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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Isle of Man TT Race and Electric Bikes

If you're not up, at least a little, on the annual Isle of Man TT races and you love motorcycles, your motorcycle education is remiss.  Read about it, watch videos, look for coverage on TV, or get completely crazy and buy a DVD of this years race. The TT race is very much part of the heart of motorcycling and has been going on since 1907 and virtually no motorcycle events have such a colorful, fast, and dangerous history, not even the campgrounds at Sturgis.

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.

Isle of Man TT promo video

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.
MotoCzysz electric race bike. A little faster than a 125cc race bike.
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.

In 1957 this was the hot ticket for shear speed on a road race track.

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.


Geoff James said...

Wow! Thanks so much for that Doug, I had no idea that the electric bikes had got so fast.

Also thank you for the memories. I was a spectator at the 1969 IOM TT where a production bike lapped at 100mph for the first time (Malcolm Uphill on a Bonneville). I had a Tiger 100 then and enjoyed riding round the circuit at a more gentle pace!

Jac Brown said...

Fantastic video. The next time I go to England for work, I'll have to try to time it for the TT. I love the shots where they switched between old and new on the same corners. Exceptional!

FLHX_Dave said...

Thanks Doug! That was freakin' awesome...well, except watching the bikes do the "WarDance" (speedwobble)...that just made my nads suck up into my gut.

The electric bike? whoa. Only problem is I would have to put a 200 watt amp with a loudspeaker on it that would blare out aftermarket pipes.

Thanks again!

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