Baffle Culture got invited by Harley-Davidson UK to go to Barcelona, Spain to ride the new electric LiveWire bike. Jamie Hibbard went to see what all of the no-noise was about.
“I’m a live wire, Going to set this town on fire”AC/DC, Live Wire
One of the best things about the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is how much it’s pissed off the internet. I mean, talk about being an antisocial rebel culture, until you do something really rebellious like – hush, how dare you! – bring out an ELECTRIC HARLEY.
There are some really, really mad people about it:
People are MAD.
Had there been Instagram back in the day, these people would be saying this: “They invented this thing called a ‘car’, but I don’t get it, I’ve got a horse.’
Even if you think that, fundamentally, Harley-Davidson – a motorcycle company – shouldn’t even entertain the idea of a future where using electricity is a good idea for vehicles, you can surely at least think that maybe LiveWire might be fun to ride. No? Clearly not.
I don’t mind telling you that closed-minded people freak me the HELL OUT!
I’ve always enjoyed doing stuff that has pissed people off, so I’d been wanting a go on LiveWire since it first appeared as a road-illegal, track-only prototype some years back. I’ve always liked the idea of it. Let me tell you this: electric bikes are damn good fun!
Many years ago, I used to race downhill mountain bikes. I really wasn’t very fast, but I bloody loved it. Lining up in the start house, listening for the beeps to let you out of the gate, the adrenaline was high. As soon as you pedalled out of the gate you had to find your rhythm and make the most of the course.
Whilst hauling down the hill, your senses were elevated to the point where no other thoughts could enter your brain. It was visceral. A spiritually rewarding experience.
That’s what riding LiveWire is like. It’s spiritually nourishing. No joke, after riding it I couldn’t stop smiling about it all day. Or the day after. I’m still talking about it now.
Harley invited me to Spain to hang out with some cool kids and ride LiveWire on proper roads.
I’d had a quick ride on one before y’see – earlier in the year, I rode one up the hillclimb at Goodwood Festival of Speed in the pouring rain.
It was awesome.
The only thing was that then, I was on a brand new bike that no one outside of H-D had ridden in public, and I got to the bike late so my briefing basically consisted of this: “press this switch, push this button and when the lights are green then it’s on. But be careful – all of the power is available immediately. Now, we’ve got to ride from here on this metal road which is literally as slippery as ice. Let’s go!”
And I was off riding. Now what didn’t strike me until much later on, was that 30 seconds after I got on it, I wasn’t even thinking about riding a completely new motorcycle, I was just trying to get to the start line.
Which meant that I was just riding. Gentle on the throttle, the power picked up, the bike made a zipping noise like Batman’s Batcyle in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight: ZZZZZZZiiiiiip.
It was natural and unencumbered, piloting along with zero drama.
I rode up the hill, grinned all the way, rode back down, got off, then didn’t stop talking about it to the Baffle Boys for at least a week. ‘Lads, I need to ride this thing on the road!’ So here we are, in Spain, up in the mountains around Barcelona, and I’m itching to ride. In fact, scratch that – I CAN’T WAIT TO RIDE!
Now I get more of a rider briefing than I did last time. About the charging and the way it works, the pre-programmed riding modes – there’s four: wet, road, eco, sport, plus three customisable ones.
They put it in ‘wet’ first cos it’s a bit damp up the mountain, but while I’m nodding along all I’m thinking is ‘I’m putting it into ‘sport’ the first chance I get’.
Let’s also address the elephant in the room: range. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I know how to live with my iPhone that needs charging, so I know I can live with a bike that needs charging too, it’s just an adjustment from petrol.
(I’ve already scoped out charges in South Wales!).
So honestly, I didn’t pay attention when they talked about range really, I just figured I’d figure it out.
I think it does 140 miles on a full charge – which is way further than a tank of fuel on the Roadster 1200 I had – and if you just plug it into your house, you get 13-miles for an hour of charge. There are faster chargers, which obviously charge the bike faster – 0-100% in 60-minutes.
Anyway, whatever, let’s get out of the garage already!
This bike is walloping good fun. Like, huge, ear-to-ear grin-inducing fun. It’s so effortless and easy – roll the throttle, the massive torque bites into the road and BOOM you’re gone.
It’s so addictive: like racing downhill mountain bikes.
We ride up into the mountains on the wet side, then as soon as we’re onto the dry side I thumb through the engine modes, skipping ‘road’, straight into ‘sport’.
This mode is the one!
So much torque and power, and I also love the regenerative braking – it’s so usable that doing one downhill mountain section on the twisties I didn’t touch the brakes, I just used the regen to scrub speed, apex then exit on the throttle.
I think I heard someone say that if you use the regen properly, you can put 5-miles back into the Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS i.e. ‘battery’) range because it harvests energy, like a KERS set-up on an F1 car.
I’m not a good enough rider to make the most of this bike through corners I don’t know, but hell does LiveWire like corners. If I get to ride one of these on roads that I do know later on this year, well, that’s going to be quite something.
This bike is special, but more than that, it elevates one’s spirit. If you like mountain bikes, bmx, skateboards, snowboards, surfing or any other extreme sport which harnesses your desire to find thrills outside of the mundane day-to-day, then you’ll get this bike.
Not having to think about changing gear frees your mind – there’s nothing going on in the back of your mind thinking about gear selection or clutch action.
Talking of which, not once do I go for the clutch which isn’t there, but some others on our ride do. They have all been riding for longer than me – I’m only at five years – so I guess their muscle memory is harder to break away from.
One of the biggest grins absolutely does not happen when a bunch of us do not line up four abreast at a set of lights, taking up the entire lane like we are on the start line of an MX race.
As soon as the snap comes and the lights go green, we absolutely do not all roll the throttle back to fire off up the road in possibly the first ever electric bike drag race on the planet, and there definitely isn’t a man behind us on a Harley FXDR who we don’t leave behind.
This event never occurs, no sir, and isn’t in any way a microcosmic example of EVs being the future, leaving ICE behind in their wake.
*fires up the Men In Black memory wiping device*
I feel sad now for people on the internet who knock LiveWire – they’re so closed off to new experiences.
I feel much the same about them as I thought about people who said that ‘the internet will never catch on.’
‘You know nothing, Jon Snow.’
LiveWire is quite literally here, and I want one.
It’s HUGE fun. I don’t care if it’s ‘morally wrong,’ doesn’t have an engine, is ‘against god,’ has pissed off the internet, if it’s ‘not a real Harley’ or what the stats are on paper.
Y’know why? Because LiveWire makes me happy. Grins turned up to 11.
So, internet – go burn yourself down while I’m over here riding the future.
All photos @alessiobarbanti @harleydavisonuk