electric motor do what it does, thus eliminating the severe lash.
Regarding that question, it’s worth noting that Victory’s Isle of
Man racer didn’t use a transmission.
Unfortunately, the transmission also has a spindly, almost
fragile feel to it and gear changes can be rough. Downshifts,
especially in rapid succession, as when slowing for a stop,
prove temperamental. Also, as the transmission is an oil-bath
unit, some service will eventually be required, something that
adds to the typically minor service requirements of an electric.
Chassis, Suspension & Handling
At the back, a fully adjustable Sachs shock, mounted directly
between the frame and swingarm, is said to provide 4. 7" of
travel, but we found its stock setup seriously deficient. Small
road irregularities could deliver significant shocks to the spine,
and we found the preload setting much too soft, so that bottoming was the problem. Adding preload helped, but access to the
collars is difficult, and we can’t say we found an ideal setting.
A fully adjustable 43mm male-slider Marzocchi fork handles
the front suspension, and this proved to have a much better
setup, providing a firm, controlled ride.
The high-quality parts are appreciated, but both need to be
properly tuned to provide the ride quality of which they are
capable. If you buy an Empulse, ask to have its suspension set
up for your weight and riding style.
In term of chassis structure, the large battery and underslung
motor are hung in a handsome aluminum twin spar frame,
while the subframe and swingarm are crafted from narrow steel
tubing. However, details like the axle adjusters and some of the
welds detract from the chassis’ overall impression.
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Victory equips the Empulse with dual 310mm floating discs
and Brembo 4-piston radial-mount calipers on the front end.
A single 210mm unit with 2-piston caliper handles the rear.
There is no ABS option. The stopping package is more than
adequate to handle the machine’s 473-lb. weight, and works
well with good feel.
Cast aluminum wheels fitted with Continental Sport Attack
II sportbike tires provide the pavement adhesion. The combination of a 120/70ZR17" on the front, paired with a smallish
160/60ZR17" on the rear, suit the Empulse quite well and we
found the handling well-balanced and stable, with no unusual
One advantage of the Empulse’ limited range is that you
won’t have to tolerate its seat for too long. The shape is very
narrow, leans forward and is uncomfortable almost from the
moment you sit on it. Although the upright torso position and
narrow bars provide adequate leverage, the rider’s footpegs
have a very rearward placement, which makes the seat even
The Empulse is decently quick. Between gears, you can wind
the motor up and get it screaming, but it feels as if a governor
intervenes at higher revs, resulting in a serious roll-off of power.
Play it sane and smooth, however, and the Empulse will whip
The clutch is not needed for starts, which will leave experienced motorcyclists thinking they’re in neutral, forever reaching for the clutch when they don’t need to. Also, when slowing
for stops, your instincts will have you believing you’ve stalled
it, thanks to the lack of engine noise.
Once acclimated to its idiosyncrasies, the Empulse is fun to
ride. It handles respectably, with decent turn-in and stability in
the corners and relatively comfortable suspension (after tweaking the rear shock). Plus, the brakes are powerful and bring the
bike down from speed with ease.
But a big difference between riding an electric motorcycle
and a gas-powered one is the comparative lack of sound, meaning other motorists will be less aware of your presence. As a
result, you need to be even more defensive in traffic.
Instruments & Controls
The battery gauge is prominently on display and it’s almost
essential to become obsessed watching the power drainage rate
so you can adjust your riding accordingly. Sadly, we found out
the hard way that when the battery gauge gets down to 5% it
can drop to zero without warning—ride over—and this is an
unacceptable inaccuracy on such a vital gauge.
While the tantalizing thought that super batteries are right
around the corner remains the solution to their problems, until
then, electric vehicles will be burdened by weight and restricted
range. And we don’t know about you, but 66 miles just isn’t
enough to access our best local roads and return to home base
without a following pick-up truck as backup.
Like many energy initiatives meant to curtail the use of fossil
fuel, the buyers of electric vehicles are often promised cash
incentives derived from our tax dollars. Although currently
there are no clean air vehicle tax rebates for electric motorcycles at the federal level, there is lobbying underway on a tax
bill with a provision for a 10% rebate. Out of our 50 states,
only four are presently offering statewide rebates. Maryland
has a $100 tax credit. California is offering a $900 rebate.
Pennsylvania is the most generous with a $3000 rebate. And
Georgia will grant a $4000 tax credit. All of these come with
certain rules and restrictions.
Though invariably touted as being “emission free,” electricity
drawn from an outlet has to be generated somewhere. And with
that there is certainly some environmental impact.
With a price tag of $19,999, the Empulse is very expensive for what it offers, although Victory has the satisfaction of
beating Harley-Davidson to market. Now, whether H-D will
actually take the plunge with its Livewire may depend on the