When you hear the name Harley-Davidson, you immediately think of the deep booming beat of its two-cylinder engine, the gut-punching sound that has hallmarked all the bikes built by the Milwaukee brand for over 115 years. But from now on, Harley-Davidson will also be associated with electric motorbikes, a significant development because it provides an indication of how the brand wants to realign its fanbase with the spirit of our age. No-one could deny that the average age of Harley-Davidson bikers has grown too high in recent years. At the same time, it is difficult to approach the new generations with products whose roots run back to the first half of the 20th century. This is the reason for the revolution that has been implemented with a project that began in 2014, a five-year period required to develop the new product, but also to gradually introduce the concept to the Harley-Davidson community world-wide.
The electric motorcycle is now available on the market at 34,000 euro, a price that positions it towards the top of the Harley range, with a performance that compares favourably with conventional bikes. The people at Harley-Davidson say that the riding experience will be high performance, but accessible to all riders, by virtue of the very low centre of gravity of the motor and batteries. The latter provide a 180 km range. The generous torque available throughout the entire speed range, from zero to maximum velocity, one of the most positive aspects of electric motors, gives the Livewire an acceleration of from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.5 seconds. All you have to do is twist the throttle with your right hand. There is no clutch, nor a gear lever, but instead there are seven riding modes, of which four are pre-set and three can be personalized by the rider.
A few technical notes. The inverted front forks, and the balanced free rear cushion-lite shock absorber, are by Showa, and provide comprehensive damping adjustment. Front brakes are dual Brembo Monobloc calipers which bite the twin 300 mm discs, with ABS protection. Of course, the system has traction control as well. The tyres are the classic sport bike sizes, with a 180 mm section on the rear wheel and 120 mm in front. Technology comprises the colour TFT touchscreen that replaces all instrumentation, and also provides Bluetooth connection, navigation and audio functions. As regards audio experience, the LiveWire produces a distinctive sound that gets louder and higher as speed increases, both for the rider’s own enjoyment and to warn other people on the road that a big bike is approaching fast.