No need to pull that clutch, for there is none! How Project Livewire is changing the perception of what a motorcycle can be. And I rode one to tell you all about it (ok, also to experience the thrill). With pictures!

Joe on Project LivewireIt was a long time coming, riding an electric motorcycle. Well, even just seeing one in real life. But we (myself and my dad) finally did it. Ok, Harley Davidson did it; we rode them. Early in 2014, the company announced Project Livewire, a testbed platform for their future electric motorcycles. Producing only 39 prototype machines, they decided the best way to get feedback was to let their most loyal customers get on board. Harley organized the Livewire Experience Tour, a traveling caravan of technological goodness. Stopping in a city for just a day or so, they brought a display exhibit worthy of the World’s Fair along with 11 Project Livewire electric motorcycles. If you were chosen/invited, then you could come by and take a guided ride through the future. Of course, for us, that meant a spin around Miami.

Project Livewire - Harley Davidson

First thing you notice when you see the bikes is what isn’t there. While worthy of production right now, they leave out any areas of customization, some through design, others through need. Since the bike is electric, there are no exhaust pipes, the gas tank is a shape, rather than a container, and the clutch pedal/grip doesn’t exist. The battery pack is hidden cleverly somewhere low in the middle of the machine. As a result, this is a ridable bike…for anyone. I’m not a tall guy, and I had no issue reaching the ground. We discussed this topic, and think Harley Davidson is looking to expand their ridership with short guys and women (who statistically are a few inches shorter on average, but often more capable on two wheels). Works for me.

Keith on Project LivewireIf you were expecting a typical Harley rumble upon “starting” this bike, you’ll be disappointed. It’s like turning on your phone, if your phone were capable of accelerating you from 0-60 MPH in under 4 seconds. A silent vibration lets you know the motors are primed. Just a roll of the throttle sets it silently rolling forward. As you gain speed, it adopts the sound of a jet fighter (this was deliberate). The perfect balance great bikes are known to have are put to shame by this model…an untrained rider can nearly remain stationary without it wobbling. Highly impressive. That same balance is felt through turns and in general handling.

I could go on for pages about the experience, and I’d be happy to continue the conversation, but most of you are probably flagging by now anyway. So, lesson:

We’ve ridden bikes for many years, of a wide range of sizes. None, of any brand, prepared us for the sensation of the Project Livewire. Expectations have been shifted, irreversibly, for the awesome. The same happens with other improvements. Who goes from a smartphone back to a flip device? Who says, “eh, mobile deposit isn’t for me…I’ll go back to mailing checks”? Who pays using ApplePay, then thinks, “no, swiping an insecure credit card is a much better solution”?

As people come to expect new concepts, services, and experiences, be ready to adopt those that make sense for your business. You don’t have to be the trailblazer, but the laggard isn’t going to make any great strides.