The Transmission Debate Rages On


I had hoped, somewhat simplemindedly it appears, that once the Brammo Empulse hit the market we’d hear some objective discussion about transmissions…  pros, cons, and good, critical analysis of a stock six-speed, as in the Empulse, and maybe a two or 3-speed, or even a dual range gearbox.

What we’re getting is just more drivel.

Either we’re seeing owner’s perspectives that are flawed by two basic problems – they’ve invested in the thing, so they are loathe to say it’s not the special sauce they bought in to, or they simply aren’t builders – they are more concerned with reading reviews and armchair opinions than designing and building an actual working machine.  It’s a fundamentally different perspective.  If you’re trying to build something there are a host of things you’re trying to understand that someone who is just making a decision about which product to chose simply doesn’t have to make…  and in most cases doesn’t even comprehend.

Or, we’re seeing people who want a bike that’s firmly rooted in traditional internal combustion motorcycling.  The major media reviews of the Empulse focus on one thing – how the bike will feel to the motorcycle enthusiast wanting a ride similar to his gas bike.

Or, the best.  We’re getting guys who have no actual experience and haven’t done any of the real work – the research, math, data and testing – who like to sound like they’re authorities on the subject.  In most cases they haven’t even had the experience of riding an electric motorcycle of any sort – nevermind one with some serious power.

It gets pretty hard to really get a grip on what we’re trying to learn.  Rather than getting a better understanding of what might work, we’re just getting echoes of the party lines…

The verdict, from what I’ve been able to gather, is that if you want a similar ride to a gas bike, you should run a 6-speed transmission.  Except it’s going to be different.  The clutch use with be different, the shifting and actual gearing use will be different…  so yeah.  The same, but not.  I’m starting to see the Brammo Empulse as a “gateway drug” bike, getting the general public to think about riding electric, rather than really being what an electric ride experience is all about.

But what if you’re not looking for a familiar experience?

I’m going to say it again.  The electric powertrain delivers power in a completely unique and new way.  Rewind to the Lightning motorcycle video, complete with giggling, screaming reviewer.  Know why he was giggling and screaming?  Because it was an experience of speed and power unlike anything he’d ever had.  Smooth, seamless torque up to crapping-your-pants speed.

One day we’ll all be looking back at this time period saying, you know?  Nobody back then got it.  You’re going to see racers who’ve been weaned on electric bikes with massive power, riders who will make the same level of breakthrough in riding style that the legendary riders of today’s roadracing made, but growing from the electric powertrain.  At that point, maybe we’ll get a whole range of gearing options – multi-speeds, dual ranges, and more.  But until then we’ll just have to wait and patiently suffer the speculation and posturing.  Until then, it’s up to us builders to hammer away in our garage trying to build something that nobody has built yet.

Once riders stop looking for familiarity, and start embracing the power delivery for what it is, then we’ll start learning what the ride is really all about.



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