Our first ever MCPOTD reader poll! Should we cover electric motorcycles!

I’ve been getting a lot of friendly nudges lately from readers suggesting that I should cover more electric bikes. To be honest, I’m luke warm on the segment but I thought it’d be interesting to get some general feedback from the readership and experiment with the polls function. So what say you folks? Oh, and comments are open so convince me.


  1. I voted no, it seems now that the magazines are covering them, and some of my other favorite motorcycle online sites. What I see so far are fairly pedestrian contraptions. Even coverage of the Isle of Mann electric race is a yawn. I mean, ONE lap, and most couldn’t finish even that far.

    They might find a place and use, but so far, every time I see coverage about them, I get that feeling they are being crammed down our throats for our own “good”.

    Why not stick with posting very cool bikes, and should a very cool electric bike appear, cover it too, but not for the sake of PC.

  2. Randy i love diesel bikes. I’ve posted a few over the years but they’re pretty unusual. It’s a mystery to me why only the boutique builders have built any. It’d be a natural for a big adventure bike of mega cruiser. I’ve been seeing small compact marine diesels for years now with torque #’s that’d be a blast on a bike. And talk about fuel economy!

    And Roger your comment pretty much sums up my general feelings on E-bikes. I work in the environmental engineering field and I’ve read plenty about the science behind electric vehicles in trade mags and online and the science behind the hype leaves me pretty flat. there’s always a “next big breakthrough” that’s always 3-5 years out. And it’s been going on for 25 years now. But too much phony hype does not “necessaily” mean I should just ignore the whole segment. Crammed down our throats or not they are a fact of life… if not a pie in the sky one.

  3. I’m with Roger and Steve, for all the reasons they state. Lets keep bikes fun. In my experience anything that we’re told is good for us is generally a bit dull, and eventually found to be not all that it’s made out to be. We can get interested in electric bikes when that’s the only two wheeled option we have left

  4. ed sez of course cover electric bikes when they show up If it has wheels and is intresting post it . bikes are for fun. invention and improvisation are the norm. no need for cultural stagnation. Notice this most bikes are seldom ridden or ridden far,an electric machine with solar charging could always be ready to go , fun and free sort of.. Also note , a tank of gas is almost twenty bucks now , I like the idea of a cheaper ride. ps how are the french riders doing in influncing their over protective govt.?

  5. Watching all the electric bike videos, even from the TTXGP on the isle of man, the experience seems so lifeless. No banging up through the gears, no crackling out the pipe on the downshifts, no vibrations coursing through your body, no smell, no sound outside of a linear whining, no soul. I admit it’s interesting from my engineering perspective, but from my riding perspective, give me a howling Jap 4 at 15K rpm or smoking corn-popper any day.

  6. Tom I think you nailed a big part of it for me. I once commented on a message board on the dual clutch Honda VFR 1200 that:

    “Motorcycles are “supposed” to be simple things that bring pleasure. Honda has a really bad habit of engineering the soul right out of a bike and replacing it with gadgetry and plastic that adds absolutely nothing to the visceral experience of the genre.”

    I think my sentiments are even stronger where E-bikes are concerned. I almost don’t even think of them as motorcycles. They literally ARE rolling electric gadgetry. They also eliminate a big part of the visceral experience by being virtually silent. I’m not a “loud pipes saves lives” guy at all but I love the sound of a well tuned engine as feedback. To this day I regret selling my 95 speed triple simply because I dearly miss that primal exhaust note. I can’t imagine a case where an e-bike could ever match that experience. It’s be almost like riding while deaf.


  7. Not to sound insideous, but anyone who claims that vibration, noise and smell are what make the motorcycling experience are indeed dwelling on their primal instincts as to what really makes a motorcycle a motorcycle. All of those things can be had in the same quantity and simultaneous volume in a dump truck, a bass boat, an SCCA sportsman car, a riding lawn mower or all sorts of other motor vehicles – it’s only that you learned from the beginning to associate those parts of the sensory experience of riding a motorcycle with what you can do on a motorcycle and the special sets of transportation physics they enable you to use. You(and I) learned to “listen” to the “feedback” via the sounds of the gearbox, engine, etc – you admit that by stating it. But on an electric motorcycle, you learn to “listen” to it too, in different – albeit relatively more subtle – ways just the same. It still gives you the same feedback in almost every form, minus the sound and vibration. And those are not essential components of what makes a motorcycle do what it can or maneuver the way it can.

    It doesn’t tak emuch research into the history of the industrial age to see that of the naysayers of electric motorcycles here and now sound exactly like the naysayers of AC electric power, radiation treatments for cancer, use of drugs to treat schitzophrenia etc….and closer to the subject of motorcycles: the haters of automobiles in the early 1900’s, and of the first mass-produced motorcycles in the post WW1 era of the ~1920’s.

    I’ll try to make an analogy: An example of inevitable change in the motorcycle world was the en-mass addition of electric starters on offroad motorcycles. When I was learning to ride, I was told by my riding elders that “…if you can start it, you can ride it…” – implying that motorcycles that were more powerful, taller and more performance oriented(and thus much more likely to hurt an experienced rider) were harder to start and by that function kept people that did not belong on them from even getting them started. And then, for the most part, that was very true. It was pretty hard for the average Joe to kick-start a Husquvarna XC500, or a Honda CR500R, or XR600R. You had to be a “real rider,” a “man,” to start and ride them. And it was true for the most part.

    Along about the late ~1990’s, KTM, Yamaha and a few others started offering electric start on offroad steeds of nearly the same potential with respect to power and intended audience: NOT beginners. But because beginners could push the magic button and ride away, it got a lot of them into trouble – a KTM 520 or Yamaha WR450 were very easy to go really fast on, and were never intended to be learned on.

    Now, electric start is available on nearly all new bikes sold as enduro, desert or trailriding machines. It has also changed who will throw a leg over what – because anyone can start any of them…and as a result, a lot of people start off on a bike with far more power than they need, and also never learn not to stall the bike in technical sections because there is no consequence to it as there was with kickstart bikes. And they are lesser riders for it when the going gets truely tough. It has completely changed the social dynamic of trailriding – to one where when everyone needs to stop, they stop, shut the motor off, chat about navigation or obstacles or whatever, and then light the engines off and motor on. You would only stop very sparingly with older, kickstarted bikes, because inevitably, someone’s bike wouldn’t start and they’d get left behind/lost/forgotten until the next stop, and then a huge effort would ensue to find them…etc. Or, anyone who was tired would refuse to shut the engine off, and the rest of the leaders could not relate directions properly, and that same senario of lost or misdirected riders would occur similarly. The convenience of electric start has totally changed the culture of the off-road scene forever – and with Lithium batteries and more efficient starter motors available now, it’s already the ONLY form of starting available on many new bikes.

    If we were to use the electric start phenomenon and changes it has imparted to the motorcycling community as an analogy for all-electric motorcycles, it’s unquestionably the future in my mind. It’s better in every way a motorcycle is a great form of transportation, minus all of the noise and stink and maintenance like topends and valve adjustments and oilchanges and jetting and and and. The only real weakness is battery technology, which, if you compare it to internal combustion engine development, is moving in leaps and bounds:



    …as is electric motor technology. The same goes for truely efficient and effective regenerative braking systems, complementing batteries and capacitors that charge and discharge at incredible rates. It’s all there, and so many people are putting the pieces together so fast that it literally won’t fail just based on analysis of the numbers alone(numbers like initial cost, cost to use, cost to maintain, cost of charging, and time spent riding and not wrenching…to name a few).

    While I love all of my petrol-powered motorcycles in all forms, electric transportation in all forms is building momentum and of all forms, I feel that motorcycles have the most to benefit from it in every way.

  8. A well written point. It’s a big giant straw man and I completely disagree with almost every point it but it’s nicely presented. I’m moving on from this but I have to make one observation. Casually dismissing the sound and vibration as an integral part of riding an internal combustion powered motorcycle is like dismissing the flavor component of a meal. Steamed rice and beans can keep you alive indefinitely but where’s the visceral joy in that.

  9. To use your flavor analogy, the sound and vibration you praise & apparently crave are really just a big hefty dose of MSG – no real value added to the nutritional content of the food but at the same time, it “tastes” better even though it really isn’t any better for you. Sound IS a part of riding an ICE-powered motorcycle, but it is not part of riding a motorcycle if you take the ICE element out of it. It’s the ICE part that brings the byproducts of sound and vibration inevitably with it, and if that sound had never been there in the first place I’d bet that most would consider it an unwelcome addition if it didn’t do anything to improve the performance these days. If it was really that welcome as part of the “experience,” why do we bother with balance shafts, cush drive hubs, suspension, power-assist clutches, steering dampers, and the like? Like the kids who have always had cel phones/GPS’s/internet & can’t seem to comprehend what life would be like without it, even if it was better in a lot of ways – you don’t seem to see how sound and motorized two-wheel travel can exist without the sound and vibration.

    Casually dismissing the rapidly growing presence of drivetrains that have improved by orders of magnitude in less than 1/10th the time of the ICE – and rivalled/superceded the ICE in many ways already – just because it doesn’t fit your first-and-ever-since-then impression of what a motorcycle “is,” is like going to a shoreside seafood restaurant and ordering a hamburger because you are afraid to try anything else on the menu because it doesn’t have grease and white bread in it.

    Here’s another analogy: if you want to stick with your clunky, heavy, noisy, cumbersome old brick cellular(really, not in the slang sense of today) phone, by all means, it’s your right to. But if you had told any of us fifteen years ago that we could be surfing the internet from anywhere and our phones would have the functionality of 50+ different devices before we even customize them and battery life on the order of days at a time, we’d have all scoffed it off as science fiction. But here we are, right? All that and more…

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