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Technology comparison: automatic transmission

Motorcycles with shift assistance / automatic

Motorcycles with automatic? Many motorcyclists fear a loss of autonomy and control. But the concerns are really unjustified. These five motorcycles make life easier for their riders, each with its own technology and function. Just like modern scooters and cars do.

Does that go together? In the USA 90 percent of all cars have automatic transmissions, in Europe a third and the trend is rising. Current super sports cars rely on Tiptronic and lightning-fast gear changes. And nowadays, scooter drivers drive almost without exception automatically. Only we motorcyclists hold tight to the interplay of throttle, clutch and gear lever, of three different extremities, left foot, both hands. Take off the gas, disengage the clutch, engage the next higher or lower gear, engage, accelerate. It is precisely this complexity that seems to be an essential part of the fascination of motorcycling.

AT.he alpine passes can hardly be reached 100 or 200 meters without switching. In extreme cases, city traffic, stop-and-go in motorway construction sites, switching is required every few meters. Some machines torment the left forearm with extremely high manual clutch force. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, vehicles without clutch levers have the nimbus of ambulance chairs for us. Why is that?

Technology comparison: automatic transmission

Motorcycles with shift assistance / automatic

Aprilia and Yamaha, shift manually with the left hand.

Honda DN-01


In the Honda DN-01 a first fully automatic system ready for the market was built into the form.

Let’s start with the DN-01, released in 2008. The hybrid of cruiser and scooter has a shark look and instead of a cogwheel transmission, hydraulic power transmission with a cardan single-sided swing arm. While driving, you don’t feel any of the complex technology, thanks to the stepless gear ratio you can enjoy the finest transitions. No load changes, no play in the drive train, no problems when starting with the centrifugal clutch. Only the D-mode designed as overdrive differs enormously ("Drive") and the much sportier S mode.

Under D, the 680 cubic Vau-Zwo feels very weak and takes 8.7 seconds to sprint from zero to one hundred. In S mode, the DN01 completes the exercise in 7.6 seconds, manually switched via Tiptronic in 6.9 seconds. Torque converter losses and an enormous 271 kilograms make a nominal 61 hp feel like 40 hp. After all, the equipment is high-quality, with composite brakes and sensitive ABS. Furthermore, neutral driving behavior and good suspension comfort speak for the 13040 Euro expensive DN-01. Nevertheless, with its mixed concept, the tight lean angle due to the running boards and the permanently uncomfortable seating position, it looks like the answer to a question that nobody has asked.

Honda VFR 1200 F DCT


Like the DN-01, the dual clutch transmission of the Honda VFR 1200 F DCT can be driven in fully automatic mode.

On the other hand, many fans have been waiting for the new VFR. Not least because of the exclusive double clutch transmission of the 1200 V4 sports tourer. Honda does with the "DCT" a technology in the motorcycle sector that Audi, Porsche and VW use in their top models ("DSG"). And the sophisticated drive concept works splendidly. Fascinating, this jerk-free shifting without noticeable interruption in traction. Quite comfortable on tour, not having to switch gears, leaving the machine to do the work. There are two modes to choose from, the leisurely one "D."- like continuous mode and the sportier S mode, which operates at higher engine speeds and lower gears. Character change at the push of a button. Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.

The unconventional actuation of the manual transmission and double clutch helps over the deep crater in the torque curve at 3000 rpm. Because full cocking the tap leaves the "Automatic" Shift down a gear or two in no time. Full throttle automatically turns the pulling power into real acceleration values ​​in higher gears. That works better than manual shifting: child’s play, with Tiptronic, you can force the VFR to choose your preferred gear. These finger exercises are fun. Those smooth, quick transitions, just great. However, the conventional basic VFR always accelerates faster than its 1200 sister with double clutch.

In addition, there is generally a little play in the drive train. And deep in the lower rev range with little load, slight constant travel jolting. In addition, the control electronics sometimes cannot quite decide between two gears at consistently low speeds, and shifts back and forth indecisively. Still, if VFR, then the DCT version!

Aprilia NA 850 Mana GT


With variator and centrifugal clutch, the Aprilia NA 850 Mana GT is a bit reminiscent of a large scooter.

The Aprilia NA 850 Mana GT has inherited an engine from a large scooter, including variator, centrifugal clutch and smart details (helmet compartment). This explains tinny sound as well as maximum usability. But not the enormous range of operation: The Mana drives fully automatically and with a stepless gear ratio in three different driving modes, but can also be moved by hand or foot (!) In seven fixed steps without ever having to couple. Gentle pressure is enough. Not having a conventional gearbox also means that you cannot shift into gear while stationary. Therefore, the Mana and DN-01 have a parking brake that works mechanically on the rear wheel. This also applies to the Honda VFR, because the DCT always goes into neutral when the engine is switched off. The button for unlocking the is on the 1200s "Parking brake" hidden.

Yamaha FJR 1300 AS


The Yamaha FJR 1300 AS is no longer conventionally coupled but electro-hydraulically.

The Yamaha FJR 1300 AS relies on electro-hydraulic actuation of otherwise conventional clutch and gear transmission. Without an ignition current, you cannot change the gear engaged when you turn it off or you can disengage the clutch for maneuvering. On the one hand a good complement to the immobilizer, on the other hand you always need the ignition key if you want to push the FJR just a single meter.

As smoothly as the AS engages and downshifts, the 1200 Euro, five kilogram heavy technology is rather a hindrance when starting up and turning gently. Be careful when switching from a motorcycle with a manual, i.e. manually operated gearshift system (Tiptronic) to another make: Depending on the manufacturer, the buttons for upshifting are sometimes at the front and sometimes at the back of the handlebar. When switching by foot, this is not only used for decades, but also more logical: up and down.

BMW K 1300 S.


The BMW K 1300 S with a very practical gearshift assistant.

The BMW K 1300 S has a six-speed gearbox and conventional oil bath clutch in a completely traditional manner. Your shift assistant does not allow automatic gear changes. But only easier and faster upshifts without reaching for the (existing) clutch lever. While you always have to close the throttle on the FJR when upshifting, the 1300 BMW does so without complaint, even under full load. Very welcome by racing drivers, the system is ultimately also an advantage in everyday life. If only it worked when downshifting without the clutch…

Who knows, maybe one day we really won’t miss switching and controlling (coupling) anymore. Probably when the "Automatic" works better, faster. Just like with modern sports cars.

Conclusion: Yes, shifting aids and sophisticated automatic concepts can also make sense with motorcycles. This is especially true for the VFR with dual clutch transmission. The comfortable, comfort-oriented Mana GT with its scooter technology and the BMW with the sporty, fast gear shift assistant are also convincing. Because they allow many shifting options and / or make gear changes much easier.

Double clutch

Drawing: archive

Color theory: servomotor, clutch and gears of gears 1, 3 and 5 are marked in red, the components of gears 2, 4 and 6 are marked in blue.

This V4 is full of tricks. The transmission input shaft is divided into an inner and an outer one. Both have their own multi-plate wet clutch (Double Clutch Transmission, DCT). One clutch provides the frictional connection for the gears of the uneven gears 1, 3 and 5, the other for those of the even gears 2, 4 and 6. The clutches are actuated electro-hydraulically via the control unit. One of the two gear trios is permanently engaged, the other runs with a separate clutch without load. When starting the V4 is always idle.

The rocker switch on the right end of the handlebar and the servomotor on the left of the gearbox are used to engage first gear. If you accelerate, the VFR starts moving gently and smoothly in the everyday-oriented D-mode. It is calibrated for early upshifts. Works sensationally smoothly and can hardly be felt without looking at the gear indicator in the cockpit. Even when upshifting at full acceleration, there is no significant interruption in tractive power. The control electronics bring the next gear into position before each gear change. Then both clutches work in opposite directions: one creates the frictional connection for the next gear pair, the other releases it for the previous one.

Both automatic modes offer a kickdown function. It automatically downshifts one or two gears when you open the throttle at full throttle. The sporty S mode generally shifts up later and keeps the engine speed higher. The manual mode is accessed using the MT / AT selection button, also on the right handlebar switch. Above all, downshifting with Tiptronic (rocker switch on the left of the handlebars) is as smooth as butter. If you let the speed drop too far in a higher gear, for example when approaching red traffic lights, the electronics intervene and shift down automatically. However, subjectively, it does not do this as smoothly as the left thumb. "Automatically" the transitions appear slightly harder, the switching shocks are clearer. No matter whether manual or automatic, each downshift takes 0.5 seconds. It is not possible to manually shift down several gears at once. But if necessary, the on-board electronics double-declutch every time you downshift via electronically controlled throttle valves.


  • Performance begins softly and super gently
  • Exemplary shifting comfort
  • Switching options automatically or manually, as desired
  • A surcharge of EUR 1300 on the standard version is quite fair


  • Weight a hefty 278 kilograms
  • Consumption hardly ever less than six liters per 100 kilometers
  • Acceleration worse than base VFR

Hydraulic clutch / gearbox

Drawing: archive

Servomotors hydraulically operate the gearbox and the conventional clutch.

The Yamaha FJR 1300 AS has a conventional manual transmission in conjunction with an electronically controlled clutch. Like the Aprilia, it has a gearshift lever and push button on the left end of the handlebar for manual gearshifting. However, it lacks automatic functions, every gear change is only made by the driver. With a casual snap of the fingers or gentle pressure on the foot. The core of Yamaha’s electronically controlled shifting YCC-S (Yamaha Chip Controlled Shifting) are two servomotors: One builds the hydraulic pressure for engaging and disengaging the otherwise unchanged clutch, the second activates the transmission. The pilot accelerates and selects the gear. With every gear change, the on-board computer calculates the speed, engine speed, gear engaged, throttle valve position and engine temperature. It does not allow downshifts that would lead to over-revving. Simply accelerate to start up. Turning maneuvers are difficult, especially on the mountain, because the clutch only engages with a little jerking at around 1800 tours – that can be too much speed and therefore too much speed for the moment. When stopping, the clutch is automatically disengaged, while the transmission remains in the last selected gear. But even when stationary you can go down to idle.


  • Switching work while driving Hand and foot switching can be freely combined
  • Engaging the clutch quite gently while driving


  • Dosing: Starting and turning difficult due to electro-hydraulic clutch
  • Shifting comfort: no purely automatic driving possible
  • Driving performance worse than standard FJR
  • Weight: 297 kilograms

Hydrostatic power transmission

Drawing: archive

"HFT" is a compact drive unit for hydraulic torque transmission and speed adjustment.

Honda calls this drive technology human: "Human Friendly Transmission" (HFT). It is definitely user-friendly. After deactivating idle using the rocker switch, the driver first chooses between fully automatic and manual tip-shifting of six gear steps. A centrifugal clutch meters the torque when starting up. This drives a hydraulic motor on the primary or input side. Then two swash plates, one fixed at an angle and one with variable angle – both do not tumble, but only seem to do so because of their angular arrangement to the axis of rotation – a hydraulic resistance and thus the speed between the encoder motor and the output shaft. Ultimately, the second swash plate set in rotation drives the permanently connected secondary shaft. The angle of the second swash plate determines the gear ratio. It is set electronically to match the acceleration or manual gear selection: the faster, the greater the angle. In the last transmission stage, the disc is perpendicular to the secondary shaft without wobbling. In this position it is mechanically fixed in order to relieve the temperature balance. The driver absolutely nothing of the complex, exclusive drive technology of the DN-01, enjoys smooth starting and smooth power transmission.


  • Shifting comfort: very smooth transitions
  • Switching option six manually selectable levels
  • Operation suitable for beginners
  • Design: vehicle concept and technology unique


  • Power poor, max. 50 HP on the rear wheel
  • Performance: Acceleration in automatic modes pretty moderate
  • Weight: a whopping 271 kilograms
  • Drive technology complicated
  • Price: immense 13040 euros expensive

Shift assistant


Conventional drive system with shift assistant: a pressure sensor on the shift linkage of the BMW lets the engine control switch off the ignition for a short time.

Tea shift assistant does not allow automatic driving, but at least an upshift without using the clutch and thus with reduced interruption of tractive power. Pressing the shift lever activates a spring-loaded, magnetic field-dependent Hall sensor as a pressure sensor on the shift linkage. It informs the engine management about the upcoming change to the next gear. Tea engine control then interrupts the ignition for less than a tenth of a second during the shift process. This reduces the tension on the shifting dogs and allows the shifting dogs of the next gear pair to mesh gently. The upstream mixture instantly ensures optimum traction in the new gear. So: just let go of the gas, raise your left foot, done. The gears interlock smoothly, easily and quickly. Ultimately, this saves valuable concentration work. And racing drivers a tenth of a second or two when accelerating in the heat of the moment – the technology comes from racing. Rudy Tellert ( invented the shift assistant back in 1977 and has continued to develop it since then. BMW introduced it to series motorcycle production for the first time at the HP2 Sport. To date, no other motorcycle manufacturer has this feature available ex works. The shift assistant costs a moderate 360euros extra on the K 1300 S in conjunction with the sports footrest system. He is a real recommendation.


  • Driving performance: accelerates rapidly, with shift assistant etc. U. even faster
  • Operation: hardly any getting used to, switching possible at full load
  • Price: costs only 360 euros ex works


  • Versatility: Shift assistant only works when upshifting
  • Easier work: no really automatic driving possible
  • Design: still clutch and gear lever on board


Drawing: archive

The drive belt must be changed every 20,000 kilometers. Not at all typical for a scooter, a chain drives the rear wheel.

From the outside, the Aprilia Mana GT is a completely normal motorcycle with an 850 V2 in a tubular space frame. Only without a clutch lever. Like a motor scooter, it uses an electronically controlled, stepless belt transmission with variable drive diameter and centrifugal clutch for starting. A V-belt runs on conical running surfaces in the motor housing. An electronically controlled servomotor controls the distance between the two halves of the primary pulley. Since the belt length and the distance from the primary to the secondary shaft are specified, the distance between the two halves of the secondary wheel is set automatically. In this way the translation is changed continuously.

And the fixed gear steps for manual and foot shifting? In the seven to be inserted "Corridors" (correct: gear ratios) a servomotor sets defined distances between the primary pulley halves. When starting up, the motor uses a centrifugal clutch to drive rolling elements up ramps. They press the clutch against the clutch springs and the input shaft is already turning. Despite the scooter technology, the Mana GT does not have a drive units swing arm. An ordinary secondary chain takes over the final drive. A low-maintenance timing belt would be the icing on the cake. Otherwise she has something, this new comfort. Simply accelerate, the rest is done by the automatic. There are three automatic modes, the standard tour mode is almost always the best. In rain mode, the performance decreases. The speed level and vibrations are greater in the sport level. Because the variator always keeps the speed at a medium level, things are moving very quickly. The 234 kilogram Mana GT takes less than three seconds from 60 to 100 km / h when simply accelerating. It can even use it to hide big bikes – provided that their riders stay in high gear without shifting. And this despite the fact that only 57 of the 76 hp rated power arrive at the rear wheel – the variator causes a lot of power loss. And little engine braking torque. You can therefore change to a lower gear ratio yourself at any time, even in automatic mode.


  • Shifting comfort: very smooth transitions
  • Switching option: seven firmly fixed levels that can be selected by hand or foot
  • Operation suitable for beginners, as with scooters
  • “Pulling” performance excellent due to variator


  • Tachometer unfortunately not available
  • Final drive: maintenance-intensive chain
  • List price a good 10,500 euros
  • Sound sounds pretty scooter-like

Performance chart

Drawing: archive

Automatic motorcycles performance diagram.

When accelerating and shifting, BMW and Yamaha show the interruption of tractive power at the rear wheel each individual shifting process causes. The performance slips drastically at first, then increases again just as rapidly in the new gear. In extreme cases, the power drops below zero: For a brief moment the rear wheel is no longer driven, so that the rolling resistance eventually exceeds the propulsion.

Automatically coupled, the FJR 1300 AS (red curve) needs 0.5 to 0.6 seconds for each individual switching process. The K 1300 S does it, even consciously "soft" switched up (light blue), a tad faster. However, the performance on the rear wheel drops even further. With the shift assistant (dark blue), upshifting is faster and with less interruption of tractive effort. Comfortable on tour, faster on the racetrack: under ideal conditions, an extremely experienced driver accelerates the K 1300 S from zero to 200 in 8.2 seconds with conventional gear; with shift assistants it’s a whopping 7.9 seconds.

In automatic mode (light green), the Aprilia Mana GT sends around 54 hp to the rear wheel constantly and completely free of load changes; it only varies the speed. Manually switched (dark green) it turns up, which explains the power peaks upwards. Unfortunately, the Honda VFR 1200 F DCT cannot be measured on the test bench: The electronics do not allow shifting when the front wheel is stationary, neither in automatic nor in shift mode.

Price comparison of automatic motorcycles

Used motorcycles with automatic gearshift in Germany

In terms of technology, target audience, sportiness and appearance, the Hondas, Aprilia, Yamaha and BMW differ like day and night. If you are interested in any of them, a look at the used motorcycle market is recommended. The 5 bikes with automatic gearshift assistance in direct price comparison here: Used motorcycles with automatic gearshift assistance in Germany

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