Friday, April 2, 2021

What I want from a motorcycle no electric can ever do

Man and woman on motorcycle off road.
My brother Phil let my wife and I try out his motorcycle, in 1975.
I don't recall him explaining how it worked. It just did.

Electric motorcycles don't work.

They don't work for me, I mean. They're fine for nearly everyone else, apparently.

In fact, I was shocked by a recent poll showing how well accepted electric motorcycles already are.

A BikeSure survey of motorcycle enthusiasts in the UK found that half either would like to own an electric or already have one.

Further, less than half of those surveyed think that gasoline motorcycles shouldn't ultimately be banned (the UK is on track to ban gasoline cars from roads in 2040).

I didn't expect hard core motorcycle enthusiasts to retreat so easily on any front.

And then there was what I'd call the "other side" of the survey. This is where I was really horrified.

The reasons given by enthusiasts who don't hanker for an electric motorcycle just pale in contrast to the arguments for electrics. There are almost no good reasons to power motorcycles with gasoline.

The gasoline advocates, basically, claim to like noise, grease on their pants legs, constant maintenance, reliability worries and a bigger carbon footprint. Does all this sound like fun to anybody?

Do I really want to sign on to such Neanderthal thinking?


I mean, no, I don't want to pollute the planet one drip of Castrol 20W-50 at a time, as my old Royal Enfield invariably does. (In fact I'd love to cure that drip, since most of it goes on my own garage floor.)

So I won't claim to actually prefer noise to silence, oil stains to cleanliness, fiddling maintenance to doing no maintenance at all, and constant worry to perfect reliability.

But I do strongly agree with one word in BikeSure's report on its survey: "Sentimentality."

They mean the word to kindly dismiss the concerns of petrol-heads as essentially just so much inconsequential nostalgia. So they may be, but for me sentimentality is conclusive.

Electric motorcycles fail, for me, because they do not do the one thing I want my motorcycle to do above all else.

I want it to remind me of what motorcycles were like when I was young.

The survey concludes that electric motorcycles are the future. Even those who don't care for them largely agree with that.

And so they are. But I am not.

I am daily ever more aware that the future, hopefully marvelous in all ways, does not include me.

One day, if I'm lucky, they'll clap me into an electric tricycle and ask me how I like my new wheels. I'll smile, but inside I'll probably be thinking "it's not the same."


  1. Absolutely bloody "Hear, Hear" David. I love the calming sound of a big single chugging along and the rise in beat as it accelerates. I love the joy of being involved with it and fettling it with spanners, etc. to get the best from it. It has character and personality, something an electric vehicle will never have.

    But that will be the future I'm afraid. Fortunately the UK have said that the petrol vehicle ban in 2040 will not include motorcycles - probably because they will not have developed compact batteries to give enough range by then.

    I consider myself fortunate to be 82 and pushing up the daisies long before that anyway!

  2. If its a petrol vehicle ban, maybe I should look out for an Enfield Taurus (Diesel bike).


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