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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Will Shiftless Motorcycles Become Mainstream?

An article in the New York Times by Stuart F. Brown examines why shiftless motorcycles may bring new life to motorcycling. Consider the fact that many potential riders have never even driven a car with a stick shift. Riding a motorcycle without an automatic transmission becomes a daunting task. Here's an excerpt from the article:

    "CAR sales, already in a deep funk, would probably be slower yet if automakers decided to offer no alternative to manual transmissions. Makers of street motorcycles have largely painted themselves into that corner. And with the effects of stalled credit markets flattening out a 14-year streak of steady growth — despite the allure of good gas mileage in a wobbly economy — it’s no surprise that manufacturers are mounting an effort to introduce more rider-friendly bikes." -- Stuart F. Brown

Read the full story for all the details.

6 comments:

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Walt:

You post the most intriguing questions. This is an interesting issue but one that seems focused on the US consumer, as every European I have met (men and women) have no problem operating a manual transmission.

My question is what happens on one of these machines when the gas is suddenly cut? Is there still some sense of dynamic braking?

Quite frankly, I find a manual transmission on a bike to be a lot easier to use than a manual transmission on a car. My left hand is a lot more sensitive with the clutch than my foot is.

Oddly enough, I am looking forward to my next new bike, at some time in the future, which will have a linked braking system using the control on the handlebars.

Thanks for posting this article.

Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

PS: I had to go one step further. You should ask the question, "Do you think shiftless riders will ever go mainstream?"

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Vindak8r

Anonymous said...

Ha! I was gonna ask about if shiftless in-laws and teenagers would ever go OUT of style! ;-D

I don't know - I suppose the dweebs would be all over it - but if you're going to ride a scooter, it should LOOK like a scooter! And what would the rider have to DO on such a machine? It's not like you could read a book or do a crossword (things I've seen cage drivers doing on the interstate).

I know that my little 5' 6" 110 pound daughter used to get HUGE and INSTANT respect when she'd roll up to a group of kids her age and climb down out of our 4-door 1-ton manual transmission pickup. You know - GREAT BIG TRUCK, leetle teeny female.

The shiftless gopeds will probably catch on - but I'm thinking that there will be a divide spring up between old school and the lolly-pop riders. I mean, it's not like you can't just LOOK at where the shift pedal should be and see it's missing... or would there be a fake shifter and a fake clutch lever on the left grip? You know, kinda like playing an air guitar?

So you're riding down the street and this funny looking dude rides up beside you and he starts "clutching" and stomping his left foot like crazy, like he's shifting, but he's doing a steady speed... and you laugh so hard you fall off your REAL motorcycle and injure yourself. And on the way to the hospital, they ask you what happened, and you start laughing all over again... and can't stop... and the cause of death would be... ummm.... I dunno. What WOULD you put down for that?
;-D

Missouri Mike

Anonymous said...

Walt,
Actually, there is a market beyond folks who can't shift... Although I really LOVE shifting my bike, I have neuropathy and arthritis so bad in my left hand (also in my right, but not as bad), I may find myself having to move to a shiftless bike (which I dread!). I know other people who have arthritis, and possibly a shiftless bike could extend their riding capability, at least for a few more years.
Oh, well, I hope I never have to find out what it's like to ride a shiftless bike. As long as my hands hold out, I'm hanging in there!
Debbie S

Jack Riepe said...

This is to Debbie S.

I really sympathize with you. I have vicious arthritis in my knees and hips. I ride a 1995 BMW K75. This strange bike has a self-retracting kick stand. Regrettably, it is not self-extending. Many days I find it difficult to bend my knee to get the damn thing down.

Sincerely,
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Scott said...

As someone who would never give up the clutch I would still rather see someone on a shiftless bike than a squirrely scooter. Much safer and much more comfortable to ride. If you think realmotorcycling is about shifting and not body english and weight control, I probably don't want to ride with you whether you're shifting or not.