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The landscape for all vehicles with engines is rapidly changing, and there is a clear change beginning within the motorcycling world, in this case, I am talking about transmissions, and electric motors.
Good luck trying to purchase a new automobile anymore with a manual transmission, they simply do not exist. This trend has been going on long enough that many young drivers have never been exposed to a clutch. Carry that same lack of exposure over to the world of motorcycles and suddenly it becomes very clear the challenges facing new riders. This concept of a clutch and manual shifting is completely foreign. Of course, it is learnable, but it does create a barrier to riding.
Following along at roughly the same time as the decline in manual transmissions, the world began to increase the availability of electric-powered vehicles. This shift is now becoming a reality in the motorcycling world as more electric-powered machines hit dealer showrooms across the world.
Honestly, as a beginner rider, the options available are better than ever and I have 8 different motorcycles available in 2022, that do not require any manual shifting at all. I have mixed it up between gasoline-powered and pure electric, but from this list exists the right bike for the next new rider excited to experience the joys of life on a motorcycle.
Honda gave the world its biggest Rebel yet with the new 1100 (read and watch it in action during the 2021 Honda Rebel 1100 MC Commute Review and Is Honda’s 2021 Rebel 1100 DCT Cruiser a Modern Sportster? reviews), and on top of the notable power boost and electronics package, it also offers riders a DCT option at $9,999. This bike was a big step for Honda considering the decades it left the Rebel in the sub-500cc category. And after our first ride on it we’d say Honda has a hit on its hands. It’s comfortable, handles well, has a respectable amount of power and lean angle along with some useful creature comforts like a USB port and LED lighting. The authentic cruiser aesthetic with a twist-and-go version for a reasonable price is a win, win, win.
Spec: 745cc / 54bhp / 229kg / 830mm seat height
Price: £3600 (used) – £7799 (new)
Build quality is typically Honda good. The mechanicals are understressed and reliable and owners tend to be gentle with them, too. There’s plenty of low mileage examples out there as well. As long as the cosmetics haven’t been neglected by novice owners you should have little to fear. The X, along with the NC750S and Integra scooter, was Honda’s ‘New Concept’, novice-friendly, middleweight family, based around a new, soft-tuned, low-revving twin with the option of Honda’s clever, twist ‘n’ go, DCT semi-automatic transmission. Friendly and non-threatening to ride, despite the adventure bike-esque styling, it’s easily manageable, has scooter/commuter practicality such as the storage space in the dummy tank and is good value and economical, too. All of this has helped make it a big hit Europe-wide.
The Honda 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.
Zero has their electric motorcycles well sorted. The DS model is a Dual-Sport, go ahead and pause for a moment to marvel at the creative naming, and it offers an excellent all-around experience for a new rider.
For comfort and full-size convenience, the $5,699 XMAX scooter from Yamaha is an enticing option for city riders. The 292cc single can handle stints on the freeway if required, but this CVT machine really shines on surface streets. It’s got loads of storage, wind protection, LED lighting, ABS, and a full range of accessories. I also don’t think scooters get the kind of love they deserve in the States and I’d bet there is an untapped population of folks who would be riders for life if they experienced a machine like this.
Although an all-new machine with bags of sophisticated features this is Honda’s flagship model so build quality is peerless. What’s more, Gold Wing reliability and durability is generally excellent and the powertrain remains understressed. Don’t expect a bargain, though. 2018’s full update for Honda’s class-defining and luxurious ‘full-dress’ tourer was not only long overdue it was a huge leap forward. Not only was it lighter, better handling, with more performance and with electronics, equipment and sophisticated rider aids that were bang up to date, it now also had the option of Honda’s DCT semi-automatic transmission, providing either auto shifts through its seven gears or lets you do it through a paddle button up/down system. The result is a truly phenomenal magic carpet ride. Big tourers have never been so slick – at a price.
Spec: 1833cc / 124bhp / 365kg / 745mm seat height
Price: £24,499 (used) – £30,699 (new)
There are a growing number of kids electric bikes on the market, and one of the coolest of 2021 is the Indian eFTR. This little replica tracker takes its styling cues from the FTR750 but provides the operational simplicity of an electric. All junior needs to do is hop on, turn the throttle, and go. While it is important for kids to get the basics down pat if a life of riding awaits ahead, but for pure fun at an acceptable noise level even for in-town backyard use, the $749.99 eFTR is one hard bike to beat.
So new and niche that, as we write, only one used example was available – which, being a Premium model with extra features and a fast charger was actually more than the brand new base version. It’s also early days on reliability, but Zero have a decent reputation so far.
All currently available electric bikes are twist ‘n’ go style, without gears at all (although some future machines like this Kawasaki concept are mooted to have), so the latest and best of the breed – Zero’s new SR/F – is worthy of inclusion here.
What sets it apart are its new ZR75-10 motor which gives performance and range closer than ever to that of an equivalent petrol-powered machine, plus, perhaps even more significantly, a trellis frame and cycle parts (radial brakes, adjustable inverted forks etc) the match of the latest oil-burners, too. Think slightly heavier Ducati Monster but with immediate, twist-and-go zap, and you’ll be about there. Shame it’s so pricey and charging infrastructure isn’t yet quite there either – but it’s coming.
The Navi is a small bike but like the Grom, it’s perfect for any enthusiast who is looking for more than just a pocket bike. It’s fun, agile, and with 109cc, it is a proper motorcycle as the V-Matic automatic transmission will move any normal-sized adult around the city.
Don’t be fooled by its mini stature as while it doesn’t have a lot of power, all your basic motorcycling skills still come into play. This bike is not just a fantastic learning platform, but experienced riders choose this bike as they are cost-effective as they come.