle shifts gears for you and the vast majority or riders will tell you that doing this round a corner is a bad idea. An automatic motorcycle will of course have some safety features to safeguard against this, but with a manual, you know the only error made will be one from the rider.

Automatic Motorcycles are Heavier

If a ‘spirited’ ride is something that you frequently long for, then it might be worth taking into consideration that automatic / semi automatic motorcycles when compared to the equivalent manual version weigh more. A heavier bike will affect the handling, acceleration and stopping distances.

Which is More Reliable, Automatic or Manual?

With modern technology, reliability isn’t something you need to worry about too much. That being said, automatic / semi automatic motorcycles are much more complex than manual and something that has more components has more that can go wrong.

There is More Choice with Manual Motorcycles

There are many more makes and models of manual motorcycles compared to automatic. Automatic, particularity semi automatic motorcycles are becoming more popular however so you can expect more models to come over time. You can expect less choice in the marketplace if looking for an automatic.

Automatic Motorcycles Allow You to Concentrate on the Road

An argument in favour of automatic motorcycles is rather than being concerned with which gear you’re in and going through the process of changing, 100% of your attention can be on the road.

Automatic Motorcycles are more Expensive

Automatic motorcycles are a relatively new concept when compared to manual. The technology is constantly evolving and is in a state of ongoing progress which relates to higher costs. A like-for-like model, you can expect to pay more for the automatic motorcycle compared to the manual.

Automatic Motorcycles Don’t Stall

No one likes to stall, it’s annoying and you look a bit stupid.

In Summary

The main points to take into consideration are on whether you want a more engaging ride or an easy one, how much you want to spend and whether variety of models concerns you. Let’s have a recap with a quick glance over this table.

ManualSemi AutomaticAutomatic
Easier to RideWinnerWinner
Fun FactorWinner
Bit of a BloaterWinnerWinner
Marketplace ChoiceWinner