First Impressions of the new Harley-Davidson LiveWire ONE
Where I live in the tech-heavy Seattle area, electric cars are as common as the top-selling vehicle in the US, the Ford F-150 pickup. It seems nearly every Microsoft or Amazon exec is driving a Tesla or even an exotic electric vehicle like the Porsche Taycan.…..oh, yes…and now Ford makes an electric F-150…
Electric motorcycles, however, aren’t even a blip on the vibrant two-wheeled scene here in the Pacific Northwest. Harley-Davidson, of all brands, is out to change that with the LiveWire ONE.
GETTING STARTEDThis all began when I tripped over an article about Harley-Davidson opening a LiveWire Experience Center boutique and demo ride location in the movie-star-choked Malibu Village Shopping Center in Southern California. Harley-Davidson will build more “Experience Centers” in selected markets, but for now most demo rides, it seems, will take place at existing dealers.
A link on the LiveWire website led me to the demo ride sign-up page. A Live Wire concierge asked when I wanted to go and offered convenient alternatives at the dealer near me.
Eastside Harley-Davidson is one of those “destination” HD dealers with a huge showroom, service area and accessories center. Located in “target-rich” Seattle suburb Bellevue, about a mile from Microsoft Headquarters, it’s surrounded by European luxury car dealers, expensive homes, golf courses and even a high-end members-only indoor shooting range.
Pulling into Eastside’s parking lot you’re immersed in traditional orange and black Harley colors---and a sea of chromed, customized Wide Glides, Super Glides or one of nearly thirty other new HD models. Two Live Wires were parked in the entryway.
Dealers are a key challenge Harley faces with Live Wire’s buyer target. First-time E bikers are likely younger and dramatically different from the Baby Boomers who currently cling to big internally combusted V-Twins. The new target may never have been in a motorcycle shop, much less one as potentially intimidating as a Harley store. The more stand-alone LiveWire Experience Centers HD builds, the better the chances their effort will succeed.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?LiveWire’s sticker is $21,999. You can buy a lot of internal combustion engine bikes AND gas (even at today’s high prices) for that much money. Harley has cleverly created two ways to have a LiveWire in your garage though.
First is traditional financing. With $2,200 down, 48 payments of $453.63/month and the LiveWire is yours. Second, HD’s “Future Forward” program is similar to the leasing programs most automobile companies offer. With $2,220 down, your payment is just $286.24 per month for 48 months. Like automotive leases you have options at term end: Return the bike and walk away or buy it for a pre-established amount. With Future Forward you are limited to 24,000 miles over the four-year period or additional mileage charges apply.
IS IT A “HARLEY”?Harley-Davidson’s branding on the LiveWire ONE is nearly non-existent. The HD-spec Michelin Sport Specter tires feature “Harley-Davidson” on the sidewall. An HD shield outline is molded into the faux radiator shroud. The “tank” is emblazoned only with LiveWire lettering and the “gas cap” pops up to reveal the charging plug.
If you’re expecting the traditional “potato-potato” V-Twin rumble when you start it up, you’ll be deeply disappointed. Alternatively, LiveWire’s website promises, “The new experience of speed and sound”. “Sound”? From an electric motorcycle? HD explains it this way: “LiveWire ONE surpasses the old sensations of combustion with a haptic pulse from the powertrain. Our patented technology provides a haptic heartbeat—adding humanity to electricity.” Not sure quite what that means. You’ll have to be the judge.
From a styling point of view, LiveWire resembles current Sportster versions. Low, chunky, and solid. it looks “heavy”….and, in fact, it is.
HOW MUCH DOES IT WEIGH?Harley-Davidson has never been known for lightweight iron. At 562 pounds LiveWire is no exception. That’s right, five hundred and sixty-two pounds. My KTM 790 Adventure R weighs about 450 lbs full of fuel. ZERO’S Electric SR/S sport bike comes in at 518 pounds. Even HD’s own Sportster tips the scales at 502 pounds. That weight comes into play on the road.
WHAT DID YOU SAY?After a quick sign-up process, an Eastside staffer rolled a LiveWire ONE outside and began the briefing on how it works. Well, he tried, but was immediately drowned out by a “loud-pipes-save-lives” Harley revving up and leaving the shop.
When things quieted down, a simple press of the power button lit up the dash showing remaining battery range and various ride mode icons: Sport, Road, Range and Rain. You can even customize the modes on another screen.
My guide suggested starting off in “Rain” mode (We’re in SEATTLE after all…) to get used to how power is delivered, then switch to “Road” and finally “Sport” mode. I flip up the side stand…..and instinctively reach for the clutch…..oops…..
ALRIGHT, LET’S RIDE…Of course, there’s no clutch. Just open the throttle (rheostat?) and electric power comes on smoothly and linearly. In “Rain” mode LiveWire is quick enough to easily merge into surface street traffic. Rear view mirror mounts could have been a bit wider as I kept seeing my arms and shoulders. Brakes are good, but a little numb and short of feel.
Riding position is upright, like “standard” style motorcycles many of us owned before sport and cruiser style machines took over. The rider’s seat is comfortable. The passenger portion though is the proverbial “postage stamp” that won’t make your Significant Other happy on anything but short rides.
LiveWire’s “haptic pulse” heartbeat mentioned earlier was imperceptible. I later learned it’s adjustable, but I didn’t have the chance to experience higher levels during this ride. The bike emits the “whine” we’ve come to expect on electric bikes and cars.
The 562-pound weight is absolutely perceptible, however. Leaned over when stopped it takes some effort to get it back upright. The weight is also forward-biased, making steering heavy at slow speeds. Entering a corner at low to medium speed, the bike wants to fall into the turn. Keeping power on slightly while cornering helps the LiveWire deliver more neutral cornering behavior.
Switching between power modes comes at the push of a button. Each offers significant differences in acceleration and regenerative braking. In Sport mode LiveWire delivers a truly exhilarating experience accompanied by very aggressive “regenerative engine braking” when rolling off the power.
Showa suspension on the bike is firm, if not stiff. Rear shock and forks are fully adjustable for compression, rebound damping and spring preload so a more compliant ride may be dialed in.
OK, HOW DO YOU FEEL?My ride was limited to 30 minutes. A little like a short first date, but enough to decide if you want to get together again. LiveWire ONE feels like a quality motorcycle, with good fit-and-finish, Michelin tires, Brembo brakes and fully adjustable Showa suspension. It’s fast, particularly in Sport mode, the ergonomics are good, and HD offers creative ways to get one in your garage.
Motorcycling is an emotional pursuit. What we ride and, ultimately, own must make emotional connections with us. Bikes we love to ride, can’t wait to ride again and spent inordinate amounts of time and money personalizing to taste. (Yes, I’m guilty!)
The LiveWire ONE website promises it will deliver a unique and emotional connection to the riding experience. Whether it turns out to be true remains to be seen. Harley-Davidson’s effort is laudable, and their demo process easy. Go see for yourself if LiveWire ONE is for you. Ride it and tell us what you think.