1. The Victory Empulse
is a good-looking
motorcycle, with an
aura more suited to an
upright sportbike than
2. An aluminum twin-spar chassis supports
the heavy Lithium Ion
battery pack and motor,
3. The seat appears
looks can be deceiving. Good thing the Empulse is electric, with
such a limited range, as you won’t have to sit on it for very long.
4. Top center on the dash screen is the digital battery range
gauge, so that the power remaining can be monitored constantly.
Every twist of the throttle or higher speed will cause it to drop
precipitously, and fails the accuracy test—5% can turn into zero
without warning—time to push!
5. The rear shock connects directly between the swingarm and
frame without any linkage. The compression setting was way off,
allowing bottoming over mild bumps, and the threaded collars
are hard to access, making proper adjustment difficult.
The Empulse TT was only my second ride on an electric motorcycle. The first was an earlier incarnation of the Brammo
(now Victory) and was just a several block loop. The Empulse
TT represented a more thorough electric experience. The sensation of twisting a throttle and having a motorcycle move
beneath you without any sound takes some getting used to.
Though once acclimated, the bike offers up some decent performance. Personally, I’d place it in the realm of a scooter in
terms of practicality; a fun way to get around locally, yet with
a great deal more sport-oriented possibility (so long as you
don’t wander too far from home).
One thought that comes to mind is that the perception
of the Empulse among a lot of non-riding civilians (despite a
price tag of $20k) is that of a plaything, which it clearly is
not. The bike has enough power—exaggerated by the immedi-
acy of grunt—to get an inexperienced rider in trouble. After
all, regardless of whether you’re on an Empulse or a GSX-R; 40
mph is still 40 mph. So suit up accordingly. —Jeff Buchanan
I haven’t had to push a gas-powered motorcycle home in over
30 years, but that’s twice now with two electric bikes, both of
which had a range much shorter than claimed. The TT managed
67.8 miles, only 66 of which were powered. It quit when 5%
charge suddenly turned to zero. Until then, it wasn’t bad, with
excellent braking power and feel, decent front suspension but a
bottoming rear shock that gave my back a few good whacks. I
was in the process of trying more preload on that last test ride.
The bike generated considerable interest whenever I stopped,
which was often, as its seat is so poor. Plus, the bodywork at
the front of the seat will cut into your thighs as you ride, and
the footpegs are too rearset for a naked bike, too. Its power is
equivalent to a 400-450cc gas engine, and I liked being able to
shift, but the transmission itself is very crunchy.
But it’s not nearly as quick as the last Zero we had, and at
$20K, it’s more expensive with a shorter range. I’m trying to
keep an open mind about electric bikes, but at 470 lbs., it isn’t
easy to push either. —Dave Searle