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Are Dirt Bikes Automatic?

Are you thinking of hitting the trails? If yes, you may be looking for a bike that will deliver the best performance on rough terrain; thus, ditching the manual clutch for an automatic machine may sound like the perfect plan. After all, this dirt bike should be easier to handle, right?  

Most dirt bikes are not automatic since automatic transmissions are unsuited to the wide variety of terrain that dirt bikes ride on. But with a manual transmission, a clutch allows you more control over rough, rocky, or muddy terrain. So, your choice depends on the intended use and your preference.

The main difference between automatic and manual dirt bikes is that manual dirt bikes sport a manual gearbox. Stick around to find out how both types work, which is better for you, and how to maintain your dirt bike. 

Automatic Dirt Bikes

In general, the term refers to an automatic motorcycle designed for off-road riding. It comes equipped with long-travel suspension, off-road tires, and other related accessories ideal for improved riding across rough terrain.

An automatic dirt bike doesn’t require you to change gears using a conventional manual clutch. What this means is that power is transferred from the engine through an automatic gearbox. To start moving, you only need to twist the throttle.

While most experienced riders believe that automatic transmissions are an oddity, the younger riders prefer them. This is due to their various advantages, as we shall see below. Automatic dirt bikes are:

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • Agile, stable, and offer smooth gear shifting
  • Offer a smooth and comfy riding experience
  • Ideal for long rides since you don’t have to change gears
  • Versatile – you can use them on the streets, dirt roads, trails, and on rough terrain

Still, these bikes have their disadvantages:

Cons

  • Not very popular
  • An automatic transmission is heavier than a manual one
  • Not powerful

Automatic dirt bikes are suitable for newbie bikers, especially kids. This is because they are not powerful and strong compared to manual dirt bikes, and they also require minimum effort. Still, there are semi-automatic dirt bikes available, and these are much more powerful.  

Manual Dirt Bikes 

A manual dirt bike is a motorcycle that is designed for off-road riding. Manual dirt bikes dominate the market, but most inexperienced riders are very intimidated by these bikes because of one thing – the clutch lever. 

A manual dirt bike requires you to pull in the clutch when shifting between gears, which calls for skill and lots of practice. Similar to a manual transmission car, you have to find a balance between letting out the clutch handle and twisting the throttle to ease into each gear. Below is a video explaining how to ride a manual dirt bike:

Dirt bikes feature rugged tires, suspension, and a small, light frame since they are designed for mobility and jumping. The spring shocks and hydraulic tubes also allow the bikes to better absorb shock on the rough tracks and jumps. 

The fuel tank on a manual dirt bike is small since these bikes hardly venture out very far. Besides, a big tank would mean extra weight for the dirt bike. 

Below are the positive and negative sides of manual dirt bikes:

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Offer high speed
  • Large in size and have a big engine
  • A manual clutch allows for efficient use of engine power and technical maneuvers based on instant power delivery

Cons

  • It takes more effort to learn how to ride one
  • Pricier than automatic dirt bikes
  • The manual gearbox is heavy, thus making dirt bikes heavier than the automatic ones

How Do Automatic Dirt Bikes Work?

Most automatic bikes use a Dual-Clutch Transmission system, DCT. This system uses two clutches; one to control the even gears while the other clutch controls the odd gears. 

This system doesn’t require you to pull any clutch lever or manually shift gears. This is because onboard computers control the system. They sense when the gears need to move up or down and make it happen, leaving you free to concentrate on riding your motorcycle.  

Today’s DCT technology has evolved into a system that offers you a fully automatic experience, but with manual gear change too – on selected models. While you can opt for the latter, bear in mind that the gear changing is unlike that of a fully manual motorcycle. Rather, it’s more similar to vehicular paddle shifters

Automatic dirt bikes are easy to operate. As mentioned earlier, power comes directly through an electric motor, and all you get to do is twist the throttle and move. Due to the automatic transmission, there are no gears to adjust to match the terrain. Hence, if you want to increase speed, you only have to twist.

Riding an automatic dirt bike has its pitfalls. For one, your braking is different. While some modern bikes have in place a conventional foot brake for the rear, most have the rear brake mounted on the handlebar. As such,  you have the choice of going fully automatic or the option of using an upshift and downshift button to control the gears.

Next comes engine braking. On a conventional motorcycle, downward gear shifting allows for more controlled braking, but this disappears with an automatic transmission.

Is an Automatic Dirt Bike the Best Choice for You?

So then, which option is better; manual or automatic transmission? 

While biking diehards prefer the traditional dirt bikes with a manual transmission, the new and upcoming riders lean towards automatic dirt bikes.

The thing is, it depends on your preference and level of experience. As such, an automatic dirt bike would be an ideal choice for you if:

  • You are a beginner trying to familiarize yourself with two wheels
  • You would prefer a clutchless bike
  • You are looking to move from one place to the next and not concerned about perfect gear change execution  
  • You are looking for a long-haul tour without the additional stress of shifting gears

However, if you enjoy the thrill of controlling the clutch and shifting gears much more, then a manual dirt bike is the way to go. Better yet, you may be an expert rider looking for a thrilling experience, to enhance your skills, and take advantage of the massive power generated by a manual dirt bike. 

How to Maintain Your Dirt Bike

Whatever type of bike you finally settle on, the following tips will prove very useful in making the best use of your dirt bike:

  • Lubricate your chain periodically
  • Clean the air filter often and change the oil after riding for 8 hours 
  • Check your air pressure frequently
  • If you are a beginner, don’t buy a dirt bike with too much power as it will be challenging to control

Finally, remember that dirt bike riding is dangerous; always wear protective gear. This is especially so if you are riding a manual dirt bike since it delivers more speed and higher performance.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. While not all dirt bikes are automatic, automatic dirt bikes are more of adventure bikes, ideal for when you want a different kind of experience. Manual dirt bikes, on the other hand, are suited to off-road pursuits. 

Automatic bikes are also clutchless and feature an automatic transmission, while manual dirt bikes come with gears and a clutch. They also require you to shift the gears manually.

For the experienced biker, a manual dirt bike offers more sporting fun than an automatic dirt bike – not to mention super fast speed and acceleration. Many expert riders would get very bored riding an automatic dirt bike. 

Yet both options are fantastic, so whatever your choice, go for the dirt bike that best suits your needs and riding style.

Levi Bath

I'm the co-creator of OffRoad Lifestyles. I live in Loveland, Colorado with my wife and 3 kids. My wife and I have spent a lot of time out on the sand dunes near Walden, CO and we both love offroading and camping.

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