If you’re new to dirt bikes, then you probably aren’t aware of how the gearing works, and if they’re automatic or manual transmissions.
For the majority of dirt bikes, the following is generally accepted:
Most dirt bikes are manual where the rider is required to change gears using a clutch in the left hand and a gearstick using the left leg. This is typical for the 90cc and above class, including all enduro and motocross motorcycles. Automatic dirt bikes are rare but growing in popularity, with automatic gearboxes found on electric dirt bikes and children’s 50cc versions.
If you’re just getting started riding, learning how to change gears properly is one of the most challenging things. Staying upright is the easy part…until you reach that gnarly section.
Automatic and Manual Dirt Bikes
For decades now, dirt bikes have pretty much come out the factory with their manual gearboxes and a clutch. There really weren’t any variances at all.
Then again – this was an era where just about everyone knew how to drive a manual car with stickshift. Thus, the principles of gear changing isn’t too difficult to learn.
The only real challenge came with the fact that most dirt bikes don’t show the revs. Instead, you’re expected to listen to the engine and change up to a higher gear when necessary. That is – when you’re revving too high.
Current Market Options
There are some dirt bikes which come as automatic straight from the factory. This includes pretty much every electric dirt bike given that they don’t technically have gearboxes and the power is infinite.
That said, if you’re getting started, then you’ll find the torque in an electric dirt bike quite confronting. Learning how to ride a dirt bike with a manual gearbox isn’t that hard.
In addition, there are 50cc and 80cc dirt bikes for children which are single speed. This allows kids to simply focus on riding without the confusion of clutch control and changing gears at speed.
Now – there are some dual-sport options that now don’t have any gears. Their automatic transmission systems are quite revolutionary, with Honda’s CTX700 DCT, the Energica Ego and the Aprilia Mana 850 being favorable options out there. These are ideal for adventure riders who simply want to cruise and may have a leg injury preventing them from changing gears all day long.
Lastly – Honda produces the CT110 for the Australian Postal Workers. These motorcycles are used in offroad environments and some have even gone across the country…and even the world! They do have gears but no clutch, so they are considered to be a semi-automatic dirt bike.
It’s not that hard to learn how to do efficient clutch control. If you’re just getting started, then it’s best to understand how the revs work which ultimately makes you a safer and confident rider.
Find a wide-open area where you can practice all day long. Stick to your 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear and master the art before you attempt those gnarly hill climbs out there. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the trails!