vintage articles: brammo motorcycle review

Brammo has gone came along way since I first test drove their bike in early 2009. Below is a test ride of an article I wrote for Friction Zone Magazine and below is a video

An early morning sun warms a field of cattails and heavy machinery adjacent a bone white, cinder block factory where the Enertia is built. Inside, a partially assembled prototype allows me to see past the carbon fiber veneer. A monocoque chassis cradles six batteries within its berth. The frame bridges the steering stem to the swing arm pivot and is a scant 19.5 inches wide from peg to peg. The 25-pound electric motor sits near the swingarm pivot, centralizing mass and allowing a low center of rotation when ridden.

Swinging a leg over the leather saddle, I retract the kickstand and press the on button. Two seconds later a solenoid knocks and the bike is idling, yet producing no noise. With a turn of the wrist, the Enertia leaps forward and I make a large, silent u-turn before following Lead Technician Ivan Kuzmitz east.

At the first stop, I did not close the throttle completely and was accelerating overtop the brakes. There is no clutch to disengage the engine from the rear wheel, necessitating a closed throttle whenever braking heavily. Dropping the angle of my wrist eliminated this problem and reduced the distance needed to stop.

As city streets fade to country roads I explore greater speeds and the electric motor responds with linear acceleration. Reaching a stop sign, Ivan and I converse in normal voices as our idle Enertias sip only a nominal amount of energy while we discuss our destination.

Continuing north past snow-capped mountains on country roads, the USD Marzocchi forks keep the 18-inch Pirelli Sport Demon tire tracing along the road’s irregular topography. The Elka rear shock makes equally sure the 17-inch rear wheel stays planted and inspires confidence at speed. Both front and rear suspensions are fully adjustable.

A series of downhill, S-turns allow exploration of the bike’s handling characteristics. With the throttle pegged and the speedometer trespassing on 50mph, I countersteer late into the turn, grinning like a child sledding through a slalom of trees. My right foot poised to trail brake the rear, two-pot Brembo if need be. Wide handlebars, centralized mass and a narrow frame contribute to the Enertia’s agility and responsiveness to steering inputs.

Arriving at a stop sign, Ivan and I decide to ride into downtown Ashland. Flicking the turn signal switch, two clear L.E.D. lights illuminate and we ride north. Adjacent to the speedometer is an instrument panel explaining I have traveled 10 miles and the battery has 75% of its charge left.

We swoosh past a gaggle of geese that take no notice of us gliding past. Entering downtown and nearing a tunnel, a blind woman jaywalks in front of me. I pinch the front brake lever and the Brembo two-pot caliper grabs a single, wave rotor; assertively stopping the 280lbs bike. Later, at a stop sign waiting for traffic to pass, I accidentally blip the throttle and the Enertia lurches out in traffic.

We stop for lunch and, parking on a hill, the transmission-less motorcycle wants to roll away. I re-park against a curb while a curious mob surrounds Ivan. They ogle over the carbon fiber bodywork and paneling used to save weight. Ivan fields their questions until a striking woman from nearby Mix Bakery walks up asking, “Can I go for a ride?” I reluctantly respond “No passenger pegs.” Although passenger pegs and luggage would take away from the bike’s clean lines, urbanites need to take baristas out for dates and a place to store their iPods. Wismann assures me that a passenger-friendly version is in the works.

While the initial $12000 investment is high, the day-to-day costs of operating the Enertia are minimal and tax break for alternative vehicles can help subsidize the upfront cost. The bike is accessible, nimble and well suited for urbanites seeking a greener commute.

With the goal of "changing the way American’s look at transportation,” Brammo hit the mark. There is a simple elegance to the Enertia that bike brings a smile to your face whether you looking at the bike across a parking lot or coasting down a hill. That is not to say this urbane piece of transportation is without kinks, but the drawbacks are mainly financial and the riding feels so organic.

The average American commutes 33 miles a day, well within the Enertia’s range. But the upfront cost, not the batteries range, will determine the bike’s success. If Brammo can associate their product with green living similar to the Toyota Prius, then American’s might be willing to jump the economic hurdle. Otherwise the Enertia is lightening your carbon footprint at the expense of your wallet.

I hope the Enertia’s price point doesn’t only change the way affluent Americans look at transportation. Soundless motion is as good for the environment as it is for the inner-child in all of us.

Related review: Hyosung GT 650 R


-No passenger pillion
-Maybe too quiet