LiveWire S2 Del Mar Review: Fun, Fast, Limited Range

Once across the bridge, we head for the Palisades Parkway, a series of fast, forest-lined curves along the Hudson River, a favorite of test riders. Here I can switch between the other drive modes – Sport, which increases power and decreases traction and slip controls; Eco, which maximizes smoothness and efficiency; and Road, a balance somewhere in the middle. Changing modes while driving is simple – just press a button within easy reach of your right thumb – and seamless. The Del Mar will also be the first bike to feature over-the-air software updates, which could include new ride modes or ways to customize them.

The Wheelie control works in Road mode, but since it’s not installed here, I open the throttle as much as I dare. It turns out to be little. At 50 or 60 miles per hour, the bike assumes that if you give it “gas”, you really mean it. A quarter turn is enough to make me quite nervous, even though I’m nowhere near the 184 lb-ft of torque available. Interestingly, at this speed, the difference in acceleration between the different drive modes doesn’t seem that big; even in the rain, the Del Mar will be very responsive if you have to give it a sudden kick to overtake an erratic driver. I don’t get close to its top speed (as yet unspecified), but I can let any car race down the stationary palisades. For the brave or the reckless, LiveWire quotes a 0-60 sprint time of 3.1 seconds.

After returning to the George Washington Bridge, I switch to LiveWire One for comparison. It weighs more than 100 pounds more than the Del Mar’s 431 pounds, and it feels a little sturdier on the frighteningly ornate pavement of FDR Drive. His electric moan is also noticeably louder. The company designed the LiveWire One’s engine sound to be noticeable, which might be a safety feature, but I could imagine it becoming irritating on a longer drive; that’s not the case with the Del Mar, whose sound practically disappears behind wind noise once you’re at moderate speeds.

Back in city traffic, the Del Mar has a noticeable advantage over the One. It’s tighter when I’m slaloming in and out of lanes and around obstacles, and the more upright riding position is more relaxed, more comfortable and safer – I feel more aware of my surroundings. And again, it’s much calmer to handle in stop-start traffic on rough roads than an ICE bike.

But no fast charging

This is all by design. The Del Mar is aimed squarely at the urban biker. It offers a maximum range of 110 miles in the city, and while LiveWire hasn’t yet specified what its highway range will be, an apples-to-apples comparison with the One (146 city miles, 95 highway) suggests it could be about 70 miles. Also, unlike the One, which can go from zero to full charge in about an hour, the Del Mar surprisingly doesn’t offer DC fast charging, only levels 1 and 2, which means it can take several hours. The company claims the Del Mar can handle a Level 2 charge from 20-80% in 75 minutes, but that’s not enough to extend your range in most settings. The Zero SR/S, by comparison, has a range of 187 miles around town and can quickly recharge from 0-95% in 60 minutes. Yes, it’s similarly priced to the fast-loading LiveWire One, but it beats that bike’s range as well.

Whether this bike is right for you depends on where you live and where you want to ride. I divide my time between New York and the San Francisco Bay. In Manhattan, public transportation or a bicycle is almost always faster and more convenient than a car or motorcycle. To ride out of town, 70 miles only gets me half way through the Hudson Valley and not as far as the Catskills or the Hamptons – the kind of places people who would shell out a little less $17,000 on an electric motorcycle might want to spend their weekends. For a day trip without a few hours to recharge, I’m limited to 35 miles each way, which doesn’t take me far out of town.

In the Bay Area, meanwhile, the Del Mar would be fine for getting around San Francisco and the East Bay, but if you live in one of those places and have to spend the day in Silicon Valley, or vice versa, you’d run out of range – unless, again, you could leave it parked somewhere for several hours to recharge. Almost any day trip north of the city or to the peninsula would also be out of the question.

So the Del Mar is not for me. It’s a shame, because it’s a nice bike. It manages to be powerful and nimble, thrilling and forgiving at the same time, and it has a distinctive identity and awesome style. If you live in the kind of town where getting around on a motorcycle makes sense and you don’t care about long commutes, this might be the one. The rest of us will have to wait for battery technology to update.

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