The landscape for all vehicles with engines is rapidly changing, and there is a clear change beginning within the motorcycling world, in this case, I am talking about transmissions, and electric motors.
Good luck trying to purchase a new automobile anymore with a manual transmission, they simply do not exist. This trend has been going on long enough that many young drivers have never been exposed to a clutch. Carry that same lack of exposure over to the world of motorcycles and suddenly it becomes very clear the challenges facing new riders. This concept of a clutch and manual shifting is completely foreign. Of course, it is learnable, but it does create a barrier to riding.
Following along at roughly the same time as the decline in manual transmissions, the world began to increase the availability of electric-powered vehicles. This shift is now becoming a reality in the motorcycling world as more electric-powered machines hit dealer showrooms across the world.
Honestly, as a beginner rider, the options available are better than ever and I have 8 different motorcycles available in 2022, that do not require any manual shifting at all. I have mixed it up between gasoline-powered and pure electric, but from this list exists the right bike for the next new rider excited to experience the joys of life on a motorcycle.
Honda Rebel 1100
Are you a little surprised to find a 1100cc Cruiser as the first bike I go to? At first glance I fully understand, but there is some logic to this one trust me.
When Honda introduced the Rebel 300 and 500, they found instant success. What came next was the discovery that roughly a third of these new owners were looking for an upgrade in power within a couple of years. In 2021 the Rebel 1100 was introduced. Now you can have a Honda with the cruiser look that riders love without having to own a massive air-cooled twin.
For the beginner rider, it is the DCT transmission that makes this larger bike worth considering. The Rebel 1100 has four riding modes (three preset modes, one user mode) with three power levels, three traction control levels, plus cornering ABS. Basically, this allows a new rider to twist and go with a lot of control. Now you have a bike to grow with, that will keep you grinning for years.
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.
Zero has their electric motorcycles well sorted. The DS model is a Dual-Sport, go ahead and pause for a moment to marvel at the creative naming, and it offers an excellent all-around experience for a new rider.
The twist and go nature of electric motorcycles makes for a simple learning curve for new riders, there simply is no need for a transmission or clutch.
Stick with the standard DS, not the high-powered DSR. The DS packs 78 lb-ft of torque which is going to feel more than adequate. Overall the riding position on the DS feels natural and comfortable for longer rides, opening up the option of trying all those back roads and trails you have been curious about.
Completely new this year the awesome Zuma 125 (BWS 125 in Canada), uses a fully automatic V-belt transmission. Yamaha doesn’t provide a torque figure but mated with this new transmission, there is always power right when you need it.
The very design of scooters like this Yamaha provides a fun and easy platform for a new rider to gain skills. The seat is comfy and even has room for a passenger, and putting your feet flat on the ground is not a problem for even those of smaller stature.
The entire machine has been beefed up and the tires reveal that you can easily take the Zuma on light trails. Even long trails are fine since this scooter is good for over 100mpg.
The Navi is a small bike but like the Grom, it’s perfect for any enthusiast who is looking for more than just a pocket bike. It’s fun, agile, and with 109cc, it is a proper motorcycle as the V-Matic automatic transmission will move any normal-sized adult around the city.
Don’t be fooled by its mini stature as while it doesn’t have a lot of power, all your basic motorcycling skills still come into play. This bike is not just a fantastic learning platform, but experienced riders choose this bike as they are cost-effective as they come.