Not even five years ago, automatic dirt bikes were relegated only to those motorcycles that were designed for kids to learn how to ride on. Flash forward those five years, and there are many mainstream, and quite a few non-mainstream, dirt bikes, trail bikes, and dual-sports out there that either have semi-automatic transmissions or fully automatic twist-and-go transmissions.
This is not to say that dirt bikes and the like are becoming boring or tame, far from it. The biggest push towards automatic transmissions in dirt bikes is the rapid rise in popularity of electric bikes. In much the same way that Tesla revolutionized the electric car segment from boring econoboxes to performance vehicles through the 2010s, companies such as KTM, Zero, and even the big four from Japan are all either investing heavily into electric bikes or have production electric bikes already on the road.
While not all of these bikes will be electrically powered, for the largest part, that is the segment of off-road motorcycles that see the most use of automatic transmissions. In this list, which is not a ranking, simply a listing of the best, the only guideline we all agreed on here at BBM to follow is that they must either be in production or introduced in 2021.
2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS
Yes indeed, we count the teeny tiny 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS as a dirt bike, although it realistically belongs more in the dual-sport or even adventure sport categories. The only reason it’s here is because, well, it’s designed to be an off-road minimoto, that can ride to the trail, tackle the trail, and then ride home on.
Powered by a 125cc four-stroke single, it puts out nearly 10 HP and will not set any land speed records. It is geared with a 4-speed centrifugal clutch automatic, which almost makes it into an off-road scooter! What it will do, though, is allow you to have the fun of a street minimoto, adapted and applied for off-road adventures. And isn’t that what getting off-road is all about? Having fun and adventuring. You’ll never know what you’ll find at the end of the trail!
2021 Zero FX
Zero has been one of the biggest proponents of electric motorcycles since their inception in 2006 as Electricross. The current 2021 FX dirt bike, probably the most “dirt” oriented of their dual-sports, is inspired by the DS and DSR bikes that came before. Those two bikes laid the groundwork for a tough off-road frame, sealing the battery and motor against dust and weather, and getting better and better at longer rides without increasing the weight of the bike overly much.
As such, the current 2021 Zero FX comes in at a respectable 289 lbs with the ZF7.2 high endurance battery power pack kit installed. It uses a clutchless direct drive from the brushless motor and can reach 85 MPH. The ZF7.2 pack also gives the bike the equivalent of 46 HP, and 78 lb-ft of torque from 0 RPM. The upgraded power pack should also last between 65 to 90 miles, depending on usage, and can charge back to full as slowly as 10 hours (overnight) or, with Zero accessory chargers, as fast as 2 hours.
2021 KTM FreeRide E-XC
The 2021 KTM FreeRide E-XC is the second electric bike by the respected Austrian company. The first, the kid-oriented FreeRide SX-E 5, proved that an electric bike would work off-road. The E-XC is what came out of that, a powerful, rally-style dirt bike that is meant more for fast and furious riding over trail riding or lazily riding around the farm.
Powered by a brushless motor that puts out about 24 HP, with a 3.9 kWh power pack backing it up, it will ride hard and fast for 2 hours along a trail, or can last a round of motocross-e or supercross-e before needing a charge. Like the Zero FX, it uses a clutchless direct-drive transmission. Unlike other electric dirt bikes, though, where you need to purchase an accessory charger to speed up charging, the FreeRide EX-C comes with a charger that can be plugged into a 240V socket and charge the bike in under 2 hours to 100%
2021 Electric Motion Escape R
The Electric Motion Escape R is potentially the hardest-core dirt bike on this list, built from the frame up to be both a pit bike and a trials bike with a decent seat. It is extremely lightweight at 188 lbs, and can reach speeds of 44 MPH on rough terrain. Above all, it is road legal (at least in France, where it is made) as a 125cc equivalent dual-sport.
What makes it the most hardcore bike here is that it comes fully competition-ready out of the factory. Morad Trial rims front and back, Michelin X11 competition tires standard, Tech Racing aluminum front and rear suspension, a 2.62 kWh battery powering a 50.4V DC brushless permanent magnet motor. That motor works nominally at 6 kW (8 HP), but if you demand peak power, it shoots up to nearly 20 HP.
All of that power, as this is a list about automatic transmission dirt bikes as is, goes through a hydraulically controlled diaphragm clutch that allows for limited-slip, the only bike on this list to do so. This means you can demand peak power for a jump in trials, then hit the rear brake and the clutch will let the power slip off instead of fighting the wheel.
Special Mention: 2021 OSET 24.0R
The 2021 OSET 24.0R comes standard as a trials bike without a seat. While this doesn’t really qualify it as a dirt bike, there is a conversion kit that OSET themselves sell, as well as aftermarket trials bike conversion kits that bolt to the frame and adds a full dirt bike seat. What is of note about the 24.0R, however, is that unlike almost every other electric dirt bike where it’s one setting and that’s it, this bike is adjustable.
It is controllable for three settings: Speed, Power, Response. If you want to go fast, but save the battery and have a lenient throttle, you can dial it in. If you want instant response to leap up a trials object, but don’t want to hit top speed, dial down the speed and dial-up the response. And it is all powered by a 1.4kW motor that puts out huge torque at 1 RPM. The battery will last approximately 2 hours of hard riding, and all the power is through a direct drive transmission that is short and meant to deliver max torque.
The bike is stated to be designed for teens and adults up to 198 lbs, but is a serious trials bike without the conversion kit that can get serious air time if going off a jump or coming off an obstacle and you hit the throttle just right.