Automatic Motorcycle Transmissions
Although some view the notion of an automatic transmission on a motorcycle as an outright sin, the reality is the growth of electric motorcycles and scooters has significantly altered perceptions of an automatic motorcycle. With the number of scooters in service globally, it’s fair to assume that a good portion of riders may well desire an upgrade to the longer range and heavier carrying capacity that a full-sized motorcycle offers—sans the issue of learning to operate a clutch and manual transmission. Also, with electric motorcycles coming ever more in vogue, an automatic transmission provides an easier transitional base for those wanting to explore a more traditional or larger displacement motorcycle.
The first mass-produced automatic transmission for automobiles was introduced in 1939 by General Motors and was offered as an option on the 1940 Oldsmobile Series 60 and Cadillac Sixty Special. There was a 1904 rendering of an automatic for a horseless carriage, but unfortunately it was plagued with mechanical woes. I’m sure that back then, anything that detoured from a foot clutch pedal and manual gear changes was viewed as a fad that would never catch on. Jump ahead 80-odd years and you’d be hard-pressed to find a new car with a manual transmission (in the U.S. anyway). In time, might automatic transmissions become as ubiquitous in motorcycling as they are in the automotive world?