Sitting on the Electric Fence

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

I’ve been riding motorcycles a long time. Things were way different in the mid-seventies with polyester shirts and bell bottom jeans, but mostly it was the amount of hair I had underneath my helmet. It was simple – bikes were simple, and livin’ just came easy. Low-tech television sets and kick-starters on our motorcycles. I remember it all like it was yesterday. And quite frankly, I’m still wearing polyester shirts and bell bottoms.

But things are changing, even with a motorcycle company that is steeped in history dating back to a day when The Wright Brothers were winging it with the first sustained motorized flight in a pasture in North Carolina. To see history through the eyes of Harley-Davidson is a story that’s been told by better ‘tellers than me. And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

And here we are, minutes away from the LiveWire release this fall, and I’m sitting here on the proverbial electric fence about it.

I get it. Innovation is essential in all aspects of life making it better. It wasn’t enough to have a cellular phone, we needed a phone that flipped and took pictures. You catch my drift? Heck, I’ve owned cars and trucks without power-steering or air conditioning, so I know the advantages of someone thinking about my conveniences and comfort. For that I will always be grateful.

So why then, would a fella like me be on the fence about a futuristic electric motorcycle built by one of the longest running, most recognized companies in the world?

I consider myself an average guy. I ride motorcycles and have for a long time. I’m an enthusiast, and I like all things two-wheeled. I like the LiveWire but it isn’t something I could see myself owning. I do know this isn’t just about me. There will be plenty of those pre-order’s coming in to the Motor Company’s switchboard by those who want to have one of the first off the assembly line or can appreciate the electric vehicle (EV) segment. If I had the opportunity to ride one I would. But, I don’t know. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of siphoning gas out of your buddies bike to put into your near-empty tank to make it to the next gas station, you haven’t lived your best life. I just like the sound and feel of the combustion engine. Oh, and the smell and taste of combustion engine fuel. Go ahead, tell me you never…

So why am I struggling to embrace what makes the combustion engine and the electric motor motorcycles co-exist? Do you remember when the microwave and the VCR first came to be? Man, were they expensive. Maybe that’s part of my problem. It’s the price tag. As new technology comes forth, the initial costs are high and for a working man like me, who enjoys riding his Road King, the just-short-of-a-ashtray-full-of-change away from $30,000 is a lot of money. Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

Plus, I like to ride further than the estimated range the LiveWire has. Again, I’m not the targeted audience for this particular segment, I’m sure. But I am on the radar of Hair Club for Men.

I’ve written in other posts about how Harley-Davidson has painted themselves into a corner. Until the concept of the LiveWire came about, the Motor Company has had a problem of changing anything that might upset their core customer, and that particular bike in the line-up they owned. Fuel injection for those die-hard carburetor customers, radiators hanging off the front, etc. Keeping things the same – fenders, engines, the iconic fairing or saddlebags and even the traditional names of models has been a successful business plan and have all past the test of time. That’s our fault. We have demanded a lot, meaning we have demanded the same.

So where does this leave me? It’s going to be okay. Things are changing around me, and like my father witnessing the changes he did, these changes wait for nobody. There will be things coming in the future that will be hard to wrap my head around but once they’re here, we’ll wonder why it took so long. The LiveWire will be here to stay because just as the EV’s have evolved, they will be refined even more, and in turn, costs will come down. I’m just being the old man I swore I’d never become!

Plugged In

sturgis100_4434

I have this same, eerie feeling now as when the first microwave oven graced our kitchen counter. I was standing there, in complete awe and fully aware of how my life would never be the same. Pretty cool. Harley-Davidson just announced to the world that an electric motorcycle – apply named Project LiveWire, with that familiar Bar and Shield on its faux tank – could possibly be coming to dealers near you. I will spare you the humorous names I’ve come up with. No, on second thought; Electric Glide, Volt-Rod, FXAC/DC and many more. All kidding aside, let’s take a moment to let this all sink in. When the Motor Company came to be in 1903, there really wasn’t any clarification on what kind of motor it would be – combustible or electric. A company steeped in tradition and often criticized for not breaking out of the original mold from which their bikes are built, has shocked the world with this announcement. Yes, I said shocked.

I wrote about the 2014 release of the Rushmore Project in a previous post The Paint is Dry at Harley-Davidson on how the Motor Company may have painted themselves into a corner with those who buy their motorcycles. Tradition can definitely hold you back when your customers expect business as usual. It’s hard to break free of what works so well, but it can also be liberating when you finally do so. If the Rushmore Project, the Street 500 and 750 and now the Project LiveWire are a sign of things to come, then hang on, it’s going to get exciting!

Whether you think an electric motorcycle makes sense or not, it’s truly about making those innovative changes, flexing gray matter and pushing the limits of design and technology. Here’s what impresses me most with the Motor Company. For a 110+ year old company with a reputation of building their bikes using the same parts over and over, they surprised us with something a bit futuristic with very little resemblance to anything within the walls of the Harley-Davidson Museum.  Sure, every company goes through some weird times with ideas and designs, (Harley-Davidson is no exception) but to actually push the limits of what they built the entire company on is surely a sign of new blood and enthusiasm within the Motor Company.

Is it in our near future to see the electric motorcycle capable of touring? Will I be traveling to Sturgis for a week of touring the Blackhills on an electric bike? Probably not in my lifetime, but there was a time when I didn’t think it possible to heat soup in a little electric box in a matter of seconds, either. You must admit, Project LiveWire is cool. We must applaud the Motor Company for stepping up and stepping out of the corner in which we painted them into. That’s right. We held the Motor Company back by our childish wants, needs and desires to hang on to the past. But, Harley-Davidson allowed us to hold them back. Sure, we were comfortable and what the Motor Company was doing worked for so many years. But just as the microwave changed my household forever, I didn’t stop buying soup because of it. I like soup.

I’m excited, not only for the loyalists but the Motor Company as well. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when limits get pushed. As Harley-Davidson steps out of their comfort zone and goes to the public and asks their opinion, it can only be a good thing. For a company to be that plugged in to their customer base speaks volumes to where Harley-Davidson is headed. So the next time you use any of your modern gadgetry just ask yourself this; would you have it any other way? Welcome to the future.

Please check it out!

Harley-Davidson

Project LiveWire