Death by electrocution

Somewhat unexpected riffage from car guy Eric Peters, now duly if belatedly bookmarked and blogrolled.

A car is fundamentally an appliance.

While a few are bought and kept for the fun of it or because the buyer likes the looks of it, at the end of the day, a car is about getting from A to B affordably, comfortably and practically for most people who buy them.

Motorcycles are fundamentally about fun; their practicality as transportation is a perk but not the point. Most people who own a motorcycle also own a car. They ride the bike when they can – for the fun of it.

Electrification will put an end to that.

Because electrification takes away almost everything that makes a motorcycle fun – and affordable and practical, too.

The firing up of the engine; the feeling of it vibrating and the sound of it roaring. The shifting and clutching; the using of both your hands and both your feet to control the action, simultaneously – involving you in the action as an integral part of it.

And that right there is where it starts to become apparent that Peters, bless his heart, is not JUST a car guy. Follows, more toothsome stuff wherein he characterizes electric motorcycles as being the two-wheeled equivalent of those baskets of plastic display-fruit strewn about in stores peddling kitchen furniture and the like.

They are both ersatz things. Not the genuine thing. Substitutes. Frauds, even.

OHH yeah, more than just a car guy for sure. Onwards.

Non-electric motorcycles also have the virtue of being different – also part of the fun – whereas electric motorcycles are fundamentally the same, other than size and color (like drills, again). A real Harley has a big V-twin and makes a sound that only a Harley makes. A 14,000 RPM-capable Kawasaki inline four makes an entirely different sound. As does a twisted twin or a single.

Bikers know all about this.

Damned skippy we do. Preach it, brother.

Real motorcycles also have entirely different power bands and other characteristics, which give them each a different personality and so different reasons for buying one rather than another vs. the same electric NPC non-personality you get with a bike that hasn’t got an engine at all.

Or gears.

Or a clutch.

Just . . . whirrrrr.

Amen to that. Further betraying his status as red-blooded, old-school scooter trash, Eric mentions a little thing reverently examined in honest-to-HD biker rags—a favorite hobby-horse of Iron Horse magazine in particular, back when David Snow was running it—rider involvement. The term may not resonate much, or at all, with cake-eating non-Harley civilian types. But for us scruffy diehards who have 60-weight coursing through our veins, it means absolutely everything. In fact, rider involvement is one of THE primary attractions that always seduced people onto Harleys in the first place.

Motorcyclists ain’t necessarily bikers, see. It’s an important distinction to be aware of and to understand. Bikerdom isn’t a hobby, a pasttime, or a casual interest. Despite the unwelcome rise, somewhere back in the late 90s or so, of the species known as RUBs (Rich Urban Bikers), for-real bikerdom is a lifestyle, nothing less: a unique, rich, and surprisingly diverse sub-culture that tends to suck in those who are susceptible to its offbeat charms totally, gradually transforming those who stay with it long-term in perhaps unlooked-for ways.

It’s a hoary old cliché among biker folk that you can buy the Harley, the leather jacket, the boots, and the T-shirts. You can grow the hair and beard; you can get the tattoos. It will avail you nothing; a biker is born, not made. In fact, most of them probably couldn’t be anything else even if they wanted to. The authentic biker soul can’t be purchased, adopted, or convincingly faked for very long. One either IS, or one is NOT.

Mopeds and scooters (basically, larger mopeds) also have the advantage of being considerably less expensive than motorcycles, making them more practical than motorcycles for people looking to get from A to B as inexpensively as possible.

Plus, almost anyone can ride a Moped or Scooter, there being little skill required.

Electric bikes, on the other hand, cost much more than real motorcycles – and thus are much less practical than Mopeds and scooters – and for reasons that go beyond their much higher cost.

In addition to the cost of the fun you won’t have because of the skill – and rider involvement – not required.

The Harley LiveWire, for example. This two-wheeled equivalent of plastic food starts just under $30,000 – which is about twice as much as a generally similar “standard” non-electric bike and more than most family cars cost – while limiting how far you can ride on the highway to less than 100 miles before you run out of juice and are forced to wait for hours to get back on the road.

I know a lot of guys who wouldn’t even bother saddling up at all with that pitiful limitation; I’m talking here about serious ironbutts who think nothing at all of covering two or three times that distance just to grab lunch, ferchrissakes. For them, AFTER lunch is when the real ride starts. The idea that such stalwarts would even contemplate dropping great wads of their hard-earned on a contraption that can barely get around the block before needing to RTB, lest it suddenly become an overpriced boat anchor, is just silly.

This means you dare not ride the electric Harley much farther than 40 or so miles from home (and plug) without risking being unable to get back home to plug. It’s actually less than that because unlike a non-electric bike, which runs the same until you run out of gas completely, the electric bike begins to run weakly as it gets close to running out of range. It slows down, as the software tries desperately – pathetically – to keep it at least moving for a little while longer because once it stops, you are stuck.

So much for the open road. So much for fun. So much for the point of it all.

Amen again, my brother. I laughed right out loud at this next bit.

Which is why electric bikes aren’t selling.

Hilariously – sadly – Harley says its LiveWire is the “best selling” electric bike in the U.S. Which is true – because there are almost no other electric bikes for sale in the U.S., other than a bike called – appropriately – the Zero. Which has sold a few more bikes than that, but not many.

From there, Peters of course gets into the political aspect, which is every bit as solid as the rest of the piece. This one is an atypically lengthy outing for Eric, which is another giveaway to the man’s gin-yoo-wine Biker™ inner self. Whether you’re of a similar bent or not, you definitely want to read it all.

1 thought on “Death by electrocution

  1. Worse yet, in the future, the nanny state won’t even want you to drive your own car, or have a computer that isn’t “protected” against you programming it yourself.

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