Before we begin, let’s be clear. This is not the Harley-Davidson that you think it is. I want you to dismiss any preconceived notions that you may have about the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. While you’re at it, toss out any existing thoughts that you have on what an electric motorcycle is.
There is always going to be that conversation regarding the nature of fuel-driven vehicles versus electrically driven motors. There is no argument that there is a major difference between the two. They offer completely different experiences for the rider. The roar of the gas-powered motor has a dominating presence compared to the whiz and whirl of an electric powered engine.
Let’s say that you are on a state to state ride on your petro laden steed and you run out of gas. You have options. At the worse, you may have to make that short or long walk to the nearest gas station, purchase a jerry can, fill it with fuel and make the trek back to your bike. A state to state ride on an electric-powered machine takes more planning and a bit of math. The route must be strategically outlined to include charging stations and the distance between each one along the way to your destination. The list of concerns can go on.
By continuing the list of cons versus pros, you are missing out on that most precious seat time. You would be robbing yourself of the experience. Let the worries go. Just for a bit.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is something altogether different. Granted, while it is derivative of today’s modern battery-powered electric vehicles, the LiveWire is carving out its own groove in the EV class. Yes, it’s an electric motorcycle sans the pop and gurgle of a rambunctious motor or the thunder cracking of a gut-punching exhaust pipe… But once the ride begins, you forget about the things that you thought were missing. Read that again…
“Once the ride begins, you will forget about the things that you thought were missing.”
The LiveWire is sleek and attractive. It looks nothing like any Harley-Davidson that I’ve seen before. Slim with aggressive body lines, the ergonomics are comfortable. The riding position is a mix of a relaxed standard yet can get aggressive quickly thanks to the placement of the footpegs and the controls at the handlebar.
It took a moment to get in the habit of not extending my fingers reaching for the clutch lever or tipping my left foot in search of the shift lever. A small distraction that I shortly overcame. Once the LiveWire is powered on, the 4.3 inch TFT color touchscreen dash lights up. This is where all of the bike’s data and info is displayed. You can select options, like one of the multiple ride modes, via the touchscreen or the handlebar switches.
The LiveWire lets you know that it is awake by emitting a haptic pulse. Comparable to a heartbeat, the engine discreetly pulsates instead of idling, only noticeable to you as you are sitting on the bike at a standstill.
The data displayed also includes battery status. The RESS or Renewable Energy Storage System is what Harley-Davidson calls the LiveWire’s regenerative 15.5 kWh high voltage battery. The way the regenerating or self-charging system works is when the throttle is closed and the motor comes to a rest, the battery’s used energy is replaced. On a full charge, the LiveWire possesses a range of 146 miles in city settings where you frequently come to a stop and the RESS can recharge. The mileage range drops to 95 when cruising on the highway or if your ride has fewer stops.
This is where Harley-Davidson stepped up to address the concerns of running out of juice when out on a longer ride. Via the H-D Connect smartphone app, you will find a network of charging locations across the U.S. and Europe that consists of Harley-Davidson dealerships and congenial charging stations such as Electrify America in North America.
There are two methods for charging the LiveWire. Level 1 charging involves the power cord that is stored underneath the bike’s seat. Connected to the bike, the power cord can be plugged into any household outlet with a voltage output of 120 or 140. This method of charging is the longer of the two. It averages out to 13 miles per charging hour. If you have plans to ride in the morning, I recommend plugging in the night before. At the first connection, you’ll hear a gurgling noise, emulating the sound of fuel filling the tank. H-D really did their best to help you dismiss the things that you thought were missing.
The other charging method is the fastest. It uses DC Fast Charge technology that will have the LiveWire’s RESS at full charge in one hour. As mentioned, the network of Fast Charge Stations is listed in the H-D Connect app.
The H-D Connect app is more than a listing of charge stations. With the app installed, the LiveWire connects to your device via BlueTooth and provides a list of features ranging from the bike’s location, charging status and a schedule of notifications that include service and maintenance reminders. One of the highlights is the integration of turn by turn directions that are displayed on the LiveWire’s dash.
Impressive tech does not a motorcycle make. So how does the LiveWire get on with it, as it were? Tire to asphalt, does the performance of the LiveWire take up the slack for what we gas-powered motorcycle zealots may feel is lacking?
The answer is yes. And even then some. Put the conversation of what isn’t there to the side and focus on what is there. The ride.
The LiveWire engine is Harley-Davidson’s Revelation Powertrain that produces 105 horses and a torque output of 86, at 0 rpm. Zero. None. Nada. That means that you have full access to the LiveWire’s horsepower and torque output at your beck and call by simply twisting the throttle.
Twist and go is too basic a description for how quick the LiveWire is. The impressive ride by wire technology eliminates any delay between throttle input and engine output. You roll, it rolls.
The slim bodied LiveWire handles curves with an exhilarating exhibition of agility and nimbleness. Don’t be fooled by the slimness. The LiveWire weighs just under 550 pounds. However, it’s mostly all battery weight…
The LiveWire introduces the Harley-Davidson Reflex Defensive Riding System. The RDRS combines cornering ABS, cornering traction control rear wheel lift mitigation, drag torque slip control to offer a comprehensive suite of rider assists. There a four ride modes: Rain, Road, Sport, and Range. Additionally, three custom modes allow you to customize the RDRS’s level of engagement.
The LiveWire employs an impressive list of components that separate it from the other electric motorcycles on the market today. Showa big piston front forks and a Showa rear mono-shock compose the LiveWire’s suspensions system. 300mm dual front rotors and Brembo four-piston monobloc, radial-mount front calipers make up the LiveWire’s standard ABS braking system. With a lean angle of 45 degrees and the employed suspension and braking setup, the LiveWire is a fun ride on the backroads and twisties.
At the root of it, I much prefer the rumble and tumbles of a gas-powered engine with a booming exhaust system to send a fair warning to cagers that I am also on the road, to stay in their lane and out of mine. And as much I appreciate and like the LiveWire, I struggle with two things issues. One is specific to the LiveWire. I do miss the sounds and vibrations that I believe a motorcycle should make. The emotions of it all. I understand that this is how it is, regardless of the brand, as it comes to electric bikes. The lament is a moot point.
The other issue that stands out is the price tag. The LiveWire is available in two color options and priced as follows: Vivid Black $29,799 and Color $30,149. Those numbers make it a potentially hard sell. This is LiveWire’s dilemma. Harley-Davidson purists will be intrigued but may ultimately feel that they are perhaps betraying the H.O.G. oath that they swore to if they were to purchase one. The non-Harley-Davidson rider will be enthralled by the LiveWire after riding it and would perhaps be willing to take the same H.O.G. oath and join the fold. That is until they see the price tag. I’m not saying that the price is a deal-breaker. I’m saying that the price makes it a hard deal. And that’s a shame.
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is a great bike. I enjoyed every moment with it. I was a little upset when I had to return it. But for the average rider who is not fortunate enough to be a moto-journalist, short of dealer supported demo rides and events, they may never get a chance to spend quality time with and come to appreciate all that the LiveWire brings to the table. An opportunity, missed.
The LiveWire is packed with a lot of technology, bells and whistles. There is a lot to geek out about. However, if your posture leans more toward the gear head side of things, you will not be disappointed by the LiveWire’s performance. This is not some high priced electric scooter. The LiveWire is the real deal. Perhaps not for everyone but for those that are interested in what the future of electric vehicles holds, the LiveWire is not the Harley-Davidson you thought it was. It’s the Harley-Davidson that you might be missing.