What It’s Like Living With an Electric Motorcycle in NYC



Photo: Douglas Sonders

When I tell my friends that I ride a motorcycle in New York City as my daily, they think I’m crazy. When I tell them it’s an all-electric 2022 LiveWire One, they think I’m absolutely nuts for a multitude of reasons. But an electric motorcycle is the ultimate form of transportation in the city, and I’m here to tell you why.

Charging and Range

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Nearly every time I park or stand near my bike, at least one person will walk up to me and say something to the effect of, “Cool bike! Electric? What’s the range?” Sometimes I feel like I should walk around with an FAQ card, or a LiveWire spec sheet.

Electric vehicles thrive in the city. My LiveWire One gets nearly 150 miles of riding in city traffic when fully charged, thanks to the low speeds and frequent regenerative braking. Admittedly, things get a little worse on the highway, where I average around 70-80 miles per full charge.

The truth is that sustained high speeds drain the battery faster, while stop-and-go traffic keeps the battery happy and drains it at a slower rate.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

With my typical use in city traffic, I only really need to charge the bike once a week. Many parking garages in Manhattan have some sort of EV charging station available. If not, I can still charge the LiveWire using a standard 120-volt wall plug — albeit slowly.

The apartment building I live in has an underground garage where I’m allowed to plug in and recharge. I gain about 11 miles of range per hour when charging on a conventional wall plug, but I can fill a depleted battery in an hour or less if I can find a Level 3 charger.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

I take the LiveWire on day trips to places like Bear Mountain, which is around 90 minutes outside the city, to do some cruising. I’ll typically plan to stop and charge somewhere scenic while I eat lunch. As long as I’ve planned ahead, range hasn’t been an issue.

Admittedly, this is not a road trip vehicle. I wish it could be, but it just isn’t made for that. Thankfully, I picked up a MotoTote Max hitch-mounted rack for my Lexus GX470 so I can bring the LiveWire with me on road trips. I’m in Florida on a work project this month, and was stoked to bring my bike with me. I get a lot of questions about how I set up my SUV to haul a 560-pound bike comfortably, but that’s another story that deserves its own post.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Parking and Security

I keep my SUV in the city but use it mainly for hauling gear or traveling outside of Manhattan; parking any car in the city for errands or meetings is difficult and expensive. These challenges almost never apply when you have a motorcycle.

I’ll often just hop on my motorcycle and ride to a meeting anywhere in the city, parking essentially wherever I fit on the street. You’d be amazed how easy it is to fit a motorcycle between parallel-parked cars, even in those neighborhoods where parking is basically a blood sport.

I worry about theft, but the LiveWire One has a fork lock and a built-in GPS tracker with a cellular transmitter that alerts me via text if anyone touches it while I’m away. Its anti-theft technology is certainly not 100 percent secure against a determined thief, but the features are reassuring. Just to be safe, I try not to park it outside overnight in the city.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Performance and Handling

If you’ve watched enough 0-60 mph EV videos on YouTube, then you’re aware that electric vehicles have gobs of torque. Riding an EV motorcycle is like strapping yourself to a very quiet rocketship with no clutch to pull and no gears to shift. The Livewire One will go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds flat, and is even rumored to have a top speed (locked by the manufacturer) that would give a Lamborghini a run for its money.

Some people ask me if I miss shifting gears and hearing the loud exhaust of a conventional motorcycle. Listen, I’ve owned plenty of American muscle cars from the ’60s, and have a Porsche 964 as a project car. I love rowing my own gears and listening to the music of my car’s exhaust, but there’s something to be said for a motorcycle that offers immediate power, doesn’t transmit any heat to its rider, and is quiet enough that I can easily hear traffic around me.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Atop my LiveWire, I can focus on maneuvering through city traffic instead of shifting gears. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you keep an open mind, you can learn to love the benefits of an electric motorcycle. Not to mention, most EV bikes have adjustable drive modes that change the torque output, throttle response and regenerative brake settings to suit your mood or riding conditions.

One potential issue with electric motorcycles is weight: they are heavy. My current LiveWire One, and the Zero DS I owned previously, both weigh about 100 pounds more than comparable gas-burning bikes. That being said, they both handle really well and love carving corners. These EV bikes carry their weight low in the frame, and at speed, both bikes feel very light on their feet.

Faults and Challenges

As you can tell by now, I love my EV motorcycle. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize its faults, which basically come down to three challenges:

  • Price: Most electric motorcycles are significantly more expensive than their gas-burning competitors. You have to really want the performance, style and distinct riding dynamics of an EV bike to pay the premium.
  • Range: No, EV bikes aren’t road trip machines… yet. And they’re not ideal for folks who live in rural areas far from charging stations. Right now, electric motorcycles do well in urban settings that have a good charging network and mostly stop-and-go traffic.
  • Charging: This is the biggest issue with EVs right now (and not just with electric motorcycles). I can’t tell you how often I’ll go to a charging station and find half its chargers are broken or offline. This is an issue with new Level 3 chargers especially. Things are steadily improving now that EVs are getting more popular. But for now, I still rely on apps to find charging stations, or to research which EV stations are active and get good reviews before planning to use them along new routes.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Verdict and Conclusion

Look, I can list a bunch of reasons why I love my EV motorcycle, but it’s hard to fully understand until you ride one yourself. The experience is just so unlike that of riding a combustion-powered bike. The LiveWire One is smooth, silent and powerful. As with any enthusiast vehicle, there are drawbacks and sacrifices to be made. But when I’m zipping around NYC on the LiveWire — riding a wave of instant, silent torque — the bike’s shortcomings are the last thing on my mind.

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Photo: Douglas Sonders

Photo: Douglas Sonders

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