Auto or geared?

An automatic scooter, or a geared motorcycle – which one would suit you best?

What sort of riding you do? Are you the sort of person who mainly rides in town and in heavy traffic? Or do you prefer riding out on the open road where there are hills, bends and overtaking opportunities?

In a logical world, most would choose an automatic scooter for the first scenario and a geared bike for the latter. But the world isn’t a logical place and a lot of personal preference comes into the equation. And as if that wasn’t enough, some bikes (the Honda NC range for instance) are semi-autos – neither one nor the other.



Convenience is the obvious one. There is no clutch to worry about, no gears to select, and less to think about all round. And maintaining an auto is a lot simpler – unlike a chain the drivebelt doesn’t need any lubing and adjusting.



The main downside of an auto is that they tend to be less efficient than a geared bike. The drive belts work hard and don’t last quite as long as a chain-driven bike does (exactly how long it lasts is difficult to work out though, as the life of a belt varies quite a bit from scooter to scooter). And an auto offers less control, so you can’t change down to gain much engine braking on a steep hill or coming up to sharp bend.


As for a bike with manual transmission – this is part of the fun of riding it. Feeling the gears snick home neatly, changing down to get the right ratio for a bend, then back up through the gears as you accelerate away. Also, a chain is more efficient than an auto and as you’ve got the choice of hanging-on to a higher ratio, geared bikes are potentially more economical.



The downsides of manual transmission are that a clutch and gears can be tedious in endless stop-start traffic; they’re also a headache for some novice riders – and that vaunted efficiency drops off if the chain isn’t kept lubed and nicely tensioned.



So, geared or auto? It all comes down to the sort of riding you do, your affinity for maintenance… and personal preference.