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2022 LiveWire One noise and safety review highlights:

  • Some riders worry that an electric motorcycle like the 2022 LiveWire One isn’t loud enough to draw attention to itself, thus making for riskier riding conditions
  • Not only is the LiveWire One not silent, but it’s loud and distinct enough for pedestrians to notice it even in loud environments—and it has multiple standard safety features
  • There are other ways to stay safe on an electric motorcycle besides massive waves of sound

Whether you’re riding an electric motorcycle or driving an electric car, the EV-curious ask many of the same questions. But the two-wheeled crowd isn’t just interested in range and charging times. Many still believe in the ‘loud pipes save lives’ myth, which makes them wary of something like the 2022 LiveWire One. They worry that the electric Harley-Davidson is too soft-spoken to be safe on busy streets. However, while the LiveWire One doesn’t have a loud pipe, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe.

The 2022 LiveWire One isn’t V-twin loud, but it still makes noise

The rear 3/4 view of a black 2022 LiveWire One in a suburban parking lot
2022 LiveWire One rear 3/4 | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Yes, compared to their gas-powered counterparts, electric motorcycles are rather quiet. However, just like four-wheeled EVs, battery-powered bikes aren’t completely silent (unless they’re designed to be). And the 2022 LiveWire One is no exception.

Before I briefly rode the One and Zero SR/F last year back-to-back, I thought that they’d sound virtually the same. But while both bikes made noise, Harley’s electric motorcycle was not the Zero’s vocal match. And after riding the 2022 model for several weeks in and around Chicagoland, I can confirm that it has a distinct voice. Not a loud voice, mind you, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Most of the four-wheeled EVs I’ve driven or ridden in made some variation of a high-pitched white-noise whoosh. That’s not what the One sounds like. Initially, you just get a low whir from the drive belt’s bevel gear. Then, once you speed up, the electric motorcycle starts sounding like a jet turbine designed by someone who had The Jetsons on repeat. It’s this piercing, warbling, futuristic whine that, combined with the One’s styling, made me imagine I was riding the light cycles from Tron: Legacy.

Is the 2022 LiveWire One as loud as, say, the new Harley-Davidson Nightster or Indian Scout? No. But I’ll let you in on a secret: above 40-45 mph, the rushing wind starts drowning out the engine. Also, if a gas-powered motorcycle really makes a racket, I’m putting my earplugs in early. I didn’t need to do that with the LiveWire One, though, precisely because it isn’t loud at city-street speeds. So, in a way, I could hear it more clearly than I would an ICE bike.

Can other people hear you coming on the 2022 LiveWire One?

The front view of a black 2022 LiveWire One in a suburban parking lot
2022 LiveWire One front | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

The supposed point of loud exhausts, though, at least for motorcycles, isn’t so you’ll hear the engine better. Rather, it’s so everyone around hears your bike better and thus picks up on your presence sooner. Hence why some riders get nervous about electric bikes like the 2022 LiveWire One: they think it’s not loud enough to get noticed.

Now, I’ve seen some drivers so distracted you’d need an airhorn to get their attention. But let me assure you, riders, you don’t need to worry about the One being too silent to be safe.

Firstly, though it mostly applies to electric cars rather than motorcycles, the NHTSA requires EVs to make sounds at speeds up to 19 mph. These sounds can’t sound like anything natural and must be powerful enough for pedestrians to clearly hear them, Roadshow explains. So, legally, the LiveWire One must be loud enough for people to hear it coming.

Secondly, in 2015 the NHTSA published a noise study of electric motorcycles and heavy-duty vehicles. Admittedly, the study only looked at two bikes, a Zero S and a Brammo Enertia. Regardless, at 19 mph, the S put out 59.6 decibels of noise and the Enertia emitted a 66.5-decibel shriek. For comparison, typical suburban background noise peaks at 50 decibels while a car passing you on a city street emits about 70 decibels. In short, electric motorcycle sounds are powerful enough to draw your attention.

Furthermore, I can personally confirm that the 2022 LiveWire One is loud enough to get noticed. I was riding it past a suburban train station, going 20-25 mph, right as a bus was idling in the other lane. Yet the One’s turbine whine still made someone sitting on a bench in front of the station look up from their phone and follow my progress. If this bike’s sound can cut through a bus’s racket, it should be just fine in car-only traffic.

The LiveWire One has some solid standard safety features

Fortunately, the 2022 LiveWire One doesn’t need a loudspeaker to help keep you safe. Besides Brembo brakes, Harley-Davidson gave its flagship electric motorcycle several standard safety features:

  • Cornering-enhanced ABS
  • Drag-Torque Slip Control (rear-wheel-slip control)
  • Cornering-enhanced traction control

Each of the One’s riding modes adjusts the traction control as well as the regenerative braking, throttle response, and power settings. Also, in addition to the four built-in modes—Rain, Range, Road, and Sport—the bike has three customizable modes. And Rain Mode’s gentle throttle and power settings really came in handy after a brief downpour. Even with Chicago’s streets soaked and one over-enthusiastic Prius driver squealing their tires, the One rolled away from stops without a single tire chirp.

You don’t need loud noises and wild sounds to be safe on an electric motorcycle

Speaking of chirping, that’s ultimately what’s at the heart of concerns over the LiveWire One’s volume. One of the core tenants of motorcycle safety is ‘assume that you’re invisible.’ And some riders think that the best way to get around that is with loud pipes. But you don’t need loud sounds to be seen on a LiveWire One or any other electric motorcycle.

Firstly, ATGATT: all the gear, all the time. Also, make sure that your gear is brightly colored or at least reflective. Secondly, move within your lane, stay within sight of other people’s mirrors, and maintain a two-second following gap. And while loud pipes won’t save lives, using your horn judiciously can help.

In short, yes, the 2022 LiveWire One is loud enough to make its presence known on the road. However, the sounds it makes aren’t its or your main safety tools.

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