Making An Electrical Connection

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Why isn’t the classic feet-forward, low-seat chassis layout of typical American cruisers being utilized?

At the time of this writing, Tesla’s Elon Musk had just unveiled his latest creation and unleashed it to the public: the Tesla Roadster. While out of reach to the masses, it has captured the attention of many a gearhead with its outrageous performance claims. How about a 250-plus-mph top speed, 0-60 mph in under two seconds, and a quarter-mile ET of 8.8 seconds? All of that with a projected range of 621 miles (Really? 621? Where did the 1 come from?); oh, and comfortable seating for four. Okay, so the $250,000 price tag is a little, well, outrageous! But I am digging the targa-style removable roof. I find it difficult to resist the urge to click the “Reserve Now” button online, just to see what happens, but I’m afraid they’ll send me a bill just for my curiosity.

We’ve begun to address what the future of riding the roads of America will be like when more and more futuristic cars are among us. Safety Columnist Don Gomo talked about it in issue 346, what with cars that drive themselves and many that don’t burn gasoline anymore. I’m thinking that columns and stories along these lines will become more commonplace than oddities. By the way, I just read this morning that Volvo has announced all its vehicles will be equipped with some form of electric motor (as primary or backup) as early as the 2019 model year. Folks, we are already riding 2018 model-year motorcycles, so that’s not far off.
This car-related news has me thinking about electric motorcycles and the possibility of seeing more of them among our numbers soon. With the announcement of the new Softail line, the merger of two chassis platforms that make up the new Softails, and the subsequent backlash from faithful followers of the brand, I figured I’d write this as a prepper for where we very well may be going. On that note, I’ve received numerous e-mails and phone calls from readers who agreed with my column in issue 355 about hating the haters. As one reader told me: “I’ve heard the same people crying every time Harley changes an engine platform or model line.”

I’ll bet that if you had typed in the words electric motorcycle into a search engine just 15 short years ago, the image selection would have only shown some one-off oddballs cobbled together in some backyard sheds and maybe a few photoshopped-to-the-extreme concept ideas. Yet today, I sit here and scroll through riding shots of real electric motorcycles on the web. Alright, so the photoshop techniques have improved, but many of these images are legit. One thing strikes me as curious about most of these images: most electric bikes that are actually available today, or prototypes most likely to be produced, are all of a sportbike or a dirt bike configuration. Granted, some have a naked/standard look to them. Even the much-talked about Harley-Davidson LiveWire was a short wheelbase, narrow bike with sit-up-and-beg ergos. By the way, did you notice the new Harley Softail Breakout headlight? Bears a strong resemblance to the one on the LiveWire, doesn’t it?

My question is, why isn’t the classic feet-forward, low-seat chassis layout of typical American cruisers being utilized or even dreamt about? My layman’s guess, because I am far from an expert on electric bike design, is that while the large cruiser platform can carry more electronics, batteries, and motors, the added weight would overcome the potential benefits of carrying all that extra stuff. Still, it would be neat to see if the comfort and ease of riding a traditional cruiser can be melded with what is potentially the powertrain of the future.

My next thoughts on this subject? Will electric bikes be the lightning rod (sorry, had to do it) to attract the next generation of riders? It’s more than just an innocent question these days among serious motorcyclists. What’s going to happen to our industry, our hobby, our passion for riding? Think back to where I started this column. If the price is outrageous, the masses will be excluded. I feel, however, that the young riders of the future will be attracted to entry-level versions of whatever two-wheeled technological wonders the manufacturers can dream up. Just imagine the performance figures we might see.