The Secrets and techniques of Ewan McGregor’s Electrical Motorbike in “Lengthy Method Up”
“[We] can’t verify the opposite electrical autos that have been into consideration.”
That’s Paul James, Harley-Davidson’s senior supervisor of public relations. I obtained in contact with him to get the inside track 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 right this moment 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 nations, 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 Method Up group to decide on the electrical Harley over, you already know, 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 Method Spherical in 2004, the place they drove east from London to New York Metropolis, adopted by Lengthy Method Down in 2007, the place they rode south from John o’ Groats, Scotland, to Cape City. In the event you’ve learn the first book (which is a incredible, and surprisingly candid, account) or watched the TV sequence, you already know there was heated debate about which bikes can be greatest to trip 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 Method 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 autos generally — the supposed future of non-public 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’ll get; Levatich is out (possibly voluntarily, maybe not), Jochen Zeitz, who was instrumental in the LiveWire project, is in, and the beleaguered firm is making an attempt to navigate the pandemic and the unsure way forward for the bike business.
There’s little doubt that individuals are going to return away from the present eager to check out a LiveWire for themselves, whether or not they’re bikers or not. However the bikes within the present, which began taking pictures in September 2019, the identical month the LiveWire hit dealerships, should not the very same ones you’ll discover in case you stroll right into a Harley-Davidson store right this moment. In spite of everything, bike firms construct particular journey bikes, however one of many tag traces 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 Method Up group inquiring in regards to the LiveWire mannequin and its involvement within the venture, a bunch of Harley-Davidson designers and engineers have been assembled from the broader LiveWire bike improvement group to switch near-production fashions to traverse 13,000 miles of terrain and excessive off-road circumstances,” Paul James tells InsideHook by way of e mail. However he does observe that they used production-spec batteries (referred to as RESS, or the Rechargeable Vitality Storage System), chassis and Revelation powertrain elements. In different phrases, the vital stuff is all the identical.
So that they tweaked the bikes to be overland-ready, what’s so attention-grabbing 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 only trip the Pan America? That’s a extremely anticipated gas-powered journey touring mannequin coming out next year.
That’s the place Lengthy Method Up will get actually attention-grabbing: as James notes, the ultimate bikes for the journey have 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 based mostly on the upcoming Pan America journey touring mannequin to shred filth roads, single monitor 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 adjustments 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 Method Up bikes.
These admittedly large adjustments have been examined completely earlier than handing the Frankenstein bikes off to McGregor and Boorman, each on the firm’s Willie G. Davidson Product Growth Heart 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 autos offered by Rivian, “Some chargers have been additionally put in alongside the Lengthy Method Up route and stay lively right this moment 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 driving, and distant charging, by South, Central and North America? I suppose you’ll have to observe to search out out.