Harley-Davidson LiveWire Conquers Nullarbor

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What do you do to scratch that itch for challenge and adventure? After his epic journey from Sydney, New South Wales, to Cape Tribulation in Northern Queensland, Ed Darmanin decided to ride his Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle across the Nullarbor Plain from Perth to Sydney. Here are some highlights of the story they told to me over the phone this morning of how the LiveWire conquered Nullarbor. (Also note: further details can be found here.)

Livewire Conquers Nullarbor
Map showing the relative distance of this trip across Australia compared to the USA. Equivalent distance from LA to New York.

The Cape Tribulation trip is approximately 3800 km; Perth to Sydney is 4700 km. It took Ed 21 days to accommodate the range of the bike and include detours for floods and playing tourist. When he announced his intentions to his family, they were a little concerned. From Sydney to Cape Tribulation, there are many towns and farmhouses, many charging stations and power points that can be accessed if necessary. Across the Nullarbor, there are many stretches of about 200 km between roadhouses — two hundred kilometres of nothing.

Livewire Conquers Nullarbor
Long way home. Photo courtesy of Ed Darmanin

But Ed had learnt to trust his Harley-Davidson LiveWire, his riding ability, and his maths. “Most owners treat their LiveWires as showpieces — I wasn’t worried about the bike breaking down or running out of charge.” At one time there was a gap of 1400 km between chargers and Ed had to use power points in his nightly accommodation. Thankfully, when travelling east at this time of year (Perth to Sydney), the winds are predominately tailwinds. This helped the range. Nevertheless, Ed was constantly doing maths in his head to check the range available and adjusting his speed to make it to the next stop. 

Livewire Conquers Nullarbor
Charging in dining room at Spalding Hotel SA. Photo courtesy of Ed Darmanin.

Researching on the internet, Ed could find no evidence of another rider crossing Australia on an electric motorcycle. I asked him if he would make it into the Guinness Book of Records. “No,” he said, because he did not have a support vehicle to verify his achievement and that the trip instead would be recorded on social media and the web through articles like this.

Ed has attracted some social media criticism because he had to ride slowly on the highway. This was to conserve energy so that he could reach his destinations. Several times, he had to travel at 50 km per hour for up to 200 km to get to his destination. At this speed, the bike would have a range of 250 km, whereas if he rode at 100 km per hour, he would have only achieved 120 km of range and be stranded in the middle of nowhere.

On one stretch — from Ravensthorpe to Esperance — it was cold and raining, with a headwind for 200 km. Slow riding was the only option. It is of interest to note that there were many other slow travellers towing caravans on the road at this time. Ed passed one man cycling across the Nullarbor, two who were walking, and one who was running across the country several days ahead of him.

The highway across the Nullarbor has a speed limit of 110 km per hour. It is long and straight and populated by road trains — a prime mover with up to three trailers (dogs). As a longtime motorcycle rider, Ed was used to overtaking other vehicles. He learnt on his trip to Cape Tribulation what it was like to be overtaken on a bike, for the first time in his life.

On the Nullarbor, Ed used his mirrors a lot, stayed in the left of his lane, and let people overtake. For safety, he had (as well as his full motorcycle gear) high-visibility clothes and a red flashing light on his backpack. In the evenings, at the local roadhouse bar, he caught up with some of the drivers who had overtaken him and they confirmed that he was highly visible. Everywhere Ed stopped, there was huge interest in the Harley. Most did not know that such a vehicle existed, let alone that it could make the crossing. Is there a range issue? Not when you have enough time.

As a road train approached from behind, Ed would move to the left and ride on the verge. Most times he received the three blinks from the truckie as a thank you. In some circumstances, such as with oncoming traffic, he would pull over and stopped to allow trucks to pass safely — he didn’t want to be a nuisance.

Livewire conquers Nullarbor
Keeping my cool during one of several close calls with grain truck drivers overtaking illegally on unbroken lines between Esperance and Norseman. No problems whatsoever with professional interstate truckers on Eyre Highway or during the rest of the trip. Photo courtesy of Ed Darmanin.

There was one close call on day 4 that is burned into his memory. Unbeknownst to him, the red flashing light had stopped working (battery was flat) and he had to ride into the gravel to avoid a grain-carrying road train travelling at high speed. “As he passed, I could smell his brakes. There was no way he was going to be able to stop in time!” Thankfully, Ed sorted the problem with the red light and he didn’t have a problem after that.

Ed arrived home to a huge homecoming party with over 50 friends and family. A couple of mates escorted him into the yard on their LiveWires. Ed’s epic journey has generated massive interest, with lots of followers on Facebook and YouTube. The ABC article on his trip was the most read article in South Australia and the Northern Territory on the day it was published.

Livewire conquers Nullarbor
Into loving arms. Photo courtesy of Ed Darmanin.

So, what’s next? He tells me that this trip with its feeling of riding across vast spaces solo and unassisted has satisfied his need for adventure and challenge … for now at least. He has met hundreds of interesting people, told and swapped stories. They were fascinated to see the bike — it was a real drawcard. They were so enthusiastic to see a normal person doing something unusual. It was like the future was invading their present. The bike is now resting in the shed.

Some statistics from the trip: Total electricity cost only $39.29. This included a $10 donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFD) at Madura Roadhouse, which doesn’t charge for use of its fast charger but requests a donation to RFDS. “Note that I booked all accommodation directly with each establishment and offered to pay for charging in advance. In all cases, they said no charge if staying with them.”

Total energy use: 345 kWh.

171 kWh from Level 3 DC fast charging. Of this 171 kWh, 111 kWh from NRMA chargers that are currently free to all users. 174 kWh from Level 1 charging from motel power points at no cost.

Longest distance between available fast charging at the time of this trip was 1,350 km from Madura, Western Australia, to Tanunda, South Australia.

Ed is planning to do weekend trips and make a mini documentary of his ride across the Nullarbor that will be posted on YouTube in due course. While Ed has no long trips planned for now, he said that he may take on another trip sometime in the future if the “itch” for another adventure returns.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 729 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth