Side by Side with Manual Transmission – Brands & Gearboxes

Manual, automatic or cvt transmission Side by Side

With the increasing popularity of UTVs since the last decade, the market has seen a rise in side-by-sides from different manufacturers. It is perfect to have a reliable, good CVT (or Continuously Variable Transmission). But, some people want other options. With Yamaha investing in the side-by-sides market, there have been additions in the transmission range.

BrandModel seriesTransmission type
YamahaYXZ (base model),
Manual, foot clutch
YamahaYXZ SS,

Yamaha Sport Shift
Paddle shift with auto clutch
5-speed sequential
PolarisRZRAutomatic PVT
Can-AmMaverickAutomatic CVT
Arctic CatWildcatAutomatic CVT
More model comparision in our Sport UTV Comparison.
More about how UTV clutches and transmissions work here.

Yamaha’s manual transmission, in particular, has given the consumers more to think about. Personal preference plays a great role in determining which transmission better suits you. Also, terrain and riding style can be factors. Continue reading the post to get detailed information about side-by-sides manual transmission.

Popular brands that are making Side by Sides with manual transmission

There are some brands that manufacture the best side-by-sides utility task vehicles. These may include Polaris, Honda, Can-Am, Kawasaki, and Yamaha. But, among all these manufacturers, Yamaha is the best brand that produces great side by sides UTVs with manual transmissions. Yamaha was using the CVT transmission for a long time.

In fact, Yamaha is one of the best users of this technology. They have the best CVT transmissions that couldn’t be found on other utility task vehicles. Also, they have evolved over time. But, when it came to putting hands on the pure sports market, Yamaha decided to make use of different techniques.

Keeping in view of the rising demand for pure sports, the company developed the clutch and came up with a new manual transmission system. It consists of a manual clutch along with 5-speed manual transmission. This way, the Yamaha YXZ 1000R became the first Yamaha UTV to have possess a manual clutch and transmission.

How manual transmissions on UTVs works

As the name suggests, utility task vehicles with manual transmission need to be controlled manually by shifting the gears and actuating the clutch. As a result, the power gets momentarily disengaged between the transmission and the engine. Manual transmission can be found mostly on the side-by-sides and sport quad vehicles.

Specially designed for racing, the manual transmission in UTVs can be effective in reaching maximum power to the ground. Also, it requires much experience and skill for a driver to maneuver the vehicle, especially in places where gear changes are frequent so as to maintain enough in rough terrain.

Very much similar to the manual transmission in a car, the operation on the UTVs requires a clear understanding of the power flow from the engine, throughout the transmission, and finally to the wheels. Every gear present in a manual transmission delivers a unique ratio of mechanical advantage. When the gear or number is low, the greater would be the ratio advantage.

For example, the first and second gear in a manual side-by-sides transmission is meant for lower speed limits. It gives the engine the required ratio advantage to get the vehicle moving. When it comes to shift, select the gear and release the clutch while applying throttle in a gentle way.

When the rider shifts gear upward or downward, the clutch should be disengaged first and later engage in collaboration with reducing throttle and then reapplying again when the new gear ratio is selected. What makes the manual system difficult to learn is the fact that you have to synchronize clutch, throttle, and gear selection.

This is the reason why CVT transmission has a different kind of craze among a group of people. When a manual system of transmission is executed in a proper way, it is very effective in delivering peak power with minimal loss to the ground. However, the driver should have the requisite experience to undertake such a task.

How do you shift on a manual Side by Side?

Now that you have rolled your fingers in the first gear, it is time for you to shift upwards into high gears. The Yamaha YXZ 1000R has a 5-speed manual transmission. There are some utility task vehicles with 6 gears. Keep in mind to shift gears while the vehicle is in the high RPM range.

That’s because higher RPM ensures there is sufficient power to manage speed throughout the next gear. An experienced rider may shift gears by listening to the sound of the engine. But, as a general rule of thumb, you can shift upwards when the RPM ranges between 75 and 100 percent.

When you shift up, the clutch disengages from the clutch plates. Also, you need to let go of the throttle for a bit so that it doesn’t create trouble. Make use of your left foot on the lever and shift into the next gear. Push the throttle and let go of the clutch until the gear engages slowly.

Downshifting in the off-road world is not so popular because you need to have two reasons for slowing down, which is a turn or a stop. It is not like driving a car where you need to maintain different speed levels along with the traffic. On UTVs, downshifting is required to match the speed of the vehicle with its gear.

To downshift, pull the clutch and disengage the drive-by applying the brakes to slow the vehicle down. Push down on the shift lever with your left foot to move one gear down. Increase throttle and lose the clutch smoothly to engage the drive again. Match the speed and throttle of the UTV.

How does the clutch work on manual UTVs?

The clutch consists of a disc, pressure plate, flywheel, throwout bearing, and a release system. The flywheel spins with the motion of your vehicle’s engine. The clutch assembly is held together by the pressure plate. The plate is bolted to the flywheel. The disc can be found between the pressure plate and flywheel to break and make contact.

And, the throwout bearing along with the release system works in combination to allow the clutch to make an engagement or disengagement. When the driver pushes the clutch pedal, the flywheel, pressure plate, and disc are disengaged to allow the driver shift gears. After releasing the pedal, all the components are engaged. This sets the UTV in motion.

Foot clutch and semi-automatic clutch

The manual transmission in UTVs uses a foot clutch. And, sometimes they do have a semi-automatic clutch. The automatic version has paddle shifters. Yamaha YXZ 1000R SS has an automatic clutch system. In most of the UTVs with a manual transmission, you can find a 5-speed gear system along with a foot clutch or semi-automatic system.

Manual transmission along with manual clutch isn’t for everyone. Most people aren’t accustomed to the manual system of transmission and rarely dealt with clutches. Some of them may have a bad ankle or bad knee that limits their ability to drive on a manual system.

As aforementioned, Yamaha used a hydraulic clutch controlled by a computer on their Sport Shift model. It allows drivers to shift through gears without worrying about the clutch. For shifting duties, the company incorporated paddle shifters.

In automatic transmissions, you need to actuate the accelerator. A single clutch that is connected to the engine begins to engage and delivers power through fixed gears. The automatic transmission can be found in low performing UTVs.

It has the benefits of a fully manual system, but anyone can drive it because it is quite easy to navigate. When it comes to using a manual gearbox system, it is all about your personal choice. To have a better insight into how clutches work, read our article about how side by side clutches and transmissions work.

Types of transmissions and clutches

CVT clutch and transmission are the most popular one among the side by side manufacturers. Here are some relevant information about the other types of gearboxes and transmission types.

Manual transmission


  • Less maintenance
  • Fewer problems
  • Robust performance
  • Sporty feeling


  • Direct involvement and complexity

Cost: UTVs with manual transmission areless expensive compared to the automatic system because of a lesser number of moving parts.

Service: Repair costs are much lower compared to the other forms.

Weight: Manual system of transmission in UTVs weighs less. This is why most of the drivers prefer to drive a manual one.

Performance: When it comes to performance, UTVs with a manual gearbox tends to accelerate better.

Comfort: For drivers who enjoy their ride and the racing feeling, this kind of transmission is a good choice.

CVT transmissions


  • Fuel efficiency
  • Weighs less
  • Smooth performance


  • Not designed for power

Cost: It is relatively inexpensive and used for a long time.

Service: With this kind of transmission, you’ll have very little maintenance.

Weight: CVT transmissions are lightweight.

Performance: It meets the demand of your driving.

Comfort: Driving feels good with no need to shift gears.

Automatic transmission


  • Good acceleration
  • Powerful transmission
  • Easy to drive


  • A bit expensive

Cost: Although they don’t cost more upfront, over time you have to spend more.

Service: Repair costs are much higher because of complex automatics.

Weight: Automatic transmission weighs more than the other forms.

Performance: Accelerates better and shifts more accurately. That’s why they are popular these days.

Comfort: With this kind of transmission, you can drive conveniently. Without shifting clutches, your ride becomes pretty easy.


Some people want to experience the added control of a manual shift to enjoy the ride, while others are happy with the automatic transmission. Some people even prefer CVT, as it keeps them in the right gear with optimal power. Whatever be your choice, enjoy the ride while driving a UTV.