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…and life lessons from a farm movie

As we slide into a new year, new machines are (finally) hitting the road and it got me thinking that it’s time to start ranting about electric motorcycles on The Bullitt. 

But here’s the thing: It’s actually not the sexy and well-designed machines I am seeing on the interwebs that has me scratching my head, or even the amazing hardware on display in Portland this past weekend at The One Motorcycle Show.

What has influenced my thinking on motorcycles recently is a movie about a farm. No joke. 

Big Little Farm got me thinking about motorcycles. 

Granted; food, sex, music, women, politics, art, travel, literature, essentially everything (but Trump) reminds me of motorcycles, but this film in particular distilled three truths that got me thinking about the electric future that 2020 has coiled up inside of itself.

Life lessons from a farm movie:

  1. In the complexity there is infinite possibility.
  2. Observation, followed by creativity, is your greatest ally.
  3. What pushes us forward is having a purpose in this world.

And yes, you guessed right. (If you are nodding your head up and down, you have been sucked into the wake vortex of Universal Law). For #1, check out Hugo Eccles’ build that just lit up The One Moto Show this past weekend. Yeah, for sure, lots of ink has been spilled on this bike and there is little I can say at this point that is headline worthy.

Zero XP by Untitled Motorcycles

Hugo Eccle’s Zero XP. Photo: Ludovic Robert

The Zero XP is:

…like a private jet that got ground down in a pencil sharpener.

…like an industrial designer got to quit his day job and on his last day had some Jerry McGuire fantasy where he emails around THE DESIGN he’s always wanted to do, flips the bird to the CEO and wheelies out of the parking lot.

…like a skyscraper in Dubai that had asexual reproduction with a Rem Koolhaus sex robot from the future that bred with Godzilla.

Ok, that last one went WAY OFF the rails, but you get my point. In the moto design space, the only losers are the brands that aren’t in the game (yet). We get to see designs that inspire us to be better human beings (read: urban mobility) when processed through the minds of great designers.

For #2, check out the Tarform Scrambler Prototype. 

Tarform custom electric motorcycle

Tarform Scrambler Prototype. Photo: Ryan Handt.

Yes, another machine that has been scorching the internet (and, of course,  was also featured in the Motorcycle Arts Foundation exhibit Electric Revolution) where it more than stood out – it punched you in the face with a fistful of greatness. 

3D resin printing, advanced manufacturing, AI, hand-shaped steel, machined aluminum – it is pure cognitive dissonance as it delivers on the creativity required to fuse the promise of both future and past in one simple design execution.

One of my free wheeling spiritual friends once asked me to define “pure consciousness” and I was stumped. Next time I am asked this question at a cocktail party I am going to toss them the keys to my Tarform Scrambler and let them swing a leg over it while I Uber home and sext his wife.

Lastly, I believe #3 grounds this conversation to a halt. 

Whether you are exploding a “normal” looking Zero motorcycle into a future sex robot, or 3D printing the most beautiful electric machine out of Brooklyn that is ready for prime time (summer of 2020!), all these bikes share a vision that pushes the big guys way (the hell) out of their comfort zone. I’ve seen cool e-bikes online from Ducati and BMW and I do not doubt that Honda and Yamaha will wait on the sidelines and scale the living shit out of electric two wheeled transportation. They will appeal to our rational animal brains because they will be cheap, scaled production bikes that will do everything except make your groin ache with anticipation. (No disrespect Honda, I love your bikes, but I need to make a point here).

Thus, did you make note of what happened over the weekend in Portland, OR?

Why? The hardworking underdogs of the electric space, Blatant Moto has a bike called The Deathrattle racing in The One Moto Show’s first ever electric flat track race. 

Blatant Moto's "Death Rattle"

Blatant Moto’s “Death Rattle”. Photo: John McInnis.

I love this bike (yes, yet another Electric Revolution bike from The Petersen Museum… see a theme here?) and I love these guys for their passion. 

…I love that the heart of this bike is the recycled Red Shift motor they snuck out the back door of defunct (and never-to-be-forgotten) Alta Motors.

…I love that it took a bunch of coffee swilling hippies from Portland to instigate the first(?) e-flat track race in the US.

…I love that Revival Cycles is going to do a super cool electric custom sometime in 2020 (I actually have no idea if that is true, I just hope that someone leaves a copy of this on Alan or Stefan’s  desk and they get so pissed off at me for saying this that they actually do it).

Bukowski gets it. He may not be a rider, but I believe he was clearly connected to purpose (or a bottle of Jack) when he wrote this about electric motorcycle design.

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” 

In 2006 there were few if any electric bikes on the road. Last Sunday, there were three car ads in the Stupid Bowl for electric cars. When I leased my i3, the BMW sales guy said there were “nearly 5 million electric cars on the road” globally. 

Designing electric bikes is like being alone with the gods – and it really is the only good fight there is.

We’re getting there people, we’re getting there.


** (Nice job Zero Motorcycles, Hugo, The 1 Show, Tarform, the Blatant moto nerds, Andy Dibrino/Team Blatant Moto and Bukowski.)

John Lewis

John Lewis

John is a ranter, writer and marketing consultant who believes in the electric future of motorcycles. Until then, he rides an old Moto Guzzi between LA and Malibu where he lives. John grew up in NY and is grateful for everyday he gets to ride in the CA sunshine.