Brammo Enertia vs. Zero S- Part 4: The Ride-(Enertia)

The ride experience, Rants and Raves:

As I’ve said before, the first thing I noticed on the Enertia were the footpegs- I couldn’t find them.  Once I found them, very forward and low, I noticed they were a pretty unconventional design- almost a bicycle pedal.  OK…  a little different.  When I took my first little spin around the cul-de-sac I immediately forgot about that stuff-  This thing is fun!  The bike is really light and very well balanced…  doughnuts and figure-eights immediately just had to happen- the bike leans very controllably and predictably- slow speed turning is a breeze, even with the very tight 52º lock-to-lock steering.  This is probably a combination of a pretty light bike, at just around 300lbs, and a moderately low center of gravity- contributing to my pretty good “Lean Quotient” number.  More on that later…

The overall build impression of the Enertia is relatively good.  Although much of it is covered in (recycled) plastics, the fit and finish is fairly high quality.  The “tank” appears as solid as any contemporary plastic tank, the fixtures and controls are lightweight- OK for a bike this size- but seem to be good quality.  This particular bike has been around for a while, and suffered testing from many varied riders- a good indication of how it will look after a few years of ownership, and it holds up well.  The side panels aren’t much to write home about- I saw a few places where they just buckled or didn’t fit well, as shown here.  Not a big deal, but on a bike that sells for this kind of money I’d prefer some nice perf’ed aluminum covers or nothing at all…  naked, as in the Empulse.

The startup routine is something I thought would annoy me in short order- as it turned out, it’s not a big deal, and once you get the routine it’s kind of satisfying.  You have to go through a bit of a series of checks and steps, and then you get a nice little chime and whir- dare I say it’s kind of endearing.  (I can only guess that at some point we’ll be able to choose, or even load our own startup chimes… Judging from what people load onto their phones, this is a scary thought.)

I’m a little disappointed to say the acceleration of the bike can only be described as “tempered”- and that’s generous.  You’re not going to do any hole-shots or wheelies with this bike- I couldn’t even get the rear wheel to patch out in the dirt.  Even compared to my AGM-powered $1800 home build, it’s not too impressive.

You have to guess that, based on what I know that motor can do, and what those batteries can put out, the controller has been restricted to keep people from hurting themselves and to keep the battery drain down and the range up.  The first thing I wanted to do was to see if I could hack the controller.  By the way- here’s the USB port under the seat- with the snappy little jump drive plugged in.  How cute is that, and is it just me, or does that make you want to pop that sucker out and slap it onto your computer and see what they have for files on there?  Computer geek meets bike geek.  I have very little doubt that you’re going to see an entire tuning/hacking community arise on the interwebs if these bikes get to be a common sight.  I also wonder how long before Brammo sells these little drives with their branding on them for some fun swag…

I found the top speed and range numbers to be in line with what I expected- along with Brammo’s “under-promise and over-deliver” philosophy- I got over 65mph at one point, and my range was impressive even on my highway commute.  The dashboard readout is fine.  I’m not a big fan of electronics on a bike- but the panel is useful and easy to read- although I’m getting used to the OLED displays on digital cameras these days.  This basic LCD display seemed a little low-end (dare I say old-school?), and could have been a little more visible in full sun.  The two displays I found most useful were the load indicator, allowing me to monitor how much I was tapping the batteries, and the battery charge indicator.  It would be slick if they were both on the same screen.  Pushing buttons on a display while riding a motorcycle isn’t my idea of a good, or safe, idea.  The least useful was the remaining/elapsed miles screen- it calculates how far you can go based on your average riding style at the time.  At best a good guess, at worst, just something I don’t trust or even care to see.

I’ve got to say I love the tires, and here’s my little inside maniac-rider joke.  A buddy of mine is a snob roadracer, and the first thing he does is to look at the scuff marks on your tires to see how far you’re leaning the thing- how aggressively you’re riding- and generally his comment is limited to calling you a “wuss” or worse, a “dink”.  God forbid he should see a flat-worn tire on your bike.  I just noticed the tires on the Enertia- here’s the scuff.  Actually it’s kind of impressive.  I’m not the only one who feels comfortable enough to lean this thing, and even with the laid-back rider position, others before me have taken it through it’s paces.

Indeed, it corners so well at even low speeds I spent an afternoon just slamming corners around the neighborhood for sport…

Now for my Rant.

What’s one thing you’re going to have to do to an electric bike virtually every day you ride it?  Almost once an hour, for that matter?  You got it- recharge the thing.  The recharge process on this bike had to have been designed by a lawyer.

First, you have to take the seat off.  You need the key to do that.  You pull off the seat- not an overly graceful process with the up-the-tank tab that has to come out (and you’ve got to think after a year or two will break off…) and there’s no place to put the seat.  Rest it on the ground, on a shelf, lean it up against the bike…  I found that every time I did it I got more annoyed with it.

Step 2- Pull out the cord and plug it in.

Remove the key, put it back in the ignition, turn the bars to the far left, lock the ignition switch and turn it to the “P” position.  (huh?)  Then push the button and the bike will start the charge cycle.

My solution?

What can’t you fix with a bungee cord?

Seriously, having the cord outside the seat storage lets me simply park the bike and lock it, plug it in and start charging.

Like I said.  A lawyer done this.  It’s the only explanation that makes any sense on such a remarkably well-designed product.

For my only other rant, there’s the rear brake.  The control lever is low, inside and forward…  and not adjustable, at least not without taking stuff apart that many consumers aren’t going to like taking apart.  You have to reach for it, and when you get it your foot is so much out of position you practically have to stand on it to make it work.  On the flip side, the front brake is a one-finger deal- most of the time I braked with just one finger and it was remarkably smooth and controlled.

Raves?  I think my biggest rave is simply the clean, slim design of the bike- it’s a sweet looking solution, although I’m not really buying into the “traditional” angle that Brammo pushes.  There’s not much heritage showing here, but the frame design is brilliant, is a great solution to the battery storage issue, gives you a rock-solid foundation for not only this bike but an entire line of bikes, and looks great.

I spent most of the time trying to figure out how to categorize the bike, but really it’s a bike that defies categories.  It’s a cruiser-scooter rider position, and it’s not particularly a performer, yet it’s a blast to ride.  It looks like a trail bike, but handles like a street bike.  I think the best way to describe it is that it’s a middle-of-the-road machine.  It’s designed for the widest possible audience, and it’s clearly an introduction to what is to come…  once again, as evidenced by the release of the Empulse.  The Enertia is the foundation, the poster child.  The Empulse, (as well as their race bike) in many ways, is Brammo saying, “OK, wanna see what we can do with our basic design- the frame, batteries, BMS, motor configuration we’ve shown works so well in the Enertia?  See?”

At the risk of droning on too long, I want to add one thing.  When a manufacturer gives you a product like this, and I’m used to it being a camera or system worth a few tens-of-thousands of dollars, there’s this very interesting feeling of ownership.  After you have it for a while, you start to take it for granted a little, and out of that you get the strangest inkling of how it might feel to have bought it.  More than a few times I’ve had this funny feeling of “buyers remorse”, or, “…what the hell am I doing with this thing?”  The last time I felt that was with the Leica M9- an overpriced dinosaur that I was, at first, really excited to get my hands on…  by the time I was done, I wanted to get rid of it, pretty much as fast as possible.

With the Enertia?  Not one little bit.  There was a place for it in my garage…  I looked at it fondly as I passed by the door- and it’s spot is sitting, empty, just as it left it…  Buyer’s remorse?  Not even a hint.

Jump to:

Part 1- Spec Battle

Part 2- The Matchup

Part 3- Documentation (intro)

Part 3- Documentation (Brammo)

Part 3- Documentation (Zero)

Part 4- The Ride: rider position

Part 4- The Ride-(Enertia)

The Scorecard

About the Reviews


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4 responses to “Brammo Enertia vs. Zero S- Part 4: The Ride-(Enertia)

  1. Great article. Fair, balanced review of the best and worst aspects of the Brammo Enertia with a little humor to boot. Great work!

  2. Loved this. Here’s my solution for the vexing issue of the seat/cord/charge problem: I leave the cord plugged into the bike, keep 90% of it coiled under the locked seat, and leave the cord end protruding from under the seat. There’s a little cut-out at the aft end of the seat that seems designed to allow the thickness of the cord to pass through it. Plus, when folks stop me at traffic lights to ask “is that thing really electric?” I just point to the cord end and nod.

    • Great review! I do like Brammofan’s idea. The bungie cord deal is ok but if that comes loose your going down. :-O

      It is cool to hear what you like over time and what becomes annoying. Wanted to mention the foot pegs seem inspired by aftermarket MX bike pegs. What is cool about them is they don’t have the rubber inserts to dampen vibration that you find on most ICE road bikes. It’s kind of a subtle slap in the face to ICE bikes. 😀

      Now work on those chicken strips! 😉

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