Electric Motorcycling - Pure Energy

Arcadia Bluffs Overlook

The ignition key turns - a click, then silence. With no clutch to release, all that’s left to do is twist the throttle which is not a throttle at all. The spring-loaded rheostat sends a signal to the motor controller to release the flow of electrons. With a high-frequency whirr of a Star Wars speeder, the bike weaves through the tree-lined city streets scattering a few squirrels that have not encountered this strange beast: a Zero.

An electric motorcycle lets me savor not only the sights and smells of my environment when freed from the metal and glass cage, but also the sounds.  Gone is the incessant drone of the engine and the click of the gear shift leaving the crashing of waves on the beach, a laughing seagull, the rush of wind.   

Enduro, dual-sport, or adventure bike - whatever the name - the Zero DSR seems to float across pavement, gravel, and dirt to my campsite. With only a standard electrical receptacle next to my tent, the bike gorges on electrons while I use a butane stove to cook dinner. I contemplate more climate friendly cooking options for future trips.

Camping in Manistee
Hissing air from the deflating sleeping pad signals the start of a new day of adventure.  The scent of frying bacon and coffee in the adjacent motorhome waft into my helmet as the bike sneaks past with just the crunching gravel under the tires.  Coffee.

The bike silently glides into a curbside parking spot where a line is forming outside the Goody’s Java in Manistee.  

“Is that electric?” greets me before my helmet is off.  
“Yes, it is.”  
The inquiry continues as I get closer to ordering a latte,   “How far can you go on a charge?” and “How long does it take to charge?” and “Who makes that?”  

Coffee at Goody's
Giving the onlookers a tour of the bike, we discuss the merits of no exhaust on which to burn your legs, no oil to change, no spark plugs to foul, and no noise.  Without the steel, glass and noise in the way, there’s a lot more room for interaction and conversation.
There are downsides.

My day’s travel plans include more than the 100 miles of electric range the battery can supply.  Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is not yet inundated with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations like California, so planning is required while sipping my steaming coffee.  The PlugShare app lists three public chargers along the way, but they could be occupied or broken.  I decide to stop by all of them for brief charges rather than one long charge for my day’s range.  The limitations of range and charging speed are made manageable by this tactic, which is more in tune with my body’s needs of food and rest after sitting in the saddle for extended periods.  In a pinch, I can ask permission to use a standard 120V outlet.

Exiting the town of Onekama, the speed restriction is lifted and, with a flick of the right wrist, the single-speed motor makes full torque in milliseconds.  Rather than a noisy row of gears required by the inherent rev limitations of a combustion engine, I duck behind the fairing and am thrust up the hill by an invisible and silent force.  With a grin that won’t quit, I am reminded of the vanity plate on a friend’s Porsche:  FLY‘N LO.  

Twenty minutes of charging at Stormcloud Brewing in Frankfort gives me enough time to check in at home and upload some scenic pictures. Alcohol and riding don’t mix, so I take a mental raincheck on the craft beer. Aiming towards the Frankfort lighthouse, a hard twist yields the addictive instant torque and mind-bending acceleration. The EV smile is back on my face.

Yes, you can tour on an electric bike.
The coastline roads meander past more Great Lakes treasures like towering sand dunes in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the vacation town of Glen Arbor.  Art’s Tavern features not only lake perch, a Great Lakes specialty, but also an EV charger for customers.  Unplugging my bike after lunch, a small crowd gathers to see how an electric motorcycle charges with the familiar questions of range and charging time.  It’s fun being the center of attention.  It’s also fun leaving behind the bustling tourist town and embracing the quiet solitude of the road again.  

For those familiar with wind therapy: I invite you to experience the next revolution in your ride.  Sure, big throaty engines are fun ... until they’re not.  Strip away the cumbersome aspects of combustion engine technology, remove the clutch and the shift lever and the noise and the vibration, all that remains is the pure energy of riding electric. 

Two Zero DSs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula


If you are in the market for a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, Tesla has reestablished its referral program.  Feel free to use my referral code to get free Supercharging (at the time of this publishing) for your Tesla:  http://ts.la/karl5062


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