Unlike cars and trikes, nearly every motorcycle is manufactured without reverse. However, you can find a few exceptions! For example, here are some motorcycles that come with a reverse gear:
- BMW K1200LT
- Honda Goldwing (not all models!)
- Certain Moto Guzzi models
- Ural Sidecar motorcycles
- Harley-Davidson trike motorcycles
- Piaggio MP3 (trike)
- Can-Am Spyder/Ryker (trikes)
If you would like to learn more about motorcycle reverse systems, you are in the right place.
We at PowerSportsGuide have done the research and compiled all the information on factory-made motorcycle reverse systems as well as aftermarket kits under one roof!
Why Is There No Reverse Gear on Motorcycles?
There are many reasons why there is no reverse gear on motorcycles, but the most important ones are as follows:
- A reverse gear would make the motorcycles’ transmission more complex
- It would also increase the weight, dimensions, and price
- You can easily move most motorcycles by hand, so no reverse is needed on these models
- Motorcycles can’t be ridden backward anyway
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
The main reason why motorcycles don’t have a reverse gear is arguably the engineering difficulties.
It is easy to see that adding a reverse gear to a motorcycle transmission would be quite difficult. This would significantly increase the complexity of the transmission, which may end in more malfunctions, higher maintenance costs, and much heftier price tags.
That’s why motorcycles with reverse typically have a separate electric motor (or the starter motor is linked to the transmission) rather than an extra gear.
This is a much cheaper and simpler solution than adding a reverse gear to the transmission!
Weight and Size Issues
Compared to cars, on motorcycles the space is very limited, so engineers want to keep the engine as small as possible.
A reverse gear on a motorcycle would not only make the whole engine larger but it would also add many extra pounds to the machine.
And the last thing that designers want to add to a motorcycle is extra weight. They are already heavy enough so they would rather forego the extra weight!
Can a Motorcycle Go in Reverse?
Another reason why motorcycles don’t have a reverse gear is that they can’t go in reverse. While you can slowly move them backward, you wouldn’t be able to balance a motorcycle if it was going in reverse at higher speeds.
Why can’t motorcycles go in reverse? This is because a motorcycle’s front fork has a rake angle to help keep the machine straight and correctly balanced when moving forward. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in reverse, which would make riding a motorcycle backward difficult.
But then why do a couple of motorcycles still have a reverse system? This is because today’s touring and cruiser motorcycles are very heavy, which makes them quite difficult to move by hand.
This is where an electric reverse system comes in handy. They can easily move these huge machines backward, with a press of a button!
In contrast, smaller motorcycles can be turned around much easier thanks to their small dimensions and tight turning radius. Therefore, most of them don’t have a reverse system!
Are There Any Motorcycles with Reverse?
It’s safe to say that only a few of the heaviest cruiser and touring motorcycles have reverse systems. The most well-known motorcycles that come with reverse are the BMW K1200 LT, or certain Moto Guzzi and Honda Goldwing motorcycles.
These bikes are very heavy, which means moving them around by hand would be an ordeal.
It’s a fun fact that while the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles were less than 200 pounds, today’s touring and cruiser motorcycles can exceed a whopping 800 pounds! In addition, they are very bulky.
Moving these big cruisers by hand isn’t comfortable, especially for senior riders. Therefore, some high-end models are equipped with an electric reverse.
It also has to be mentioned that factory-made trike motorcycles typically feature reverse, and for good reason.
Trikes are not only much heavier but harder to maneuver compared to their 2-wheel brothers. That’s why you can find reverse on factory-made Harley-Davidson trikes, Can-Am three wheelers, and the Piaggio MP3 500.
Surprisingly, despite its importance, many aftermarket trike kits still come without reverse systems.
Can You Put a Reverse System on a Motorcycle?
Yes, the good news is that you can put a reverse system on a motorcycle! If you have a heavy bike and want to put a reverse on it, best practice is to invest in an electric reverse kit.
These kits usually contain a small electric motor that is powered by the motorcycle battery. The motor is typically attached to the rear wheel with sprockets and drives the rear tire while forcing a moving roller onto it.
Although these kits are typically used on trikes, some of them can be installed on standard 2-wheel motorcycles as well.
Unfortunately, these electric motors can be used for very short periods of time since they can easily drain the battery. Another con of an electric motorcycle reverse is that they are not very powerful, so they only do a good job on flat surfaces.
Moreover, electric motorcycle reverse systems are also known for their poor reliability and durability!
Besides these electric kits, aftermarket manual reverse gears are also available for certain motorcycles. (e.g., some Harley-Davidson models).
Unlike the electric motors, this kit means installing a completely new gear on the bike’s transmission.
This reverse gear uses engine power, so it’s more powerful and doesn’t drain the battery either. On the other hand, they are more expensive and harder to install.
How Much Does It Cost to Put Reverse on a Harley?
As a rule of thumb, mechanical Harley reverse kits cost about $1,100-$1,500. And you can’t forget about labor costs! Even if kits come with detailed installation instructions, the best practice is that you leave it to the professionals. If you are looking for something more affordable, you should take a look at electric reverse kits. These systems are not only cheaper than mechanical reverse kits but also easier to install.
How do You Reverse a Heavy Motorcycle?
Since reversing a heavy motorcycle is not easy, best practice is that you move it forward and go in a circle instead. However, you can sometimes find yourself in a situation where backing up your bike is unavoidable. If this happens, you may want to know how to reverse a heavy motorcycle if it lacks a reverse gear. In a nutshell, the most commonly used solutions are as follows:
- “Walking” the motorcycle backward: How do you walk backward on a motorcycle? The safest way to reverse a heavy motorcycle by slowly walking backward while still sitting on the saddle (a.k.a. “duck walking”). Contrary to popular belief, this practice is not just for beginner riders!
- Pulling back (method 1): Stand on the side of the motorcycle, grab both handlebars and slowly push the motorcycle backward. Be sure to look in the direction you are pushing the bike!
- Pulling back (method 2): Another common solution is to put your right hand on the rear seat/ passenger handle while your left hand is on the left handlebar. Keep in mind that this method works only on level ground, since you can’t control the brakes!
While some bikers prefer to spin their bikes on the kickstand, this is not recommended with a heavy motorcycle! It can easily end in a broken kickstand or other types of damage.
How do You Put a Motorcycle in Reverse?
If it’s equipped with a mechanical reverse, you can simply put a motorcycle in reverse with the hand shifter. On most motorcycles you can find this shifter on the right side of the engine. Once it’s engaged, you can simply move your motorcycle backward by using engine power. If your motorcycle features an electric reverse system, it can usually be activated with a dedicated switch or by pressing more buttons at the same time.
FAQs About Motorcycle Reverse Systems
Why do motorcycles park backward? Riders prefer to park their motorcycles backward into parking spots because of safety reasons. It’s much easier and safer to ride a motorcycle forward into an open street than to slowly push it backward into traffic.
How do you park a motorcycle uphill? If you stop your motorcycle on a slope always make sure to park it facing uphill. Best practice is to put the rear wheel against the curb. If you park your bike downhill, there is always a risk of it rolling off the kickstand.
Does Hayabusa have reverse gear? No, although it’s considered a heavy bike, the Suzuki Hayabusa is not equipped with reverse gear. But the good news is that certain electric reverse kits fit on this motorcycle!
Do all Goldwings have reverse? No, unfortunately not all Honda Gondwings have reverse as standard equipment. While the biggest Goldwings like the GL1500 and GL1800 feature reverse, the smaller models do not even have reverse gear as an option.
Do Indian Motorcycles have reverse? No,reverse is not available on Indian motorcycles.
Does the Harley Freewheeler have reverse? Yes, Harley Freewheelers have reversed as standard.
It’s safe to say that nearly all motorcycles come without a reverse gear. This is because they can easily be moved around by hand, so a reverse gear would only mean unnecessary extra weight and a potential source of problems. What’s more, an extra gear would also make motorcycles more expensive to manufacture.
However, surprisingly some of the biggest touring and cruiser motorcycles feature a reverse gear. Since moving these heavy bikes by hand is challenging for many riders, having a reverse on them does make sense.
But unlike having an extra gear in their transmission, these motorcycles are moved backward by a small electric motor, or sometimes the starter motor.
If you are considering putting a reverse gear on your bike, don’t forget that these electric motorcycle reverse kits can be mounted on many regular motorcycles as well!