The roads have been nasty and it's been pretty cold. I'm tempted to ride into the office anyhow, because the charging stations are live!
The Brammo Enertia is a motorcycle of striking design. So much so, that I really didn't like it when it first starting making appearances on the Internet. It has some wonderful design influences, but for some reason, I just didn't appreciate them in a modern motorcycle form. For one, it was really tall. I was more accustomed to sportbikes with a low, sleek look and clip-on handlebars.
Some months later, I picked up a 1996 Ducati Monster. The monster is so wide and low in the rear, that I never realized that it's actually pretty tall in the front too.
Immediately, the Enertia struck me as having a retro design. At first, the wide, low-rise, low-swept handlebars reminded me of a flat track bike. Looking a little deeper though, I thought it picked up more subtle design cues from old board track racers: narrow chassis, nearly same-sized front and rear wheels, small tank, footpegs resembling pedals. Heck, the thing could have rocked spoked wheels if they weren't so heavy.
The profile didn't fit, though. From the side, the Enertia looks much larger with its tank and lower bodywork forming a full, round shape bisected by the twin-spar frame. Then there's the modern chopped tail with its plate holder extending way back like a Japanese sportbike. Perhaps I've just been playing too much Final Fantasy XIII and watching too much anime, but the Enertia started to look very Japanese too me. I don't mean contemporary Japanese, I mean fantasy Japanese. In a weird way, the Enertia sort of resembles the following concept from Suzuki with their massive, oversized front ends and tiny, chopped tails.
Definitely Freeride MTB Inspired
I was obviously struggling to find out what it is about the Enertia's style that was captivating me. There was something very familiar and sexy about it. I was obviously getting desperate to explain it, so I kind of gave up on the idea and just rode the damned thing.
After riding it for a few days, I really started getting comfortable with its riding position, light handling, and wide bars. One day, I was headed into a low speed corner that was filled with gravel, so I couldn't lean the bike in the typical sportbike-style. In a very natural move, I stuck my foot out instead. It wasn't quite supermoto style though, as I didn't have the bike leaned way under me. No, it actually felt more like downhill mountain biking. I thought to myself, "Wow, this thing is as much fun as mountain biking."
That night I was editing some photos that I took while uncrating the Enertia. I realized that I had my freeride mountain bike leaning against the frame of the garage door in one of them...and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Enertia is built just like a freeride bike, with its forward cage footpegs, low seat, high/steep-ish frontend, and wide bars.
So maybe I was full of it with regards to my board-tracking, anime machine theory, but I think I'm right on with the freeride MTB idea. The similarities are startling.
- Cage pedals
- Beefy front end
- Coil-over shock with piggy-back resevoir
- Ultra-wide, low-rise, low-sweep handlebars
- Short, stubby stem with raked dropouts on the forks
- Single front disc brake on the left side
- Large round motor cover that looks like a bicycle chainring guard
About the only difference is that he seat on my FR bike is high in that photo...whereas normally it's slammed. Otherwise these bikes are IDENTICAL! Even the angle of the downtube on the FR bike is strikingly similar to the twin-spar frame on the Enertia.
Maybe I'm just seeing the things that I love in the design of the Enertia, but please first consider this. The guys at Brammo live in Oregon, a land of great mountain biking. Oregon's next door to Washington, which is the home of the Transition Bicycle Company who the Preston FR bike show above. The designer at Brammo lists mountain biking as one of his hobbies on ElMoto.net. And the lead engineer is a downhill mountain bike racer. These guys know their motorcycles and their mountain bikes.
And that's not all. I conjecture that they also appreciate their microbrews as illustrated by this incredibly subtle feature that I found on the Enertia. It has a cleverly disguised, non-slip six pack seat. You can't deny me this one. That little extension on the front of the seat is the perfect place to rest a six pack without having to keep a hand on it. Although it's not like your left hand is doing much on an Enertia without a clutch to operate.
Food Beer for thought...
My Brammo Enertia was delivered today. Woot! I've seen pictures of it crated before, but it was pretty interesting to see it up close. The crate has a very sturdy steel tray section that acts as a pallet. The bike is tied down to that...entirely too tight for my taste, as the forks were nearly bottomed out. For my street bikes, I like to leave a little bit of travel to help protect their seals. Anyhow, it was to no ill effect, because as I'll explain in a future post, the suspension is choice.
I'm getting ahead of myself. I must have been one of the last stops on the deliveryman's route. The Enertia was all the way at the front of a nearly empty truck. He couldn't back down the driveway, so he just parked on the street. As you can see, the crate nearly filled the width of the truck. Amazingly enough, he was able to pop it up on a pallet jack and spin it around 180 degrees. Then he pushed it out of the truck and onto the liftgate. He was parked on a hill, and all I could imagine was that crate rolling off of the back of the truck.
He lowered it on the liftgate and we rolled it down the driveway and left it horizontally in my one-car driveway in front of the garage. Right after he left, I realized that I didn't have any room to roll the bike off of the base, but it wasn't a problem. It slid on my driveway pretty well, so I just spun it 45 degrees after I got the cardboard off.
The cardboard had taken a little bit of a beating, and it was falling off a little. The cardboard was secured to the upper framework with self-tapping sheet metal screws. Once I removed some of it, I could see that the Enertia was in great shape...and quite a looker too. The paperwork and keys were hanging off the bars, and everything was in order.
I took the rest of the cardboard off, and disassembled the framework. It was constructed of thin-gauge steel box beams. It basically just acts as a frame to protect the crate in case something falls on it during transit. It was bolted together, and the nuts were conveniently welded, so all it took was a single ratchet. Once the framework was down, I removed the ratcheting tie-downs from the front end. The Enertia is extremely light and was really easy to roll off of the back of the base.
That's it in a nutshell...err steel and cardboard crate. I've transported tons of bikes before, but I've never had one crated. I'm not sure how typical this crate-job was, but it was really solid. Certainly better than having a bike bouncing around in the back of a trailer with a bunch of tools, gear, and ez-ups like what I'm used too.
Brammo Motorsports did something rather dramatic. As the story goes, they were looking at an open prototype of an Enertia and commenting how it looked more like a piece of consumer electronics than a motorcycle due to its massive amount of electronics. So why not sell it at a consumer electronics store?
They did just that. The next thing you know, Best Buy is making a serious investment in Brammo and Enertias are being sold in select Best Buy locations alongside their other EV scooters and bicycles. I feel a little torn about this idea. As a geek, I think it's terrific. Best Buy has plenty of locations that can offer the Enertia in the future. They've got easy financing. They unfortunately have the Geek Squad, but I'm sure a Geek Squad member with EV certification will be of a somewhat higher caliber. The motorcyclist in me feels bad for the genuinely good mom and pop dealerships out there that are missing out on the chance to get in on one of the first commercially viable EV motorcycles. As for the mega-slimeball-dealerships, I say screw them! Let them peddle their fuel guzzling Harley's and PWCs.
How to Buy an Enertia
When I finally went to pull the trigger, I was a little confused by Brammo's site. It appears that they have direct sales. And personally, I'd prefer to buy direct than buy from Best Buy unless they could offer me some sort of reduced shipping or something.
Well come to find out, Best Buy is the only way to get one right now, AND they provide some nice incentives. When I attempted to order through Brammo's site, it said that direct sales are not available and to send inquiries to email@example.com. I quickly got a response to my inquiry indicating that all sales are going through Best Buy, so I contacted them.
So here are some easy steps to buying your Enertia.
- If you live on the West Coast, chances are you'll have a Best Buy within a few hours that carries Enertias.
- If you live anywhere else, then visit the site for Best Buy's Portland, Oregon store that sell's Enertias.
- On the main page, you'll see contact information for the store and the two employees that handle Enertia sales. I dealt with Chris Hertz, and have been hugely satisfied. You may want to contact both employees in the event that you catch one of them on a day off.
There are some real advantages with going through Best Buy.
- Best Buy Rewards Zone Card - At first I thought this was a credit card, but it's not. It's a free program that earns you $5 on every $250 purchase. You'll be getting back $160 on the purchase price alone in addition to about $10 back from the shipping and dealer prep fee (fee for doing some final assembly on the bike, changing color panels, updating firmware, testing, and recrating).
- Paperwork - Best Buy does a solid job of getting you a MCO (manufacturer's certificate of origin) and a purchase agreement that serves as a bill of sale. My DMV required another document that I emailed to Chris and he happily filled out for me.
- Shipping - Their shipping rates are quite fair, and came to less than $500 for me from Portland to my door step on the East coast.
- No Sales Tax in Oregon - If you end up ordering through the Oregon store, then you won't have to pay sales tax. This can save you a huge hassle if you live in a state that collects a sales tax or highway use tax when you register the vehicle in the DMV.
- Financing - I've read that Best Buy offers a credit card, and it MAY still have a zero percent interest period.
- Servicing (future) - As Best Buy expands their locations, you'll have more options for servicing. As it stands now, I have a factory warranty, however Brammo might have to fly a technician out of I have any problems. I kind of took a leap of faith in this regard. I'm thinking I could probably fix most any problem I run into with email / phone support and parts from Brammo. I'm not sure if Brammo's comfortable with that liability though.
My Enertia is on the Truck
My Enertia is en route from Portland as I type. I'll post up some photos of the un-crating along with some review comments. I plan on spending a week conditioning the batteries, which involves taking them down to less than 50% and as close to 0% as possible before fully charging them back up and providing extra time on the charger for the cell balancing algorithm to do its job. Then I'll be commuting on it. I hope to track my mileage on a spreadsheet...or maybe on my Nexus One.
I've been toying with the idea of doing an EV (Electric Vehicle) conversion on a motorcycle for some time. Battery technology won't be reaching the same energy density as gasoline or diesel for a while, so to get the same kind of range from an electric automobile as you can from a similarly sized ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) automobile, you need to add an enormous amount of battery weight. This is exactly why bicycles, electric scooters, and incredibly exotic super cars got the EV treatment first.
My EV650 Concept
The Tesla Roadster is out of my price range, and quite frankly I'd rather ride Pee Wee Herman's Bicycle into work than an electric scooter. Luckily I stumbled upon ground zero for EV motorcycle conversions, ElMoto.net. I had the idea that I'd try to find a salvage 2002 Suzuki SV650. I could build the motor as a spare for my racebike, and use the rest for my EV commuter. I even went so far as to mock it up using a model that someone did for Google SketchUp.
I spec'd out the motor, motor controller, and batteries that I'd use. When I added that to the other small spare parts, I had an estimate of over $10,000. I realized that this was going to require some saving before I attempted it. Next thing you know I'm getting laid off and two years go by while I settled into a new job and new town...oh yeah, and recovered from a broken back.
Brammo Motorsports Enertia Powercycle
I had been following the EV motorcycle news and knew that the most promising model out there was Brammo Motorsports' Enertia Powercycle. Brammo took high-quality, off-the-shelf EV components and mated them with a custom frame/subframe/swing-arm and quality street motorcycle components to make an EV motorcycle beyond anything that I could have done. The only thing I had going for my EV650 was price. They came in understandably higher. All that changed when Brammo revealed a massive price drop to $7995 at the end of 2009. I knew right then and there that I was scrapping my EV650 and getting an Enertia in the Spring.
I started reading the Brammo forum on ElMoto.net, and saw that Brian Wismann, the Director of Product Development for Brammo, was a regular poster. Pretty much every question that you have is already answered in that forum, and usually by him. It certainly gave me a lot of confidence that they would be an easy company to get in touch with.
Stay tuned to read about Buying an Enertia.