Skidmarks: Electric Touring Motorcycles –

We’ve been stuffing you a lot of e-bike content lately, but here’s something that has been on my mind for years. We know electric motorcycles are great for racing, commuting, and super biker parties, but their range – hovering around the 100 mile mark – is what keeps them from being truly versatile products.

Where is it?

The last time you took a long motorcycle trip, did you just, as the Aerostich T-shirt says, ride, eat, sleep, rehearse? Sometimes it does, but when you’re on long trips with a group of friends, the norm is 80 to 120 miles interrupted by extremely slow and frequent gas and rest stops.

You know what it is: the more you ride with people, the longer it takes for everyone to feel, rest, snack, break the pot, and check their smartphones. And then there is always a guy with his helmet and gloves on, chewing an energy bar while everyone else is on their bikes, waiting in the aisle of the gas station, the turn signals flashing hopefully. Come on man! The bar closes at 9:00 am in some of these small towns.

Brian Rice with his unlikely choice of long-distance touring bikes, a 2016 Zero DSR.

So as long as there are places where you can recharge your bike in 30 or 40 minutes every 100 miles, in theory you should be able to have a similar malfunction (with an emphasis on the amusing) tour experience on an electric motorcycle. That was the thought I was thinking about, but writing an entire column about it seemed like a lot of work… until yesterday.

I was there, the column for the next day and Brasfield was breathing me (not really), and I had no idea what to write. Fortunately, fate has a way to throw things in your lap. As I dropped off a Lyft passenger outside his hotel near the San Francisco Embarcadero, I spotted an odd-looking motorcycle parked against a sidewalk across the street, surrounded by tools and luggage. . God, why are you so nice to us agnostics?

Serious, slim, with a ponytail and glasses, the 2016 Zero DSRThe owner was as quirky and unexpected in appearance as his fully electric courier. It appears that Brian Rice was returning from a hike in Marin County when her belt drive decided she was finally fed up after 30,000 miles. He found a convenient place to park and returned home to get a spare belt, tools and a jack to get his bike back on the road. Unfortunately, he didn’t pack an Allen socket beefy enough to unscrew his swingarm, that’s where I came in. schlepping our electric road warrior back home to get the right tool, I could get his story. Not a bad deal.

The wheel covers exceed Brian’s range by 3-5% and are made from plastic and zippers. Mooneyes, the famous custom shop, is interested in making him a nice set of blankets.

As I drove him first to his pad and then to the auto parts store to get a new plug, he told me about his experience building a passenger car from a short commuter. distance. It turns out that if there is one guy specifically designed to pursue such a project, it’s Brian.

“I grew up in Houston around NASA engineers,” Rice, 30, told me. His dad worked in CAD software sales, so naturally young Rice was “into some super old school stuff … Dick Rutan was a hero.” He dropped out of engineering studies at Texas A&M, opting for practical experience as a Marine Electrical Technician. He ended up in the nuclear power plant of the mega-carrier USS Carl Vinson.

“A lot of that stuff got transferred to electric motorcycles. I know enough to avoid accidents where the power vaporizes a screwdriver and then you breathe in the metal vapor,” which he says is really a thing that happens. , another reason to avoid the US Navy, so when Rice acquired his Zero DSR, he was quick to modify it to suit his needs.

Electric motorcycle touring is also a Thing, pretty well established in fact. We did a report on Zero hero Terry “Electric Terry” Hershner, a man who got his own Wikipedia listing by being the first person to ride an electric cross-country motorcycle (in 2014), although I totally thought about doing it first. Terry’s approach appears to have three components: increasing battery capacity, increasing aerodynamic efficiency, and reducing charge time by adding chargers.

Of those three things, it looks like you would get the easiest gains just by adding bigger batteries, but you’d be wrong. Batteries are heavy, expensive and complicated to hook up to the electrical system. Adding a 3.3 kilowatt-hour “Power Tank” to a Zero S or DS allows you to increase capacity (and range) by 25%, but also puts over 45 pounds directly on the bike and dig a $ 2,895 hole in your wallet, too. Terry increased the capacity of his bike to over 22 kWh, more than double the original bike. He also doubled the weight of the original bike. Brian bought an energy tank, but it looks like the biggest gains are elsewhere.

Don’t try this at home, kids! Rice’s rig has a lot of external wiring, but it’s in development and Brian usually has this hardware covered and safe.

Using his crazy electrical skills, Brian replaced the standard on-board charger (which consumes only 1.3 kWh and takes 10 hours to charge his bike) with not a but Three DigiNow 3.5 kWh chargers. That’s over 10kWh of charging capacity, and you don’t even need a DC fast charger to use it – just plug in two standard Level 2 chargers (the kind you find in most charging stations) on the bike: he installed two ports just for this reason, one on the top and one on the side.

I wonder if he was thinking about that vaporized screwdriver the first time he set it all off?

Now he has a bike that can charge from completely dead to almost done in 90 minutes, or as an old Maximum MORon Sean Alexander would call him, five minutes. But in most cases Brian charges low double digits somewhere in the 80s or 90%, and it takes a lot less time; the last 10% can take 30 minutes or more as the system slows down the juice to balance the cells. Most of Brian’s breaks are 30 minutes or less, sometimes not even enough time for a relaxed lunch. Trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles (my personal landmark for the tour day) are achievable in about eight hours, and it got to Seattle from the Bay (800 miles) in just two days. What about iron butts? Electric Terry did his first 1000 mile day in 2014.

But perhaps the biggest obstacle is that sweet substance that surrounds you every day: air. At 40 or 50 mph it doesn’t do much, but go over 60 and we all know it can start to really undermine efficiency, especially on a bare bike like the DSR. Terry’s bike received the full Craig Vetter treatment, and now the egg-shaped thing, equipped with more battery capacity than a Nissan Leaf, can go over 300 miles on a charge. Brian also went the route of the garbage can shroud.

Author’s wind tunnel tests at the Moto Guzzi factory, 1959

However, he wasn’t happy with the limited steering lock, size, or unsexy appearance of driving what looks like Flipper with wheels. It installed a much smaller fairing designed by Hollywood Electrics, and it looks pretty darn sporty. Oh, and that still gives her a 25-30% boost over nude. With 16 kWh of battery, it can travel 135 miles at highway speeds. I don’t know about you, but it’s usually more than what I like to ride without interruption.

Brian sometimes prefers the convenience of occasionally using his other bike, a Suzuki V-Strom 650, but seems to prefer the novelty and adventurous spirit of electric tourism. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very enjoyable in a different way than a gas bike. You will hear the birds chirping in the forest. There is something very compelling about this.

Rice, Rice, baby …

If you’re not as impressed as I am with Terry and Brian’s engineering efforts, I understand. But think how much more a big factory like Honda Where Bmw, with their armies of engineers, wind tunnels and millions of dollars could do. In fact, the technology now exists for a Golden wingMid-size touring platform with enough battery capacity and efficiency to travel 300 miles or more on one charge. Using DC fast charge technology (or dual level-2), there is no reason why such a platform should not recharge up to 95% in less than 30 minutes. Using an ultra-thrifty parts supply (Zero seems to excel in this area), the MSRP should be what you would pay for a comparable gasoline motorcycle from BMW, Harley davidson or Honda.

Holy shit, the future is upon us, and guys like Terry and Brian are helping us make it happen. Check out Brian’s most informative Zero Motorcycle Wiki,, if you need more detailed information on modifying Zero motorcycles for long distances.

Gabe Ets-Hokin is keen to point out that he is cited seventeen times as a primary source on Wikipedia and yet there is no list for him, which he considers a massive injustice. “I am doomed to anonymity, thanks to MSM’s totally unfair obsession with people who do great things,” he moans.

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