As a general rule, most motorcycles do not have a reverse gear. Instead, you will have to turn the bike around or walk it backward while in neutral.
However, there are some exceptions to this. Plus, there are ways to add reverse gear to your motorcycle if you want to.
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of motorcycle reversing so you can be more comfortable on your bike.
Why Don’t Motorcycles Have Reverse?
Most motorcycles don’t have a reverse gear because it would add size and complexity to the transmission.
Manufacturers want to get their motorcycle models as slim and lightweight as possible, and adding reverse gear adds bulk and cost. Plus, it means the transmission is more likely to break down and require maintenance.
With these things in mind, reverse gear isn’t a priority for manufacturers or buyers because, well, it usually just isn’t necessary.
Actually riding a motorcycle backward would be next to impossible, and most bikes are lightweight enough that you can just roll them in neutral if you need to back them up.
Which Motorcycle Models Have Reverse?
There are a few motorcycles that do have a reverse gear. These are almost always trikes or large touring bikes.
That’s because, unlike most motorcycles, they’re so heavy that you need a little bit of help moving them backward. Plus, in the case of trikes, you can actually ride them backward.
Some of these have separate, electric reverse motors that draw power from the battery, while others, usually the trikes, have transmissions with built-in reverse gears. These reverse-capable motorcycles include:
- Some Honda Goldwing models
- Some Moto Guzzi models
- BMW K1200LT
- Ural sidecar motorcycles
- Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide and Freewheeler trikes
- Piaggio MP3 trikes
- Can-Am Spyder and Ryker trikes
Some of these motorcycles like the BMW K1200LT weigh over 850 lbs, so you can imagine how backing them up out of a parking space or garage would be difficult, especially if you’re getting up there in years. The reverse helps with this.
Can You Add Reverse to Motorcycles?
Yes, if you really want, you can usually add reverse to your motorcycle. Again, this isn’t always an extra reverse gear on your transmission, but more often a separate electric motor that runs off the battery.
You can buy these motors as after-market kits which you can then have a motorcycle mechanic install—or do it yourself if you have the patience. This is usually easier with trikes, but it’s also possible with large touring bikes.
These reverse kits can be really convenient and have a lot of advantages, but they do have downsides you need to consider before adding them to just any motorcycle.
- Help backing up for large touring bikes and trikes
- Easy to install
- Relatively inexpensive
- Very little power
- Drain the battery
- Prone to breakdown
Another option is to actually install a transmission into your motorcycle that has reverse gear included. These use power from the engine, so they work better.
However, they’re also a lot more expensive and difficult to install. You should probably only go with this option if you have a really heavy trike, one that weighs over 1,000 lbs.
How to Back Up a Motorcycle
If you’re new to motorcycles, the lack of reverse gear might be a little intimidating.
After all, surely there must be situations when you have to move a motorcycle backward.
What about backing out of a parking space or garage?
What if you overshoot a stop sign and need to back out of the intersection?
If you don’t have room to fully turn the motorcycle around, it’s certainly possible to back it up. You just have to put it in neutral and then roll it back using the power of your body.
There are a few ways to do this:
Walk it back
This is the safest way to back up a motorcycle and I’d argue the most convenient as well. With your legs still over the saddle of the bike, you simply walk backward with the bike between your legs while pulling it by the handlebars.
Since you’re still over the motorcycle, it’s easy to keep it balanced. Plus, you can better control the front wheel and the brakes, keeping it moving straight. Use this method when you can.
You can also pull the motorcycle back by the handlebars while standing to the side. Although this gives you full control of the front wheel and the brakes, it’s much harder to balance the motorcycle.
You probably want to avoid this method if you’re a beginner or if your bike is especially heavy.
This method involves placing one hand on the handlebars and the other on the rear or seat of the bike. Then you roll it backward.
It’s easier to use your strength to balance the bike, but you don’t have much control over the brake or handlebars. As a result, it’s best to only use this method for short distances over flat ground.
Even though motorcycles don’t usually have reverse gear, backing them up is still a big part of riding. If you don’t install a reverse system, make sure you learn the correct methods for backing up your bike.