Attention On Your Terms

Electric motorcycles are quiet, which comes with ups and downs

I used to roll out my ZX6R, and as soon as I hit the starter button, all eyes were on me. The bike's anything-under-4k-is-torture inline four grumbled at idle, which didn’t help. Neither did the minimally-restricted exhaust. The sound, coupled with an astronaut suiting up, had every bystander watching me start my trip.

I hated that.

A small price to pay, no doubt, for the joys of riding a motorcycle. A price I don't have to pay at all with an electric drivetrain, I've recently found.

There is no starter button on an electric motorcycle – and for that matter, there is no idling engine. When I roll out my Zero FXS for a trip, there’s nothing to hear until I’m rolling on the throttle to depart. And even then, the subtle whine of the electric motor is far less attention-grabbing than the rev-shift-rev of the beloved Kawasaki it replaced.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. While it’s nice to lose the attention I don’t want, I now must demand the attention I need. Because the bike is silent, vehicles and pedestrians are deaf. Staying out of blind spots, thinking ahead when jockeying for position at intersections — these are now more challenging since I don’t have a clutch to pull and a motor to rev to remind others where I am.

It's an interesting trade-off -- my increased ability to hear and feel, but everyone else's decreased awareness of me. I dig zipping around without the loud suck of a ram air intake and growl of an exhaust, though.