Brammo Go BLAMMO

And the other tire drops: Brammo, that electric motorcycle company that talked a big talk, now tanks big time.  After not even three full years of Empulse motorcycle sales, Brammo, Inc. now ceases to exist as an independent entity, having been bought out by Polaris Industries (makers of ATVs, snowmobiles, the Victory and Indian gasser motorcycle brands, etc.).  Whether they will exist at all is now Polaris’ play.  brmm

The first public clue was Brammo announcing an “end of season” clearance sale.  An end of season sale last August.  Personally, late August/early September is when my riding season is in its second wind, literally.  Anyway, Brammo slashed prices by about half on some bikes.  Then it was seen that dealers- such as they were- still had 2013 Brammo Empulses to get rid of.  They still had clearance Empulses into 2015.  The second public clue were the reports of little or no activity at Brammo headquarters/factory in Oregon.

My clue, however, came years ago, dealing with these Keystone Choppers.  In my experience, Brammo was chasing a phantom: the fickle tastes of a small segment of motorcyclists, itself a small segment of vehicle buyers in general.  Rather than start with a good technology base, then digging in with plans to grow out from there, Brammo tried to nail it with one shot.  They thought they had to have a multispeed transmission/clutch to replicate the “real motorcycle” experience.  Instead, contracting IET for trannys delayed production and sale, and made Empulses the worst of both worlds: the limited range of an electric, with the gear slop of a gasser.  Meanwhile gear losses net you even less range. Continue reading


Riding-Season Reasons

It’s 2014, and 238 years for the US.  For motorcycles, and technologic motorcycles at that, might as well be Year Zero.  On hand already, we have:

Zero Motorcycles
Brammo Inc.
Agility Global Ltd.– UK delivery only

And on tap, supposedly this year :

Mission Motorcycles Inc.
Lightning Motorcycles
BRD Motorcycles

This is besides later, more-tentative motorcycles from Yamaha, Energica, Harley-Davidson, KTM, and Voxan, possibly Mugen/Honda, Saroléa, and Tacita.  Plus scooters.  So, one’s a freak, two’s a coincidence, three’s odd, and four’s a fad, right?  Then seven, ten, or more must be a movement.  “There is that sense of being at the beginning of something new, and part of our future… It’s coming,” says American Motorcyclist Association chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw.  A new way of working has reinvigorated a stale field, perhaps most importantly by enabling new entrants.  Young blood will invite even more young blood. Continue reading


2014: what went down (so to speak) on the mountain?

-Zero Motorcycles (well, indirectly) got exactly what they put in: a Zero FX entered, and it finished.  Rider Jeff Clark put in an average time, on an average bike- it was the 2013 FX, not the improved 2014.  This is because it wasn’t literally a factory team, but pretty much sponsored by Los Angeles dealership Hollywood Electrics, who did some light mods.  (Though not enough to leave the production class, for the modified class).

-Brutus Motorcycle put in their V2 custom… and got a worse time than Clark on a Zero.  Last year’s Zero.  Last year’s lightweight Zero.  Yeah, doesn’t say much about them, but it could be the rider, not the bike.  Could be the person tuning the suspension didn’t quite grasp the issues of the course.  Could be the V2 is really more of a drag bike or boulevard catapult, and the suspension doesn’t really tune.  (The course contains hairpins, “The Devil’s Playground,” and a part called “Bottomless Pit.”  )  Never rode a Brutus, nor have any acquaintances.  Don’t particularly feel like it now.

-Bigger news: Mitsubishi’s modified race car (billed by them as a kind of MiEV, but no one actually believes that) came within 2.5 seconds of topping all other cars, gas or electric.  2.5 seconds is close enough to be driver skill, a botched corner, something getting on the course, etc.  And we were that close to a 2013 Lightning moment, but in cages, not bikes.

-Similarly, “Tesla” raced… actually, it was a privateer in a modified Tesla Roadster, not a factory team.  Similarly, a Honda Fit EV beat the sleek, expensive model.  Someone in a Honda Fit, modified only with a race-mandated roll cage, beat a Tesla sports car.

Life’s weird, eh?  Actually, no, this is perfectly understandable.  In a growth industry, lots of stuff is going on, and one slipup means the first can become last- that’s how you know the industry is actually growing and developing.

LiveWire Jive Flyer


Credit: Harley Davidson

I’d be slacking if I said nothing about Harley-Davidson’s Project LiveWire.  So here’s something: you can’t actually buy it, which is why there’s no price and no date.  It’s a marketing probe and styling exercise- a “concept bike.”  Of course, automakers show concept cars all the time; we just need to remember what they are, and aren’t.  This one’s at least rideable, which is how it’s in Avengers 2.

Manufacturers show concept vehicles based on their possible plans; this one’s going on tour.  They’ll start in New York next week, then Boston, Philly, etc.; Canada/Europe are slated for next year.  Obviously, company reps will log rider comments.  Less obviously, I’d bet the interested riders themselves will be pegged, so H-D can do demographic studies.  Note that the official video’s full of young people- not a gray beard to be seen. Continue reading

A Dolt of Lightning

We found out… Lightning isn’t ready.  Their “bike” unveiling Saturday revealed an unrideable, non-final chassis.  Not only did the “bike” lack a battery assembly, but by the company’s own admission (to multiple people) it’s not final yet.  They didn’t even want picture taking.

I’ll give them that a $38,000 motorcycle will have weird plastics, with puckers, flat spots and paint issues.  At that price you’re in handbuilt territory, and won’t have Honda quality and consistencies.  But they claimed they’d make this announcement in April, and riding season is now here… meanwhile, the ship date was the previous ‘in 2014,’ and no production date.  Sound familiar?  Brammo and KTM trotted out this line in years prior… then said zilch as Dec. 31 tore off.  BRD at least gave excuses.

But don’t take my word- Lightning themselves said “It is time for Lightning to take this race proven technology to market and pursue our win in the market place.”  And pursue, not ‘this will,’ nor ‘this is,’ and certainly not ‘on July 8’ or whatever.  Hedge on, Hedgy McHedgerton.

Okay, so there were in fact changes for 2014.  The bodywork is clearly not the same as the race bikes, or a putative “2013” Lightning.  But a hundred custom shops can do styling and chassis, with someone else’s V-twin and transmission dropped in.  Orange County Choppers is a tribute to that fact- you can build low-rate chassis without professionalism, or even caring.  Lightning has yet to demonstrate to me that their saleable units (not the 2 or so race specials) will be any more rigorous than OCC driveway queens.

Which Way’s Lightning Going?

We’re about to find out.  Lightning Motorcycle is about to reveal their top-of-the line electric May 17.  Before doing so, they’ve been blogging about their history so far.  Obviously the rest of us are all speculating until the official word comes out, but… let’s speculate, shall we?


Photo credit: Lightning Motorcycle


Based on the photo alone, it looks like some changes are coming… however, it’s clearly an obfuscating photo, and it’s clear the vehicle is being worked on at the moment.  Still, the tail plastics are different from the 2013 Lighnings (such as they were).  As production is likely in the handbuilt levels, it’s easy to alter each unit.  At least it looks like there’s some sort of pilion pad… unless that’s just a styling touch, and you can’t actually sit there.

We have to look in the company’s words for something more substantive.  At the “faciest” face value, the EV’s now called the LS-218, not simply Lightning Superbike or SBK3 or whatever.  Not that name witchcraft means anything in the 21st Century (if ever), but I take that to mean there are, in fact, changes for 2014.  And why wouldn’t there be?  This is a fast-moving field, pun intended.  We knew continuing improvements were coming down the pike.

Continue reading

Burbling Atlan… tic

14519991And there you go.  EV enthusiasts Terry Hershner and pilion Chelsea Liggatt crossed the US yesterday night:

They got stuck in a highway backup, shorted a plastic connector, and blew a tire… vibration from the bum tire had loosened a fastener, requiring an electric motor swapout.  Due to delays, Terry actually took longer to cross the nation than last summer, no record unfortunately.  Still, it’s faster than I would have done.  Considering the major bike modifications are basically handcrafted or hand-integrated, I would have hesitated to try without a sag wagon, as the current recordholders had along.  Congrats Terry.