Inside Motorcycles kicked off the week with a trip to Portland, OR to attend the global press launch of the all-new 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire. As the most significant milestone to date in the brand’s “More Roads to Harley-Davidson” initiative as well as the far-reaching implications of an electric motorcycle produced by a major OEM, this was one of the most highly anticipated press events in recent memory and it was attended by journalists from around the globe.
Our complete review of the LiveWire will be featured in the next issue of Inside Motorcycles. In the interim we wanted to take this opportunity to share some images of this exciting new motorcycle along with some initial thoughts about the bike and its role in the future of Harley-Davidson and the overall motorcycle industry.
The LiveWire as a motorcycle is simply outstanding to ride. As anyone who has ever experienced the immediate torque of an electric powered vehicle can attest, the acceleration is both breathtaking and addictive. Producing a claimed 105 horsepower and 86 ft-lb of torque, the liquid-cooled Revelation electric motor propels the 249 kg (549 lb) LiveWire from 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Powered by a 15.5 kWh battery that Harley refers to as a Reusable Energy Storage System (RESS), with a full charge the LiveWire can travel 235 km (146 miles) in city traffic or 152 km (95 miles) during combined city and highway riding. The inclusion of DC Fast Charge (DCFC) technology in addition to a traditional Level 1 charging system will allow LiveWire owners to recharge from 0 to 80 percent in just 40 minutes and from 0 to 100 percent in 60 minutes. As part of the brand’s commitment to being the leader in the electrification of two-wheels, all Harley-Davidson dealerships offering the LiveWire for sale, will have a minimum of one DCFC charger installed at the dealership.
The Revelation electric motor is undoubtedly the star of the show, but the LiveWire is so much more. Designed as a high-performance motorcycle capable of exploiting a leading-edge electric-driven powertrain, the LiveWire features premium components including fully adjustable Showa suspension and Brembo brakes. In another first for Harley-Davidson, the LiveWire serves as the introduction of the company’s all-new Reflex Defensive Riding System (RDRS). Controlled by a six-axis inertial measurement unit supplied by Bosch, RDRS includes lean-sensitive ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, rear-wheel lift mitigation and a torque slip control system. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if some of this new LiveWire-driven tech makes it way into other parts of the Harley-Davidson lineup.
Our hosts for this press launch mapped out a route that included some of the best twisties that Oregon has to offer, which provided the perfect setting to experience the handling and performance of the LiveWire. While the positioning of the bike’s 220-pound RESS battery system definitely creates a top-heavy sensation when at rest and during slow, tight manoeuvring, at speed the LiveWire performs with the agility of a middleweight sport bike. The naked bike styling places the rider in a slightly pitched forward, but still comfortable, position that naturally provides maximum control over the motorcycle.
Thanks to the inclusion of multiple ride modes (four pre-set and three customizable) the rider to is able to select the levels of power, throttle response and RDRS intervention that best suit their riding ability and environment. The ride modes also include specific levels of regenerative braking. Utilizing the electric motor to provide braking assistance when off-throttle not only creates energy that is put back into the battery, but it also enhances the riding experience. In the sport mode, which combines full power and the quickest throttle response with 80 percent of the maximum regenerative braking, I found that allowing the engine to provide braking coming into a corner and then being able to confidently grab a hand full of throttle (thanks in large part to the new RDRS) when the exit point presents itself, creates a smooth riding style that many people struggle for years to master on traditional internal combustion engine, multiple-gear motorcycles (did I forget to mention that the LiveWire has a single-speed transmission – no clutch or shifting – just twist the throttle and go!).
With our day on the LiveWire drawing to a close, there was no doubt that Harley-Davidson has created a motorcycle that is truly special. While there is still a great deal of debate about how many consumers will be willing to part with the required $37,250, there is no doubt that the overall industry is going to take note of this motorcycle that proves that an electric motor placed in a package focused on overall performance and handling is a combination that cannot be ignored.
Does the LiveWire represent the future of Harley-Davidson? Ultimately consumer response will provide that answer. What it does do is send a clear message that Harley is committed to the future and more than capable of turning their vision into reality.
Seventeen Harley-Davidson dealerships in Canada are currently accepting pre-orders for the 2020 LiveWire with anticipated delivery in the fall of 2019. Visit harley-davidson.com/ca to find the location nearest to you.
Watch for our complete review of the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire in the October 2019 issue of Inside Motorcycles, on newsstands and in mailboxes this August.