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What Is a CVT Transmission in a Motorcycle?

What Is a CVT Transmission in a Motorcycle?

Doesn’t matter how easy motorcycle riding has become thanks to the automatic transmission, but you will find a lot of criticism and hate for this technology from riders who prefer staying traditional and want more control over their motorcycles. The division, clash, and difference of opinions between young and old riders is quite evident. However, engineering and technology have gone far beyond the boundaries to continue dragging the debate of automatic vs. manual transmission. As of now, even the traditional automatic has become an old thing with the introduction of the CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission). The CVT is more beneficial, enabling better outcomes and a smoother riding experience. Continue reading this article to learn what a CVT transmission in a motorcycle is.

1. What is a CVT Transmission in a Motorcycle?

A CVT transmission in a motorcycle is a type of automatic transmission that allows riders to ride a motorbike without needing to shift gears and engage the clutch. Unlike a conventional manual transmission system, it doesn’t involve multiple gears to alter the speed ratio. A CVT transmission encompasses pulleys with variable diameters that can change as per the throttle and engine speed, hence the name, Continuous Variable Transmission.

2. How Does a CVT Transmission in Motorcycles Work?

We’ll get deeper in detail in this section about how a CVT transmission in a motorcycle works from basics.

Starting from the roots, the engine connects the transmission through a drive pulley on the crankshaft which receives the power from the engine. As the engine produces the rotational energy directly proportional to the amount of throttle provided, the drive pulley rotates with the same speed.

On the other end at the rear wheel, where the transmission is tasked to deliver the engine power, there is a driven pulley which is connected to the drive pulley through a belt.

How Does a CVT Transmission in Motorcycles Work?

As a reminder, the drive pulley is connected to the engine shaft, and the driven pulley is connected to the rear wheel.

As you turn on the engine on a motorcycle and start riding it, the rotation starts from low rpms initially. At this initial stage, the drive pulley has the lowest possible diameter. Meanwhile, when the drive pulley has the lowest diameter, the driven pulley will have the highest possible diameter. This setup helps the motorcycle to comfortably run smoothly at low rpms while ensuring high torque.

How Does a CVT Transmission in Motorcycles Work?

The change in the diameters of both drive and driven pulleys is relative. When the drive pulley is in its smallest shape, the driven pulley has the highest diameter. As the drive pulley continues to expand in diameter, the driven pulley shrinks.

As you continue to increase the speed, there comes a point when the diameter of both the drive and driven pulley becomes equal. It happens when you are riding at a moderate pace.

Moreover, when you continue to accelerate and ride your motorcycle at higher rpms, the drive pulley becomes larger in diameter and the driven pulley has a smaller diameter, making the rear wheel rev at much higher speeds.

How Does a CVT Transmission in Motorcycles Work?

3. Construction of the CVT Transmission in a Motorcycle

3.1 Drive Pulley

Drive Pulley


There is a frame, consisting of two plates, containing the other components between them. There is an inner plate which is the closest to the engine and the other one is the outer plate. The frame of the drive pulley is the static part and is connected to the engine shaft.

Slider Plate

The slider plate is placed between the frame plates and it moves as the engine produces a rotational power at the crankshaft. It plays a key role in increasing and decreasing the diameter of the drive pulley.


Rollers are cylindrical parts installed around the shaft and are the other essential components that cause a change in the drive pulley’s diameter.

4. Drive Pulley’s Working Mechanism

As the engine is turned on and the speed of the shaft increases, the rollers also start to move around the axis. As a result of the centrifugal force generated due to the rotational movement, the roller moves away from the axis and this movement pushes the slider plate towards the outer plate of the frame.

Both the slider plate and the frame’s outer plate have cones on surfaces that are facing each other. As the slider plate is pressed against the outer plate of the frame, the space around the axis becomes narrower and as a result, the belt is moved upward. This movement eventually causes the diameter of the drive pulley to increase, indicating an increase in the speed.

To make sure the belt doesn’t lose tension or become loose, the driven wheel takes the form (diameter) of the drive pulley and becomes smaller. Similarly, as the slider plate moves away from the frame’s outer plate, the belt again comes closer to the axis, causing the drive pulley’s diameter to shrink and the driven pulley’s diameter to expand.

A spring is attached right behind the slider plate, which restricts it from returning to its original space rapidly and keeps it closer to the belt.

5. Driven Pulley Working Mechanism

You must be wondering about the mechanism behind the driven pulley, causing it to change the diameter at the rear wheel. The driven pulley also features one fixed/static plate and a moveable hub/plate. This also raises the question of what makes the movable hub/plate at the driven pulley move.

The moveable plate/hub at the driven pulley is synchronized with the slider plate at the drive pulley. As the slider plate in the drive pulley squeezes the belt and increases in diameter, the moveable hub at the driven pulley goes away from the belt, resulting in a shorter diameter at the driven pulley to keep the belt in place.

6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

6.1 Is CVT Better than Automatic?

Traditional Automatic Transmission Vs CVT (Continuous Variant Transmission)
Traditional Automatic Transmission
CVT (Continuous Variant Transmission)
Automatically shifts between gears
Does not require the rider’s input
Uses a hydraulic pressure system to automatically shift gears
Not the smoothest
Sometimes feels slightly jerky
Comparatively less fuel-efficient
Does not require the rider’s input in terms of gear shifting
Contains no fixed gears
Ensures smoothest rides
Uses pulleys that can offer variable diameter
Provides infinite gear ratios
More fuel efficient
Offers different gear ratios in the reverse as well


Considering the advantages CVT has over the traditional automatic transmission, it is more beneficial and better. Most riders who prefer motorcycles that are loaded with innovations and tech features will love to own a motorcycle with better fuel economy and that offers a smooth riding experience. In this regard, a CVT transmission is a better option than an automatic one.

6.2 Is CVT Transmission Good or Bad?

To understand whether a CVT transmission is good or bad, we must delve deeper into the pros and cons of the CVT transmission.

Pros & Cons of CVT Transmission

Pros & Cons of CVT Transmission
CVT Transmission Pros
CVT Transmission Cons
Provides a smoother riding experience
Seamless automatic gear shifting
Provides infinite gear ratios
Highly fuel efficient
Provides different gear ratios in reverse function as well
No fixed gears
Offers step-less transmission
Makes riding easier and less hectic
Perfect for beginners
Difficult to maintain and repair
Limited torque-producing capability
The belt requires improvement
Wear is high due to more mechanical and moving parts


Considering the advantages CVT offers, it is a good technology to be installed in motorcycles. However, there are a few things that must be improved like the belt technology and torque output.

6.3 Which is Better CVT or DCT Transmission?

It depends on what you prefer as a motorcyclist to decide which is better the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) or DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission). Let’s get deeper into the characteristics, differences, and benefits of both the CVT and DCT to find out which is better.

CVT Vs DCT Transmission
CVT Transmission
DCT Transmission
Ensures better fuel efficiency
 Cheaper and less complicated construction than DCT
 Low-cost and easy maintenance
 Offers smooth acceleration
 Provides infinite gear ratios
 Doesn’t require riders’ input to shift gears
 Seamless riding experience
 No fixed gears
 Doesn’t offer rapid acceleration and responsiveness
 Gets to the top speed gradually
 Quick overtaking is a problem due to the lack of urgent downshift
 Power losses are fewer in the CVT
Performance-wise, DCT offers a fast and quick experience
 Also offers a switchable manual transmission mode as well
 Accelerates better
 Provides lightning-fast gear changes
 Better for quick overtaking
 DCT is better if you prefer riding a motorcycle aggressively
 Better for riding uphill
 Offers more fun
 Offers better responsiveness and quick throttle response
 DCT is more complicated and expensive
 Difficult to maintain and repair


Considering more riders prefer aggressive riding style, engine responsiveness, quick throttle response, and high-speed performance, the DCT is better than the CVT transmission.

6.4 Does CVT have Clutch?

No, CVT transmissions in a motorcycle do not come with a clutch as they are completely automatic. However, a centrifugal clutch is usually used in scooters to avoid the engine stalling at lower rpms.

7. Wrap-Up

Not only the motorcycling industry but the whole automobile world is divided into two sections, namely manual vs automatic transmission. In the car industry, the automatic transmission has somehow taken over. However, the competition still seems to be fierce in the motorcycling world as most riders prefer manual transmission to have better command and control over their motorcycles.

The CVT transmission has still made its way to the small-displacement scooter market. However, it can still take ages to overtake the market dominated by manual transmission. CVT on motorcycles offers a vast range of useful advantages, unlike the traditional automatic transmission. It offers a smoother and distraction-free riding experience that can be extremely helpful for beginners.

8. Luggage Bags and Motorcycle Parts at Viking Bags

A CVT transmission can be an extremely useful feature on touring-capable motorcycles as it can make long-distance and continuous riding more comfortable, requiring less interference from riders. However, as of now, what we can do with our current motorcycles to improve our riding experience and to have more fun on a motorcycle trip is to visit Viking Bags’ online store. You will be impressed to see the range of luggage bags and add-ons you can install on your motorcycle. Viking Bags has saddlebags, tool bags, tour packs, backpacks, tank bags, swingarm bags, and sissy bar bags to make your bike an elite touring machine.

Meanwhile, at Viking Bags, we also offer motorcycle parts, including sissy bars, handlebars, fairings, crash bars, seats, and most importantly backrests to make your motorcycle look new and adjusted according to your taste and riding style.

Photo Credit: Amrie Muchta

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