Motorcycles have existed for more than a century, transforming from a steam engine wedged between two wheels to state-of-the-art machines capable of speeds that would make your mother shudder. Whether the rider’s chasing adrenalin, adventure, or simply a less conventional commute to the office, everyday motorcyclists are renowned for having a very singular love affair with the road.
So what is it that creates a creature who chooses two wheels wherever they go? Not the fair-weather types who wait patiently for that perfect summer's day, but the diehards who take to the road whatever the weather, swearing to the Motorcycle Gods that this will be their only mode of transport for all eternity. These are the people who know that every journey on two wheels is a time-saver, a second-shaver - and that ‘winning is winning’, whatever the score!
I’ve always been a big fan of motorcycles from the 80s and 90s, with their vibrant colours, two-stroke motors, and twin headlights - not to mention their rough idling carbies and loud exhausts. But these days, I find myself increasingly envying the new generation of riders, who can add the effortless magic of electric bikes to their travel options. This envy has now grown into the looming certainty that electric motorcycles are going to disrupt the riding community for perpetuity - even here in combustion-loving Australia.
Here are six reasons why I know that, however much I love the roar and physicality of my old petrol bikes, I’ll eventually bow to the superior performance and effortless handling of an electric bike - at least for my commutes to work.
A drawback of having great taste in classic motorcycles is the ever-present threat of breakdowns. I can’t count on two hands the number of vehicle malfunctions I’ve endured over the years. Of course any contraption with moving parts is eventually going to fail, but with the number of internal components in a combustion engine, the chance of something failing climbs dramatically. And for a commuter, those chances increase as you lump more miles on your overworked odometer with each ride to work.
We’re now seeing motorcycles emerge from all corners of the globe with one common denominator: a simple battery pack connected to an electric motor. With an electric powertrain and fewer moving parts, the reliability factor jumps to new levels - and continues to head north with over-the-air monitoring and updates that spot anomalies and maintenance issues before they need fixing. Of course an electric motorcycle doesn’t eliminate everything that could go wrong, but when I compare the two, I much prefer my chances with an electric motorcycle.
Every year as traffic increases, it further justifies why a motorcycle is a great mode of transport to get where you need to go. But when tackling city standstills, especially in the summer, every rider faces the struggles of heat coming off the scorching engine between their legs.
I’ll never forget my commutes to university on my Kawasaki Zx7r. This wonderful machine had a well-deserved reputation for overheating, and I’d find myself racing against the clock, watching the temperature gauge climb with every passing kilometre. Regardless of my efforts I’d usually arrive with my back drenched in sweat and my bike giving off the heat of the sun, with the radiator fan spinning like a fighter jet.
After years of steamy commutes, I had a striking realisation while stuck in traffic next to the C-Series test rider in downtown Melbourne. I watched enviously as Adam sat patiently in his lane, without a care in the world, enjoying the cool breeze blowing down the centre of Kings Way - while I counted down the seconds, praying for the green light to leave behind the scorching mist emanating from beneath my seat. As I watched the rest of the test ride, it was clear that the only way to escape this dreadful reality was to embrace electric with open arms - and say goodbye to all those roasting rides on warm summer days.
Every rider loves smashing through the gears, expertly executing the correct rev match and hitting peak power in perfect tune with their exhaust. For many veteran riders, it’s a daunting reality that this pleasure will evaporate when they convert to an electric motorbike. But I’m here to reassure you that you’ll encounter a variety of new and unexpected benefits that will more than make up for your lack of gears.
I think back to my past experiences with false neutrals, engine stalls, worn-out clutch plates, and that one bike with a frustratingly broken third gear. Perfectly-executed gear changes may provide a unique thrill, but on the commute to work, that thrill is usually lost as you dodge through rush-hour traffic, continuously clutching up and down as you vary your speed to weave between stationary cars.
Although it won’t be for everyone, eliminating all those extra inputs can come with its own benefits for the electric commuter, who only has to think about twisting the throttle and applying the brakes. With consistent take-offs from the lights, each trip is smooth and effortless, requiring little attention on the functionality of the ride - and full focus on the road ahead.
If I haven’t listed sufficient reasons to consider an electric for your next commuter, the next one should be a godsend for meticulous riders like me, who love to keep our vehicles well-maintained and perfectly tuned.
It may not be the case for all electric motorcycles, but for the C-Series, the combination of full electric power, belt drive and single-sided swingarm, mean that everything you want to check is visible and easily accessible. With no need to access the water-cooling system, the main things to focus on when commuting are your belt and tyres. With our super-tough Optibelt carbon fibre belt drive, we foresee a long future with minimal, if any, need for intervention. As for the tyres, the swingarm is specifically designed for quick removal - so when you chew through your next set of tyres, there’ll be no need to disassemble the rear end to get the wheel off!
The C-Series also has regenerative braking, which removes the wear and tear on your brake system, preserving your discs and pads. And if you’re an owner who likes to keep on top of their oil services, that’s another thing you won’t need to ever check off on the calendar.
Last but not least, a favourite of mine is saying goodbye to the dilemma of the dreaded fuel stop on the way home from work. Instead, just drop the bike off in the garage, chuck it on charge, and remind yourself that you don’t need to think about maintenance or top-ups for your next day’s commute!
When I first started riding, it was on a 1991 Honda Cbr250rr, with an inline 4-cylinder motor revving to a whopping 19,000rpm. I was introduced to the thrill of maxing out the throttle and listening as the revs reached the red line - although fortunately without the horsepower to get me into much trouble.
This experience has stayed with me since, driving my enduring love for old carbie supersports. Since joining the team at Savic Motorcycles, however, I’ve been introduced to a new way of experiencing power on two wheels. Aboard the C-Series, with its effortless power delivery, smooth takeoff, and the sound of nothing but the wind rushing past as you wrap on the throttle, you still do get an exhilarating spin up from the motor in the higher rev band.
These days, I commute a 2014 Yamaha Mt09 to and from work, and usually on weekends if the weather permits - and overall I’ve found it to be a great all-rounder. But comparing it to the C-Series’ perfect takeoffs at the lights, the guaranteed 0-100 times, and the smoothness of the belt, part of me can’t help but lean towards the fully-rounded appeal of an electric.
One of the first concerns raised when addressing electric motorcycles is the sound - or rather the ‘lack of it’. Although it doesn’t compete with a combustion engine in terms of volume, there’s definitely a distinct sound, which contributes to a different type of experience when wrapping on the throttle.
The reduced volume from the motor also has its benefits in traffic, making you more aware of your surroundings, hearing cars creep forward and pedestrians walking out from behind a car. Or better yet: the friendly rider next to you admiring your brand new electric motorcycle! With petrol bikes, trying to have a conversation with another rider at the lights, can be like trying to keep your hat on in a gale.
Every rider enjoys the sound of a nicely-tuned exhaust, but starting up your SC project exhaust for the early-morning commute can potentially make you a couple of new enemies in the neighbourhood. Some of our readers may regard this as a regular or even a fun challenge. But if like me you value your weekend ride-out, you’ll know that being able to sneak out unheard in the morning can also mean an extra half-hour of blissful riding time.