I was recently discussing the new LiveWire, the first electric motorcycle from Harley Davidson, with a colleague in London. I told him that I have mixed feelings about riding an electric Harley and hope to get a demo ride next weekend at Austin’s Moto GP event. My colleague agreed and said, “let’s just hope they didn’t build a houseboat.” I’m usually pretty good at decoding the British, but this time I had to ask my friend what he meant by a houseboat. He replied, ‘a houseboat isn’t a good house, nor is it a good boat.’ Oh, like Brexit I said…he didn’t find that amusing.
I’m an early adopter of tech, but the thought of buying a battery-powered Harley thrills me as much as buying a salad at McDonalds. I know it’s the right thing to do, but I like my burgers and my recreation a little greasy. I know I need to be thinking (and eating) greener, but as a Gen-Xer, auto enthusiast and a certified gearhead, I’ve been slow to embrace alternative energy machines. That said, I did hack the software in my electric bicycle (by Stealth) and now it does 50 mph.
Back in the day, my father had me turning wrenches and sodering wires long before I was old enough to drive. I’ve since built hot rods, restored some classics and purchased some distinctively modern cars along with trucks of all flavors. I also have a handful of motorcycles, two of which are dedicated GP Ducatis on standby for any opportunity to drag a knee around Austin’s Formula One track. These purpose-built, race machines rev-up like a sewing machine on crack. They’re loud, uncomfortable and as visually boastful as a cigarette boat. In contrast, my hand-built, petrol powered Harley cruises with less than half the horsepower, weighs twice as much and could easily shake a gallon of paint. My Fitbit even logs the chassis vibrations as steps taken. See…I’ve earned that cheeseburger.
On a positive note, Harley’s smartly tuned their battery-powered drivetrain to sound distinctively electric, like a jet engine spooling up before takeoff. They had to ‘86’ their classic chuck-potato, chuck-potato exhaust note that defines their piston-powered bikes and that’s a big deal. (Imagine Intel jettisoning their brand jingle.) Harley was smart to redefine their brand song in the LiveWire. It may sound like something out of Bladerunner, but will that be enough to retain their core audience of knuckle busters while concurrently attracting the next breed of clean & connected riders? And, will the LiveWire redefine HDs social nucleus or did they build a houseboat? Only time will tell.
Until next time, thanks for letting me be Frank.