LiveWire S2 Del Mar - First Ride
By GARETH CHARLTON - 24 Oct 23
This was a ride I have long craved. Back in April, LiveWire held their S2 Del Mar first look event at Bike Shed Shoreditch before bringing that same launch edition to our ‘23 Show. Having already had my mind less altered, more blown-apart by my time with the mighty LiveWire One, the flat-track focus of the Del Mar concept, had me at hello. At a time where electric is largely powering practical, pragmatic and politically cognisant transport, LiveWire are nailing their company colours to the fun mast.Instead of looking to pursue that electric motorcycle nadir of range (and bringing with it, inevitable weight) LiveWire have instead chosen to strip the Del Mar right back. Where do Electric motorcycles excel? Within city limits and on short, dynamic rides. That is the laser focus of the Del Mar, and the thinking behind the European launch in the dreamy city of Barcelona. A tight, bustling metropolis, with a mountainous playground on its doorstep.Arriving on a flight so early it was still late, I had a chance to take in the city and speak with members of the Del Mar design team before flicking up the kick-stand. My first question, when was the flat-track direction of LiveWire’s latest platform determined? The answer, day one. The first sheet of paper was not blank, it was a picture of the iconic Harley-Davidson XR750. A machine of pure purpose and zero fuss. And despite the complex engineering at play, the Del Mar can boast the very same ethos. Visuals are always subjective, but to my eyes, it’s a home-run. Finally the time came to lift that stand. The cockpit may prove faintly familiar to Harley-holics with company gauges, switchgear and a headlight though originally from their Sportster S, that has found its spiritual home on the Del Mar. Beyond that, this is an entirely new platform. Parts in common with the LiveWire One are reportedly zero. The striking, finned 10.5 KWH battery (vs 15.4 in the One) dominates the bike. A minimal headstock bolts to the front of it whilst the subframe, shock and motor hang from its rear and lower sections. The tank is referred to instead as a “top cover” whilst the box in front of the motor (resembling a sump-guard) contains the “electronics package.”Wide, tracker style bars combine with the surprising leg-room and comfortable seat to position you perfectly “in” rather than “on” the bike, poised to slice through traffic or carve canyon roads. Exiting the city in silent convoy, we exchange casual conversation and revel in a throttle so silky smooth that any concern low-speed control might be hampered by the absence of a clutch, is swiftly allayed.
With the sun radiating a heat British shores have already forgotten for the year, I am reminded of the added bonus of a heat-free motor. The whole package makes city riding unbelievably calm. With the gentlest of the three preset modes engaged you could dart cross town for countless hours, or 113 miles, whichever comes first. Having experienced the S2’s imperious progress through its nominated habitat, it was time to switch from “Range” to “Road” and hit the highway.Bursts of enticing slip-road surge led to easy progress on mundane carriageway before we turned for the mountains. With one more click into “Sport” mode, the Del Mar truly came to life. Holy Hell this thing rips. 84hp with 200kg would suggest vaguely comparable on-paper performance with my daily petrol-powered ride, but a staggering 194 lb ft of torque, some four times that of my combustion comparison, completely changes the game.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 go go. With patches of the road surface still greasy from the previous evening showers, I am thankful for the sophisticated ABS and traction control systems as I chase the fast disappearing Charley Boorman higher into the hills. Having found his way to the hidden Flat-Track mode that disables all rider aids and unleashes 20% more shift, he is clearly looking to preserve his front tyre, lifting the front at every opportunity… As we climb that city agility gives way to corner composure as the dual 19’s (clad with specifically developed Dunlop tyres) provide grip and feedback. It was a special ride, revealing that despite its primary remit of the city, it would be a travesty if Del Mar owners didn’t also look to explore the edges of its considerable capacity. We stop for lunch and photographs high above the city and talk inevitably turns to range and how much more of this entertainment we can enjoy. So to the stats. In the circumstances where internal combustion engines see their range increase, typically electric platforms provide lower returns. So those 113 city miles drop to between 60 and 80 when “combined” and deplete to an anxiety-inducing 40 odd at a sustained 70 mph. So, definitely not as far as your appetite for the Del Mars talents may crave. You would have to make a very deliberate plan before heading to far afield, but trust me you should.All of which points to why the Del Mar so squarely targets the urban environment. Personally I have a fairly typical UK commute of 10 or 12 miles each way (depending on my mood), into a cracking spot in East London… The Del Mar would fit absolutely perfectly into this routine. With a midweek charge and a top up for the weekend as and when I had the chance for a few hours fun.The more I contemplated existing with the Del Mar, the more I realised its intentions align with 95% of my motorcycle usage. And the more I wanted one. With one caveat. It would have to form part of a two machine garage. For that 5% of the time that my motorcycle also provides that opportunity for travel, escape and adventure. But I’d wager in this glorious two-bike alternate reality, the Del Mar would raise more smiles, and cover many more miles… Try one.