Last summer, I was asked to consider applying for a Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycle to ride in and around San Francisco. I'd never ridden one and I had no idea what I was in for. Let's just say, it's been one of the greatest two wheel loves of my life.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still wholly devoted to my Suzuki SV650S. When it comes to touring, hitting the twisties or long weekend rides she's still my girl.
But, there's something so easy, so fun and so carefree about taking Betty around the city. If you live in a big metropolitan, urban playground then taking a lightweight (324lbs) bike like Betty is a no brainer. Every 5 seconds is another stop sign or traffic light. Average speeds are 25-35mph, maybe 45 on major thoroughfares. 90 degree angles meet you at every turn and traffic backs up within seconds when you least expect it.
I've always ridden in a more forward riding position. My SV definitely has a pretty aggressive one. It's been 9 years since I rode a scooter almost every day, and a fully upright riding position. Between my hip / groin aches from my last accident and my worn out rotator cuff, it feels great to sit up straight with my pegs a little lower than what I'm used to. It's also convinced me that a small street legal dirtbike or supermoto are the best options for riding around the city. It's also fully convinced me that these style of motorcycles are the Best Beginner Bikes! They dramatically increase your self confidence level with their ease of maneuverability, lightweight-ness and familiar riding position. I strongly urge you to consider something with a fully upright riding position as your first bike. Your self confidence will skyrocket and your learning curve will diminish with every corner that you ride ever so perfectly.
In the beginning I was worried about the usual thoughts that run through one's mind when considering an electric motorcycle or scooter. What about the silence? Won't it be more dangerous? And one of the most difficult issues a motorcyclist may contend with when it comes to a scooter. Fully automatic?! No clutch? No shifting? Won't it be less fun? What about the hills? I live in San Francisco! Well, needless to say, I got over it in a day or two, and I simply don't give a sh*t about the rest because it's IT'S SO DAMN FUN.
You don't care that you don't need to pull in your clutch to stop (especially in traffic). I can't tell you how awesome it is to use one hand and barely touch the throttle as I creep through traffic one foot at a time. If you've ever ridden a scooter, you know there's a delay with the throttle and micro managing your speed without putting your feet down can be difficult and annoying through traffic.
And, with a motorcycle, your clutch hand gets tired pretty quickly trying to manage how far out you can let it go before you need to give it more gas and back and forth and back and forth. It's just one less thing to worry about. It's so freeing to just accelerate and brake, especially with so many stop signs, pedestrians, bicycles and more to think about going from point A to point B. I still think riding a fuel based motorcycle around SF is also the way to go (vs. cars/buses/bicycles) but it's really nice to ride something so light and easy.
And what about these hills anyway? Not a problem. Betty can run up the hills just as easily as my motorcycle. No, not every block in San Francisco is like this one (California @ Powell). Actually, most hills are fairly tame, but even with hills like these, it hasn't changed my ability to ride up and down them as quickly as I please. And if you live in SF, you rarely ride these routes anyway. It's just not my route of choice, even in a car when it comes to going downtown.
I've never struggled going up a hill in my beautiful city. If anything, she's really punchy halfway up. The only hard part is starting off. There is a slight delay but not long enough to matter. Pretty soon I'm almost at the top of the next one to care. Staying ahead of traffic is easy, especially at 30-40 mph. And it's far easier to stop at the top of a really really steep hill like Gough Street between Jackson and Washington.
Since there's no 4 gallon gas tank to balance when coming to a stop, you don't have to worry about braking to hard or leaning forward to counter gravity pulling you backwards.
I've also never had a bike with such great braking power. The Enertia is equipped with hydraulic front and rear brakes by Brembo. They stop on a dime and I barely have to squeeze the front to give me what I need. I feel like I can stop instantly and with very little effort.
So what's the downside then?
Well, the one question everyone asks most often is about the range. Is 42 miles enough? Is it really 42? The answers are Yes and No. If you don't live in San Francisco or another large urban city where everything you need is within 50 square miles, then you don't know how close everything is and how much range you really do need.
I live in a neighborhood where everything I need is within a 4-5 block radius. However, riding to another neighborhood, even across town is within 7 square miles. So realistically speaking, the range is more like 27-28. As we are a hilly city, even cars lose about 10mpg from their listed mileage. Too many hills and too much stopping and starting. It's also a little more fun to open the throttle a bit more than you need to, know what I mean? :) It also depends on the route I take. If I start my house in the Outer Sunset to the Mission, I could take the fun route with more hills and twisties. But that uses up about 30% of my juice one way. But if I take the commuter, less hilly route I only use 15% one way. So it totally depends on you.
As far as recharging, I plug in to recharge as soon as I get home from work for the most part. But I've been experimenting lately with range so I only plug in every couple of days. I still have plenty of juice for another round trip to and from work. But just to make sure I have all the power I need I plug in.
The one thing that does make things easier but does slow down the charge time (4 hours til full) is that you only need a standard 3 prong house outlet to recharge. The cord stashes easily under the seat and as long as you can find a 3 prong outlet (which exists pretty much everywhere), you can recharge if you run out.
I take Betty pretty much everywhere I can. I am lucky enough to have a car and motorcycle so if I do need to haul a lot of groceries or supplies I can use one of those if need be. I usually wear a Timbuk2 with me but it would be nice if I could add a top box or tailbag. Unfortunately since it's a one person vehicle there's no rear seat or option to add a tailbag.
Givi does offer hard side cases which are mounted low, beneath the seat. Certainly adding those would remove the need to wear a messenger bag for storage. The stock seat is pretty comfy but you can add a plush, suede seat for $200
As of 1/1/3013, all electric motorcycles and cars are subject to a 10% Federal Tax Credit, as well as a CA Tax Rebate (up to $2500). These two incentives make the Brammo a little easier to handle in terms of price. http://www.brammo.com/incentives/
As of 2/1/2013, the 2012 Enertia is on sale at Scuderia for $5400 before rebates.
(riding up California Street towards Powell Street)
Today I rode out to Crissy Field on my Brammo with Crystal and Don from Scuderia West, as well as a few other Brammo riders to make a presence at the National Plug In Day event hosted by Nissan. It's always great telling people how much fun it is to ride one around the City.
"San Francisco's Plug In Day will once again be held at Crissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, at site of the EV Charging Station, the most beautiful charging location in the world. With the backdrop of the San Francisco Bay and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, we aim to have the largest assemblage of plug-in cars, motorcycles and their owners ever anywhere!" National Plug In Day Website.
All I could find as far as an agenda that day was this post on the PlugInDay website.
It's my first time going to one of these events, and I'm really excited. I'll be there with fellow Enertia riders. From what I can tell, there will be every/any kind of electric vehicle on display along with owners and others who will be able to answer all your questions.
Event Location - Crissy Field
Event Time - 8:30am - 4:30pm
June 23-24, 2012
The Mission of the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee is to educate the world, commemorate our heritage, celebrate our culture, and liberate our people.
I'm so excited, I get to participate in the pride parade! This is one of the biggest events in my busy city. My friends and I are going to be parading down Market Street on our motorcycles. I've never participated in an event like this so I'm honored and thrilled to be a part of it. Equal Rights, dammit.
I will be bringing Betty for this one, she was So excited when I told her. :) Pictures to come, so stay tuned!
One word. FUN. SO much FUN.
Recently, I took home this sexy Brammo courtesy of Scuderia West and Brammo to share my experiences riding the Enertia around San Francisco. As a city resident and worker in SF, it's the perfect option. I could say the same about a little DRZ400, they're both light and nimble and super easy to ride (Betty is fully automatic, however). The one thing that sets them apart is this whole electricity thing, which I find to be really convenient.
Less stops at the pump! I can fill up so to speak, in my little garage. My SV is feeling neglected, as the only time I've taken her out for a spin was on Sunday when my husband and I rode up to the Marshall store and back. Since then, it's been me and Betty. 60 miles down, many more to go!
I'll be sad to see her go when our time together is up (as this is just a temporary loaner), but I know this much is true; that I foresee a supermoto or sexy naked streetfighter in my future. I've never ridden a bike like this before, I'm having so much damn fun. I think I'm sold on the supermoto riding position and hope to find something in the future that meets my city livin', vertical height and long distance traveling needs. We'll see.
If you're wondering what I'm wearing while on the Brammo, it's the same gear that I wear on my SV (ATGATT with my Arai, Sidis, REVIT jacket, pants and Racer gloves). Nothing has changed in that sense.
Follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram (gearchic), as that's where I'll be posting photos of our dates. If you see me around SF, please feel free to introduce yourself to Betty. She loves meeting new people!