Harley-Davidson’s 2 Electric Concept Bikes Are Ready And Riding

Riding videos show Harley’s lightweight concept bikes are potentially ready for prime time

Livewire bike
Underwhelming in photos, but keep scrolling for the video. Pretty cool.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All the buzz of late has been on the bold new LiveWire, but what if we're missing the forest for the trees? What if LiveWire is a smokescreen? There's huge value in producing a striking high-tech electric motorcycle as a statement model, but let's consider who this bike is for. It just doesn't feel like a viable option for younger Gen X or Gen Y types with high debt-to-income ratios and, form-wise, feels too intimidating for beginning riders. On that front, the two smaller concept vehicles H-D unveiled recently deserve a closer look.

Truthfully, we weren't all that moved when we first saw photos of the concept bikes from the CES show. Many concepts simply don't make it to the production line, and the low-riding scooter in particular just didn't seem fully formed. The ultra-lightweight version struck us as just a mountain bike without pedals. Which is actually a smart move; Ducati's MIGG-RR electric mountain bike will soon be in dealers, Yamaha has had power-assist bikes available for years, and then there's the hybrid Kalk&. The field is ripe with possibilities.

The two new H-D concepts made a working appearance at the X Games in Aspen last week so we took a closer look. And what a difference it is to see riding videos rather than static studio shots. Harley plunked X Games host Jack Mitrani onto the minimal, boxy scooter and unleashed him onto the streets of downtown Aspen for a first-ever ride on the thing. Check it out here:

In short, this electric looks and rides way cooler in the video than the photos suggest, even if Mitrani comes across as an adrenaline-pumped H-D spokesman; you get a clearer sense of scale and a better idea of what these things are meant to do. Of course they are prototypes, but it’s instructive to see the belt drive and disc brakes in action as well as the bike’s ability to sneak around in tight places, crucial for the growing urban rider population H-D is looking to tap into. With no clutch, light weight, and, according to Harley, “removable, single-hand-carry battery packs,” the bike may have big appeal in the global markets H-D is looking to break into. They might have to work on sealing up that open belt drive, though.

Harley lightweight electric concept
Hey, man, where’s my V-twin? This Harley lightweight electric concept melds the best of mountain bike and motorcycle worlds.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Meanwhile the mountain-bike-type concept was put through its paces by Australian freestyle motocrosser Jacko Strong, who hooned it around like a proper madman on the snowy Aspen slopes. Again, the combination of parts and technology is borrowed from both the motorcycle and bicycle worlds, with a belt drive, electric motor, and premium suspension working in concert with the lightweight frame, slim form factor, and (robust) wheels of a mountain bike. It also brings what looks like a massively painful seat with a fairly stratospheric height.

In the end, the hope is that these concept machines remove some of the barriers to motorcycling and attract new riders. You wouldn’t need a motorcycle license to operate them, and with a lower weight and more accessible form, the ride is easier and the learning curve reduced. And if they come with a removable battery that can be recharged with a household outlet, that’s icing on the cake. Whether they become production models is unclear, though Harley did promise that future models would carry prices as low as “a few thousand dollars,” which might make all the difference.