There Are Only 20 Harley Electric Bicycle Prototypes In The US, & Guess Who Got To Ride One

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Harley-Davidson made a big splash on the Intertubes last month when the company teased its first pedal-assist electric bicycle through its new spinoff, Serial 1 Cycle Company. Well, the prototypes are here — all 20 of the them — and the iconic US motorbike maker is delivering all it promised, and more.

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

Harley Serial 1 Electric Bicycle Coming In 2021, With All The (Hidden) Bells & Whistles

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

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

For Harley, that means loading up the machine with all sorts of high tech features but keeping them in the shadows behind the sleek, centuries-old silhouette of a bicycle. All this is by way of making the switch to an electric bicycle 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 battery-less, like a regular bike, but it’s not. The tailor-made, proprietary energy storage device is hidden at the base of the frame near the pedals, so the center of gravity remains in the center, where it would be on a person-powered bike.

The battery pops out so you can take it indoor to recharge, btw.

Why Not An Electric Bicycle?

Serial 1 also dispels the myth (if there is such a myth) that an electric bicycle doesn’t deliver a good workout. There being no throttle on the Serial 1 line, you are always pedaling, but the combination of four different power modes (eco, tour, sport, and boost) with an infinite gearshift enables you to work up some good cardio or just cruise along to your destination, whichever you choose.

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

As for the gears, there are something like 300 of them. Yeah no kidding. The good thing is you don’t have to think about which gear to get in, because somehow through the magic and mystery of advanced engineering this electric bicycle responds to however hard or not-hard you are pedaling.

Also magically, you can adjust whatever it is that controls the gears to respond even more precisely to the unique human being that you are.

Speaking as one joined at the hip to a Cannondale (21 speeds), that autopilot effect can take a while to get used to. Say about two minutes.

We didn’t even bother with that unique human being thing before setting off on our test ride. The off-the-shelf tuning kicked in just fine and a four-mile spin along the rolling hills of Prospect Park on the Serial 1 “Rush” step-through model resulted in a pretty decent workout, a joy ride, and a nice jar of arugula pesto at the local farmer’s market, too (shoutout to Element Farms of Lafayette, NY — that’s where the pesto was purchased, get yourself some).

So, if you want to make it up that last, long hill to your friend’s house without torturing yourself, or get to work without breaking a sweat, or get all your errands done without exhausting yourself — or if you just want  a fun ride and maybe some good cardio thrown in — then an electric bicycle is your new best friend.

Come to think of it, a running convo with my riding mate on the Prospect Park jaunt was a breeze, so if you’re looking for a recreational bike that enables you to socialize without huffing and puffing along the way, that’s another plus.

Variety Is The Spice Of The E-Bike

Among other cool things about the Serial 1 is the sizing. Based on decades of consumer research, Harley came up with some kind of algorithm or something that takes your arm length and inseam into account along with your height to figure out the ergonomically best size for you.

Speaking of size, much has been made of ultra-small cars, including electric cars, in terms of getting around cities and parking. That’s fine, but I dare you to drive your car off the road and park it right alongside a stall in your local farmer’s market so you can pick up a jar of arugula pesto or whatever.

For all the love we share with electric cars, there are foundational mobility limitations that electric bike technology skims right over.

The electric bicycle has come a long way in just the past five or six years (remember the ELF e-bike!), and now that I’ve been reviewing a few of them, the big takeaway is the crazy variety of e-mobility available.

The Serial 1 Rush is the latest in a series of e-bikes and scooters I’ll be reviewing for CleanTechnica, and some of the variations I’ve seen already are fold-ability (try that with your car!), detach-ability (the whole boost mechanism clips on and off, so you can use it on a regular bicycle), and a two-person setup that makes for a nice snuggle along with the ride.

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

  • Light and strong hydroformed aluminum frame
  • Sleek, integrated batteries
  • Brose mid-mounted motors
  • Quiet and maintenance-free Gates Carbon Drive belts
  • Enviolo AUTOMATiQ intelligent automatic transmission (select models)
  • Integrated LED lighting
  • Intelligent sizing
  • Dedicated mobile app integration, digital display and datacenter
  • Four ride modes ranging from gentle to substantial assistance

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 the buses and subways will once again be crowded with passengers.

Or, maybe not so crowded. The electric bicycle trend has already hit Germany and elsewhere in the EU. Other parts of the world where motorbikes and scooters rule are not far behind. Once the curtain lifts 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 drive the market for electric bicycles.

It’s a somewhat different story in suburbs. The COVID-19 outbreak sparked a huge renaissance in recreational biking, and the Serial 1 fits right into that niche. It’s the workaday market that has yet to take off  in force, partly due to a lack of bike lanes on commuter routes, and perhaps also because the distance between points A and B tends to be longer. But, you have to start somewhere. Change could come about sooner rather than later.

Once the early adopters get the e-bike ball rolling and hit the road, hold on to your hats.

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Photo: For Tina Casey by Harley.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3324 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey