Touché Harley Davidson, touché.
Spending eight weeks test riding a Livewire left me so impressed, I bought one. I’ve owned more than forty motorcycles and ridden many more, including several Harley Davidsons, but I can honestly say I have never imagined myself as a Harley owner. But here I am.
I guess I am now living proof that if Harley’s strategy was to create a machine that could attract a new kind of buyer, it is working perfectly.
Having spent seven years owning two Zero electric motorcycles and with some generosity from the Zero HQ over the years, this was not a decision I made lightly. I worked hard to promote Zero, I continue to hugely admire what they have achieved, and appreciated the support I got.
So, why am I switching?
There are three overwhelmingly compelling reasons.
Whilst I enjoyed many years or riding, unfortunately on both my Zero’s I also had a fair bit of down time due to problems which cost me a lot of time, money and ultimately being without a bike on several occasions.
Initially there were dealers who could assist me, but that dried up several years ago. Unfortunately, for me that meant that a relatively simple problem could not be fixed because there was no one with the programming tools in Australia for almost two years, which was an essential requirement.
Although the locally based ELMOFO stepped up and became a warranty support agent around six months ago and my bike is now equipped new electronics, drive train and motor, it did leave me feeling nervous.
I was very seriously looking at Zero’s latest model too, but they aren’t officially available in Australia – so I just couldn’t bring myself to take that leap with the benefit of hindsight and knowing that I would be on my own with an all-new model that no one has even seen first-hand locally. Frankly, this also ruled out the highly specified and desirable Italian made Energica for me too.
Harley Davidson on the other hand, is very well established in Australia, has dealers everywhere and I feel confident, a brand that it wants to protect by supporting local owners well.
The second major motivator for me is the ability to DC fast charge the Livewire. Whilst my long-distance DC charging options are somewhat limited right now, this is changing really quickly with thousands of charging stations rolling out across the country and even Tesla announcing they will open up their supercharger networks too.
This makes touring possible, but more importantly it completely changes my ownership experience from being quite limited, to almost Nationwide.
The prospect of DC fast charging was powerful in the simplicity and flexibility it provides me.
The other thing I really noticed was the outstanding build quality and componentry on the Livewire, which combine to provide a better ride all round. Now, I say this without having ridden every model of the latest crop of electric motorcycles available in other countries ews, but there are a number of key features that simply can’t be argued with.
Where other brands compromised on some suspension features, the Livewire went all in and has very high end Showa suspension and this makes a material difference to ride, comfort and control. Same on the brakes, with the Livewire choosing dual discs with radial mounted four pot Brembo calipers which are sensational.
I also remain perplexed that some other brands have failed to upgrade their drive belt size which remains around half the size of the Livewire’s, even on the late models.
Belts are great for efficiency and noise reduction, but tend to shred unless you treat them very carefully. Harley on the other hand, has used massive fat belts for years across their range and have a tensioning and idler pulley system to provide more reliability.
Likewise, the liquid cooled electronics on the Livewire whilst more complex and weightier are, it would seem, an essential secret to getting prodigious power, efficiency and presumably lower component stress levels.
Overall, although it can be blindingly fast it is equally silky smooth and just feels better built. Although I like to think I’m still 21 years old, the reality is that a slightly less sporty feeling bike is probably a more suitable proposition for someone of my age – although having said that I ran out of skill before I ran out of balls, lean angle or corner speed.
It also has, like most newer bikes, Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS), Rear-wheel Lift Mitigation, Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System (C-TCS) and a Drag-Torque Slip Control System (DSCS) all driven through a 6 axis IMU. In simple terms, it has a very clever computer to compensate for my aging reflexes and I like that.
It is clearly more than enough bike for me.
Now, there are other factors that influenced me.
It was ubiquitously described as “gorgeous” by everyone who saw it, which is nice. I love new tech and frankly I also want to support the revolution of transitioning motorcycling into the electric era so spreading the love around doesn’t hurt either.
But I overlooked these lesser issues when I was urged to think extremely hard and long about my decision to buy an “incredibly expensive toy that can’t fit the kids, or much shopping, or the dog and really is a completely self-indulgent folly on my part, the likes of which I don’t get”
Being an early adopter isn’t easy, but for me, in my very privileged position I decided to proceed so that I can extend my electric motorcycling journey with safety, security and excitement, expand my riding horizons and embrace the hard work Harley put into this incredible machine.
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