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Does Having an Automatic Make Me Less of a Motocyclist?




The automatic motorcycle. For some, it’s a novelty. For others, its outright blasphemy. Whichever side you are on, it can be cause for contention.

For as long as I can remember, the belief was “motorcycles” had manual gearboxes while “scooters” had automatic (CVT) transmissions. For whatever reason, a “motorcyclist” didn’t want to be caught dead on one of those silly scooters. “Real Riders” shifted gears, that’s just how it was.

However its 2017 and we are all about equality these days. I’ve noticed more and more manufacturers equipping their bikes with automatic or clutch-less transmission systems. This tends to bridge the gap between “motorcycle” and “scooter.” For instance, Aprilia offered the Mana 850 with its “Sportgear ” transmission. Yamaha offered its venerable FJR1300 with electric shift. Of course anything electric like a Zero doesn’t use a traditional gearbox. Then the big one, Honda. For 2017, they are all in, offering its DCT system on 11 new bikes including the popular Goldwing, Africa Twin, VFR1200, and NC700x models.

2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports

But does taking the clutch-less road less traveled, make you any less of a rider? I think not. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen automatic bikes in mass production. Open up your history books to the 1970’s. There, starting in 1976 , you’ll see bikes stamped HONDAMATIC. This was a 2-speed clutch-less transmission with a torque converter. While not completely automatic it did allow for clutch-less operation and Honda put it on a few of their bikes: CM400, CB400 and CB750. But why? The same reason manufacturers do it now: to entice new riders.

For many, learning how to balance the clutch and throttle is the most daunting task for a new rider. So, if a manufacturer can eliminate that hurdle for people, it will hopefully encourage more people to try this fun thing we call motorcycling.

Now at this point you are saying ‘That’s all well and great but no one starts on a Goldwing or an Africa Twin.” You are a clever one, but in the course of developing the technology, the manufacturers noticed some fringe benefits. In particular, the Africa Twin was made easier to ride off-road because the rider didn’t need to worry about modulating a clutch to conquer obstacles, merely point the front wheel and grab and handful of throttle. As for the Goldwing, well its basically a La-Z-boy on wheels. Not having to shift frees up a hand to chug a Big Gulp, have a smoke or wave at unsuspecting BMW riders. The options on limitless.

Do I think automatic or clutchless motorcycles make me less of rider? Absolutely not. Do I think we will see a rise in the amount of clutchless models offered? Absolutely yes.

Will I personally go out and pick up one of these clutch-less bikes for myself? Hey now, lets not get ahead of ourselves…

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How to: Film your motorcycle tour




There’s little doubt that the availability of compact cameras, and the ease at which you can get published online, has made cameramen and directors out of many motorcyclists.

And why not? Filming a trip not only gives you the opportunity to relive it from the comfort of your own home, but can inspire others to do so – and might make you a few bob in ad click-throughs in to the bargain.

There’s more to filming a bike tour than just sticking a GoPro to your helmet though, to come back with consistent, quality, usable footage takes a lot of planning , a good helping of discipline on the road, as well as plenty of creativity and at times some outright brass neck to get those really good shots. Here’s how not to make complete hash of recording your next tour:

Can you cut it?

First things first: ask yourself if you really want to stop enjoying those lovely, twisty mountain roads, pull over and set up your tripod, ride back and forth ‘till you get the shot you want and then pack it all up and carry on. If the answer is no, then filming is not for you.

Sort your set up

Think about the shots you want to get and how you can get them: want a rider’s eye view? You’ll need a helmet mount; fancy some tracking shots? A tripod is easier than balancing on rocks etc. Either way, decide on your kit before you go and keep it as simple as possible.

Shoot some cutaways

Cutaways are ‘atmospheric’ shots that help paint a picture of your trip and can help guide a viewer through the film, eg: zipping up jackets, pointing at maps, putting the bike in and out of gear etc. Even if they seem mundane to you, you’ll be glad of them when you come to edit.

Keep it rolling

You’ll sometimes meet situations where maybe you shouldn’t be filming eg: crossing a border, talking to someone in a cafe etc. If you think you can – safely – get away with it, keep the camera rolling, as situations like that can often produce some fab footage.

Angles and positions

Don’t just stand there with the camera at your face pointing it at things, or it’ll start to look like your dad’s old VHS holiday films. Shoot a few different angles and perspectives to help bring the subject alive.

Hold the shots

Don’t stop shots abruptly, hold them for longer than you think you need – when filming people riding off from a stop etc. – that way you’ll have lots of room to play with when editing and you might just catch something unexpected.

Catch some context

Keep an eye out for things that are country-specific, like signs in foreign languages, flags, local people in traditional dress, well-known landmarks etc. and try to capture some sounds like people talking in native tongue etc. to give a real sense of where you are.

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All motorcycles have a singular beauty. However, if it is YOUR motorcycle, there is a deeper connection.

Your relationship is one of trust and respect that transcends time.

From the first time you meet, a connection is established. Your one love is hard to find. I have been out at the dealership and seen some hot Italian bikes but in the end, they are high maintenance, expensive to keep up, and they will not stand the test of time.

Looks are important, but a relationship is more than skin deep.

How does that bike make you feel? Every time you gaze upon your bike, you should smile; you have found the right bike. The worst thing you can do is settle for a bike you don’t truly feel a connection with.

I am a one-motorcycle guy – truly monogamous. Having two bikes is hard to juggle. I think a small, fast motorcycle that is good-looking, handles well, and has a classic appeal is what I always
wanted, and I think I have found it.

Stay with a motorcycle that has stood the test of time. A bike that’s made you smile, given you a thrill, and stuck with you through thick and thin. A solid, well-built motorcycle is a thing of beauty.

Be smart, and cover that motorcycle so no one steals it at night. Buy your motorcycle expensive accessories, and take it on trips to exotic lands. Up or down, thin or flush, treat your motorcycle well.

Respect it, and it will return to you amazing experiences, expand your world and open your eyes.

Understand that this is a partnership. From the first ride to every terrible bump in the road, stay with that reliable bike and remember she is your one LOVE.

Happy Valentines Day, Mrs. Sterling.

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