Why Kawasaki Ninjas are NOT Automatic? (But better without!)

The Kawasaki Ninja sportbike range is one of Kawasaki’s signature lines.

With a history going back to the 1980s, the Ninja now has decades of a reputation as one of Kawasaki’s most versatile bikes.

The range includes many 4- and 2-cylinder engines, featuring 9 models in total, including 3 hypersport models like the Ninja H2R.

This article answers the question “Are Kawasaki Ninjas Automatic?”…

Are Kawasaki Ninjas Automatic?

In the 2021 model year, there are no automatic Kawasaki models of any kind, and that includes the Ninja range. The same is true of past Ninja models.

Future planned Kawasaki electric bikes like the proposed electric Ninja H2 and the all-new Kawasaki Endeavor electric bike are reported to have DCT transmissions. The gasoline Ninja motorcycles, however, are all variations of 6-speed manual transmissions.

What Motorcycle Brands Have Automatic Transmission?

While Kawasaki Ninja may never have opted to create a motorcycle with automatic transmission, other brands and models have done.

Below are a few of the most notable ones that are currently available:

  • 2020 Energica Eva EsseEsse9 (Electric) – From Italian Energica, boasts 250 miles of range from a single charge.
  • 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire (Electric) – Setting the standard by which most electric motorcycles are now compared.
  • 2020 Honda Africa Twin (DCT) – First debuted back in 2016 and has been wowing dirt-bike fans with its impressive performance and easy management thanks to no manual transmission.
  • 2020 Zero SR-F (Electric) – This electric offering is quite reminiscent of the Honda CB650R bike, for those fans who admire their bike heritage.
    This bike is one of the coolest-looking electric bikes, but only has 125 miles of range.
  • 2021 Honda NC750X (DCT) – Another entry from Honda, proving their prowess in the automatic motorcycle field with this offering that delivers both fully automatic and semi-automatic transmission options for the rider. Best of both worlds.
  • 2020 Aprilia Mana 850 (CVT) – Another Italian entry, this time using a continuously variable transmission instead of a DCT.
  • 2019 Honda NM4 Vultus (CCT) – One more Honda, this time a touring bike that is doubly comfortable with feet-forward large seating and a DCT for easy gear shifting.

In the future, there is no doubt that the truly “automatic” world of full-size motorcycles will be dominated by the single-gear electric bike market.

The fully-automatic motorcycle, generally speaking, is still something of a rarity.

How Does Automatic Transmission Work?

On motorcycles, semi-automatic setups with automatic clutches tend to be more common than fully automatic systems.

Fully-automatic transmissions are mostly found on scooters, mopeds, and minibikes, but some cruisers and sportbikes have them, too, as we’ve shown above.

Current models that aren’t electric use either continuously variable transmission (CVT) or dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

CVT works by using two pulleys that are connected using a chain, but on motorcycles like the Honda DN-01, it uses Hydrostatic CVT.

This uses a variable displacement pump along with a hydraulic motor. Together, these components convert hydraulic pressure into rotational force for the output shaft.

This type of CVT is good because power can be shifted to the wheels using hoses that are more flexible and thus allow for a better suspension system.

That’s great on motorcycles.

DCT uses “clutch packs” and was first applied on motorcycles by Honda in their VFR1200F model. It’s now used by many other models too as you can see above.

DCT works by automatically having the next gears ready and spinning before they are actually engaged, which allows for ultra-smooth shifting as needed.

These transmissions typically give riders a choice of manual or automatic modes.

Is Automatic Transmission Good Or Bad For Mountain Driving?

When you’re out mountain driving, the terrain is both unpredictable and treacherous at times.

This element of danger means that you need every torque and traction advantage you can get.

Very experienced riders have no trouble achieving this with traditional manual transmission motorcycles, but less experienced riders need something that they can operate faster and more smoothly.

So many accidents and other mishaps that happen on the motorcycle trail do so because of hesitation or a single missed moment where the rider couldn’t quite get the right gear or torque distribution to the wheels in time.

A DCT transmission like those you find on Honda motorcycles, and in particular their mountain motorbike model the Honda Africa Twin (released in 2015), is the perfect remedy for this situation.

Honda’s latest DCT has been specially configured and designed on the Africa Twin to provide improved and enhanced performance while mountain driving.

What Are The Price Differences?

First of all, you should expect to pay somewhat more overall for an automatic transmission.

The gasoline models are nearly all Honda models, prices for which you can see below:

  • Honda Africa Twin (2020) – $14,399
  • Honda NC750X DCT (2021) – $8,999
  • Honda NM4 Vultus (2018) – $11,299 – it was discontinued from 2019

As you can see, these are generally not cheap bikes.

Even the apparently cheap NC750X isn’t exactly what you’d call a high-performance model with a top speed of just 122mph even in its 2021 model.

Compare this to the more traditional manual offerings of the Kawasaki bikes.

A Kawasaki off-road cross-country bike like the KX250X and the KX450X only cost $8,399 and $9,599 respectively, and for the latest models.

That’s quite a saving on the 2020 Honda Africa Twin.

Even the NM4 Vultus from Honda, already discontinued and years old will cost more than $11,000.

It’s true that the best value will still be found in the manual transmissions.

If you go for the electric automatic bikes, then the price tags soar even higher:

  • 2019 Energica Eva EsseEsse9 – $20,930 (used with 30,000 miles on the odometer)
  • 2021 Harley-Davidson LiveWire – $30,000
  • 2020 Zero SR-F – $19,900

These electric bikes cost about the same as some electric cars, and even the costs of a fully-upgraded Toyota sedan car.

It’s hard to imagine people lining up to pay so much purely for the automatic transmission, but they might do it for other reasons.

How Much Different And Difficult Is It To Drive An Automatic Vs. Manual?

Whether you’re driving a motorcycle or another vehicle like a car or van, manual transmissions are more of a challenge to drive than automatic ones.

This is an inescapable fact.

With a manual transmission, one has to be able to master the elements of a clutch, RPMs, biting points, and gear shifting up and down.

This is to allow for the right amount of torque to be transferred on time from the engine to wheels.

When many riders and drivers begin, they may want to quickly give up on manual transmissions because they can seem so hard to master.

The fact is, however, that manual transmissions, when driven correctly, offer much better performance, traction, and power than automatics.

A motorcycle rider in tune with his/her bike can feel when the gear shifts are needed to maintain or increase torque a lot faster than traditional automatic transmissions.

This is the trade-off: more difficulty gives greater performance, but more ease and comfort take that performance away.

The easy thing about having an automatic is that you never have to worry about losing torque or traction to the point where it stalls on a hillside.

The automatic transmission should maintain enough power at all times, even if it seems to be a little less powerful overall.

A manual is only powerful because the rider can feed more torque by deliberately dropping to a lower gear than an automatic wood.

By dropping from fourth gear to second, for instance, you get a huge instant torque boost.

Riders/drivers must decide between these various factors.

Automatic transmissions make motorcycle riding more accessible to those who don’t want to learn a whole new gear shifting system.

Manual transmissions make motorcycle riding more dynamic and intense.

The vast majority of motorcycles still use manual transmissions, so that is the “norm” of the industry.