The Electrocution of Motorcycles

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A car is fundamentally an appliance.

While a few are bought and kept for the fun of it or because the buyer likes the looks of it, at the end of the day, a car is about getting from A to B affordably, comfortably and practically for most people who buy them.

Motorcycles are fundamentally about fun; their practicality as transportation is a perk but not the point. Most people who own a motorcycle also own a car. They ride the bike when they can – for the fun of it.

Electrification will put an end to that.

Because electrification takes away almost everything that makes a motorcycle fun – and affordable and practical, too.

The firing up of the engine; the feeling of it vibrating and the sound of it roaring. The shifting and clutching; the using of both your hands and both your feet to control the action, simultaneously – involving you in the action as an integral part of it.

Most of all, the freedom to just go – and stay gone.

Electric bikes have an On and Off switch, accompanied by a click, perhaps – and that’s it. There is no vibration, no roar. Perhaps a whirr, like a drill. There is not much to do. You sit – and it goes. But not for long and not for little (more on that follows).

An electric motorcycle is functionally more of a moped or scooter in that it moves forward when you rotate the throttle but there are no gears to shift, no clutch to work.

It may look like a motorcycle. Just as plastic food used for display purposes at stores that sell kitchen furniture looks like food. But it’s not the real thing, in either case.

They are both ersatz things. Not the genuine thing. Substitutes. Frauds, even.

Non-electric motorcycles also have the virtue of being different – also part of the fun – whereas electric motorcycles are fundamentally the same, other than size and color (like drills, again). A real Harley has a big V-twin and makes a sound that only a Harley makes. A 14,000 RPM-capable Kawasaki inline four makes an entirely different sound. As does a twisted twin or a single.

Bikers know all about this.

Real motorcycles also have entirely different power bands and other characteristics, which give them each a different personality and so different reasons for buying one rather than another vs. the same electric NPC non-personality you get with a bike that hasn’t got an engine at all.

Or gears.

Or a clutch.

Just . . . whirrrrr.

Mopeds and scooters (basically, larger mopeds) also have the advantage of being considerably less expensive than motorcycles, making them more practical than motorcycles for people looking to get from A to B as inexpensively as possible.

Plus, almost anyone can ride a Moped or Scooter, there being little skill required.

Electric bikes, on the other hand, cost much more than real motorcycles – and thus are much less practical than Mopeds and scooters – and for reasons that go beyond their much higher cost.

In addition to the cost of the fun you won’t have because of the skill – and rider involvement – not required.

The Harley LiveWire, for example. This two-wheeled equivalent of plastic food starts just under $30,000 – which is about twice as much as a generally similar “standard” non-electric bike and more than most family cars cost – while limiting how far you can ride on the highway to less than 100 miles before you run out of juice and are forced to wait for hours to get back on the road.

This means you dare not ride the electric Harley much farther than 40 or so miles from home (and plug) without risking being unable to get back home to plug. It’s actually less than that because unlike a non-electric bike, which runs the same until you run out of gas completely, the electric bike begins to run weakly as it gets close to running out of range. It slows down, as the software tries desperately – pathetically – to keep it at least moving for a little while longer because once it stops, you are stuck.

So much for the open road. So much for fun. So much for the point of it all.

Which is why electric bikes aren’t selling.

Hilariously – sadly – Harley says its LiveWire is the “best selling” electric bike in the U.S. Which is true – because there are almost no other electric bikes for sale in the U.S., other than a bike called – appropriately – the Zero. Which has sold a few more bikes than that, but not many.

Because such bikes appeal to people who like motorcycles in the same way that plastic food appeals to the hungry.

Which is why they (i.e., the political and corporate nudgers, with the power to force-nudge the rest of us toward the things they want us to accept) will force electric bikes onto the road by forcing non-electric bikes off the road, as they have begun doing very aggressively with cars.

It will be even more obnoxious in terms of its justifications – given that a gas-burning motorcycle is much more efficient than almost any gas-burning car, including hybrid-electric cars. The typical 1,000 cc gas-engined bike averages close to 50 MPG and delivers “ludicrous” speed without needing earth-rape quantities of toxic cobalt and graphite and doesn’t add an amp or watt of load to the grid, which emits zero additional gasses to keep such a bike on the road.

But it will serve the purpose of choking-out motorcycling by making motorcycles unaffordable and impractical, which serves the same purpose as the force-nudging of the volk into electric electric cars, that of restricting mobility and thereby increasing the control of them, the nudgers.

If we let them continue with their nudging.

Perhaps, as the reality of electrification – as opposed to the fantasy peddled by the media organs, the wholly-owned subsidiary of them – begins to dawn on the volk, the volk will finally decide it has had enough of being nudged.

And will nudge back.

. . .

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37 COMMENTS

  1. Just test ride a Zero Electric before hating on them because they are a lot less than the Harley you mentioned! I just bought a Zero FX and I’m loving it! It has 87 ft/lbs of torque which is the same as my old stroker Vulcan classic, but at 289 lbs and the power is all there at 1 rpm. It is actually really nice not having to deal with the loud, hot exhaust! I thought the noise maker thing Harley added was just silly, but my zero kind of sounds like a jet taking off when I get into it! Having a quiet bike in the trails is serene and 70 miles of range will do a lot of trails. I’ve been riding for thirty years and this thing scares me bad enough that I run it at 40% power.

    • Hi David,

      Naturally, some people will like these electric whatever-they-ares and that’s fine – free choice is great – but the worry I have is that we’re to be denied free choice. The EV juggernaut is largely artificial – driven by “zero emissions” mandates and government subsidies. It requires both because of the ongoing EV problems of high cost and low practicality. 70 miles on trails isn’t so bad, I agree. It is about half the range of a 250cc dirt bike, though – and the dirt bike’s rider isn’t tethered to a cord nor hobbled by the wait.

      There is also the matter of this thing not having an gears to shift, no clutch to work. For most riders, that’s a big part of what makes a motorcycle not a scooter/moped. No offense meant!

      • No offense taken, I’m just glad to be part of the conversation! My free choice led me to the torque and the eco crap had nothing to do with it! Actually inflation and supply chain problems led me to my purchase! Zero told a dealer I was talking to that they could not supply any more of this bike this year: the supply chain crunch. Then Shaowstats puts inflation at 11% while my credit union is willing to give me 3.4%! I am usually very anit-debt but in a strong inflationary period I figured I was going to get one thing I wanted so I can pay it back in inflated dollars.

        I do miss the clutch, catching a gear, and the visceral effect of a big v-twin, but after a few hundred rpms they are lifting to shift while my front wheel is ready to lift! I think the noise it makes is all belt, supersonic zipper? Dunno, but it is the coolest part of the experience so I think you’re dismissing some amazing new motorcycles because of nostalgia!

        • Hi David,

          Amen re inflation! I’m doing similar – by buying supplies and other useful things myself. I’ve been considering silver but leaning toward food and ways to create food as being the smarter move for me, in my circumstances.

          On the Zero: It’s not nostalgia that underpins my view; it is that I want to ride a motorcycle – no offense meant – and the Zero is a scooter that looks like one. It’s not the form of propulsion that defines that. It’s the action that defines that. On a scooter, you rotate the right grip – and that’s it. On a motorcycle, you engage/disengage the clutch and shift; it is an essential/defining attribute. It provides a degree of control over the bike that you don’t have otherwise and requires a higher level of skill, which is a big intangible part of riding that separates it from driving – and scootering.

          Even leaving that aside, one can buy a brand-new Honda CRF250 for under $8k; it’ll go much farther – full tilt – than the Zero FXS, which costs substantially more and is much less capable.

          Also,less durable – financially and functionally. I’ve owned a number dirt bikes and dual sports; bought some that were 20 years old – had some that I kept that long. These machines last decades. One can rebuild a simple air-cooled single for a small sum, without specialized tools. Good to go another decade – and then another again. An electric bike, like an electric car, will lose range as its battery ages; it will hold less charge – and when it no longer holds a charge, it must be replaced at a disproportionately high cost relative to the value of the bike itself.

          It just doesn’t make any sense to me. You pay more for less – and it ends up costing you more, later.

  2. You make an interesting point with the “whirr”. My son is (in the watered down parlance of 2021) “on the spectrum”, and he cannot stand the sound of most electric motors. According to his doctor, it’s a very common, and very real thing for autistic kids to be thrown into meltdowns by the high frequency monotone of electrics. This kid has been around dragstrips since birth, and has never been bothered by any IC engine, from stock 4 bangers to 10,000 horse fuelers – he can’t ride in an electric golf cart, or even come into the kitchen when the blower is running. For reasons beyond my understanding, he can’t stand my Bridgeport, but the lathe doesn’t bother him even though the motors are identical.

    All this electric nonsense is doing is opening up a giant rat’s nest of new problems. Just because of this topic, I think I’m going to drag my ratty old XR250 out of the garage tomorrow and spend the day forgetting that the outside world exists.

  3. I don’t get why Harley does not look into their own history and remake a bike from 1910 or something like Janus makes….the smaller 500cc bikes with a small v twin with the brass/cast iron look, but low-key modern tech/safety (i don’t mean electronics/ABS/throttle by wire, just no cotton string carbs, spark advance, and leather belt drum brakes, total loss oil). I would totally buy one, and i’m in their target demographic being almost 34.
    Not that i’m complaining, but I will continue to enjoy my ’86FXRD and 78 CB750F

    • Corporate leadership has become fossilized, afraid of taking a chance at making a mistake. It is too easy to destroy a company (not GameStop style), too easy to put blame on CEO decisions, for innovation.

      I’d love to see something like the Honda CB 250 I saw on a video the other day. Nice basic bike for around town riding.

      • Morning, RK!

        A bike powered by a 250 cc air-cooled single will generally average around 80 MPG and costs almost nothing to maintain as the engine generally only needs a quart or so of oil plus a filter every once in awhile, a spark plug every once in awhile and an air filter every once in awhile. Such a bike is about as close to free (powered) transportation as it gets.

      • There is a lot of small DOT approved bikes on the market today. Such as the CB300F and KTM Duke 390 from $4-6K, etc…. Good stuff.
        Unfortunately, they are all (I think) liquid cooled now because of EPA.
        There are still small air cooled offerings as well, and a few Suzuki VanVan200, Kawi KLR230, Yam TW200 and XT250, but these will not perform well on faster roads.
        So I think if one wants a small faster street capable machine, they exist, but water cooled. If air cooled they exist too, but will not do faster roads well at all.

  4. Interesting and mostly true perspective. Between cars and motorcycles it would make more sense to have the bikes electrified as they are lower weight and could have much better range with a given battery. The con’s as you list are the visceral traits that we will miss with both cars and bikes when the authoritarian diktats have reached their ultimate end.

  5. Electric bikes are huge in my community…..

    That is, e-bikes, battery assist bicycles. A Class III e-bike is speed regulated to 28 mph, fast enough for any senior.

    • I, for one, love e-bikes, though they are sold for ridiculous prices.

      However, if you get a pawn-shop mountain bike and outfit it with a 1,000 watt hub motor and a 15A, 48 volt battery, you can have a righteous, fun and fast e-bike for about $550-$600, with a range of ~25 miles.

    • Hi Rich,

      I like the (small but maybe growing) trend in bikes toward elemental “standard” type/unfaired bikes like the Kawasaki Z900 (an updated/water-cooled reboot of the classic Z1900) and also affordable middleweight bikes in the 500-ish cc class; these are the kinds of bikes that get people into bikes and the more of that, the better for everyone who likes bikes!

  6. RANGE is a big thing. Although I do like the thought of no oil changes or air filter cleaning. One dusty day on my dirt bike and you clean the air filter and my off-road bike only holds 1 qt of oil that gets changed every 5 hours run time.

  7. Get yourself a battery-powered chain saw with a 40 volt lithium-ion battery that can change out in seconds, have two batteries. A 40 volt lithium-ion battery in a small chain saw cuts like crazy. Still have an ice Stihl for bigger jobs.

    Should be able to manufacture a motorcycle with a battery pack that can be removed in less than a minute at a battery depot where batteries are charged constantly. Have batteries to go fully charged, problem solved.

    Going to have to locate a new coal-fired power plant to generate electricity 15 miles east of Sturgis.

    Just drive your F-250 with a trailer and have a couple of electric motorcycles inside the trailer, you’ll be able to haul beer in the pickup truck bed like everybody does now when the go to the bike rally in Sturgis.

    Maybe forget about all of that and have gas at gas stations, those work too.

    Go for a joy ride up in the Black Hills down to Custer.

    • I’d certainly take a good battery-powered chainsaw over the two-stroke nightmare of having to start the stubborn gas-powered SOB 50 times while you’re cutting wood.

      • Watch the movie ‘Rancho Deluxe’, you’ll feel the pain of a chain saw that won’t start.

        You have to buy a Stihl and follow the starting instructions, buy the Stihl fuel additive.

        No problemo.

        The preference is a lithium-ion battery chain saw, Stihl has one, so they know what is probably just as good and maybe even better.

      • I have a Stihl 028 chainsaw that is rapidly approaching antique status, being more than 30 years old. Since I myself am also approaching antique status, I don’t use it often. Sometimes a year or more between uses. When I do put it into service, it is a bit finicky about starting, which is understandable after a year or more. Once started and warmed up, it becomes a piece of cake to restart. If you have a chainsaw that is always a problem to start, It’s either out of adjustment, needs maintenance, or was poorly designed, as is often the case with the cheaper brands. For many of my 67 years I have heated with wood exclusively, so I know of that which I speak. If you have an ongoing problem starting a chain saw, the problem isn’t the chain saw, unless you took the route of the least expensive. It’s the operator. In a related incident, I once had a two cycle boat motor that was stored in an old barn for five years or more. When I sold my boat, which had a different motor on it, I threw in the one in storage. Took it out of the barn, hung it on a barrel full of water, filled it with fresh fuel, choked it and pulled the rope three times. It started, stuttered and died. Opened the choke and it started and ran fine, on one pull. There is nothing inherently difficult in starting a two cycle engine, if adjusted and maintained. Same as four cycle.

        • Well, mine might be the fairly el-cheapo version (Poulan), though I might have had fuel problems here and there. Contrast to the electric (corded) version I also have, it seems most a hemorrhoid, as even if it is one of its better moods, you still seem to have to jerk on the bastard 500 times in the course of cutting up a few trees.

          But you maybe right about the operator in some cases.

          Damn it Jim, I’m a scientist, not a lumberjack!

          • I’ve been running lots of saws for over 25 years on my wood farm. Started with a very old Stihl 034S and still have it.
            I migrated to several others of what they call Farm&Ranch and Pro saws over the years. Think I have 4-5 of them.
            The interesting part is I needed a small unit to leave on my tractor for unsuspected down-fall when I’m away from the barn, and not have to crawl a mile back and forth to clear my path. So I picked up what they call a ‘homeowner’ saw, not expecting much. I now have 4 of those and they have never failed me other than self-inflicted ‘running them over with the tractor’ kind of mistakes.
            I learned something from my Stihl dealer. I did have problems with a few saws and the ‘new’ crap ethanol fuel literally pitted the carbs to junk. It ruined 2-3 saws of mine and they weren’t worth fixing. The guy told me around 6-8 years ago Stihl changed their metallurgy of their carbs to help with the problem and I haven’t had any issues.
            I have never owned anything different, but I have friends who run Husky’s and they like them.

  8. Range is a big issue on bikes. One of the important factors when people buy bikes is range. Even dirt bikes believe it or not. I guess it’s just an inherent issue because bikes just don’t have the room for larger gas storage, and too much can cause drivability issues.
    I routinely need to think about range in racing a 60-100 mile race. Do I race my preferred 2-stroke that maybe can get 50miles on a tank, or my 4-stroke that can almost squeak out 100? Where can I get gas?
    If I’m riding in the Rockies, with no gas avail., or riding a looped race with gas avail., etc…..
    Same for adventure bike riders when they are going into remote areas all the time.
    Same for touring riders. “we need to do 600 miles today to accomplish our goals………..”
    Don’t see e-bikes being the choice for any of the above, if/until they can get 200+ mile range.
    I do see them maybe happening for close-course competition, and it will happen, to ‘sell’ to the masses. Until lots of people start getting stuck in the woods, haha….

  9. I can imagine a long trip on a bike, say from Kenosha to Jerome, Arizona. All that I have to do is go to the pawn shop to pick up a dozen electric drills for 60.00. I put them running under my pillow and Morpheus and me can conjure a real cycle trip.

  10. My 9 yr old uses an electric dirt bike he bought off his cousin to tear up my yard.
    His cosin upgraded to the real thing. Electrics are a child’s toy to get them used to riding faster than their little legs can pedal and nothing more. They don’t belong on the road with grown men.
    Here’s another danger. You can hear a harley coming usually before you see it. How many bikers are going to get run over doing what they normally do, which is riding between cars? How will that go over? I never heard him coming! Can’t wait till the agw’s go to the Hells Angels and demand they give up their gas powered Harley’s.

  11. They might sell to some people with different requirements, were it not for the wholly unnecessary and egregious price tag.

    Bikes with these capabilities shouldn’t cost more than $5-6k. I’m going to call $30,000 pure greed.

    • I’ll make a correction.

      I had a assumed a 100-mile range and acceptable speeds and accelerations.

      I checked out the Harley Livewire, and it turns out they did for motorcycles what Tesla did with cars. The LiveWire can go from 0-60 in 3.1 seconds, and does the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds (per Cycle World). Those specs appear to outperform everything else Harley sells. It could be called a “superbike”. It is definitely high-performance, save for the range.

      Still, I’ll bet you could sell it for $10,000-$15,000 less if you were determined.

  12. The powers that be have no clue about the real world especially the counter culture of the motorcycle clubs and those that embrace the lifestyle. Imagine the MC clubs on electric bikes. Perhaps they are just waiting for us old folks to just die off, (or trying to reach that goal quicker with their vax) since it seems we are the last to know what freedom feels like.

    Check out the movie/show “The Last Motorcycle on Earth”

  13. 100 miles… that’s a short day when I don’t have enough time to really get out or when I was commuting. If I don’t put on 200, I don’t think I’ve really been out for a ride.
    No home tooling, no mods, just virtue signaling at its costliest. Pound for pound, it rivals or beats the midwits who get electric Mercedes’ and BMW’s.
    And the idiocy just builds with these clowns. It’s bad enough when an electric car crashes, as we know that battery case is a thermal runaway waiting to happen, but most of the bumps and crumples a car takes don’t go that far. On a bike? Sand patch, jerk on a sail-fawn, someone running a light and kaboom. Make it electric on electric and you might as well come back in a day or so after they’ve burned through the asphalt.

    • Hi Gabe,

      Your point regarding the danger inherent in an electric bike is most apt. Indeed. Drop an electric bike and a fire is much more likely than an EV (car) fender bender…

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