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10 Best automatic bikes for 2021

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1. Harley LiveWire, the legendary American
And speaking of electric bikes, we’re not finished yet. The biggest news in electric bikes in recent years has, without question, been the LiveWire – the all-new, no-expense-spared, all electric, twist ‘n’ go roadster from, almost incomprehensibly, the most historic, ‘old school’ motorcycle brand of all – Harley-Davidson. Being the first electric bike from a mainstream manufacturer it’s hugely significant and, on the whole, they’ve made a good job of it, too. With the equivalent of 104bhp it’s blindingly brisk; ridden carefully its range is a real 80-90 miles, which isn’t bad; it has decent suspension and brakes and is smart and well put together. Yes, it’s also nearly £30,000, heavy and not particularly versatile but if you want an automatic, fancy the Harley brand being the centre of attention wherever you ride appeals, this is the one.

Find a Harley LiveWire here.
2. Honda VFR1200X Crosstourer, the surviving DCT V4
When you’re talking about motorcycles with automatic transmissions the manufacturer that’s done by far the most to develop and produce such machines is Honda. The Japanese giant first came up with its crude, 400cc ‘Hondamatic’ in 1978, which admittedly was a failure, then, in 2010, launched its first ‘DCT’ machine, the VFR1200F. Standing for ‘Dual Clutch Transmission’ it’s a sophisticated system which dispenses with the traditional clutch lever and can be operated as a full automatic, originally in D(rive) or S(sport) modes or as a semi-automatic where the rider can paddle through the gears without a clutch by prodding ‘+’ or ‘-‘ buttons on the left bar. Although the VFR-F wasn’t a success (and was deleted in 2016), its DCT system was widely admired and a better-looking, more versatile adventure-styled version, based on the same V4 and basic chassis came in 2012. Although itself not a huge success, being overshadowed by the likes of BMW’s R1250GS and Honda’s own Africa Twin, the clumsily-named Crosstourer is actually a decent all-rounder and a unique V4 auto grand tourer in DCT form. That unpopularity also means it’s a potential used bargain going for as little as £5K.

Find a Honda VFR1200X Crosstourer here.
3. Honda NC750X DCT, the best seller
Automatic cars largely appeal to non-enthusiasts for their ease. But bikes are different, with gear changing part of their dynamic appeal – usually. Say hello to Honda’s Europe-wide best-selling NC750X. First introduced as the NC700X in 2012 alongside the NC700S roadster and Integra scooter, this ‘New Concept’ trio were based on a low-revving, ultra-economical parallel twin derived from a Honda car engine, equipped with Honda’s DCT automatic gearbox and conceived as affordable, novice-friendly commuters. The semi-adventure styled X, especially after an update and facelift in 2013, has proved hugely popular. Priced now from under £8000, producing a pleasant, useful 54bhp yet returning well over 80mpg, being a doddle to ride and even featuring a useful storage compartment in the dummy tank, it’s a great, affordable, simple commuter.

Find a Honda NC750X DCT here.
4. Yamaha FJR1300AS, the ‘alternative’ tourer
Proof (and some was needed, after all) that it’s not only Honda who can produce automatic motorcycles. Yamaha’s big, purpose-built, four-cylinder sports-tourer has actually been around since 2001 and always been a solid, dependable mile-muncher. From 2007, however, the AS ‘semi-automatic’ version also became available, although, in truth, it’s not actually a pure automatic. Instead a clever system manages to dispense with the clutch lever but you still have to change gear manually either via a foot lever or up/down pushbuttons on the left bar. Even so, it does make long journeys less demanding. Also note: 2020 is to be the last year of the FJR, after a sterling near-20 years service, as it falls foul of Euro 5 next year. A special, black and gold ‘Ultimate Edition’ has also been created for 2020 to mark the occasion so buy your automatic Yamaha while you still can…

Find a Yamaha FJR1300AS here.
5. Honda X-ADV, the ‘adventure scooter’
Only Honda are sometimes so bold – bonkers even – to produce a machine as brazen as the X-ADV. Launched 2017 it’s basically a fusion of the Integra scooter, complete with the same DCT 54bhp 750cc powertrain as the NC750X, so qualifying as an automatic, and an adventure bike. Its chassis, suspension, styling etc, however, have all been given the adventure bike treatment with the result that the X-ADV is, truly, a twist ‘n’ go scooter that can go off-road like an adventure bike. Sort of. Even with extended suspension and semi-knobbly tyres there are, obviously, limitations as to where the X-ADV can go. At round £10K it’s also pricey and, still, of limited practicality. But it’s also undeniably very different, an absolute hoot to ride and is an automatic. In fact, if you need an automatic adventure scooter, it’s the only one. And we’re not at all surprised.

Find a Honda X-ADV here.
Honda X-ADV
6. Zero SR/F, the electric alternative
Of course, if you’re after the simple, twist ‘n’ go, no gear changes necessary experience of an automatic, there is another obvious motorcycling alternative to Honda’s DCT system – electric motorcycles. And of the crop currently available for 2021, one of the very best is California electric specialists Zero’s recently introduced SR/F. What makes this roadster-styled machine among the best is two things: a new ZR75-10 electric motor which gives both near-100mph performance and a credible 80-mile range (though not at the same time) AND a new Ducati-alike tubular steel trellis frame, combined with decent suspension and radial brakes which equally puts this Zero on similar ground to the Italian Monster. Yes, it’s a hefty £18K new (or thereabouts), but the SR/F is not only an automatic, it’s green, handles and goes well and, best of all, costs virtually nothing to run.

Find a Zero SR/F here.
7. KTM FreeRide-E, the off-road automatic
Zero might be master of electric motorcycles, and therefore, by association, automatics (sort of), but when it comes to off-road electric bikes, although Zero has its own offerings, one name stands out – Austrian dirt kings KTM. Its electric FreeRide-E (there’s also a petrol-powered FreeRide leisure bike) was launched in 2015 with a full-on off-road chassis including WP suspension but powered by a liquid-cooled electric motor producing around 21bhp. Although its range is a slightly disappointing sub-30miles and it’s not intended for road use, the FreeRide-E remains a unique proposition – it’s a twist ‘n’ go that happens to be a brilliant off-roader, is virtually silent, completely green and has no real rivals. Fancy leaping tabletops and doing ‘knack-knacks’ on an automatic? With the c.£11k FreeRide-E you can.

Find a KTM here.
KTM FreeRide-E
8. Honda GL1800 Gold Wing DCT, the ‘auto’ that has it all
Just when you were maybe starting to think that automatics, or even electric bikes, were restricted to roadsters or oddballs, Honda, yet again, came up with the automatic that has it all. When ‘Big H’ introduced its long-awaited, all-new Gold Wing full-dress tourer in 2018 it came so laden with high-tech – wishbone front suspension, full suite of electronic rider aids etc – we should have guessed DCT would be an option. The result is 1833cc flat six with 124bhp that also handles far easier and better than any monster tourer has any right to, is equipped with everything from satnav to heated seats and full luggage and yet, also, can be ridden as a simple twist ‘n’ go, too. Automatic motorcycles don’t come any more sophisticated or luxurious.

Find a Honda GL1800 Gold Wing DCT here.
Honda GL1800 Gold Wing DCT
9. Energica Ego, the automatic GP bike
Italian brand Energica may not be a motorcycling name you’re familiar with – but you soon will be. The electric superbike specialists not only produce the best-performing of all current electric motorcycles (thus by dint making it a brilliantly-performing ‘automatic’, too), the Ego, with the equivalent of 136bhp in a true superbike spec chassis, it’s also the basis for the bike currently used in Moto-E which surely gives it loads of credibility, too. With Ohlins suspension, OZ wheels and Brembo brakes the Ego is equipped with the best of cycle parts and it’s good looking, as well. The downside? Like most electric bikes the batteries necessary make it heavy, over 250kg and, at £25K+ it’s not cheap, but if you want the most exotic of ‘automatics’, this is it.

Find a Energica Ego here.
10. Honda CRF1100 Africa Twin DCT, the most versatile ‘auto’ of all
Although this list of automatics was intended to be in no particular order, there’s a strong argument that we’ve saved the best until last. Honda’s long-overdue, eagerly anticipated, all-new Africa Twin, the CRF1000L arrived in 2016 in both stock and DCT form and, although no R1250GS-beater, it impressed for its genuine on/off-road ability. Ever since, however, it’s got better still. In 2018 a bigger-tanked, more off-road ‘Adventure Sports’ version arrived, again with a DCT option. Then, for 2020, both were updated further with a new TFT dash, enlarged 1100cc parallel twin engine now producing 100bhp and improved electronic rider aids. Confusingly, however, the big-tanked Adventure Sports is now the road-orientated, shorter suspension, touring version with the standard bike now being more off-road with longer telescopic forks etc. Oh, and there’s still ‘automatic’ DCT versions of both. Got that? Good.

Find a Honda CRF1100 Africa Twin DCT here.