Twist and Go – Your Guide to the Best Automatic Motorcycles
Once upon a time, all motorcycles were automatic. That is to say, the drive was taken directly from the crank to the back wheel, without the need to go through a gearbox.
Engines got bigger and faster which led to the design of elaborate pulley systems and belts could be swapped manually to allow for different ratios. Naturally, we’ve come a very long way since then but the original twist and go concept, albeit in a much more technologically advanced way, is still very popular.
So which is the best selling motorcycle in the world? It’s a clutch-less Honda called the Super Cub. In continuous production since 1958, the Honda has clocked-up well over 60 million sales!
That’s just a step-through scooter I hear you say; it’s not a proper motorcycle. Don’t let Ed March hear you say that, he rode his Honda 90cc cub around the world, including the Arctic.
Automatic Motorcycles: Constant Variable Transmission
Anyway, let’s have a look at what’s currently available in the world of automatic motorcycles. Just before we do though, auto-bikes fall into two basic categories, CVT (Constant Variable Transmission) and DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission).
Of the two, CVT is probably what most people would describe as a true automatic. This system has no clutch or gearbox and allows the rider to just twist and go.
The Constant Variable Transmission uses two pulleys joined by a toothed belt. To cut a long but very clever story short, the diameter of each pulley changes according to the bike’s speed.
By doing this, the belt is under constant tension. Meanwhile, the engine speed reaches its optimum rpm range, while the rate of the driven wheel increases. The result is, smooth continuous acceleration, with just a twist of the throttle.
Automatic Motorcycles: Dual Clutch Transmission
The DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) as the name suggests, operates using a two-clutch system. Pioneered by Honda and used in a number of their current line- up, the rider gets to choose between full auto mode, or the use of handlebar mounted paddles to select clutchless gear changes.
That’s not an option if you’re in the market for a large capacity two-wheeler with the ease of a fully automatic transmission. So let’s see what is available.
Automatic Motorcycle: Honda Automatics
You may as well grab a seat and get comfortable. Honda is by far the most invested motorcycle manufacturer when it comes to producing large capacity automatic motorcycles, so there are no less than 11 models of 700cc and above.
First up is a bike commonly known as a maxi scooter. The Honda Integra has been around for a while now, but for 2018 the twin cylinder engine gets a power boost to 750cc. In order to cope with the extra performance, the front forks are now Dual Bending Valve Showa’s and the DCT drive gets three ride modes.
Lighting and instruments are full LED units, and the whole bodywork is sharper since its last makeover in 2016.
Automatic Motorcycles: Dual Sport Scooter
Launched last year, the X-ADV has got to be the world’s first adventure scooter. Featuring Honda’s powerful yet gas-frugal 745cc parallel twin, ground clearance is good, and the wheels are tubeless spoked items.
The front forks are USD units giving plenty of travel. Braking is courtesy of four-piston radial mounted calipers. The X-ADV also gets a single, center-mounted LCD instrument, tapered bars, and traction control.
Honda has aimed the CTX700 at the fast-rising ‘returner’ market, and as such it’s pretty near perfect. The bike, positioned in the touring line-up is powered by a 670cc high torque engine, which again, returns very impressive fuel figures.
With a low seat height, half fairing, panniers and fully automatic capability, the CTX is a great middleweight bike to rack up the miles. If you like the bike’s tech spec, but the touring accessories just aren’t your cup o’ tea, Honda also does a naked ‘N’ version. Identical power wise, the N’s minimal bodywork and forward footrests give it more of an urban power-cruiser look.
This guide may very well be beginning to seem like the Honda roadshow, but they have it covered in the automatic motorcycle market. So here’s another couple of models using the same 750cc twin engine and DCT drive.
The NC750X is an adv-style bike, whose smaller engine predecessor has been around since 2012. Clearance and suspension travel is excellent; the gas tank is a dummy with decent storage capacity. The seat height and wide bars are comfortable on or off the road.
The NV750S shares the same engine and frame layout as the dual-sport model, but has a sportier, street bike look and feel.
Automatic Motorcycles: Automatics on the Dirt
Finally, we’re at Honda’s top-shelf models that offer a fully auto or clutch-less foot shifting only experience. The all-new 1000cc Africa Twin won much praise on its debut in 2016, and the auto box version allows riders to concentrate on the lumps and bumps.
Having listened to initial criticism the model range now includes the Adventure Sport, a much more dirt orientated version.
Last but not least, we reach the one Honda model that is custom made for their auto box; the Gold Wing. For 2018, the re-designed grand tourer comes in two variations, the standard Gold Wing and the Gold Wing Tour.
Both use the same chassis and flat six engine driving through the DCT box, with the Tour getting the additional bells and whistles.
Automatic Motorcycles: Maxi-Scooters
The article began with an explanation of the Constant Variable Transmission, and this system is still a favorite of the Maxi-Scooter. These hybrid bikes, with the weather protection and storage capacity of a scooter and large displacement motorcycle engines, have become increasingly popular.
Suzuki may have started the craze off with the Burgman, but all of the leading manufacturers have big bore scooters in their line-up including latecomers, Kawasaki.
Scooter giants Kymco and SYM both have high selling models in excess of 500cc, and Suzuki has responded to the challenge with the new Burgman 650 Executive. The Yamaha TMax has already established a cult following but has upped the stakes with a revamped 530cc version.
BMW has been playing around with scooters for a while including the odd looking C1, but now take the genre very seriously. Their two models include the C650 GT and highly acclaimed C650 Sport.
Obviously, Honda is fully onboard with their range of big bore scooters, including the previously mentioned 750cc X-ADV. However, when it comes down to the biggest and baddest, the Aprilia SRV 850cc V-twin takes the flag.
Automatic Motorcycles: Ultimate Twist and Go
When we’re talking about automatic motorcycles though, the ultimate twist and go bikes have got to be the current range of electric bikes. Thanks to the likes of Germany, announcing a ban on the internal combustion engine by 2030, electric motorcycles are the future.
Electric bikes now cover all the bases. From the Zero SR street bike, Brutus V9 cruiser, Alta Motocrosser, Superbike performance of the Energico EGO, and even the insanely opulent $100,000 Lito Sora streetfighter. So if you happen to be in the market for a ride that takes away the hassle of clutches and gear levers, Twist and Go – Your Guide to the Best Automatic Motorcycles offers the ultimate selection. (Photo links courtesy of – Ed March, Honda Powersports, Suzuki, Sora Electric).