Common Tread

Experiencing the Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire Experience

Jul 28, 2014

The LiveWire Experience is appropriately named. Harley-Davidson has made the act of riding around the block into an experience. This thing runs super smooth, is incredibly efficient, well polished, and you can tell a lot of thought has been put into it.

I'm talking about the social media and publicity campaign, of course. Did you think I was talking about the bike?

Also watch the full, uncut LiveWire onboard, test-ride video.

We snagged spots in the test-ride schedule for the Harley-Davidson LiveWire prototype electric motorcycle and went to Brian's Harley-Davidson in Langhorne, Penn., for our own LiveWire experience. Riders were required to watch a short video, were given some brief instructions and then sent off for a short, led ride. As soon as each group returned, a Harley employee snapped a photo of each rider and handed over a card with a code. That code let the rider instantly post a photo on social media, letting everyone know that he or she got to ride the most talked-about electric motorcycle yet.

Yes, this is one smooth-running "experience" that Harley-Davidson has going... Oh, wait. Did you want to hear about the motorcycle?

So, there's not too much I can tell you after what was literally a ride around the block. It was a big block, but still just a ride around the block. A short ride is essential when the motorcycle only has so many miles of juice and you want to maximize the number of people riding it, and posting about it on Facebook.

Because the LiveWire has no clutch, there's no way to modulate the power except with the throttle, so it had better be smooth. Fortunately, the LiveWire fulfilled the promise of an electric bike: a feeling of direct connection between what my right wrist was doing and how the motorcycle's rear wheel was turning, with only a few moving parts in between, instead of hundreds.

The instant-on torque is the other thing everyone comments about after riding an electric motorcycle, and the LiveWire delivered there, too. So really, no surprises. But there's only so much you can learn in a five-minute ride.

I was most interested in what my colleague, Sean MacDonald, would say, since he was the one guy in the crowd who has also ridden both Brammo and Zero electric motorcycles.

"The bike itself feels really nice," he said of the LiveWire. "I have to guess that it’s pretty close to what a production model would look like, just given the fit and finish of the bike. Double the battery capacity, make a tweak or two, and start taking orders." (Be sure to see the rest of Sean's comments in the video, above.)

RevZilla's Ed "Buzzsaw" Wildman was also along for the ride, and noted that the dashboard indicated that we used about 10 percent of the available power in the two-mile loop we rode, with the bike in the full-power setting.

"I'd love to see how long of a distance you can really go," he noted.

More than one rider I talked to expressed concern about the way the LiveWire slows down when you close the throttle, worrying that it could lead to rear-end collisions because a rider could slow without using the brakes. It didn't seem extreme to me — just like an internal-combustion-engine motorcycle with a lot of engine braking. More than one of us wondered if people were concerned about it only because Harley stressed it in the pre-ride briefing.

Overall, the LiveWire felt solid but not heavy and projected a feeling of quality. Kind of like Harley's social media campaign.

Here's what some other LiveWire Experience riders had to say:

Aaron Payne

I'll start off by saying the ride was too short. It opens up pretty nice. The throttle response is great. The fact that you don't have to shift is weird, but it's good at the same time.

I could definitely tell it was nimble and agile. All in all, it was a great ride.

John Moran
Levittown, Penn.

Very impressed. A hundred percent. It's got bad mirrors, but they can fix that pretty easily. Enormous power. Incredible torque. I've never felt torque like that. Accelerates smoothly. Overall, very impressive.

I absolutely would (buy one). No question about that.

I have a Kawasaki Concours. If I want to ride from here to Oregon, I'll use that. But I go back and forth to work on that and it's not even a 10-minute ride. Well that (the LiveWire) would be perfect. Give me an electric bike that's a twist and go. That's a no-brainer.

Erica Williams

It was an experience. I'm glad to get to be a part of it. It's a totally different ride than what I'm used to, but in a good way.

It's almost like you need two bikes. One old style, one new electric bike.

I really had no complaints. I hope to see by the time it goes into production that the charge lasts longer. Overall, they've done an awesome job with the prototype.

Tom Stock
Willingboro, N.J.

It's got a hell of a lot of torque. Unbelieveable. I've got cams in my Street Glide and this thing blows it away. The seating position is not very comfortable for me, because I'm a big guy with short legs. But other than that, I really, really like it. I'm really interested when it comes out in production.

Rob Lucas
Langhorne, Penn.

When you go to let off the throttle, it immediately slows you down. I just think that's going to cause rear-end crashes. But overall, the power of the bike's nice, the design of the bike's nice, and hopefully the price of the bike is nice, too.