This week I will join a bunch of motorcycle journalists to test ride and launch the all-electric Harley Livewire in Australia.
I first rode a homemade electric motorcycle around 1998, and although it was an underwhelming experience it was a revelation that became an obsession for me.
I enjoy the challenge of assembling mechanical engines and hundreds of hours in the shed, its true. But I couldn’t help thinking over and over that this was actually an unintended by-product of complexity and that ultimately reliability, grunt and ride time was what I wanted and less pollution was more important.
I’ve owned around forty motorcycles over the years and ridden way more, including four Harley Davidson’s. Cruisers aren’t really my thing, although I always enjoyed the experience and especially the mighty V-Rod which changed my views about how cool the big HD could be when I got to cruise just a little of Route 66.
Of course, for most of society Harley’s traditionally represent noisy, law breaking, iron horses built to transport mad men to their next crime scene. Although this has changed over the years, the leap from Hell’s Angel to EV owner could not be starker.
A little know fact is that the Livewire is not the first electric Harley Davidson – the Transitron Electronic Corporation built a one-off Harley-Davidson MK2 electric motorcycle prototype in Honolulu, Hawaii way back in 1978. I love its crude and somewhat bizarre appeal but suffice to say it didn’t impress Willy G Davidson and his family and it took more than 40 years for the tide to change.
Of course, HD is trying to reach new owners and the extensive market testing it conducted with the Livewire obviously cut through or I wouldn’t be attending a market launch. The resounding sense I got from afar was that a growing number of riders can get past their close affinity to complex petrol engines – as long as the performance is blindingly good – and it looks to be the case.
At the end of the day if you win the drag off the lights because your machine has ludicrous launch speed and happens to be electric, well, you win. As time passes and electric vehicles become even better and faster and cheaper even the most ruthless sceptics will accept that time and technology has changed things again.
This week’s launch will be my first chance to have a really close look at the Livewire and of course to get some saddle time.
There are loads of reviews describing the specifications, expected range price and so on so that won’t be my focus. I want to see how the thing is put together in terms build quality. Does it exude craftmanship and quality? Does it look great?
I want to get a sense of what it might be like to work on as an owner. Can I work on it? Is it put together in a way that makes things accessible and straightforward? How will HD support me if I’m an owner?
I want to know what it feels like, especially compared to my previous electric motorcycles. Does it deliver the power well? Is it faster or slower? Can I play around a bit with power delivery to suit different moods? Does it handle well?