— Tips

Is the LiveWire all it's cracked up to be?

 With the production and pending release of Harley-Davidson’s latest (and first) electric motorcycle the LiveWire now back on track, we thought we’d share our experience with it.

A couple of years ago, our very own Fred Madderom was invited to fly over and test-ride the LiveWire Prototype on the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. After a lot of arm-twisting (not), he took a seat on a Singapore Airlines flight to go take a seat on the yet to be released electric LiveWire ‘handmade’ prototype.

To quote Fred in one word “fanbloodytastic”… I really did love riding it.

But first, let’s take a step back… Arriving at the Sepang International Racing Circuit, we were given a hurried (pre-rain) briefing and were soon ready to check out our ride… the all new LiveWire prototype.

After signing our lives away and getting a mug shot, we were given a quick briefing of the controls and the power train, followed by a ‘test’ run (up and back in an open area) to see if we could actually ride and stay upright. Surprisingly, two journalists with us at the time, couldn’t pass the test. Unlucky for some! They must have also missed out on getting the LiveWire T-shirt and Cap.

This bike looked seriously stylish, although looking more like a sports bike (or a Buell) than what you’d traditionally expect to see from Harley-Davidson. And the riding position was fairly akin to a more traditional sports bike as well, with a more forward lean over the tank. All in all though, a pretty comfortable seating arrangement on the short ride I had though, I must admit.

Now boasting 0 to 100 in under 3 seconds, (they've knocked a good second off since I rode it) boy did that bike seriously take off! Having no clutch means it’s always set, and ready to go. The drive train looks like there’s not much there, but even in low power or ‘Range mode’, it flew like the wind. Sounded a bit like it too. No traditional Harley sound coming out of this bike. Only a slight whirr, but even that was left behind me as I accelerated around the track with the wind caught in my helmet. We never did find out what the ‘Sports mode’ could do.

Now I know the ‘traditional’ Harley riders will say, “if it doesn’t have the upright riding position and the traditional exhaust sound that Harley are renowned for… it isn’t a Harley.”

It had Harley-Davidson branding on it, so it must have been a Harley. The world is a changing feast… many things change over time. Some people want the things they love the most, never to change.

Now back to aesthetics, this Harley oozes style. Although I must admit, I didn’t realise that it had rear vision mirrors hidden behind my hands and arms under the handlebars until I left the circuit a while later. Perhaps I’m too used to seeing them above the handlebars, or perhaps I was just having too much fun to notice. Either way, I clearly wasn’t the only one, because they’ve now moved them back up to the more traditional location on the production bike.

The LiveWire has no gears, no gearbox and no clutch. So there’s not much you need to do except rotate the throttle… and rotate it does! The further you rotate the faster it goes, and as smooth as you like. When you decelerate, the engine's regenerative braking system is enough to bring you back down to a cornering speed without even using the brakes. Power is at 78kW, while the torque is around 116Nm. Compared to other Harleys on the market, theLiveWire is an incredibly quick bike. It seriously is going to take on any vehicle from a standing start. Although I note that H-D have set it for a maximum speed of 95mph or 153kph.

My only complaint, the test ride wasn’t long enough! Seriously though, the one downside for us long distance riders out here is that at most, the current model will only go 140 miles max in highway range only, we may have to wait for the battery life to improve considerably before we can add it to our collection. Although if they make it easy and cheap enough to swap a battery (or 3) in a minute, it might just be enough.

A mighty tempting option for a commuter though - I can see myself already, sitting in Sydney traffic, at the lights and accelerating off the line like a bullet. I’ll be a hundred metres up the road in the bus lane, the rest of the traffic still making their way across the intersection! But with a price tag in the US ‘starting at’ $30,000 I can only imagine it selling here in Australia around the $50K mark… that’ll slow me down.

Fred Madderom - Steel Horse Moto