While many of us enjoy the whole process of doing gear changes manually, there is a growing market of riders that would prefer to either start off on a motorcycle with automatic gears, or riders that may no longer wish to have to deal with multiple gear changes. There are also those that may have started on scooters with their simple twist-and-go automatics, and might want a larger machine that uses the same principle.
For these riders, automatic transmission motorcycles exist. There are a few types of automatics, but the most common by a large margin is what is known as a Dual Clutch Transmission, or DCT. It is a “manual” gearbox, with one clutch operating the even gears, and another operating the odd gears, however, the gear shifts are taken care of by the onboard computer, determining based on a variety of sensors when the optimal time to shift is.
We’ve researched many of the automatic models out there, and have compiled a list of 6 automatics from the past decade that are perfect for a new rider or someone upgrading from scooters to full-on motorcycles. And we think our #1 pick might surprise you…
#6: 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.
#5: 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.
#4: 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.
#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 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.