Weekend Herald

READY TO ROCK

Fi­nally, Kiwi rid­ers can plug into Har­leyDavid­son’s first fully elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle

- Mathieu M D DAY- GIL­LETT Motorcycles · Consumer Goods · Harley-Davidson · United States of America · Washington · Milwaukee · Michelin · Coromandel · Motorcycle Design

It’s been a long wait but fi­nally, Kiwi rid­ers can plug into Har­ley- David­son’s first fully elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle — the LiveWire.

Launched this week to the mo­tor­ing press at Pukekohe Park Race­way, the $ 53,995 LiveWire is a con­tro­ver­sial model in the Har­ley line- up. In fact, I’d go as far as to say no new model has been as po­lar­is­ing as the rev­o­lu­tion­ary EV, which steps far away from Har­leyDavid­son’s tra­di­tional cus­tomer base, and one year af­ter its in­ter­na­tional launch in Amer­ica is still the only fully elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle from any of the tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Po­si­tioned as the halo of a yetto- be- re­leased range of EVs by Har­ley, the lack of the tra­di­tional potato- potato- potato ex­haust note and sporty styling im­me­di­ately sets the LiveWire apart from the rest of the Har­leyDavid­son range.

It’s the quick­est, most dy­namic and, in my opin­ion, fun mo­tor­cy­cle in the brand’s cur­rent lineup.

The LiveWire is pow­ered for­wards by a 15.5kWh lithium- ion bat­tery and an in­ter­nal per­ma­nent mag­netic syn­chro­nous mo­tor H- D calls its Rev­e­la­tion pow­er­train. Power it­self is rated at 78kW and 116Nm from 0rpm, with the mo­tor it­self spin­ning up to 15,000rpm and a top speed of 177km/ h.

Charg­ing that large centrally mounted bat­tery takes 40 minutes on a DC fast charger to reach 80 per cent, while a full charge takes just an hour in the same sys­tem.

In­ter­est­ingly, Har­ley- David­son rec­om­mends us­ing the DC sys­tem for only one out of ev­ery four charges to maintain bat­tery life ( the bat­tery does, how­ever, have a five- year un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty) with a full charge off an AC wall socket tak­ing 12.5 hours from dead flat.

The Pros

Dy­nam­i­cally the LiveWire is the sporti­est ride from Mil­wau­kee in a very long time. With a Street­fighter style rid­ing po­si­tion and no ex­haust to get in the way, the bike can lean up to 45 de­grees on each side, while the fac­tory- fit­ted Miche­lin Scorcher tyres do a sur­pris­ingly good job of keep­ing that tremen­dous burst of in­stant power in firm con­tact with the ground.

With Pukekohe Park all to our­selves, we could legally open up the LiveWire to use ev­ery Watt of power. A good thing too, as that top speed of 177km/ h is achieved well be­fore the back straight chi­cane.

With four pre- set rider modes ( Sport, High­way, Rain and Eco) plus three cus­tom modes where you can ad­just ev­ery­thing from the amount of throt­tle, re­gen­er­a­tion and power, the bike is also quite adapt­able. Trac­tion con­trol is switch­able too — and I’m not sure I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing that can light up the rear tyre quite like the LiveWire.

There’s plenty of other tech un­der the skin of the LiveWire as well, in­clud­ing Har­ley’s cor­ner­ing ABS sys­tem, trac­tion con­trol and a touch screen dash that al­lows you to change the way all the bike’s im­por­tant info is dis­played.

Ser­vic­ing costs are way down as well, mean­ing fewer trips to the deal­er­ship. With the belt drive said

to be good for 100,000km, the only an­nual ser­vice item to worry about is the oil in the drive sys­tem, with the odd change of brake pads, brake fluid and the coolant that cools the elec­tric mo­tor and charg­ing sys­tem as the only other ser­vice items on the en­tire bike.

Then there’s the cost of charg­ing it up, which through a pay DC charger is around $ 10. Sure, it takes up to an hour to fill but that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than petrol.

The Cons

I per­son­ally don’t think there are that many cons to the LiveWire con­sid­er­ing its de­sign purpose.

Yes, its range is lim­ited to 235km in ideal ur­ban con­di­tions and be­tween 100- 200km high­way, but for most quick jaunts it’s ac­tu­ally plenty of charge and is silly amounts of fun sling­shot­ting out of cor­ners.

With the charg­ing in­fras­truc­ture around the coun­try con­tin­u­ally im­prov­ing, there’s a DC fast charger nearby in all the ma­jor cen­tres and a trip around the golden tri­an­gle of Auck­landHamil­ton- Tau­ranga is to­tally doable. You just need to fac­tor in charge times.

With just two of­fi­cial deal­er­ships — Auck­land Har­ley- David­son and Road & Sport in Hamil­ton — the dealer sup­port for the bike is also lim­ited to just the up­per North Is­land. Not a huge deal con­sid­er­ing the lack of many con­sum­able ser­vice items but still a pain for any in­ter­ested rid­ers from the Deep South.

Per­haps the only real neg­a­tive to the LiveWire’s de­sign is the over­sight for hill park­ing. With no gear­box or en­gine to lock the bike in place, the bike can­not be parked on a hill with­out plonk­ing some­thing like a brick on the rear brake or lock­ing the front brake shut. A cer­tain de­sign over­sight but, again, it’s not the end of the world.

Go­ing into pet peeve ter­ri­tory I did find that the joint where the frame and sub­frame meet dug a lit­tle into my thighs when I tried to get both feet down on the ground. Slightly un­com­fort­able but eas­ily al­le­vi­ated by just putting my left foot down and rest­ing the other on the rear brake.

LiveWire won’t con­vert ev­ery­one to the elec­tric cause. Its price tag alone is the big­gest off­putting fac­tor, but that is what you get for a cut­ting- edge pre­mium prod­uct.

For some, the lack of that tra­di­tional potato- potato- potato sound­track is enough to war­rant abuse over so­cial me­dia as they swear black and blue that they’ll never swing a leg over the bike. It’s their loss re­ally. There is noth­ing on earth quite like the LiveWire.

At the time of writ­ing, only one LiveWire has of­fi­cially made it into pri­vate hands ( with a cou­ple more wait­ing to be de­liv­ered) and was sold by Hamil­ton’s Road & Sport. The owner, in his 50s and al­ready an owner of a tra­di­tional H- D prod­uct, bought his LiveWire as a com­muter and that is re­ally where the bike can shine.

That said, as soon as I get my hands on one of the lo­cal press fleet, I’m tak­ing aim at the Coro­man­del Loop to see if one of the coun­try’s great­est day trips is achiev­able on the stupidly fun Har­ley- David­son.

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