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Harley-Davidson Livewire Pre-Review

We're in Portland, Oregon for the world launch of Harley-Davidson's shocking new motorcycle, the all electric 2020 Livewire. So what's the big deal about this bike?

The 2020 Livewire is the delivery of a promise Harley-Davidson made in 2014 with the release of the Project Livewire tour. For those who don't remember, Project Livewire was a global tour Harley-Davidson put on to showcase the brand's electric motorcycling intentions.

I was lucky enough to get an invite to the tour's stop in Malaysia and rode the bike around the ring roads of the Sepang Grand Prix track. To say it was an experience is understating things a little, the Project Livewire was unlike anything I've ever ridden and for a concept bike was quite well put together.

At the time, Harley executives said we would have to wait about 5 years before we would see a production version, but that the bike would definitely be made as a full production motorcycle by the company.

Now, it's no secret that Harley-Davidson has a bit of an image problem. For decades the company has been incredibly good at listening to its strong core audience at the hinderance of development into bikes that don't fit the traditional image of a Harley-Davidson.

In recent years, Harley has begun to work to try and shed its fuddy duddy image of being an old man's brand and reach a new generation of riders who have interests in motorcycles that aren't premium 300 kilogram monoliths. The Street 500 and 750 were the first bikes to start breaking the mould with a new range of 1250cc liquid-cooled bikes just around the corner entering other markets such as the naked-sport (streetfighter) and Adventure markets for the first time in the brand's history.

But we're not in Portland to sample those fossil fuelled machines. We're here for the revolutionary new Livewire.

Now I don't know about you, but I sure wouldn't have bet on Harley-Davidson being the first company to get to market with a global focussed electric motorcycle. There have been smaller American outfits such as Zero motorcycles and the now defunct Alta motorcycles who have tried to bring electric motorcycling to the masses, but neither have had the deep pockets and established dealer networks needed to take their products truly global.

Harley-Davidson will start rolling out the livewire at the end of this year in the USA and Europe before the bike gets a wider release which will include New Zealand.

The bike itself appears to be a well thought out rebuild of the Project Livewire concept with much of the feedback from the tour being taken on board and the bike altered to suit. The two biggest changes on first glance are the move to a set of traditional mirrors over the underslung billet alloy mirrors of the prototype and the addition of a bikini fairing around the headlight.

Weight is reportedly slightly heavier than the prototype at around 248 kilograms, and the power figures to have made it out before our launch has officially started state that the bike is making 78kW and 116Nm, all from 1rpm.

Yup, 1 rpm. This thing should be a hoot to ride. 0-60mph (96.5kph) is meant to be 3 seconds or less, which we'll put to the test tomorrow by smashing the bike into sport mode (one of four on offer) and twisting the throttle.

Obviously charging the bike up when it goes flat is going to be on a lot of people's minds and, with the DC fast charger at least, this can be done from dead flat battery to 100% charge in a little over an hour. 80% charge take roughly 45mins and range varies between 180km on the highway to 235km in town. That might sound a bit backwards, but with regenerative braking, the Livewire is meant to thrive in the city where you're constantly stopping and starting.

This has been a lot to take in, and while I've only just scratched the surface of the bike here one thing is clear: Livewire's release is a markerpoint in the history of Harley-Davidson. Whether it will be seen as a shining star or somewhat of a blip in the history of the Motor Co. will be revealed once we've ridden it and whether the price - which is expected to be over $40,000 - doesn't scare off early adopters.

Stay Tuned for the our first impressions on how the bike is to ride in the real world, coming soon to!


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