The Secrets and techniques of Ewan McGregor’s Electrical Bike in “Lengthy Means Up”
“[We] can’t verify the opposite electrical automobiles that had been into consideration.”
That’s Paul James, Harley-Davidson’s senior supervisor of public relations. I obtained in contact with him to get the news on the corporate’s electrical LiveWire bike, particularly how they got here to provide the boundary-pushing bike for Ewan McGregor’s new present Long Way Up.
The sequence, which debuts in the present day on Apple TV+, follows the Scottish actor and his longtime biker pal Charley Boorman on a visit from the southern tip of South America all the way in which to Los Angeles. Sure, we’re speaking 13 international locations, 16 border crossings and 13,000 miles on bikes that have to be plugged in. Apparently they made it.
I anticipated James to be tight-lipped about how they obtained the Lengthy Means Up group to decide on the electrical Harley over, you recognize, each different bike in the marketplace, electrical and fuel alike.
However the factor is, that is the third round-the-world bike journey for McGregor and Boorman. There was Lengthy Means Spherical in 2004, the place they drove east from London to New York Metropolis, adopted by Lengthy Means Down in 2007, the place they rode south from John o’ Groats, Scotland, to Cape City. For those who’ve learn the first book (which is a improbable, and surprisingly candid, account) or watched the TV sequence, you recognize there was heated debate about which bikes can be greatest to experience for months throughout inhospitable terrain. They whittled it all the way down to an off-roader from BMW and KTM, and ultimately went with the previous firm for each earlier Lengthy Means journeys.
There are clear causes for giving BMW the boot this time in favor of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire. For McGregor and Boorman, they get to be pioneers, taking not simply electrical bikes, however electrical automobiles usually — the supposed future of private transportation — the place they’ve by no means gone earlier than. For Harley, they get promotion for his or her comparatively new “super-premium halo product,” as former president and CEO Matt Levatich described it to InsideHook — one that may outline the way forward for the corporate.
Proper now, they want all of the promotion they will get; Levatich is out (perhaps voluntarily, maybe not), Jochen Zeitz, who was instrumental in the LiveWire project, is in, and the beleaguered firm is attempting to navigate the pandemic and the unsure way forward for the bike trade.
There’s little question that persons are going to come back away from the present desirous to check out a LiveWire for themselves, whether or not they’re bikers or not. However the bikes within the present, which began capturing in September 2019, the identical month the LiveWire hit dealerships, will not be the very same ones you’ll discover if you happen to stroll right into a Harley-Davidson store in the present day. In spite of everything, bike firms construct particular journey bikes, however one of many tag strains for the LiveWire is “a bolt of lightning that electrifies the city grid.” Not precisely what you need to hear earlier than an overlanding expedition.
“After being contacted by the Lengthy Means Up group inquiring in regards to the LiveWire mannequin and its involvement within the mission, a gaggle of Harley-Davidson designers and engineers had been assembled from the broader LiveWire bike improvement group to change near-production fashions to traverse 13,000 miles of terrain and excessive off-road situations,” Paul James tells InsideHook by way of e-mail. However he does notice that they used production-spec batteries (known as RESS, or the Rechargeable Power Storage System), chassis and Revelation powertrain parts. In different phrases, the necessary stuff is all the identical.
In order that they tweaked the bikes to be overland-ready, what’s so fascinating about that? Admittedly not a lot on its face, however ride-or-die Harley-Davidson followers could be throwing their arms up whereas studying this questioning, why didn’t they simply experience the Pan America? That’s a extremely anticipated gas-powered journey touring mannequin coming out next year.
That’s the place Lengthy Means Up will get actually fascinating: as James notes, the ultimate bikes for the journey had been a kind of mutant hybrid between the electrical LiveWire and the Pan America.
“To ship a extremely succesful, all-around high-performing electrical bike, the engineering group mixed the dynamically succesful on-road efficiency of the LiveWire mannequin with adjusted geometry and suspension primarily based on the upcoming Pan America journey touring mannequin to shred filth roads, single observe and desert trails whereas sustaining its on-road dealing with prowess,” he says.
“The modified LiveWire bikes featured an extra two inches of floor clearance and an extra inch and a half of rear suspension journey,” James provides. “The engineering group created a wholly new steering head and front-end meeting to acquire the specified geometry and clearance required for the bigger wheels, taller floor clearance and elevated suspension journey for off-road and rough-road use.” Different components modifications included prototype rotors, wheels and tires from the Pan America, in addition to fully brand-new, customized windshields, rear shocks and triple clamps particular to the Lengthy Means Up bikes.
These admittedly enormous modifications had been examined completely earlier than handing the Frankenstein bikes off to McGregor and Boorman, each on the firm’s Willie G. Davidson Product Improvement Middle in Wisconsin and their Proving Grounds facility within the Arizona desert.
However Harley’s modifications for the present didn’t cease on the bikes alone. Together with the electrical assist automobiles supplied by Rivian, “Some chargers had been additionally put in alongside the Lengthy Means Up route and stay lively in the present day to be used,” says James.
How did the LiveWire bikes with a touch of Pan America and a pinch of secret sauce maintain up after 100 days of tough using, and distant charging, by means of South, Central and North America? I assume you’ll have to look at to seek out out.