(p)reviewed: Harley-Davidson LiveWire
I wasn't going to go to the Eicma. The simple fact is I'm no fan of motorcycles. I've got nothing against them, no background story as to how I came to this. I've never crashed, never had any particular issues of any sort. I've driven, sorry I mean ridden, some proper motorcycles too, because all of my friends have one, and while I did not dislike the experience, it simply left me unfazed.
When I was a young'un, my friends and I used to tune scooters and I need to take a moment here to stress that we were doing it properly. We were spending time and expertise and money we got from selling and reselling scooters and parts to build scooters that were quicker off the line than some cars at the time. It was fun. These damn things were effing quick and the legal implications regarding ownership and usage of them were... libertine. To say the least. You wouldn't even need a licence. You turned 14 and you could ride a 50cc scooter. Or moped, as they call it in some parts of the world. And if you wanted to buy my scooter, the exchange process was immediate and simple. You gave me cash, I gave you the piece of paper, rough equivalent of a V5 document today, that officially made you the owner. It was brilliant and then, alas, everything changed. Including the rules in Italy because the government decided you did indeed need a license of sort, and they also decided you needed to follow the same boring procedure you need to follow when you buy a car. However, as luck had it, by the time all of this had happened, I was already 18 so I didn't really care. My friends started buying motorbikes and I didn't. I was all in with cars.
So the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. Since this is the first ever item I've written on a motorcycle I'm just going to go with my gut and forget everything I've learnt about writing motoring articles.
The LiveWire, apparently you spell it exactly like that, is Harley's first attempt at designing an electric motorcycle. The nice people at Harley, in the shape of the beautiful inked girl you may have seen in a previous post, told me that this has an oil-cooled, longitudinally-mounted 3-phase induction electric unit, whatever that means, producing 75 ps and 71 torques. They also told me that the engine is mounted longitudinally, under the frame, which is unusual. It only weighs 210 kg and they say it'll go from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and while I have no doubt that's possible, I find it hard to believe that you can actually pull it off, which brings me neatly to a solemn conclusion, which is actually just my opinion so don't take it too seriously, and it's this: electric bikes are going to be the future, if there's one thing we've collectively learnt about technology is that it doesn't stop, but they're also somehow... wrong.
You see, I like electric cars because they attempt to solve a problem that motorists face: running costs. Electric cars are still a long way from actually being convenient but since most people use cars for practical reasons only, such as commuting to work or running errands, trying to save on costs makes sense. Also, I like electric cars because they're so damn fast.
Unfortunately, neither of these two things is relevant with bikes for two very simple reasons.
1. People only buy certain motorbikes because they're fun. Nobody gives a damn about convenience when it comes to their Harley-Davidson 883 or their Yamaha R1 or their Ducati 999 because these are leisure machines, not business machines. And you need sound for that. Taking away the sound means a lot in a car, it means even more on a bike.
and 2. I know how incredibly fast, electric vehicles can be. High-performance electric cars are eerily, fantastically quick but that's not a problem because they have four wheels and that's the crucial point. Power and torque are delivered with immediacy and ferociousness because the electric engine has no hesitation. It's not gradual, it's like a switch. And while that's fine if you have four wheels to cope with that, I fear it might be dangerous with a vehicle that's not capable of standing on its own when it's not on the move.