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Rev Up Your Knowledge: Are Dirt Bikes Automatic or Manual?

Riding can be a lot of fun, but breaking into the world of dirt bikes can prove more challenging than you might think. Those new to dirt bike riding often have many questions, and one of the most frequent questions new riders ask is, “are dirt bikes automatic?”

Dirt bikes can be automatic, semi-automatic, or manual. Automatic dirt bikes are typically smaller and less powerful than manual bikes, which makes them ideal for beginner riders and children.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between an automatic and a manual dirt bike and whether an automatic bike would be the best choice for you.

Dirt bike parked

Difference Between a Manual and an Automatic Dirt Bike?

Which type of bike should you get? It depends on what it is that you are looking for from a bike and that changes for each rider. However, knowing the differences between an automatic and a manual dirt bike can help you decide which bike suits you and your needs better.

There are four main differences between automatic dirt bikes and manual dirt bikes:

  • Price
  • Size
  • Ride
  • Safety


One of the biggest differences between the two (aside from how they work) is their price tags. Automatic bikes are typically made for new riders and children and are not manufactured to perform as well as manual bikes. They are also smaller and do not feature a gearbox, which also affects the price.

A manual dirt bike costs between $5,000 – $8,000, while riders can buy an automatic dirt bike for around $2,000 or less. It is important to note that prices fluctuate depending on the brand and type of bike being bought, but automatic bikes are often much less expensive.


Size is another significant difference between manual and automatic dirt bikes, as most automatic bikes are smaller and weigh much less than manual bikes. Manual bikes can be found in all shapes and sizes but are typically bigger because they sport a larger engine. On the other hand, automatic bikes are often designed for children and are smaller and less powerful.

In addition to their height, manual bikes tend to weigh more because of their heavy gearboxes.


The difference between an automatic and manual dirt bike is comparable to the difference between an automatic and manual car because, with both, drivers must learn how to switch gears while driving the manual vehicle. Unlike driving an automatic, which switches the gears for you.

Although it depends on the rider, most people believe automatic dirt bikes are easier to ride, and this is especially true if you are just learning to ride. Knowing when and how to switch gears can take time to learn and can sometimes become tiresome while on long rides. However, having that control gives riders an upper hand in some situations, such as on difficult terrain.

While automatic bikes might be better suited for new riders because they are easier to ride, most seasoned riders confess that manuals are more fun to drive overall.


When compared to most manual dirt bikes, automatic bikes do not accelerate as quickly, do not reach the same high speeds, and are not as difficult to drive, making them the safer choice. Furthermore, accidents are often not as catastrophic because of their lightweight design and slower speeds.

That being said, both automatic and manual bikes are motor vehicles that should be operated with care and riders should wear the recommended safety gear regardless of which bike they are driving.

Manual or Automatic: Pros and Cons of Each

Knowing the differences between the two engine types can help you decide which one you might find better suited for you or your family. However, if you are still on the fence about which bike to buy, knowing the pros and cons of each vehicle might make your decision a bit easier.

Manual Dirt Bike

As the name suggests, a manual dirt bike has a manual transmission. The gears that make up the transmission are controlled using a clutch, typically found on the left handlebar, and a foot lever, found by the rider’s left foot. Riders must learn how and when to activate both to drive the vehicle.

Pros of a Manual Dirt Bike

  • Fast acceleration
  • Better control is certain situations, such as rough terrain
  • Cheaper and easier to fix due to fewer moving parts and no computer system
  • Built for performance
  • Faster overall speed
  • Better for racing
  • Larger – making them better suited for adults
  • More fuel-efficient than an automatic bike

Cons of a Manual Dirt Bike

  • Harder to learn how to drive
  • More expensive to buy than automatic bikes
  • Heavy
  • More dangerous to ride
  • Typically, not suitable for children or young/small riders

Automatic Dirt Bike

As the name suggests, an automatic dirt bike has an automatic transmission. Riders can find both fully automatic bikes and semi-automatic bikes, with the difference being to what extent the process of changing gears is automated. Fully automatic bikes are typically smaller and less powerful than manual dirt bikes and are a desirable choice for new riders and children.

Pros of an Automatic Dirt Bike

  • Easier to learn how to ride and use
  • Better suited for long rides
  • Better suited for small/young riders
  • Easier to control
  • Less chance of breaking something in the engine while learning to ride
  • Safer than manual bikes
  • Cheaper to buy
  • More versatile – can be used in a wide range of settings

Cons of an Automatic Dirt Bike

  • Less acceleration power than a manual bike
  • More moving parts in the transmission = more things that could break
  • Less fun to drive
  • Less performance
  • More expensive to fix and maintain
  • Less fuel-efficient
  • Not as popular/hard to find in larger sizes

Should I Buy an Automatic Dirt Bike?

The choice between an automatic or a manual dirt bike comes down to what you want from your bike. If you are a seasoned rider who loves the challenge and performance that only a manual bike can offer, then you would probably be bored with an automatic bike. However, if you are a new rider, or do not feel comfortable with a large heavy bike, then an automatic bike might be a better choice for you.

Sum Up

Whether you choose an automatic or manual dirt bike ultimately depends on your riding experience, skill level, and personal preferences. While automatic dirt bikes are easier to ride and less expensive, manual dirt bikes offer greater control and a more immersive riding experience.

About the Author

John Cunningham is a Red Seal Qualified automotive technician with over twenty-five years experience working on all types of equipment, ATVs, Dirt bikes, grass machinery, cars, and trucks. When not writing how-to articles, he may be found in his happy place – Restoring classic machinery.

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