LIVEWIRE ONE | BACK TO THE FUTURE
By GARETH CHARLTON - 20 Oct 22
This is not about the future. E-fuel, alt-fuel, hydrogen, electric… who knows what two-wheeled transportation will look like further down the line. This is instead about the here and now, today and tomorrow, where alternatives already ride amongst us.
First up a confession. I have not been in the least interested. Do not misunderstand me, I have two, very small, very important reasons (that keep me awake most nights) to want to preserve this rock of ours. I always endeavour to do my bit, but I have knowingly neglected to apply this focus to my motorcycling habit. I know I need to accept the inevitable march of progress, but I will forever be more inspired by what has been than what is to come - a different take on recycling, perhaps.
Rather than sit with the nerds in I.T and Computer Science I spent my formative years in the Archaeology and History rooms. Today, I couldn’t tell you the model of my iphone and the prospect of a watch that needs charging makes my wrist break out in a rash. In short, I am not the tech-loving, future craving, early-adopter that the majority of LiveWire nerds customers will likely be. No Question, I am a tough crowd for this test ride. And (whisper it) I don’t really get Harleys...
But wait, it’s not a Harley anymore? Over to the man in charge in Milwaukee.
“We recognized the pioneering spirit and brand value in LiveWire for our community and took the decision to evolve the original LiveWire motorcycle into a dedicated EV brand.”
Both a brave and understandable decision. As a machine the LiveWire always felt somewhat outside of the traditional Harley stable. More akin to what Erik Buell would have made had Harley originally launched this power unit in a Sportster or Fatboy inspired platform. And you know what? I really like Buells.
Walking around the LiveWire the Harley ownership is still apparent. The HD shield adorns the petrol/charger cap and the full name wraps around the specifically developed Michelin “Scorcher Sport” rubber. Fat grips and a brake lever like a skillet handle also reinforce the factory heritage. But beyond those elements the aggressively hunched tank and slim, high seat-unit remind instead of the original Ducati Monster and again, the Buell back catalogue - a great reference list that adds up to without question the best looking machine in its class.
Time to fire it up. Thankfully the TFT screen helps me navigate the plethora of bar buttons and we are ready to go, I think. A gentle pulse through the bars lets you know you are “live” and with the first of what would be many gropes for an absent clutch lever we are off. At the recommendation of the delivery guy I head out in rain mode to soften the power delivery. The stance is immediately and thankfully familiar as my brain recalibrates to the reduced riding task list. Stop and Go.
I make it approximately half a mile before deciding I am ready for the unfiltered version and mash the buttons until the rain cloud in the top right of the screen is replaced by an enticing red S, that'll be the Sport mode. An empty slip road opens up before me, time to see what this instant torque is all about. Great Scott! The surge is astounding, the previously silent forward motion is replaced by the whirring of a Pod-Racer and the world races forward at light speed. I could quote HP figures but they seem meaningless such is the difference in delivery versus a combustion unit. The complete lack of preparation for propulsion in the form of gears, revs or clutch makes the immediacy of the power delivery an addictive hit. Twist and Go. My mind races back to 1998 and the seared-in experience of taking a bigger kids two stroke Italjet Dragster 180 around the block…
Back to 2022 and the taught suspension, fierce brakes and fat rubber relay supreme confidence and soon enough I am riding as if the entire Galactic Empire fleet is hot on my tail. Of course it is not necessary to ride the LiveWire this way, but it is utterly addictive. There is seemingly no correlation between current road speed and available warp thrust. Be it 20-40, 40-60, 60 to a bit more, that immediacy always surprises. Pick a spot a few hundred yards up the road and the LiveWire will have you there before you can say “plasma cannon”.
It is just such a totally different experience (one that 120 riders sampled over a weekend of test rides out of our Shoreditch HQ) as much defined by what is absent as what is present. The limited controls, lack of noise, of heat, an exhaust. The heightened awareness of the suspension and road surface that comes with the near silent progress. It is an entirely separate genre of two-wheel experience. And that silence - there is huge joy to be had stealthily rolling into your street in the dead of night, whisper-quiet. A sleeping fox raised barely a whisker as I parked up a few feet away.
Plugged into my domestic socket overnight it was more than ready to go in the morning. Range depends on your abuse of the throttle but 90-140 miles is expected and workable. I watched enough Long Way Up to know that longer trips require careful planning but for 90% of my riding it wouldn’t be an issue. There is even a fast charger at work… Hang on - am I seriously considering this? Could it replace my idea of a motorcycle?
Well, no. But also yes. I would miss the bangs and the pops, the control points and the familiarity of combustion and my romantic attachment to it. But, if I had the space and means for two machines, while one unashamedly would be a nostalgic fossil-fuel drinker, the other could very well be a LiveWire. Because they both do the same thing so very differently. I know that when the delivery man returns to collect the LiveWire, I will absolutely miss it too. The whoosh and the whirr, the simplicity and the excitement of this new mode of transport.
Contrary to my expectations, I am absolutely convinced. So whilst I may always lean toward the fedora clad version of Mr Ford, Han Solo also had a solid point when he foresaw “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”...