THE electric evolution continues on two and four wheels. Leading the charge (no pun intended) is Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire, which will soon be spun off into its own stand-alone brand.
The electrifying (pun intended this time) LiveWire afforded us the opportunity to live with an all-electric bike for an extended period of time. What better way to come to terms with an EV future.
In its own right, it’s a brilliant piece of kit. The electric motor delivers unparalleled amounts of torque, and the acceleration is quite frankly, absolutely mind blowing. It’s an experience that delivers copious amounts of smiles under the rider’s lid.
The sound of silence is un-Harley like and will take a little getting used to, which also raises the fact the rider needs to be aware and alert, especially in city traffic.
Our first expedition through suburbia had two motorists attempt to merge across into our lane as they could not hear us. But this bike is a game changer for Harley-Davidson, designed to push boundaries and perceptions.
And what better way to do that than being the first major bike brand to market with a full size electric motorcycle. The LiveWire feels much more capable than the 78kW it boasts, and there are no gears to flick through or interrupt the torquey goodness either.
It can sprint from 0–100km/h in 3.0 seconds. Regenerative braking (charging as you ride) is also a new sensation, and one that’s key to the LiveWire’s usability. Braking as you roll off the throttle is much more abrupt than a normal motorcycle though.
Throttle control is good and easy to get used to. With customisable, as well as standard, ride modes, characteristics such as regenerative braking, acceleration and traction control can be tailored to your own personal riding style and needs.
These changes are easily achievable through a toggle switch on the hand controls that navigate the menus on the TFT display. That screen hosts a heap of rider info as well, including speed, ride mode, charge level, and kilometres to empty (or flat in this case).
The TFT display is nice and easy to read. You can even connect via the Harley-Davidson app to enable navigation. That said, it is a little surreal watching the distance to empty on an electric bike.
It requires a different mindset for the rider to adapt to, especially while getting accustomed to the claimed 253km range of the LiveWire.
Although in theory it’s no different to a petrol gauge and it has a similar range to a Harley-Davidson Sportster, it does play on your mind until you can rationalise it, and have faith and confidence in where your next charging point is.
On our first trip up the M1 we made a conscious decision to do the same speed and ride in the same manor we would on a petrol powered motorcycle. With no traffic and riding at a constant speed, with the cruise control enabled, we chewed through the battery charge.
When we hit city traffic and we were able to use the regenerative braking to prolong our battery life, the LiveWire was brilliant. In fact, the zippiness made the LiveWire great in the city and a superb way to commute.
Apart from its nimble naked bike stylings, the Livewire has exceptional acceleration, which made it perfect for lane splitting and pulling away from traffic at lights. It was also a lot of fun watching people’s reactions.
Most were surprised by how much pulling power the electric bike has in real life. It’s worth noting that everything affects range. The physical characteristics of the rider, wind, riding style and ride mode, all have an impact.
For example, this particular reviewer’s physical stature and riding style meant we were only able to achieve a range of 196km per charge. That said, we were using a customised ride mode with similar characteristics to the Sport setting.
That ride mode has minimal regenerative braking.
For us though, the best thing about the LiveWire is when you can get it on some back roads with plenty of corners. With a riding weight of 251kg, it feels well planted and takes bends nicely.
Fitted standard with Brembo brakes and Michelin Sport Scorcher tyres, as well as Harley-Davidson’s RDRS system, the overall package works very well. The acceleration and regenerative braking also adds another dimension to this bike in the twisty stuff.
That dimension in itself takes a little getting use to, but you can utilise the regenerative braking as a stopping method and don’t have to use the actual brakes as much or as hard.
If you have access to a fast charge DC system, the LiveWire isn’t painful. To charge to 80 per cent, it will take approximately 30-40 minutes. There’s also some public charging stations that support the CCS combo charger (ChargePoint and ChargeFox among others).
A select number of Harley-Davidson dealers have these too. If you’re going to own a LiveWire though, it’s worth considering getting one of these installed at home. It isn’t cheap, and could cost somewhere between $1000 and $2000 (at the time of testing).
Recharging from a standard power point is possible too, but from empty to a full charge is going to take in the vicinity of 8-10 hours, in our experience. There is a nice little compartment under the riders seat where a portable charging cable can be stored.
The battery life is only okay, and is lower than say an EV road car. But Australia also isn’t really ready for the electric vehicle revolution. It’s better than it’s ever been, but we’re still found wanting compared to the rest of the world.
Where a rider can head off for a 400-500km single day road trip, and do it easily on a petrol powered bike, this is not yet possible with the LiveWire without a very carefully planned route.
That could have you missing some of the better roads this country has to offer. This is not the fault of Harley-Davidson though, and rather a failure in the present charging network infrastructure.
All that aside, the lithium-ion batteries installed in the LiveWire come with a 5-year warranty, while the motorcycle itself gets the standard 2–year Harley-Davidson new bike warranty. Scheduled servicing is expected to follow normal protocols too.
The 2021 Harley-Davidson LiveWire is available in Yellow Fuse, Orange Fuse and of course, Vivid Black. Ride away pricing starts at $49,995 for Vivid Black and $50,290 for other colour variants.
The LiveWire stand up as a true competitor in the naked class, and if this is a sign of where motorbikes are heading in the future, with electric power, rest assured there is a lot to look forward to.
Our test bike was supplied by Harley-Davidson Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Harley-Davidson LiveWire, contact your local Harley-Davidson dealer. Pictures courtesy of Jessica Jenkin Photography.