Easy Rider? We will miss the roar, but electric motorcycles can’t kill our road romance | To travel

A full of gas, a twist of the wrist, the roar of the exhaust as you race towards the horizon… These are the visceral touchstones of the motorcycle experience, and all are a direct product of the power to gasoline, like a large part of the motorcyclist’s lexicon: “open it”, “give it a little gasoline”, “go full speed”. For a biker, as opposed to the modern car driver, travel is a game of whole body communication, constantly using judgment, skill, and nerve to control the thousands of explosions that occur between your thighs in order to to transport you, standing and in one piece, to your destination.

Yet the days of the internal combustion engine are numbered. By 2050, the European Commission aims to reduce transport emissions by 90%, and electric vehicle technology is advancing rapidly for cars, trucks, buses and even airplanes. But where does that leave the bike? Can this romantic form of transportation and its subcultures survive the end of the Oil Age?

For some bikers, it is this intimate and sensory relationship with the engine that defines the pleasure of riding a motorcycle. But it’s not just about sucking, squeezing, hitting, blowing (hey, that’s the four-stroke cycle). The joys of motorcycling are many and varied, stretching far beyond the lazy tropes of “gas bosses” and leather-clad biker gangs that have marred its image since the 1970s. is also, and always has been, about exploration and adventure, self-reliance and camaraderie – and, as Peter Fonda has described it with strength, freedom and fun.

The good news is that none of these elements rely on the burning of fossil fuels. The bad news is that electric motorcycle design is still in its infancy and the few models that come close to competing with large-engine gasoline motorcycles are prohibitively expensive. As a form of transportation that, at least in the western world, has gone from being an everyone’s vehicle to an expensive hobby, it is a blow to the motorcycle industry and to those who consider motorcycles as a solution to our congested streets.

Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in the classic road movie Easy Rider. Photograph: Columbia / Kobal / REX / Shutterstock

Zero motorcycles, an American startup seen as the two-wheeled Tesla, is the market leader, producing a range of street and off-road models, but its prices are between £ 18,000 and £ 20,000. There are already small electric motorcycles and scooters designed for short city trips and overnight charging at home, but a biker heart isn’t excited by the prospect of an efficient commute. It is the attraction of the open road, the unfolding of a map and the tracing of a journey through a whole country, a continent, the world; leave on a whim and go where the road takes you. For bikers with a passion for tourism and adventure, as well as for the European motorcycle industry, there is a real fear that the phasing out of the internal combustion engine combined with the reality of limited range and charging points sporadic is the death knell for long-distance travel.

According to Chris Scott, author of Adventure Motorcycle Manual, all is not lost. It’s just a matter of adapting or dying. He sees a comparison to the early motorcycle pioneers: “Fuel shortage is an old story, but bikers have always adapted. It will be the same with the infrastructure for electric bicycles. Unleaded gasoline would not have become universally universal until this year, once Algeria joined the fold. It took about 40 years; about as long as it takes to see fast chargers or a swappable battery bank on the trans-Saharan highway.

In other words, desire is the mother of invention – and motorcyclists, especially those who use their bikes to travel to faraway places, are an ingenious breed. As soon as motorcycles were invented, adventurous souls began to use them to explore the world, undeterred by the lack of fuel or even roads. And as recently as 2003, when I rode my Yamaha 225cc track bike from Alaska to Argentina, I would dive through trash cans looking for empty Coke bottles to fill up with gasoline for the long and barren stage through the Atacama Desert in Chile and the wilds of Patagonia. One thing that long distance riding teaches you is that there is always a solution.

Pryce in the Iranian desert.
Pryce in the Iranian desert. Photography: Lois Pryce

It’s no surprise, then, that some forward-thinking riders have already pushed the boundaries of electric motorcycle travel. In 2015, Belgian rider Trui Hanoulle, aka #elektrogirl, drove her Zero DS from Belgium to Istanbul and back. At the same time, on the other side of the planet, the American-Polish biker Thomas Tomczyk was busy setting the world record for the longest trip on an electric motorcycle: 17,325 miles on a Zero S, from Philadelphia to Cape Froward. in Chile, the southernmost point of mainland South America.

Hanoulle and Tomczyk both stressed that adapting to the limits of an electric bike has become a positive part of the trip. Hanoulle spoke of being forced to ride at a moderate pace, describing the 7,000 km ride as “a trip that offers, or maybe I should say, forces you to relax”, also stressing, “is isn’t this what we all look for on our travels and vacations?

Tomczyk’s difficulties were also due to the depletion of batteries, especially in the desolation of Atacama, where he planned his route to ensure minimal headwind in order to save energy. But his continued search for places to connect has led him to a fascinating array of places and people. “For a week, I recharged the bike at a mining company, a roadside police station, a hospital, a rest area on a national road and at Paranal, one of the largest astronomical observatories in the world. .

He concluded that the inevitable distance headaches were also the source of his fondest memories. “The highlight of the trip was finding places that would offer to recharge the bike, people who could offer conversation, advice and an introduction to their town, city or home. After a few days of traveling, I realized that the journey is not about using energy, but about sharing energy and experiences.

Its approach is reminiscent of the famous quote from motorcycle veteran and author Ted Simon, whose best-selling book Jupiter’s travels describes his four-year round-the-world trip in the 1970s and has become a classic in travel writing: “Interruptions are travel.

Any long haul biker will tell you the same thing. It’s not about sitting in the saddle for hours, or speeding down a freeway, or even the triumph of getting to your destination. The best moments stem from what may seem like a disaster at the time; when you are lost, broken down or out of gas. These are the times when you have to live off your wits and inevitably find yourself reaping the kindness of strangers.

There are many reasons why people are drawn to motorcycles, and for those who find the allure in the hoarse roar of an aftermarket pipe, or for those who love nothing more than the tuning of their pipe. carburetor, the switch from the internal combustion engine can possibly reduce their beloved hobby. But for those drawn to motorcycles for the freedom of the road and to explore new horizons – and if Simon’s maxim is correct – it looks like the electric motorcycle could turn out to be the ultimate ride.

Memorable Motorcycle Movie Moments

The Great Escape (1963)

Although the jump over barbed wire has become a part of folklore, cycling enthusiasts will point out that the chase that leads there is much more impressive. Steve McQueen’s extreme skill meant the stuntmen on the production set couldn’t follow him in the chase scenes. Never has a Triumph TR6 been so exciting.

Easy Rider (1969)

The ultimate cycling movie that put the Harley chopper on the map and captures America’s great promise of two-wheeled freedom. If the sunset across the desert to The Band’s “The Weight” doesn’t make you want to hit the road, you must be total square, man.

First Blood (1982)

John Rambo breaks out of jail, snatches a Yamaha XT250 off-road motorcycle from an unsuspecting citizen, and embarks on one of the biggest motorcycle chases in cinema. A helmetless, shirtless Sylvester Stallone begins to jump, skid, and speed through the forest, chased by the hapless local plod.

Any Sunday (1971)

Perhaps the greatest motorcycle movie of all time, a dreamlike documentary that captures the carefree Californian optimism of the late 1960s. Steve McQueen is our weekend action and racing hero that all motorcyclists aspire to imitate since. McQueen’s sunset beach ride closing scene, wearing an open face helmet and jeans and riding a Husqvarna 400 Cross, will never be overcome for the cool bike.

Coogan’s Bluff (1968)

The main role of Clint Eastwood and the genesis of his Dirty Harry genealogy. Play as a tough Arizona sheriff who is suddenly sent to Manhattan to bring in a villain on the run. The highlight of the film is a fabulous helmetless chase through a New York City park on a pair of gorgeous Triumphs. Eastwood on a 650 ends up catching up with the bad guy on a disadvantageous 500cc model!

Il Profeta (The Prophet) (1968)

Women on motorcycles don’t feature much in the movies, but screen icon Ann Margret changed all that. Motorcycle fanatic in real life, she exudes sultry style in this 1968 Italian comedy where she plays a groovy hippie chick, rummaging in her go-go boots on a Moto Guzzi V7.

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