Automatic vs. manual driving for motorcycles: pros and cons


Countless aspiring motorcyclists are confused about whether it’s better to drive on an automatic or manual transmission. To help you make the right decision, today at Kwiksure, our experts will explore the differences and pros and cons between the two. 

What are manual and automatic transmissions? 

Also known as driving a stick shift, manual riders change gears with a clutch depending on the road situation and environment. Automatic driving, on the other hand, makes use of continuous variable transmission (CVT) to transmit the power of the engine through the gears in the gearbox and then through the torque converter to the wheels.

Motorcyclists are automatically qualified to drive an automatic after passing their manual driving exam. The same cannot be said for the reverse. After passing the automatic driving test, they must enroll in a manual driving course to be allowed to drive a manual. Obtaining a manual driving license opens you up to the opportunity to drive all types of motorcycles, and makes traveling a lot more convenient for you in the future.

Is it easier to pass the automatic driving exam compared to the manual driving exam?

It’s a common misconception that the automatic driving test is easier to pass than the manual. However, the passing rates for both modes of transmission are actually very similar. Let’s compare both. 

1. Figure 8s are easier to do on manual 

Manual motorcycles rely on a spinning iron chain to propel forward. Naturally, it’s more responsive too. For example, brake control is more flexible on a manual vehicle, making it easier to complete the ‘figure 8’, a challenging move for most test-takers. As automatic motorcycles rely on belts to drive, their reactions are slightly slower, and the control is less sensitive when doing figure 8s. 

2. You can stabilize a manual motorcycle’s body by squeezing the oil cylinder

Besides the gearbox, the main difference between the types of motorcycles is the vehicle structure. It’s comparatively easier for drivers to balance on a manual bike. You can squeeze the oil cylinder between your legs to help stabilize your body and prevent it from swaying from side to side. Automatic motorcycles lack this advantage, so driving is relatively less stable. 

3. Automatic driving is easier and more straightforward 

Motorcyclists don’t need to go through the motions of changing gears on their automatic rides, which means there’s less chance of the engine stalling or switching to the wrong gear. What’s more, it’s a lot more convenient during rush hours and traffic jams. Nonetheless, riders on manual bikes find it easier to maintain balance when they squeeze the oil cylinder.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to driving a manual and an automatic. Since it depends on your needs and driving habits, it’s difficult to generalize on which is the better option. Even if you can drive both, we still recommend taking the test for manual driving for the sole reason that the examination fees are the same for both tests. A manual motorcycles license means you can drive all types of bikes, which means more options when it comes to buying a new one. 

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Is it possible to switch to an automatic or manual driving course if you’ve already registered for either? 

You must pay a handling fee if you plan on switching to either one after registering for a competency training course.

Already passed the competency test for automatic motorcycles? Your road test can only be for automatic vehicles. If you want to obtain the manual license, you’ll need to re-register for and pass the manual competency training. However, you can bypass the competency test and directly take the road test. Afterwards, you may continue your 12-month probationary manual driver’s license where your automatic one left off. For instance, let’s say you’ve had your automatic probationary learner’s license for 3 months. Once you’ve passed the manual exam, you’ll only need to display it for 9 more months to wrap up your one year probationary driving period. 

Given that, if you’ve passed the manual competency test, you may choose between manual and automatic for your road test without having to pay an extra fee. 

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The above information is for reference only. Kwiksure takes no responsibility for the accuracy and timeliness of the information. For the coverage, mode of compensation, benefit limit and premium levels of any specific insurance plan, please refer to the relevant policy terms.