Sometimes twist and go beats grabbing and shifting.
You can find motorcycles with automatic transmissions in any style imaginable, from cruiser to adventure bike. Shown here is Honda’s Rebel 1100T DCT.
In the current US auto market, you’ll find only about 30 models still available with a manual transmission. The list shrinks every year, and while the situation isn’t quite that dire in the motorcycle world for 2023—US or otherwise—change is afoot. Although automatic transmissions on new bikes haven’t yet been widely accepted, mainly because moto riders love to row their own gears, major manufacturers have still acknowledged that a barrier to attracting new motorcyclists is the complexity of learning to shift. And for beginning riders—or those with physical limitations—a bike that doesn’t need you to shift or work a clutch is exponentially more appealing.
Semi-auto clutches and CVT transmissions with full-auto functionality exist, but today, it’s mostly DCT. Honda dominates the category—both in transmission type as well as sheer number of models available—and Big Red uses DCT (dual-clutch transmission) on many of its halo products. The system actually uses clutches but not a clutch lever, with an onboard computer handling the gear swaps (though you can usually override it manually). Grumble all you want, but auto systems usually result in a smoother shift and more predictable launches.
[As an aside: Nearly all electric motorcycles use a single-speed arrangement so they aren’t technically automatic (one gear: nothing to change). But they are clutchless—just twist the throttle—so we include an example simply because no shifting is involved. And because someone’s bound to mention the Guzzi Convert, we’ll just say it: It hasn’t been available for over 40 years.]
The bikes below have either automatic modes, semi-auto transmissions, or one-gear transmissions, and no clutch levers. Despite that, the list is surprisingly diverse, with everything from adventure bikes to minimotos to cruisers.
Look familiar? DCT or not, the Honda Gold Wing makes Cycle World’s Ten Best Bikes list almost every year. It’s that good!
2023 Honda Gold Wing Automatic DCT | Starting at $25,600
It makes perfect sense that Honda would outfit its top-of-the-line luxury tourer with all manner of conveniences—including an auto-shift option. The seven-speed DCT that first appeared on the 2019 model (updated to link with an IMU) is available on three of the four Gold Wing trims in 2023, including the base “bagger” Wing (no trunk) as well as the fully tricked-out Gold Wing Tour Airbag DCT ($32,900).
In 2021, the Wing received a series of minor updates that again sealed its place on Cycle World’s 2022 Ten Best list (Best Touring Bike) but even without that larger trunk, improved audio, or DCT, it’s still one of the most competent tourers around. You can’t blame Honda for emphasizing the “consistent seamless gear changes” from the now-familiar DCT system, which utilizes two clutches—one for start-up and first, third, fifth, and seventh gears, the other for second, fourth, and sixth.
Power comes from the preternaturally silky 1,833c horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with a peak 90 hp on tap (as tested in DCT form on our dyno), enclosed in an aluminum twin-spar frame with double-wishbone front suspension.
The Africa Twin is a thoroughly capable adventure bike made even more accessible with the addition of DCT. The base model and touring focused Adventure Sports ES are both available with Honda’s dual-clutch transmission.
2023 Honda Africa Twin DCT | Starting at $15,299
Clearly Honda’s cornered the automatic market, and you gotta admit Big Red has cast a pretty wide net: The next model on our list is a full-on ADV bike. Giving riders the option to focus on the terrain in front rather than shift and clutch levers might sound like a savvy move, but it’s not like the Africa Twin isn’t a great adventure rig even without the DCT, offering tasty features like a bulletproof 1,084cc Unicam engine, over 9 inches of suspension travel up front, and a hefty 5 gallons of fuel capacity. And that’s just the base DCT model; opt for the Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES DCT and you’ll get a bigger 6.5-gallon fuel tank, tubeless tires, electronic suspension, and added comfort through such additions as a taller windscreen.
DCT makes it surprisingly easy to wring the best out of the powerful parallel-twin engine, with three modes on tap: Manual (shift with the handlebar triggers); Automatic Drive mode for long-distance forays; or Automatic Sport when you want a more spirited ride in the twisties. Honda gave the Twin series no changes this year, with two trim levels offering the optional DCT: the base-model Africa Twin DCT ($15,299) and the premium Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES DCT ($18,099).
The Honda Rebel 1100T DCT delivers light touring capability with cruiser style and plenty of power.
2023 Honda Rebel 1100T DCT | $11,299 (base)
Seriously, where are the automatic bikes from other manufacturers? BMW has its pricey CVT-equipped C 400 GT scooter and Kawasaki is allegedly working on a semi-auto transmission, but that makes for some pretty slim pickings.
So here we are, back to Honda, which introduced the clutchless Rebel 1100 cruiser in 2020, and its light-touring 1100T DCT offshoot this year. With every ride on the biggest Rebel, we’ve come away impressed at how much tech and easily accessible power from the Africa Twin’s Unicam engine trickled down to this casual cruiser. You can manipulate the power, traction control, and cruise control comes standard.
Even with the bigger engine, a fairing, saddlebags, and DCT, the Rebel feels nicely balanced, and ABS and cruise control is standard. The Rebel 1100T DCT comes with an asking price of a little over $11K, and, considering it packages an automatic transmission along with light touring amenities, makes for a solid option in the usually stodgy touring cruiser category.
Practical yet spirited, the Honda NC750X DCT rings in as one of the best buys in motorcycling at under $10K (with DCT ).
2023 Honda NC750X DCT | $9,399
Honda slots the NC750X DCT in its Adventure category, which, given its 4.7 inches of travel up front, might seem like a bit of a stretch; it’s more of a standard-style, do-it-all commuter with a good measure of versatility. Powered by the firm’s dead-reliable liquid-cooled 745cc parallel-twin engine, the NC750X is positioned as a “practical” motorcycle, which is no bad thing if you’re looking for excellent fuel efficiency and smooth, predictable performance.
But it’s no slug either, with a torquey, quick-revving character that’s nicely amplified by the addition of the DCT transmission. With four riding modes (Sport, Standard, Rain, and configurable User mode), throttle-by-wire, a neutral riding position, and integrated storage up front, the NC750X DCT lets you switch between basic commuting or more spirited jaunts up the mountain, while still giving you a comfortable perch with practical amenities along the way. Even more reasonable is the price tag: The 2023 NC750X DCT has an MSRP of just $9,399.
The American-made electric offers thrilling acceleration, a suite of electronic rider aids, no fumes, and clutchless operation.
2023 LiveWire One | $22,799
Thought we’d break up the Honda theme with some American iron. Yes, technically the LiveWire One has a permanent magnet electric motor and thus uses only one gear, but the One does also allow you to shift into reverse and drive, and since it dispenses with a clutch and a shift lever, here it is. (Also, the new S2 Del Mar isn’t available just yet.)
The good news is that the roadster-y yet sporty One model boasts a sane seat height, lightweight cast aluminum frame, a claimed 100 hp from the Revelation motor, and a supposed city range of 145 miles, with a 60-minute charge time on a DC fast charger (your results may vary for all of the above). Like we said, there’s no clutch, just Eco, Road, Sport, and Rain modes to change the bike’s power delivery. The $22,799 buy-in also gets you better-than-average Brembo brakes and Showa suspension components as well as a fairly comprehensive suite of electronic rider aids, including cornering-enhanced ABS and cornering traction control, and the near-instantaneous torque is guaranteed to put a grin on your face—regardless of how you feel about the whole electric thing.
Small in stature but big in possibility, the Honda Trail125 channels the past with classic good looks and a semi-automatic transmission.
2023 Honda Trail125 | $3,999
Since we’re already breaking the rules of this listing, we figured we’d sneak in another un-automatic bike: the Honda Trail, which is classified as semi-automatic. The Trail is so classically bare-bones cool, we had to find a place for it. No surprise, of course, that it’s a Honda, and since it’s based on the iconic Trail 90 and Trail 110 bikes of yore, it’s sure to put a smile on the faces of riders of a certain age. For 2023, the Trail125 gets the 124cc air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that the Super Cub received in 2022, which is efficient, quiet, fuel-efficient, and durable. Like the OG models, it still features the famous no-clutch semi-automatic transmission, a frame with a low step-over height, and an integral luggage rack.
The semi auto four-speed transmission means you still have to shift with your foot, but
there’s no clutch lever. At a standstill, you simply select the required gear with the shift lever; open the throttle and the clutch operates automatically, doing so through each gear change—making things infinitely easier out on the trail. The package includes front-wheel ABS as well as an attractive $3,999 price tag.
The Honda Navi may be small in stature, but it’s big on efficiency and affordability.
2023 Honda Navi | $1,807
We opened the door, so here’s another small-bore option: the Honda Navi. Sure, it’s another Honda, and it’s a single-cylinder pocket bike, or minibike, or, in Honda parlance, a miniMOTO with the physical presence to match, but the Navi also comes with a CVT transmission. That means no clutch to operate, no shifting required, and no neutral—just start it up, twist, and go.
Powered by a dependable 109cc single with an overhead-cam design that’s air-cooled for simplicity, the Navi is off the charts for fuel efficiency (Honda claims over 100 mpg) and makes more than enough power for its intended purpose. The rest of the running gear includes a steel frame, 12-inch wheels up front, and 10-inchers out back, with an inverted telescopic fork and a single shock; a 1-gallon fuel tank swallows the go-juice.
If you can live with the drum brakes, pint-size stature, and reasonable sub-$2K price tag, the Navi just might be your perfect round-town machine.
The stalwart Suzuki Burgman is the definition of a do-it-all maxi scooter.
2023 Suzuki Burgman | $8,599
Accolades for Suzuki’s long-running full-size Burgman scooter extend back decades, which is part of the reason we’re stuffing it into the list. The Burgie’s stealthy firepower has long surprised owners and competitors alike, and with a top speed of 90 mph from the fuel-injected 400cc liquid-cooled single, you’ll be able to keep up with most of your moto buddies in town and then some.
Engine power is transferred to a fully automatic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) system which serves up smooth, linear power without the need to shift, and better than you’d guess acceleration at any speed. Don’t worry though, the Burgman also gets excellent fuel economy (north of 50 in our last test) and even comes with a preload-adjustable linkage-type rear shock that helps this maxi feel more like a motorcycle in the handling department. There’s room for a passenger, and ABS, traction control, and advanced LED lighting are included as well.
Even with its power, comfort, and convenience the Burgman still doesn’t look like the sexiest ride on the block, but being a wolf in sheep’s clothing has its advantages too.
Can-Am’s most affordable on-road model, the Ryker also comes with a fully automatic CVT transmission. (Rally trim shown.)
2023 Can-Am Ryker | $8,999 (base)
We’ll continue to push boundaries by listing another non-motorcycle, but Can-Am’s entry-level Ryker is not a trike; technically trikes have two wheels in back and one up front. But like the Burgman, it is motorcycle-adjacent, and also like the Burgie, it has a fully automatic CVT transmission, which means you simply twist and go.
Unbelievably, this stripped-down three-wheeler is pretty close in price to a Burgman, starting at $8,999. The Ryker comes in two options—a 600cc parallel twin producing a claimed 47 hp, or an 899cc triple boasting 77 hp. But the main attraction is a fully automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that lowers the learning curve for new riders. Roll on the throttle, and the CVT takes care of the rest, letting you focus on the passing world instead of the shifter or clutch lever.
The Ryker’s suspension features a dual A-arm with twin-tube shocks up front and a single linkage-type shock in the rear, while triple disc brakes will slow your roll in a hurry. But one of the cooler features on this solo-seater is the UFit adjustment system, which allows you to tweak handlebar and foot control positions to your liking.
Trikes are not bikes, but most give you the same exposure to the elements and a visceral feel that’s at least close to that of a bike. The only part missing is the leaning.
The Polaris Slingshot S reverse trike is with an AutoDrive transmission, alongside the five-speed manual option.
2023 Polaris Slingshot S | $23,349 (base, w/ auto transmission)
We fully expect a stack of hate mail insisting that the Slingshot is not a motorcycle, but there’s an argument to be made for its inclusion here. For one, the entry-level three-wheeler is available with the Polaris AutoDrive transmission that shifts gears without requiring you to operate a clutch, though you can still row your own via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
For another, the open-air cockpit does simulate (if only somewhat) the motorcycling experience of being out in the environment—especially because the base S model doesn’t come with a windshield as standard equipment. There’s enough power here to generate plenty of fun, with the ProStar 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 178 hp at 8,500 rpm and 120 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,500 rpm in the S trim.
The contradiction starts with the Slingshot’s riding…er…“driving” position; unlike most three-wheelers, you get carlike ergos with dual bucket seats and a steering wheel rather than saddles and handlebar. But viewed from the rear, it looks entirely like a sportbike’s running gear is riding on the sole back wheel. Still, in our experience the Slingshot is a ton of fun to operate while offering better stability than more traditional “trikes.” It may not technically be a motorcycle or a car, but it’s definitely a topic of conversation whenever you see—or drive—one on the road.