Categories: Ask MO Anything
September 25, 2019
| On 2 months ago

Ask MO Anything: Where are all the Automatic Motorcycles?

Dear MOby,

Just read your article about automatic motorcycles, specifically Honda CTX700. I recently enrolled in a 20-hour motorcycle course where they train on manuals. The first five hours was classroom instruction. After the second five hours, I was so frustrated trying to deal with a clutch and gearshift I dropped out. I felt like I needed to be an octopus with several tentacles to ride a motorcycle. I figured since the manual automobile and everything else evolved to automatic, why not the motorcycle?

I must say although it was frustrating, I began to research the motorcycle industry concerning statistics and trends…. such as a decade of declining sales, fatalities, and Honda’s entrance into manufacturing automatics to spark sales for the new generation of riders who don’t want the hassle of clutch and shifting. I also noticed a shift toward more powerful electric motorcycles by Zero.

I don’t plan on racing on dirt tracks, off road adventures and the like. I don’t need an old ancient American iconic hog symbolic of the noisy bravado drinking character Rooster Cogburn in True Grit that wakes up the entire neighborhood. (Don’t get me wrong; I liked the movie, but a bike with the same character is a different story.)

I just want a comfortable, modern, mindless, affordable automatic not-so-loud touring bike I can take for an occasional long or short nice leisurely ride to clear my head. Hence the Honda CTX700. However, here are things that give me pause….

  1. It’s chain-driven rather than driveshaft-driven.
  2. Are they still manufacturing these bikes? I have researched their website and I haven’t seen any new updates for 2020, the current version is 2018. Or are they going to discontinue the model and replace it with something else?
  3. Since I am a new rider, should I purchase a used CTX700, with how many acceptable miles? Also since Honda has been manufacturing these bikes 2014 through 2018, what’s a good year?

Lawrence Wilson
Crete, Illinois


Dear Lawrence,

Wow, you’ve hit on one of the great mysteries of modern motorcycling – the other one being, why don’t the AMA, the MIC, and every other Official Motorcycling Body push for legal lane sharing in all 50 states?

Other than fear of becoming roadkill, it’s the fear of learning to shift gears that ranks right up there when people are asked why they don’t ride. Apparently that message hasn’t reached the people who design our motorcycles, as Honda is currently the only major manufacturer to offer a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) in a few of its models. DCT is more an automatic clutch than an automatic transmission, but the result is the same: You push buttons and the bike goes.

Aprilia started producing its Mana 850, with a scooter-type Constant Variable Transmission, in 2007, but it was discontinued a few years ago. Maybe the manufacturers aren’t so dumb, maybe there just aren’t enough people crying out for automatics to make them cost-effective? Maybe the older riders who still make up the biggest share of new bike buyers just like to clutch and shift gears? It really is one of the fun analog activities left to us in an increasingly digital world (especially when the bike has an electronic quickshifter…).

Funny you should bring up the CTX700, as it happens to be the cruiser cousin of one of my favorite Hondas of all time, the NC700X, which is in fact a pretty blatant rip-off of the aforementioned Aprilia Mana 850; both are standard-style bikes with an automatic trans and a big storage compartment where the gas tank usually goes.

No-Shift Shootout: 2014 Aprilia Mana GT Vs. BMW C600 Sport Vs. Honda NC700 DCT

Most of us coastal types prefer the NC’s standard-bike ergonomics, but cruisers are cool, too, and the CTX700’s 670 cc parallel-Twin is identical to the one in the NC700.

According to our man Colin Miller at Honda, the CTX was the same across all years, and there are two of them: The CTX700N just had a headlight, and the CTX700 has a sporty little bikini fairing. Currently the CTX700 is not in Honda’s lineup, Colin says, but that’s not to say it might not come back as the market evolves.

Fewer miles is usually best when buying used, but even more important are the maintenance records and how well the bike was taken care of. The initial oil change should happen at 600 miles, then every 8000 miles, and the valve clearances should be inspected every 8000 miles. Look for a specimen that’s had the scheduled maintenance done, and a bike that’s led a sheltered life inside a garage is also the one you want. Hondas traditionally are known for their reliability.

Sorry you don’t like chain drive, but in our experience, modern O-ring sealed chains like the one here are good for 20,000 miles or more, with nothing more than an occasional cleaning and spritz of lube – especially on a bike like the CTX that’s not exactly making gobs of power. (The interweb says the centerstand for the Japan-only NC700S will bolt right on, greatly simplifying an already easy task.)

I’m seeing quite a few low-mileage units on Cycle Trader for around $3000 to $4000. Also, the most probable reason why Honda quit building new CTXs is because there are already enough in the supply chain. Driving a hard bargain on a new leftover bike from a dealer is worth a few extra dollars for lots of people, because a) you’re getting a brand new bike, and b) it comes with a one-year warranty that begins the day you buy it. Is this for real? $3,295 for a new 2016?

Have a sit on an NC700 or 750X while you’re at the dealer, and see if you maybe don’t like your feet under you instead of ahead of you. And that NC storage compartment up front is sublime. Good luck and wise decisioning!

Plenty more info at our CTX700 Forum.


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