We popped by to see Rico at High-Bond Modified the other day and this crazy German dude was there with an oddball motorcycle. Out of the corner of my eye I just thought it was an ironhead shortchop with a really nice stance. But then I noticed the bottom end on the engine and what looked like an enormous transmission case and I knew something was up.
The jockey-shift lever is an oversized circuit breaker that turns the bike on and off.
That German dude turned out to be Enrico “Ricky” de Haas from Wannabe Choppers, and his bike is a semi-finished electric motorcycle. The rear hub was poached from a common European electric scooter and an aluminum mag wheel was grafted to the hub. That hub also contains the lone brake on the bike and much like Otto, it barely works. The batteries are stored in the “oil tank” under the seat. That enormous transmission-looking thing? Ricky cast that from a cookie tin and stuffed the rest of the electronics inside. The jockey-shift lever protruding out of the left is an oversized circuit breaker that turns the bike on and off. The throttle works through the typical hand control on the right side of the bars.
So about that engine. Ricky has a fetish for cast aluminum. Originally he planned to make an entirely original internal combustion engine, but partially through the project he realized it was going to take years and the bike had to be ready for a few shows. So, he finished off enough parts to mock it up but there are no internals; no valve train, flywheels, etc. Knowing Ricky–however, there will be. It’ll just take more time. Once he decided the complete engine was not going to be finished in time, the back-up plan crystalized and the idea of an Electric Chopper began to take shape.
The batteries don’t allow for much range at full throttle, a couple miles at most.
Art bikes are cool and all, but how does an Electric Chopper actually ride? We took it for a spin and overwhelmingly the reaction was the same–it’s weird but strangely enjoyable. Electric motors come on with 100% torque at all throttle positions, so that can be electronically modulated to change the responsiveness. This electric motor isn’t particularly powerful so taking off is a little surprising with zero noise, but was easy to get used to and not as abrupt as I expected. The batteries don’t allow for much range at full throttle, a couple miles at most. But it does spin up given enough time, and was clocked at over 50 mph. The experience is hard to describe; the ergonomics feel like a lot of bobber-ish motorbikes, but the lack of clutch, shifting and most importantly the noise are all absent. Keep in mind, Ricky built this to be something fun and weird, he’s not trying to sell you a fully-sorted production motorcycle.
The bike is at Mama Tried in Milwaukee this weekend.
Let that irony sink in for a minute.
According to Ricky, the Electric Chopper wasn’t warmly received in Germany, but spectators at his first USA show earlier this month–The One Show in Portland–loved it. The bike is at Mama Tried in Milwaukee this weekend. Let that irony sink in for a minute. We’ll see how the reception there goes, but I imagine it’ll be similar to the reactions in the Beaver State.
What’s it all mean? To me personally, I think it opens up all kinds of possibilities. Electric Motorcycles are coming, like it or not. It’s not going to eliminate your trusty, oil-dripping, 50-year old chopper and it’s not going to kill internal combustion just like Teslas haven’t done so with cars. I’m going to love my piston-pumping Milwaukee Tractors ’til the day I die, but that’s not going to keep me from considering the idea of building something like Ricky has done here. You can find the electric motors online fairly cheap and think of the possibilities like building a ridiculously narrow chopper that has a minimum of moving parts (and no heavy, faux engine) or an old Harley Servicar with a trunk full of batteries. My commute is about ten miles in traffic or 20 miles on country back roads. A bike with a 50 mile range isn’t out of the question and might be kinda fun… -Bill
What do you think?