Harley Davidson Automatic Transmission

Harley Davidson with automatic transmission from Walters Mfg

Walters Manufacturing of Plano, Illinois has just designed and built an automatic transmission conversion for 1999 to 2005 Harley Davidson Dyna Glides. Before you start thinking this is some belt and pulley CVT, let me point out this is a genuine, fluid filled, torque converter equipped automatic transmission, a 3 speed MoPar TorqueFlite to be exact. You start the engine, select drive and off you go. There's even a reverse!

Walters Manufacturing is the father and son team of Rick, Sr. and son Rick, Jr. who together created an automatic transmission setup that could make an awful lot of riders very happy. If you already ride, shifting is second nature and you might question the need for an automatic but there are more riders than you might think with disabilities that make it difficult to shift a manual transmission, plus more than a few potential riders who would try motorcycling if only they didn't have to master the shifting along with everything else.

When you look at this conversion you have to think about the all of the creative design work that went into this, coming up with adapters and covers to contain the TorqueFlite and mate it to the Harley Davidson V-twin. Installed in their 2001 Harley Davidson Dyna, it looks like a factory install. The difference is the lack of a clutch lever on the handlebars and the addition of a jockey shift lever on the left that is used to select the desired gear. The transmission has a black wrinkle finish which blends into the bike and adds to the factory look.

This is one very impressive project and I would think, if successful, could attract the interest of Harley Davidson. At present, plans are to offer the conversion for somewhere in the $12,000 to $15,000 range, you bring your bike, they do the conversion. When you consider what you're getting, that's not a bad deal, especially if it extends your ability to ride when a scooter is your only other option. Very cool, very nice work.

Link: Walters Manufacturing via Motoblog.it

Related: CF Moto automatic transmission motorcycles for sale
Related: Ridley automatic transmission motorcycles for sale

Comments

  1. chris says

    i don’t remember where i heard this, and i don’t know how accurate it is but; i’ve heard that the reason automatic transmissions aren’t more common on bikes is because you MUST use a CVT. the reason i was given for this is: when leaned over in a turn, if a gear change were to happen, it would obviously upset the chassis quite a bit. if you were to have a gear change at that point (with the typical automatic lurch) i’d assume that what i’ve heard is correct. but i like this idea a lot. so i hope the information is incorrect.

  2. aaron says

    with yamaha’s fjr1300 system on the market, this seems like an odd way for a company the size of harley to go about fitting an automatic. how much extra weight for the conversion? I think this will remain an aftermarket item.

    as chris pointed out, the rider must be able to select the gear change timing in order to avert serious problems – especially in the wet. and what about revving the engine during low speed maneuvers? it’d suck to have that extra control taken away from you.

  3. mark says

    Hmm… I can see it for disabled motorcyclists who can’t shift a manual transmission, but do we really want people on bikes who simply aren’t coordinated enough to shift a manual? They’re probably better off sticking to four wheels.

  4. Case says

    So how many people would rather spend $12-15K to convert an already expensive bike instead of riding an automatic scooter? I’m curious.

  5. Bryce says

    A CVT really is the way to go on a bike. There is no disruption of torque because there is no “shifting”. The ratios change, but they do so smoothly. It’s like having one ridiculously long gear.

    Instead of spending beaucoup bucks on this conversion, couldn’t one just buy the CVT stuff from Ridley and apply it to a Harley?

    As for whether a CVT is any good on a bike, I’ve become a convert. Around town, it’s really nice. The surge of uninterrupted acceleration is also pretty cool. I bet it would be thrilling with the torque of a big V-twin.

  6. GenWaylaid says

    This isn’t the first time a motorcycle has been fitted with a torque converter. Honda offered “Hondamatic” versions of their CB750, CB400, and CM450 in the late 70’s and early 80’s straight from the factory. Those transmissions had two gears plus a neutral, which were selected by the rider using a normal foot shift. The difference was that the torque converter took the place of the clutch and allowed the engine to run a fixed gearing without bogging. The Hondamatic transmissions definitely didn’t shift for you, but you could just stick the bike in whichever gear you wanted and leave it there.

    I’m definitely considering a CB400A as my commuter bike, since I have to contend with an average of five stoplights per mile on my way to work. They can be found on eBay or Craigslist, often in excellent condition, for $1000 to $1500.

    By the way, there are some pretty impressive CVTs being built these days. Just look at the Suzuki Burgman 650 or the new Mini.

  7. Sean says

    There’s a guy on a Burgman 650 who parks where I park, and apparently they’re great fun. Really agile, good power and perfect for around town. In regard to someone who isn’t that co-ordinated, I’d rather them on a bike than behind the wheel of an SUV any day of the week. What’s better, an unco-ordinated biker riding into a wall, or an unco-ordinated SUV careening through that wall, out the other side and taking out three children, their mother and the cop who’s three days before retirement?

  8. Tinker says

    I have a 1978 CB400A Hondamatic, bought it more as a collectors item, 11,000 miles on and I do ride it gently. Yes, you can ride from a stop in gear, but gas mileage s rather pitiful if you do that. It is no great hardship to downshift, and then upshift again. First gear is good for parking lot maneuvers.
    It will run up to 30 miles per hour and beyond in first, but Honda says shift at 12 mph going up, and 3 mph going down. Has a tendency to hang up in first if you rev it too high.

    There is or was a man here in town that added a sidecar to his 400, moved all the controls. He even built a ramp for his wheel chair. opens a door, rolls in.
    It was fun seeing him draw second looks from motorists, as they realized he was riding as a passenger, with no driver.

  9. todd says

    So this 1000 lb bike is aimed at beginners? More of a novelty item I think, that way they can hold a cell phone or been in their left hand when riding.

    Maybe the bike should be offered with a left-hand rear brake lever so that people with foot disabilities could ride it.

    I’m with everyone else; for a fraction of the cost you can buy a burgman with equal or better performance. Besides, blipping the throttle is a Harley riders favorite past time.

    -todd

  10. Mayakovski says

    So I can pay a lot of money for a Harley, then pay a lot more for this conversion package, or I can pay less than the Harley, buy a Yamaha FJR, that is already automatic, handles better, weighs less and rides better.

    Hard decision.

    Maybe I’ll just buy a trike.

    NOT

  11. Tinker says

    Don’t forget you need some sort of parking brake, too! The CB400A came with a mechanical brake lock for the rear brake. That is unless you don’t mind if your now $35,000 motorcycle goes rolling of the side stand!

  12. PeteP says

    Why not just use an automatic clutch? I have an EFM unit on my KTM 300 and it works great. You still have to shift, but no clutchwork involved. Auto-clutches are already available for Harley-Davidsons, anyway, and at a much lower cost than this Hydra-Matic.

  13. kneeslider says

    So, … I guess no one likes this. Well, I do. The whole idea of putting this transmission into the bike, figuring out it how it would work and then designing and engineering all of the parts is pretty neat.

    Whatever you think about automatics, look at the relative sales in cars of manuals versus automatics. In many cases, a standard isn’t even available any longer, the automatic is the only option, performance cars included. There was a long period of time when a “real enthusiast” would laugh at an automatic, no one laughs anymore. Automatics work just fine.

    Is this an expensive option? Yep. But if they were to make a lot of them, you would see the price drop. People spend far more than this on custom bikes all the time, why is the price of a custom automatic transmission installation so different?

    For those who point out the relative price of a scooter, some people would rather ride a Harley or some other motorcycle, personal preference makes all the difference. If you think it’s not necessary or too pricey, you’re not the target market.

    This may not be a beginners bike but think about a scooter rider who wants to move over to a motorcycle and is perfectly capable of riding a big Harley and has the funds to buy this conversion. He likes the shiftless riding he’s used to and wants the same in his bike.

    I don’t need to repeat myself about the advantages for the disabled rider. Also, suppose this same conversion became available for the big baggers or trikes. I think it would be a natural.

    Remember, just because you don’t like the idea, or you don’t like Harleys in general, doesn’t mean a lot of other folks wouldn’t. Think of all of the motorcycles you don’t like, or cars and look at how many people buy and ride them. Choice is good.

  14. Sean says

    I agree with the Kneeslider. And I didn’t say that I didn’t like it, in fact with the stock looking finish I like it a lot. If it works for you, then it can only be a good thing. If it gets more people out of cars and onto bikes, then it can only be a good thing. If it gets more people thinking, “how can I do this, and make it look good?” then it can only be a good thing. And good things, are good.

  15. GenWaylaid says

    I think automatic transmissions would be popular on beginner bikes–if only someone would put them in actual beginner-size bikes.

    Putting the automatics on big, heavy bikes like Harleys and sport-tourers serves one potential market, but most newcomers are going to want a machine around 250cc that’s light enough to inspire confidence. The CB400A is the nearest thing out there, but they’re all approaching thirty years old.

    Not everybody wants to choose between the look (and price premium) of a scooter and learning how to ride a manual.

  16. noodle says

    * Honda has a 700cc motorcycle with modern styling that uses a mechanical-hydraulic auto-tranny engine that will be out this year and cost a lot less than that conversion (Honda DN-01 Discovery Cruiser).

    * Aprilia has a 850cc motorcycle with modern styling that uses a high-tech electronically-controlled CVT with final chain drive that offers you the choice of manual-shift with the foot-gear-change or three automatic mapping; sport, tour, or rain. This bike will be out this year and cost a lot less than that conversion (Aprilia NA 850 Mana).

  17. Diesel says

    This conversion was covered in length in Ironworks magazine, and the beauty of it all is that this is a father and son team who did this in their garage. The son figured out how to shorten the tranny, then they figured out a way to adapt it.

  18. Gonhtn says

    kneeslider, I to agree that with the current changes with modern vehicles that an automatic motorcycle is the logical next step in evolution. My wife would love to have her own bike that doesn’t look like a dad gone scooter. She wants an old school looking bike. A cool looking bike she says and not have the hassle of shifting all the time. I told her I would even build her a bike if I had to, to accomidate. I know about the Ridley; I also know that one is two times the price of a NEW, Harley Sporty. I have been reserching, trying to find a CVT or a combination of components that would make this possible. Revloc makes an auto clutch. There are electronic shifters out there that I wonder if could be used in-corperation with a rpm sensor to shift appropiately.

  19. Gonhtn says

    Walters Manufacturing wants 15k for just the trans. Wow, that is a humongous amount of money for any kind of trans. When you can get a six speed manual for around 1k. I live in Illinois not too far from them. I would never spend that kind of cash on just a trans no matter what it can do. I understand that they went through a lot of hard work, figuring out how to make it all work. And work reliably too. I have nothing against Walters Manufacturing; I just know there has got to be a cheaper and easier solution. I know with all of this, talk it is experimental and modifications would have to be made. But, it is the end result that we are all striving for. Like, do you think that a autotrans off of an ATV /snowmobile would work?

  20. T. Hernandez says

    What is all this? Truth be told! I understand that this innovation does not fit every pocket book. Yet, not everyone drives a Ferrari! Rest assured that there is nothing like it on the market. How do I know? I now own an automatic transmission motorcycle purchased from Walters Manufacturing!!!

    The alternatives sound so “silver bullet” get the real deal folks! If you have never had the experience revert your comments to questions. The pricey tag also includes all the extras to make your bike a full conversion.

    For example my transmission included:

    1. New (kick a$$) transmission
    2. True primary
    3. 300mm tire and rim
    4. Fitted fender, a must for right side drive conversion
    5. Shift lever to select gears, no real tranny comes without it!
    6. Cables for the kick down lever
    7. Torque converter
    8. Wide swing arm
    9. New oil tank
    10. New fitted Seat.

    This is just to name a few, not to mention the electrical, the needed intricate piping and other mechanical parts needed to make the dream come alive.

    If you think for a minute that I’m going to spend money on paperclips and bubble gum to wind up my Harley you are sadly mistaken. I suppose the same people writing about alternatives are the same folks that would never take their car to the dealer for selfish or limited reasons.

    I like the kick and pull of a clutch, don’t get me wrong. It’s cognitive dissidence. We have been doing it for so long we can’t wrap our thought around such a thing as an automatic motorcycle with balls and a price tag to go with it. I suggest that everyone take this baby for a test drive. You will not regret it!

    Average Dealer cost for a RSD six speed manual is $1250 so it sounds like you found a great source on transmissions. You realize that doesn’t include the
    Primary, clutch or anything else to hook it up or make it work. Dee Dee Dee! Do you think there may be added expenses here? Then where do you get what you need for your particular bike when all the manufacturer supplies is that one accessory. Can anyone say “CUSTOM PARTS”?

    Finally don’t confuse a generic, mass produced Chinese part
    With a hand built vehicle made in America. Sure there are plenty of cheap and
    easy solutions for basic transportation, but if you like to power, weight and
    Comfort of a classic Harley-Davidson, there is no comparison. Good luck getting your snowmobile belt to hold 100 ft/lbs of torque!

    I must apologize if my sarcasm is a bit over the edge. If you believe that you deserve the best, get the best. That is what I work for! To sit here and promote cheap alternatives that are just another can of worms does not make you smart it just shows your choice of lifestyle.

    You can choose an I pod or an 8 track of course there is a price difference. Depending on what you are willing to pay, there are choices in between. Where do you fit on the technological spectrum? If you can’t afford it, finance it! You deserve the Ferrari of automatic motorcycle transmissions.

    In closing I would like to say, Stop comparing apples to oranges. Get first hand knowledge regarding your comments and if it’s out of your league, don’t be a hater!!!

    T. Hernandez

  21. P.Smith says

    I have heard of a new kit about to be produced in Australia that provides a conversion kit for Harley Sportsters for 1 Qtr of the above $. Apparently the kit can be fitted or removed without alterations to the original bike. I dont think its in production yet but apparently not far away.

  22. Supreme says

    If this is really true, then it is about time. But what they should do is put an automatic transmission on a true sportbike like an R1 or R6. I would run to the dealer to get one !!!!!!! I know that there are people who think that this is not right ut if I don’t like manual on a car, why would I like it on a motorcycle. For those that like that, cool. but some of us just want to get on a sportbike and ride just for the sake of riding without all the work of shifting and clutching. For me I say again that it is about time!!!!!

  23. M. Disselhoff says

    I think that this is fabulous. I wan’t a bike, but can’t ride because of the fact I have an artificial left leg. I know, I’ve already heard. Suicide shift, and all of the other crap, I would much rather have a bike with an automatic. I want to know, will and actual bike be produced on the market with this, or will it be the conversion kit?

  24. Newbie says

    I just finished a course in Harley Davidson riding, first time on a bike, first time with a clutch(never drove a standard car). As a woman, I did find it new and challenging to find the right balance between the gas and the clutch and then to deal with the foot gear changing, etc… It was tough. I am proud to have learned how to ride a motorcycle in the original way but I tell you if the Automatic conversion become acceptable and is proven safe on Harleys I would definitely do it bec its a bunch less things for me to think about and that much more room for me to enjoy the ride! I do think a lot more people, men, women, old and young, disabled or not would come out of the closet if these conversion kits became main stream. Better for the environment all the way around!

  25. Sue says

    For Mark who said something about people who werent coordinated enough to shift or clutch staying on 4 wheels – well – I cant say what I really want to here BUT I ride – and I ride very well, I ride an old Hondamatic that I had restored to almost mint condition, it never fails to have people stop and ask and tell me how much they like my bike, even old school HD guys – plain fact, I am 50 years old – I hadnt ridden on my own since I was 15 on dirt bikes and bottom line I dont WANT to hassle with the clutch and shifting – I want to ride, flat out simple. And ride I do, I run with people on HD’s and huge bikes and I not only keep up just fine but can do a 200 mile day trip with the best of them. Once I get a larger bike – also an automatic probably, then I will be able to do longer rides – right now my bike is smaller and I get more tired as a 200 mile ride winds down

    Since when is shifting and clutching the be all end all for a rider ? I dont get that mentality. As I told someone the other nite that was ribbing me – it has two wheels, a motor, handlebars and a non bi*** rider – to which he replied (as a friend of mine he got away with it) I dont HAVE to ride bi*** anymore, since I AM one

  26. Speedracerboy says

    Has anyone here ever tried a Boss Hoss? I had one and it’s really neat. Sure it’s plenty heavy and somewhat pricey, but it rides and handles great as a crusier/tourer. It has a fully auto tranny. Low gear for up to 50 mph and 2nd gear for everything else. Also has a reverse. No clutch to worry with. And did I say it was fast! Granted it’s not a canyon carver though. I liked it, and it’s the ticket for some disabled riders. I plan to get another one.

  27. jim saunders says

    This bike looks ideal, to me….. however i have been stuck on scooters since a truck decided that my foot looked like lunch…..

  28. nubs says

    all you guys make a good point, but there are good things to come from this like poeple that can not ride a clutch, like me for one i got my laft arm amputated 5 years ago and im wanting get get out on the road with my friends and they make a automatic bike its called a ridley but i would like the most to be on a harley…

  29. Brian says

    I heard that Ridley had started a new company that was coming out with a conversion to make all Harley’s automatic. In Daytona their dealer said something about a company Clay Ridley had stated call Accelerated Technologies. The conversion was going to cost $4k? I tried to get on a list, but they hadn’t started one. Might be a while.

  30. Mike says

    What about the power loss? Walters doesn’t address the massive amounts of power being lost in the fluid transfer of power. That’s why you want a CVT automatic in your motorcycle and why the Boss Hoss works. When you start with 350 hp you end up with 200 at the rear wheel when you use outdated technology! I don’t like the walters because of all the work involved. I looked serious enough into it to go ride one and wasn’t impressed. I’m waiting on someone to come out will with a large displacement US made automatic before I get on this bandwagon.

  31. norman gipson says

    In 2001 I tore my foot off in a motorcycle accident,havent ridden since because of the inability to change gears, an automatic sounds exactly what ive been waiting for

  32. Shawn Annis says

    First off, I’d like to say that I’m for anything that will help get people with disabilities out on two wheels (or three if need be).
    I have two artificial limbs and ride a Honda Silverwing FSC 600cc scooter.
    Sure every once in awhile I have to take a ribbing from some tough guy who thinks that riding a scooter is somehow something I should be ashamed of.
    They usually change their tune when I blow by them on their overly loud heavyweight dinosaurs though.
    (I guess rubber bands and paper clips have a place in the world after all)
    These new maxi-scooters are perfect for amputees like myself, having both a low center of gravity and excellent power to weight ratio.
    I’ve gone across the USA solo three times so far on a Honda Silverwing, without as much as a flat tire.
    Gas, oil, a belt every 12,000 miles and tires are all these bikes seem to ask from their owners.
    It’s too bad that some “Real Bikers” have to rag on someone just because they don’t share the same idea of what makes them happy on the road.
    Luckily for me, I was brought up to believe that I wasn’t any less of a person for being different……………..I’m just different.

  33. Mimi says

    To answer Mark’s comment as to “DO WE WANT PEOPLE WHO AREN’T COORDINATED ENOUGH TO SHIFT GEARS”…..

    Its people like Mark that are hired when the want riots. Since WHEN does the road belong to anyone in particular? Thank you Sean for saying that “if it gets more people on bikes, it can only be a good thing”.

    I for one cannot shift gears, so does that mean I shouldn’t ride? I guess Mark would not be a good PR man, if he chooses solely “certain types of people” on the road.

    GET OVER YOURSELF MARK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Regina says

    This is too funny but I love the idea of an automatic Harley or other motorcycle. I was just discussing this with my boyfriend this weekend while being on a ride on his Harley. I want to start riding and want my own bike after I take the class to learn the rules of the road. ** I just dont want the hassle( my opinion) of shifting while trying to be safe on the road. Maybe my brain is not quite up to speed( no pun intended) on the manual way of doing things, which is quite funny bc I am a multitasker at best(lol). Anyway, I really would like to get an automatic bike and do not want the manual situation to hinder me from riding.

  35. Regina says

    I would like to comment on Mark’s statement also as I did not see it earlier. Mark, how insensitive can you be? Disability or not, people have the right to have options, there are too many limitations on things nowadays and I think this is a fabulous idea.! I respect the fact you are entilitled to your opinion but this was a bit much. Try to not just think about yourself so much.

  36. says

    I enquired at my local motorcycle dealer here in Romford/England this afternoon: “How many automatic motorcycles in your range?” ….. Well once he`d stopped laughing, he replied “I can supply you with any step through CVT scooter from near any country around the world, but you aint gonna find a REAL motorcycle with an auto-transmission onboard!!!! ….. Well as you all know, there are already several in America, Harley, Ridley etc … some Jap race bikes too! (and good job too) Dont you all think its about time we had the choice, as the consumer? I for one long for an automatic motorcycle, imperticular a “Ridley 750cc Classic” …. Back in 2000, the bike laws changed here in the UK, id already bought an “Aprillia Hirbana Custom” scooter with CVT transmission, for commuting into London! …took my test on this bike, and am now limitied to automatics only! any size engine is ok though! ….. Not wanting to go through yet another expensive test, ive set my mind on the Ridley, as nostalgic cruisers are my thing, but can i get one? No! ….. Come on Guys, there are many reasons the riding public want, and/or need an automatic transmission on their motorcycles! Here in GB alone, there is a market for thousands upon thousands of scooter boys from the 90`s that have grown into middle aged family men like myself, that also cant be bothered to take their manual bike test, and would be embaressed to be seen on a tiny little step through scooter now! …. Offer us the auto bikes, cruisers, choppers etc, there is a HUGE market of buyers that you are not supplying to!! PS ….. I drive trucks for a living: the one i use at the moment only has 10 gears, the 16 wheeler before it had twin splitter with range change, a total of 16 gears in all, and the car i travel to work in has a 5 speed manual box, and in my youth i scrambled off road 250cc motorcyles for fun …. so as you see, im not shy towards gear changing, just took my test on the bike i had at that time!