Friday, January 7, 2011

Electric motorcycles move, but do they move you?

As the owner of an old-fashioned Royal Enfield motorcycle, I somehow don't see the appeal of modern motorcycles powered by electricity.

My brother Phil, a motorcyclist and mechanic, agrees — and he disagrees.

Modern electric motorcycles are mechanical wonders, he says, having read about them in recent editions of motorcycle magazines.

"They're really thin," enthused Phil, who is also really thin. Thinness is good, I suppose, although I never thought of it as a  reason to choose one motorcycle over another.

"The only trouble," Phil said, "is that they don't vibrate, make noise or leak."  I suggested that electric motorcycles might also be very reliable and, thus, slightly boring.

Phil theorized that electric motorcycles separate motorcyclists who really love riding from people who want to make noise and tell amusing stories about breakdowns.

An electric motorcycle removes the distractions of noise, vibration and harshness.

"If you really want the experience of moving on two wheels, what could be better?" Phil asked.

This made sense to me, since I have noticed that partisans of electric motorcycles include many experienced and capable motorcyclists. Perhaps theirs is the more pure experience.

But I'm not buying it. Would climbing Mount Everest be as big a deal if there was an escalator to the top?

"Well, it still has a great view," Phil said.

But, then he noted that "You could helicopter to the top of Mount Everest. You could fly your Alouette SA 315 right to the top. You could rendezvous with the people who walked up. But would you be equal?"


  1. I just really like the experience of kicking an engine to life and hearing and feeling it rumble while I ride. It's romantic. It's a machine. An electric bike seems silent and soulless. All that's left is speed, so it better be very fast.

  2. Anonymous1/08/2011

    Google "electric royal enfield",and the first thing that you find is the Hammarhead Volta 102,a 40 hp,118 mph,368 lb,clubman inspired,cafe racing FURY...only $18,500...get them while they last,they only build five a year...Matt Law/Bullethead 63~

  3. Thank you Matt. Here's a direct link to the electric Royal Enfield Volta from Hammarhead Industries.

  4. David,
    Though I don't own one yet, I've been a fan of Royal-Enfields since I first heard about them around my senior year of high school more than 5 years ago. I've been temporarily satiating my need for one of my own with your blog on a weekly basis and always enjoy your perspective and prose. This article in particular. As a rider as well as a mountain climber, your article could not have been more perfectly targeted. And I whole heartedly agree with you. The source of enjoyment is different for every rider, as well as climber. Indeed, there was actually a helicopter pilot that touched the summit of everest a few years ago, and, without a doubt, the view was the same as a climber's. I climb for the journey, the view from the top is merely door prize at the end of the party. Hopefully one day after I find my way out of the post-college/pre-first (real) job limbo I can enjoy the same journey you do. Or rather, in our case, the journey that leads to the journey.

    p.s. Incidentally I'm also a pilot and that too has terrific views, but thats a whole 'nother journey for a whole 'nother blog :)

  5. Austin, thank you for an excellent comment. I appreciate your special perspective.


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