How Harley-Davidson Prepped the LiveWire for Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Up

Although Long Way Up uses Rivian R1Ts as support vehicles, the main mechanical stars of the show are the Harley-Davidson LiveWires the hosts ride. Ewan McGregor and his co-host and friend Charley Boorman specifically chose electric motorcycles for their third journey together. But while the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is fast, it’s still a street bike at heart. And getting it ready for off-roading required a bit of modification.

What does the base 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire offer?

Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Harley-Davidson LiveWire | Harley-Davidson

With a $29,799 base price before incentives, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire isn’t exactly cheap. Zero Motorcycles and Cake, for example, both offer cheaper electric bikes. Even the base Tarform Luna costs less than the LiveWire.

However, in a recent Cycle World comparison, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire beat Zero’s range-topping SR/F. The LiveWire’s price tag makes some sense, Motorcyclist explains, because it’s the company’s halo product. And it’s mostly justified by its overall quality, Roadshow reports.

The 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire has a 78-kW electric motor linked to a 15.5-kWh battery pack, The Drive reports. That translates to 105 hp and 86 lb-ft at the ‘crank,’ or 93 hp and 74 lb-ft at the rear wheel, according to Cycle World. Although it weighs 544 pounds, Road & Track reports it can go 0-60 in 3 seconds. And there’s no need to worry about shifting because it has a single-speed transmission. It’s linked to the rear wheel via belt-drive.

Reining in the Harley-Davidson LiveWire’s speed are Brembo brakes with ABS and regenerative braking. The level of regen is adjustable, Revzilla reports, as is the bike’s riding mode. The Showa fork and rear mono-shock are fully-adjustable, too. And the LiveWire also features traction control, wheelie control, and stoppie (the front-wheel version of a wheelie) control.

Harley-Davidson claims the LiveWire has a city range of 146 miles and a mixed highway-city range of 95 miles. Cycle World’s best-recorded range was just under 114 miles, though it’s unclear if that was in mixed or purely street riding. Thankfully, the LiveWire is compatible with DC fast chargers. Harley-Davidson claims it can go from 0-80% charge in 40 minutes.

Modifying the Harley-Davidson LiveWire for Long Way Up

Unfortunately, finding a DC fast charger isn’t easy when you’re riding through a South American wilderness. And the Harley-Davidson LiveWire only has 5.4” of ground clearance and 4.5” of suspension travel. It’s not exactly an adventure bike. However, if an Indian Scout Sixty can go off-road, so can the LiveWire.

Ewan McGregor on his blue Harley-Davidson LiveWire modified for Long Way Up
Ewan McGregor on his modified Harley-Davidson LiveWire | Harley-Davidson

Rivian partially took care of the range issue, Motor Trend reports. The company laid out over 200 charging stations along the Long Way Up travel route. But neither of the Long Way Up Live Wires sport modified powertrains, RideApart reports. The chassis, battery pack, motor, and associated electronics are stock. That’s partially because, like the support R1Ts, the bike wasn’t in production at the time Long Way Up was filming.

Rather than modifying the powertrain, Harley-Davidson focused on getting the rest of the LiveWire ready for off-roading. The company installed custom rear shocks, windshields, and handlebar triple clamps. The electric motorcycles also received new brake rotors, tires, and wheels from the as-yet-unreleased Pan America adventure bike.

Harley-Davidson hasn’t released the specific details of the build, but it is releasing a multi-part podcast series explaining it, Rider reports.

Can you modify your bike like this?

As of this writing, Harley-Davidson doesn’t offer a suspension upgrade for the LiveWire. And it appears no aftermarket supplier makes a slot-in replacement. Meaning, if you buy a LiveWire and want to take it off-road, you’ll likely need a fully-custom solution.

Harley-Davidson Pan America prototype
Harley-Davidson Pan America prototype | Matthew Skwarczek

Here’s What It’s Like to Ride the Harley-Davidson LiveWire

However, that doesn’t mean Harley-Davidson couldn’t offer such an option in the future. Cycle World reports that the Pan America prototypes also had Brembo brakes. And like the LiveWire, they rode on Michelin tires, albeit off-road ones. If and when the Pan America is released, those brakes and tires could be made available. At that point, it would simply be a matter of fitting them to the LiveWire.

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