The feeling of the motor beneath you, revving up as you open the throttle. Finding the exact moment to pull the clutch, flick the foot upwards to find the next gear, and continue accelerating. It’s part of why most of us ride, that feeling of being one with the machine, of being involved in every aspect of it. However, there are an emerging group of bikes and riders that either don’t need manual transmissions, or who cannot use a manual transmission for a viable reason.
Automatic transmissions used to be something that were sneered at by most “riders,” but the real motorcyclists understood why they existed and even how they worked. It makes no sense to put a manual transmission on a twist-and-go scooter, nor does it make sense to use anything other than an automatic on an electric bike.
Some of the bikes we have listed here can be considered intermediate or advanced motorcycles, but almost any motorcycle can be new-rider friendly if the proper respect is given and the core elements of handling them are learned and understood. This is especially important these days with electric motorcycles, which give you maximum torque the instant you even look at the throttle.
#8: Honda PCX150 scooter
Yes, we’re starting the list off with a scooter. A very, very good scooter. The Honda PCX150 is a little marvel, with a nearly 160cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine that can push out well over 12 HP. This power is transferred to the 13-inch rear wheel via Honda’s V-matic transmission, a motorcycle and scooter specific version of a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that optimizes power and torque all the time.
With the grunt of the engine and the v-matic keeping it in the power range all the time, this little scooter can reach upwards of 65 MPH when needed. For a 150cc scooter, that is frankly amazing. Add to that more storage space and small cubby holes than most bikes ever see, and the ability to go two-up without losing much grunt, and you have an automatic scooter that can go as fast as a lower end motorcycle, carry more stuff, have better fuel efficiency, and do it while looking like a little spaceship, all for under $3,800 USD!
#7: Honda NM4 DCT
A couple of us here at Best Beginner Motorcycles either grew up in the time when the anime Akira was popularized in North America, or are current fans of anime and have seen the movie. And we can’t deny that it had a huge effect on our desire to get on two wheels and ride. Probably the closest thing to a real-life version of Kaneda’s motorcycle from Akira, the NM4 is a very cool machine and in many ways beginner-appropriate.
It has a low slung seat like a cruiser, forward foot controls like a tourer, and a pulled-back handlebar design. It is powered by a 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin that pushes out a respectable 47 HP and 44 lb-ft of torque and places it squarely in the tourer style of motorcycle without overpowering the rider. On top of that, it has excellent gas mileage and, being a Honda, don’t expect it to break down pretty much ever, as long as you do your due diligence in maintenance.
#6: Honda Super Cub C125
More of a lateral move than an upwards one for someone coming from a scooter, the Honda Super Cub C125 is still a motorcycle. It still has the foot brake, and it still has an optionally shiftable transmission. However, the transmission is a centrifugal sem-automatic, that will shift itself if it starts to spin too fast.
With a 125cc engine producing 10 HP and 8 lb-ft of torque, it still has more grunt than most smaller scooters. With a seat height nearly dead on 30 inches, it’s close enough to most larger engine bikes that should the beginner rider want to move up to a fully manual or semi-automatic quick-shifter motorcycle in the future, the change in height off the road won’t be too drastic.
#5: Honda CTX700 DCT
Honda made the CTX700 DCT specifically with the long-distance touring market in mind. And with this bike, they hit a classic home run. It is perfectly comfortable for either short trips around town or long-distance highway tours. It keeps most of its weight down low, allowing for sporty and confident handling.
For the newer rider looking to eat the miles away, but doesn’t want to have the rumbling v-twin beasts of American tourers or super-high displacement continental tourers from Japan, the Honda CTX700 DCT is the answer. 670cc parallel-twin power, standard ABS, and a confidence-boosting experience is just what the beginner looking to do long-distance rides needs.
#4: Evoke Urban Classic
A lot of focus in the electric bike world has gone towards sport and even supersport challenging motorcycles. Just look at the Lightning LS–218, capable of over 200 MPH. And then along comes the American-Hong Kong partnership company Evoke, and their intelligently designed and quite nice-looking Urban Classic.
Powered by a permanent magnet brushless motor, fed by a 9.05 kWh lithium-ion battery, the Urban Classic puts out the equivalent of 25 HP and a decent amount of torque. Designed almost entirely for commuting, the motor is programmed to be very gentle on the first throttle application, allowing power to build towards full only after about ¼ throttle. It will hit a maximum speed of about 80 MPH, and has a range of approximately 130 miles per full charge.
It is also fast-charge capable, should your city have superchargers or fast-charge stations available. Flick the charging mode to “long charge” and the Urban Classic will otherwise charge normally of a 120V wall socket with a decent charge rate of about 4 hours to full. Add in that the plug-in charger is actually built into the motorcycle, and you have a great commuter bike that takes pennies to the mile, looks great, and has a transmission mode set to be quite friendly, as you don’t want to crank the throttle even a little and have the bike leap forward.
#3: CSC City Slicker
The CSC City Slicker is perhaps the most affordable automatic motorcycle on this entire list, with a starting price just shy of $3,000. It’s also electric and has enough range to be useful in places such as suburbs and smaller towns that don’t require you to ride on the freeway to get between major locations. This also partly because the little CSC will be able to hit only 50 MPH… maybe. Downhill. With a tailwind.
However, it’s not all about speed. What this little bike brings to the table is an affordable step up from a scooter, with a familiar twist-and-go throttle, but adding in the foot brake for the rear wheel. This allows the beginner rider to learn all about variable braking across both wheels, while also not going at speeds that would be fast enough to cause a brain lockup leading to a crash.
The Honda NC750X is a great beginner bike for the taller or heavier (or both) rider that wants to get into adventure style motorcycles. It has a 745cc parallel twin with just about 51 horsepower, meaning it won’t break any speed records, but it will also be very friendly to the newer rider. On top of that, Honda’s larger displacement engines are much like their car engines: bulletproof.
With Honda’s very sleek DCT transmission attached, the bike takes on a more adventure touring style of riding when in the standard Drive mode. There is a Sport mode for a more spirited response from the transmission and throttle, but even then, it’s not overwhelming.
And the thumb-operated toggle beside the throttle to switch it between neutral and the two drive modes comes directly into touch, without having to look down at the handlebars, keeping your eyes where they should be, on the road.
#1: Zero S
Yes, an electric bike made the top of our list. But what a bike for a newer rider.
Zero designed the S to be one of their friendliest and most accessible models. It has reasonable power (34 kW, equivalent to 46 HP) and great torque (78 lbs-ft) that won’t surprise, or overwhelm, the beginner.
On top of that, the battery holds 7.2 kWh of energy, which in stop-start city commuting gets you 90 miles of range, and can even travel on the freeway with a top speed of 98 MPH. A friendly standard seating position, a twist-and-go style of throttle (as electric motors do not have gears), and a charge time from a standard 120V wall outlet of only 5.2 hours means this motorcycle will almost always be ready for you to ride.
And then we get to the best part. Most of the electric bikes out there in the market right now start well North of $15,000. While the uprated and more powerful Zero SR model starts around there, the S starts at $10,995.