Review: What it’s like to ride the Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle

Ok, first things first. When you test-ride the Harley-Davidson LiveWire, the brand’s first-ever electric motorcycle, the feeling that will forever stay with you is its jaw-dropping acceleration.

You’ll likely feel it before you lean into your first bend. We’re talking 0-100kph in just three seconds, 100 per cent torque with no lag and 105 horsepower. Trust me. It’s like sitting on a lightning bolt. It feels like you’re flying.

New features

Ride this revolutionary bike and you’ll soon put aside any staid ideas of what a Harley “should be”.

Sure, gone is the chrome and the grunt. But motorbikes, as Harley-Davidson consistently reminds us, are evolutionary things. LiveWire is proof of that. Embrace the spirit of innovation that has always been at the core of this 117-year-old manufacturer. Enjoy the ‘new’.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle review

And there’s so much ‘new’ to consider. Like a computerised Reflex Defensive Rider System (RDRS) containing seven built-in ride modes accessed via its crystal clear touch screen that’s easy to read even in full sunlight. Controlling its performance and degree of computerised intervention, its pre-programmed modes include Sport, Road, Range and Rain.

Handling is exceptional thanks to a fully adjustable 43mm front inverted fork which, when paired with its adjustable rear shock, provides the best suspension ever achieved on a production line Hog.

Its stopping power is off the scale, its twin radial-mount calipers gripping 300mm floating rotors. And when combined with the regenerative braking, well, the thing slows up so swiftly it initially caught me off guard.

I quickly learned that with a little forward planning you only needed to throttle down to slow up enough, and with a touch of the brakes to then come to a full stop.

No heat from the engine when mired in traffic, is a treat too, as is not having any spark plugs, air filters, and no oil changes. Maintenance simplified.

This is a stripped-down Harley. No chrome accents or other flourishes that add unnecessary weight. No exhaust pipes, and obviously no clutch or gearbox either. Power comes directly from its twist-and-go throttle. And though I abhor repeating myself, boy, does it go! Seriously, if you’re carrying a pillion passenger, forgetting to tell them to hang on borders on the negligent.

Charging the LiveWire motorcycle

You’ll get around 235 kms of city riding out of a single charge. It holds a 15.5kWh Lithium-ion battery, which can be had either from a domestic household outlet (overnight) using the onboard Level 1 charger and power cord, or a Level 3 DC Fast Charge station which will give you an 80% charge in less than 40 minutes, or a full charge in around an hour.

Finding a Fast Charge station, however, mightn’t always be convenient. There are currently just 8 EV (Electric Vehicle) HD dealerships in Australia, with any expansion of stations to be based on dealer requests. My own local HD dealer, Sy’s Harley-Davidson in Campbelltown south of Sydney, told me they’re not currently looking to join the network. (You can, however, purchase a fast-charging Level 3 system for home use, which must be installed by an electrician).

Ideal for urban lifestyles

LiveWire is the ideal “urban” alternative to traditional bikes: clean, quiet, and at AUD$50,000 is the perfect statement to make if you’re an upwardly mobile, wealthy urbanite. But if no one can hear you coming, will it still turn heads? You bet it will, and I can vouch for that. Its build quality, craftsmanship and design still had bystanders gawking.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire motorcycle review

The LiveWire is also in part a response to the changing demographics of potential Harley customers. HD’s traditional customer base is beginning to age out worldwide. A new generation of riders is needing to be courted.

Gauging how fast you’re going without looking at your controls is tricky because the ride is just so smooth, the acceleration so effortless. There’s no RPM crescendo, no changing of gears, none of the usual clues. Just turn the throttle and . . . whoosh.

It was the wildest ride I’ve ever had on two wheels. Two electric wheels in a market once considered niche, now firmly on the card of the riding world’s Main Event.

To test ride a LiveWire or any other Harley-Davidson go to www.harley-davidson.com/au and find a dealer near you.

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