There are only 20 Harley e-bike prototypes in the US

Harley-Davidson caused a stir on the Intertubes last month when the company launched its first pedal-assist electric bike through its new spin-off, Serial 1 Cycle Company. Well, the prototypes are here – all 20 of them – and the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer delivers on everything it promised, and more.

The new Harley Davidson Serial 1 electric bike delivers on the promise of a smooth experience on a high-tech riding machine for the unique human being that you are (photo by Harley for Tina Casey).

Harley Serial 1 e-bike coming in 2021, with all the bells and whistles (hidden)

The Harley e-bike connection may surprise some, but it seems the iconic company couldn’t resist leveraging its 100-year history of 2-wheeled innovation and consumer research to hitch a ride. on the craze for the electric bike.

The basic idea is to design a high-end riding machine that offers the physical, mental and emotional experience of riding a bike, only with all the benefits of electricity.

For Harley, that means loading the machine with all sorts of high-tech features, but keeping them in the shadows behind the sleek, age-old silhouette of a bike. All while making switching to an e-bike as easy and seamless as walking down the street.

So, for example, if you’re trying to see where the battery is, keep trying. The Serial 1 line looks batteryless, like a regular bike, but it’s not. The proprietary, bespoke energy storage device is hidden at the base of the frame near the pedals, so the center of gravity stays centered where it would be on a human-powered bike.

The battery pops out so you can take it inside to charge, btw.

Why not an electric bike?

The Series 1 also dispels the myth (if such a myth exists) that an e-bike does not provide a good workout. Since there’s no throttle on the Serial 1 line, you’re still pedaling, but the combination of four different power modes (eco, tour, sport and boost) with infinite shifting lets you work a good cardio or simply navigate to your destination, whatever you choose.

So, about that infinite shifting. If you love machines, the first thing that might catch your eye is the chain. It’s quite different. Check out the Serial 1 website and see for yourself. It’s different.

As for the gears, there are something like 300. Yeah no kidding. The good thing is, you don’t have to think about how much gear to put in, because somehow, through the magic and mystery of advanced engineering, this e-bike responds to force or to the smoothness of your pedaling.

Plus, like magic, you can adjust everything that controls the gears to respond even more precisely to the unique human being that you are.

Speaking like joining at the hip to a Cannondale (21-speed), this autopilot effect can take some getting used to. Say about two minutes.

We didn’t even care about this unique human being until we left for our trial. The out of the box setting worked great and a four mile ride along the hills of Prospect Park on the Serial 1 ‘Rush’ stepper model resulted in a pretty decent workout, happy ride and a nice pot of arugula pesto at the local farmer’s market as well (thanks to Element Farms in Lafayette, NY – that’s where the pesto was purchased, get some).

So whether you want to catch that last, long hill to your friend’s house without torturing yourself, or get to work without breaking a sweat, or do all your errands without getting exhausted – or just want a fun ride and can -be good cardio added – then an e-bike is your new best friend.

Come to think of it, a running conversation with my riding mate on the Prospect Park ride was a breeze, so if you’re looking for a recreational bike that lets you socialize without huffing and puffing running of road, it is another advantage.

Variety is the spice of the e-bike

Among the other neat things about Serial 1 is the sizing. Based on decades of consumer research, Harley came up with some sort of algorithm or something that takes into account your upper arm length and inseam as well as your height to determine the best ergonomic size for you.

Speaking of size, there’s been a lot of talk about ultra-small cars, including electric cars, in terms of getting around towns and parking. That’s fine, but I dare you to drive your car off the road and park it right next to a stand in your local farmer’s market so you can grab a pot of arugula pesto or whatever.

For all the love we share with electric cars, there are fundamental mobility limitations that e-bike technology grapples with.

The e-bike has come a long way in the last five or six years alone (remember the ELF e-bike!), and now that I’ve reviewed a few, the big takeaway is the variety crazy about e-mobility available.

The Serial 1 Rush is the latest in a series of e-bikes and scooters that I will be reviewing Clean Technica, and some of the variations I’ve seen are fold capability (try this with your car!), detach capability (the entire boost mechanism clips on and off, so you can use it on a regular bike) and a two-person configuration that allows you to snuggle up nicely during the ride.

In the meantime, let’s leave Serial 1 with the last word. Harley lists these features:

  • Light and strong hydroformed aluminum frame
  • Sleek, built-in batteries
  • Brose Mid Motors
  • Silent and maintenance-free Gates Carbon Drive belts
  • Enviolo AUTOMATiQ intelligent automatic transmission (some models)
  • Integrated LED lighting
  • Smart sizing
  • Integration of dedicated mobile applications, digital signage and data center
  • Four riding modes ranging from gentle assist to substantial assist

Wait, maybe not quite the last word. Now that a COVID-19 vaccine is in sight, the light at the end of the tunnel is just around the corner, and buses and subways will once again be packed with passengers.

Or, maybe not so crowded. The e-bike trend has already hit Germany and elsewhere in the EU. Other parts of the world where motorcycles and scooters rule are not far behind. Once the curtain goes up on COVID-19 and things get back to normal (whatever that is), it’s a safe bet that city dwellers in the US will continue to lead the e-bike market.

It’s a slightly different story in the suburbs. The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked a huge recreation bike renaissance, and the Serial 1 fits right into that niche. It’s the daily market that hasn’t taken off in full force yet, partly because of the lack of cycle lanes on commuter routes, and possibly also because the distance between points A and B tends to be longer. But you have to start somewhere. Change could happen sooner rather than later.

Once the first users get the e-bike ball rolling and hit the road, hang on to your hats.

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Pictured: For Tina Casey by Harley.

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