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Test riding the uniquely electrifying Harley-Davidson Project LiveWire

Electric wonder, Project LiveWire, will leave you in awe of its engineering

It is a Harley-Davidson bike. No, wait; it’s not exactly an H-D bike. Oh, yes, it sure is a Harley-Davidson. Confused? Don’t be, because what you see here is a bike that wears the Harley-Davidson bar and shield, but its persona is completely opposite to that of a traditional Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In fact, it is such a unique product that it beats the surprise quotient that the V-Rod delivered more than a decade ago.

The most interesting bit about the Project LiveWire is that it is an electric motorcycle. You didn’t see that one coming, did you? For the first time in their history, the traditional cruiser makers have attempted to venture into the world of electric motorcycles.

Harley Davidson

The Project LiveWire clearly indicates the new direction that Harley-Davidson is willing to take for a more vibrant future. It started off as an exercise to explore the possibilities beyond the conventional.

The first thing you notice about the LiveWire is how tiny it looks, compared to other Harleys that is. It’s dressed in black, with subtle hints of orange and grey. The sleek and minimalist approach towards the design indicates that Harley-Davidson wanted this new bike to look and feel like a lean, mean machine.

Harley-Davidson has taken a sleek, minimalist approach to design with the LiveWire.  PICS/Jason Critchell
Harley-Davidson has taken a sleek, minimalist approach to design with the LiveWire.  Pics/Jason Critchell

Elements such as the single-piece cast aluminum frame, aluminum swing-arm, machined billet aluminum mirrors/turn indicators, LED lights, immaculate TFT LED display, well put together switches and brilliant wheels are so well finished that by no means does it resemble a loosely put-together prototype.

Simplicity is seen even in the starting procedure. It’s just like starting a normal petrol-powered bike. First you settle in the comfortable and low saddle. After that, simply flip a switch to bring it to life, select your riding mode: the “range mode” for covering more distance and “power mode” for an instant burst of acceleration. Then, press the switch adjacent to the “on” switch and you are ready to go.

The firm has incorporated regenerative braking, which not only charges the batteries but also helps the bike slow down, even before the brakes have been touched
The firm has incorporated regenerative braking, which not only charges the batteries but also helps the bike slow down, even before the brakes have been touched

The sole indication that the bike is now live is the low-frequency hum from the oil pump, which kicks into action to cool the longitudinally mounted three-phase AC motor. Twist the throttle and off you go. I was expecting all the 74 PS and 70 Nm of torque from the motor to be delivered from the word go, but I was surprised by the linearity of the motor. Twist the throttle harder and the LiveWire charges ahead with gusto. Stop twisting the right grip and you experience the same sensation that you get while engine braking. Harley-Davidson has incorporated regenerative braking, which not only charges the batteries but also helps the bike slow down, even before the brakes have been touched.

In the range mode, it acts like a gentle motorcycle that can, on demand, transform into a cheetah on batteries. However, in the power mode, it does that by default. After switching from range to power, we instantly noticed the difference. Hard twist of the right wrist and it pushed us back in the seat as the front end lightened up, as if the front wheel wanted to rise up.

It also surprised me with its handling and ride quality. Since all the weight is concentrated low-down in the centre of the bike, it has a great centre of gravity, which makes it easy to ride. Moreover, a comfortable and neutral riding position gives you the confidence to push the bike harder than you would dare to. The LiveWire has superb stability on straight roads and in corners it transforms into a corner-craving machine. The suspension set-up is slightly on the firmer side, which on smooth roads, makes it an absolutely well-behaved handler.

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