Besides relaunching the LiveWire as a standalone brand, Harley-Davidson’s expanding its electric offerings with some pedal-powered help. That’s right, Harley-Davidson is officially in the ebike business now. And just like the LiveWire, these electric bicycles have their own sub-brand, Serial 1. But what’s it like to ride an ebike designed by a motorcycle company? At the 2021 International Motorcycle Show in Chicago, I got a chance to do just that.
What kinds of speed and range do the Serial 1 ebikes offer and for how much?
|Spec||MOSH/CTY||RUSH/CTY Step-Thru||RUSH/CTY Step-Over||RUSH/CTY Speed|
|Motor||Brose S Mag||Brose S Mag||Brose S Mag||Brose TF Mag|
|Torque||66 lb-ft||66 lb-ft||66 lb-ft||66 lb-ft|
|Battery capacity||529 Wh||529 Wh||706 Wh||706 Wh|
|Rear hub||Single-speed, freewheel||Enviolo AUTOMATiQ CVT||Enviolo AUTOMATiQ CVT||Enviolo AUTOMATiQ CVT|
|Max assistance speed||20 mph||20 mph||20 mph||28 mph|
|Claimed range||35-105 miles||30-90 miles||25-115 miles||25-115 miles|
Although Harley-Davidson plans to offer custom Serial 1 models periodically, the main lineup consists of the models in the table above. All four are aluminum-frame cruiser-style road bikes with carbon-fiber belts and hydraulic disc brakes. And all but one offer S, M, L, and XL frame sizes; the RUSH/CTY Step-Thru lacks an XL option.
Although some ebikes have hand-operated throttles, all Serial 1 models are pedal-assist only. The cheapest three, with their 20-mph speed limits, are Class 1 ebikes, while the RUSH/CTY Speed is a Class 3. And just like on other ebikes, the pedal-assistance level is adjustable via handlebar-mounted controls. There’s also a display mounted on the handlebars showing your charge status and pedal-assistance level. On the Serial 1 MOSH/CTY, the display is a series of LEDs, while the other ebikes have a color display screen.
Increasing the pedal-assistance level does make acceleration easier, especially uphill. However, it also burns through your charge faster, hence why Harley-Davidson lists such broad range claims for its ebikes. But because the Serial 1 ebikes are all pedal-assisted, you can still ride them even if the battery’s out of juice. And you can either remove the pack or use the built-in charging port to recharge.
What kinds of features come standard on the Serial 1 ebikes?
All Serial 1 ebikes have built-in LED lighting, including a headlight, taillights, and brake lights. Plus, the ‘Serial 1’ badge lights up. But while the MOSH/CTY is the cheapest and lightest of the Harley-Davidson ebikes, it also lacks the others’ equipment.
For one, the more expensive Serial 1 models get those CVT rear hubs, which function just like car CVTs, Roadshow says. In other words, you pedal along, and the hub ‘shifts’ for you—and it’s maintenance-free, The Verge notes. And two, the RUSH models address a common cycling criticism—lack of storage—with integrated fenders and racks. Plus, they have lockable glove boxes.
Riding some Serial 1 models at IMS Chicago proves Harley-Davidson is serious about ebikes
At first glance, Harley-Davidson’s ebikes look like they’re only designed for city streets and paved trails. However, because they have relatively wide tires with grippy treads and tall sidewalls, they can hit up forest preserves and gravel roads. And that last part isn’t a hypothetical statement, Roadshow notes.
The ebike riding course at IMS Outdoors Chicago 2021 was set up on a winding gravel path through a farm field. I hit that gravel on two different Serial 1 ebikes, the MOSH/CTY and the RUSH/CTY Speed. As I own a gravel bike, I wasn’t too worried about how the solid forks would react to the bumpy, rocky surface. But I didn’t really know what to expect from an ebike bearing the Harley-Davidson logo.
What I found, though, is that these Serial 1 electric bikes are the real deal where cycling is concerned. Because the battery pack is low in the frame, these ebikes feel lighter than their curb weight suggests. That low center of gravity combined with the stiff aluminum frame provides fun handling and plenty of stability, Motorcycle.com says. And those tires help the frame absorb bumps well, so no gravel harshness makes it through the handlebars. They might not be mountain bikes, but they were a blast to ride.
Speaking of, one of the greatest arguments for pedal-assist ebikes is how fast they make you feel. That’s in full effect with Serial 1’s ebikes. Even in the RUSH/CTY Speed’s gentle Tour Mode, hitting 20 mph was a breeze. And the electric motor kicks in so smoothly I basically didn’t feel it. Plus, the RUSH/CTY Speed’s CVT is just as refined as its motor. And if you need to stop from 25 mph so you don’t accidentally ride into motorcycle demo traffic, the disc brakes are more than strong enough for the job.
Are Harley-Davidson’s electric bicycles worth buying?
Overall, Harley-Davidson has built a solid series of ebikes. That being said, there are a few issues worth noting. For one, both the MOSH/CTY’s and RUSH/CTY Speed’s displays were difficult to read in direct, bright sunlight. The latter’s LCD screen was slightly easier to interpret in that regard, though.
And two, at $3799, even the cheapest Serial 1 ebike is somewhat pricey. For instance, the Propella 7-Speed is roughly one-third the price, though it lacks integrated lighting. And while the $1599 Aventon Level doesn’t have taillights, it has a standard rear cargo rack and front suspension.
However, Business Insider found that the Serial 1 bikes’ build quality and overall refinement justify their premium price tags. And given these ebikes’ features and smoothness, I’m inclined to agree. Plus, that CVT hub sets the RUSH models apart from every other bike I’ve ever ridden, electric or otherwise. That’s likely intentional, seeing as Harley-Davidson is trying to court first-time cyclists.
As with any other motorcycle or bicycle, try before you buy. But know this: Serial 1 isn’t some brand-licensing exercise. These ebikes can compete with what the rest of the cycling industry offers.
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