Unless you you have been dead for some time or regularly drive a Toyota Prius, there's no way to watch the race videos and not have your pulse quicken and your throttle hand get itchy. The Isle of Man TT race is unique and special and mind blowing in it's intensity, especially if you've ever tried to ride a motorcycle fast on a curvy public road. I know none of you have done that but you probably know someone who has. Trying to fit your own motorcycle go-fast experience into the racing you see happening on the Isle of Man is like comparing 4th of July fireworks to the launch of the Space Shuttle. There's fire, there's sparks, it's cool, but it's not the same experience.
There's been a fair amount of coverage this past week of the "Zero Emission" event at the Isle of Man TT races. Electric powered bikes are slowly coming into their own and this year were granted their own, proper event at the world's oldest motorcycle race.
The winning electric bike this year, the MotoCzysz E1pc, (below) lapped the 37 mile TT course, run over closed public roads, at almost 100 mph and saw near 140 mph in the top speed section. There is a $10,000 prize for the first electric bike to lap the famous circuit (no pun intended) at 100 mph and the boys from MotoCzsyz came darned close, averaging 96.82 mph. Everyone seems very impressed by that and the MotoCzysz bike is a Tron-like wonder to behold. But I can't help but try to bring my own grouchy perspective to the race results.
Image via PopSci and Amadeus Photography
The MotoCzysz achievement at IoM is amazing and worthy of much respect in electric bike terms but keep in mind they've only managed to lap the TT course at a speed not quite equal to the 1957 lap record of Bob McIntyre on a 500cc Gilera and only slightly faster than the 125cc race bikes of 2008.
MotoCzysz and the rest of the electric entries had the advantage of stuffing their electric motor package into a chassis/tire/suspension package that has benefited from 100 years of developed knowledge. Poor old Bob McIntrye was stuck with Gilera suspension tech that was barely beyond girder forks and sprung hub rear ends.
Technology builds on technology though, and I'm sure that it won't be too many years before we see electric bikes doing a proper, multi-lap race at the Isle of Man, perhaps with pit stops to exchange pull-out battery packs just the way one changes out the battery on a cordless electric drill.
By the way, the techno-dinosaur, gasoline powered bike ridden by Ian Hutchinson this year lapped the TT course at an average of 128.607 mph for four laps, not one. Average. Block walls, curbs, public roads. 128 mph average. The one lap record is past 130 mph.
I don't doubt for a moment that in decades to come electric bikes in races will be common place but the auditory joys of racing will be poorer for it. Maybe they can use clothes pins to clip old playing cards on the bike and let them flap on the wheels and make the things sound more like real racing motorcycles than electric gizmos.