Automatic vs Manual Motorcycles: Which one is right for you?

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With so many brands and models of motorcycles out there, selecting a motorcycle can be a tough job for a new rider.

However, before going into different models, you have to make an initial decision: whether you want to buy a manual motorcycle or an automatic motorcycle.

Manual, or traditional, motorcycles are certainly the most common, but more and more automatic options are becoming available.

If shifting gears and operating the clutch is what has been keeping you from riding, an automatic bike may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Manual vs. Automatic Motorcycles

So, what are the pros and cons?

The major pros of an automatic motorcycle are it is free from the manual clutch and gear shifting and the rider can concentrate on the road and enjoy the ride.

A computer device placed inside the automatic motorcycle monitors the throttle movement (operated by the rider) and engine speed, and uses this data to automatically operate the clutch and shifting to select the appropriate gear.

It’s similar to how you can think of the way an automatic car shifts gears.

The major cons of an automatic motorcycle are that it takes away the pleasure of having full control of your motorcycle and it typically costs more.

The major pros of a manual motorcycle are your pride in having full control of the motorcycle, you can pull the clutch, change gears, and accelerate.

Further, there are plenty of manual motorcycle models to choose from.

The major cons of a manual motorcycle are frequent stops in city traffic require you to constantly work the clutch and shift.

New motorcycle riders may find operating clutch and gear shifting intimidating.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the following topics:

  • Automatic motorcycles pros and cons.
  • Manual motorcycle pros and cons.
  • Characteristics of manual and automatic motorcycles.

Automatic Motorcycles

Automatic motorcycles are an attractive choice for new riders who are intimidated by a clutch.

It can also be a good choice for riders with wrist issues that make clutch operation difficult.

Plus, if you’re interested in an electric motorcycle – automatic shifting is what you’ll need to get used to.

Pros

  • An automatic motorcycle does not have a manual clutch or a shift lever and the functions of clutch and gear shifting are automatically controlled.
  • You can concentrate on the road and enjoy the ride.
  • Ease of riding – especially for a beginner.
  • Excellent for maneuvering city traffic with frequent stops.
  • It can be easier to pass the driving test.
  • When you stop pulling the throttle, the automatic transmission downshifts the gear faster and you will be able to stop the motorcycle easily.

Cons

  • Automatic motorcycles are generally expensive.
  • Gas mileage is worse.
  • The weight of an automatic motorcycle is slightly more than a manual motorcycle.
  • The rider does not have full control over the functions of the clutch and gear selection.
  • Typically comes with higher maintenance costs.
  • The transmission system of automatic motorcycles is complex and hi-tech and contains more components.
  • Your local mechanic may not be equipped to attend to the repair of an automatic motorcycle in an emergency.
  • The choice of automatic motorcycle models in the showrooms is more limited.

Characteristics of an Automatic Motorcycle

A motorcycle with the automatic transmission does not have a clutch lever or gear-shift lever.

This allows your left hand and left leg to be free so you can enjoy your ride while concentrating on the road without worrying about shifting.

Today’s automatic motorcycles come with a gearbox similar to the manual motorcycle gearbox but with a dual-clutch.

This type of transmission is called DCT, or dual-clutch transmission.

The DCT transmission has two clutches in one gearbox, and the six gears are equally mounted on two shafts that are placed concentric to each other.

One shaft has odd number gears (1,3, and 5)  and the other shaft has even number gears (2,4, and 6).

This arrangement allows the motorcycle computer device to preselect a gear in advance and this ensures smooth and fast shifting of gears.

An automatic motorcycle has a computer device that collects the input from the sensors placed at the throttle, engine, and other places.

When the rider pulls the throttle, this device collects information like the throttle movement, engine speed, and other details from the sensors, and based on this data the device decides the next gear to be selected and implements its decision using the actuators to operate the clutch and gear shifting.

The automatic transmission selects a lower gear when you slow down for a gradient and a higher gear when you pull your throttle to accelerate.

For a long-distance rider, the difference between riding a manual transmission motorcycle or an automatic transmission motorcycle may be less noticeable.

At highway cruising speeds over long distances gear changes are less frequent.

However, an automatic motorcycle is easy to ride in city traffic with frequent stops.

Manual Motorcycles

Manual clutch motorcycles are the most common types on the market and on the road.

The manual clutch has been around since the invention of the motorcycle itself, and remains an efficient way to ride.

Here are some of the main pros and cons.

Pros

  • The fuel efficiency is better than an automatic motorcycle.
  • A manual motorcycle usually costs less than an automatic motorcycle.
  • The functions of clutch and gear shifting are under the rider’s full control.
  • All motorcycle manufacturers produce manual motorcycles, hence a wide choice of models are available in the showrooms.
  • Weighs slightly less than an automatic motorcycle
  • The transmission of a manual motorcycle is simple and rugged.
  • The level of technology is lower in manual motorcycles, and after some experience, you may be able to do simple maintenance work on a DIY basis. This can save you money.
  • Manual motorcycles are generally easier to repair, and easier to find experienced mechanics for.

Cons

  • The functions of manual clutch and gear shifting are difficult to master and it can be intimidating for a new and aspiring rider.
  • Many beginners find it difficult to ride a manual motorcycle for the first time.
  • A rider who has not mastered the art of changing gears can lose concentration on the road during gear shifting. New riders tend to look at the clutch and gear (instead of concentrating on the road) when they change gears.
  • It can be tiresome to ride a manual motorcycle, with frequent stops in the city traffic
  • Chances of motorcycle stalling, if the gear shifting is not done correct.

Characteristics of a Manual Motorcycle

Manual transmission motorcycles come with a 5 or 6 gear sequential gearbox transmission, a hand-operated clutch, and a foot-operated gear shifting lever.

All gear shifting and clutch operation is performed by the rider.

The rider has to press the clutch lever with their left hand (to momentarily disengage the engine from the gearbox), and while keeping the clutch pressed, press the gear shifting lever with the left foot to shift to the required gear, smoothly release the clutch, and give throttle.

The gear shifting pattern is one down and four up (2, 3, 4, and 5).

The neutral is between 1 and 2 and you should be able to judge the gear shifting by the feeling of your foot.

From neutral you can go to either first gear or second gear, but for other gears (2 to 5) you have to follow the order (jumping the gear is not possible).

If the gear shifting is not done correctly, engine speed will not match travel speed, and the motorcycle can stall.

You can accelerate faster in a manual motorcycle, and you’ll usually get more miles per gallon.

When you are riding a manual motorcycle, you have plenty of things to do: you have to watch your speed, adjust to terrain, pull the clutch, change the gear, etc.

Many riders enjoy the thrill of doing all these things as part of the riding experience.

What is the basic difference between an automatic and a manual motorcycle?

The basic difference between an automatic motorcycle and a manual motorcycle is regarding the control of the functions of clutch and gear shifting.

In a manual motorcycle, the rider has full control over the functions of clutch and gear shifting.

You pull the clutch with your left hand and shift gears using the left foot-operated shift lever.

An automatic motorcycle has a dual-clutch transmission gearbox, a computer device that senses the throttling movements and the engine speed, and handles operation of the clutch and changing the gear for you

Is riding an automatic motorcycle safer than riding a manual motorcycle?

You could say that riding an automatic motorcycle is easier than a manual motorcycle.

When it comes to safety both automatic and manual motorcycles have similar safety features like brakes, indicator lights, tail lights and brake lights, horns, etc.

A motorcycle will be safer when you wear all the safety gear and ride responsibly. This applies to both automatic and manual motorcycles.

Is an automatic motorcycle better than a manual motorcycle?

Automatic and manual motorcycles both have their pros and cons.

The major feature of an automatic motorcycle is there is no manual clutch and gear shift levers. The motorcycle does clutch and gear shifting functions automatically for you.

Some riders, especially new riders – may like this feature.

On the other hand, some riders enjoy operating the clutch, shifting the gears, and accelerating, and want full control of the motorcycle..

So, the preference for an automatic motorcycle over a manual motorcycle is purely an individual choice.

Automatic motorcycle or manual motorcycle from reputable manufacturers are built with equal quality and safety features. Both will works well for you, regardless of your preference.

Individual riders have their own preference; some prefer a motorcycle with a manual transmission and others with an automatic transmission.

You can’t really say a manual motorcycle is good or automatic is bad.

Both are capable of enjoyable riding. The best one for you depends entirely on the experience you want.

It will be good for you to have a firsthand experience of riding both types before making your choice.

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