Outside of Harley-Davidson’s Lower Manhattan store on Monday, a group of Harley enthusiasts leaned against the railing of a construction canopy, smoking cigarettes and chatting about work while they waited in line to be one of the very first people in the world to take a ride on Harley’s newest motorcycle. The bike they were waiting for wasn’t the latest loud, hulking monument to two-wheeled American chrome though: this was something altogether different. Harley was introducing Project LiveWire, its first electric motorcycle, and it had brought over a dozen of them to its Manhattan store for a limited preview of the bikes before they go on tour around the US for the rest of the year, beginning today. LiveWire is far from the type of bike that Harley enthusiast are used to. It has a single gear, a touchscreen dashboard, and no gas to speak of. Oh, and it’s quiet. Really, really quiet. Even though LiveWire won’t be going on sale — Harley says that it’s only looking at rider feedback at the moment — LiveWire is ready and impressive to ride. It tops out around 92 miles per hour and can get from zero to 60 in under four seconds, according to a Harley representative. For now, it isn’t meant to take you all that far though: its range is around 55 miles in an economy mode and around 33 miles in a “power” mode. Charging time is about 3.5 hours. LiveWire is nearly impossible to hear when out among New York City traffic. When revved indoors, however, it lets off a high-pitched whine that sounds more like an oversized vacuum than a vehicle. “It’s different, right? It’s hard to ignore that,” Richer says. Harley knows how important a bike’s sound is, but it isn’t committed to recreating the classic roar. “If it ends in the same place of, ‘Wow I really feel cool on this, and other people turn their heads when I go by and love the sound, and it makes a statement, and it’s got character and attitude,’ then that’s where it wants to be. That’s where it needs to be.” Members of New York’s Harley Owners Group didn’t mind the change in tone, but they did mind the near absence of sound altogether. “It looks great. It’s a good introductory bike for those who can’t drive standard,” HOG member Louis Diaz, Jr. says. “Only drawback: it doesn’t make noise.” For safety, you need a little noise,” Hector Ponce, another HOG member, agrees. “You need the cars to hear you, especially taxis. They’re insane.” As someone who’s into classic bikes though — and into fixing them up — Felber’s distinctly aware of the emotional shortcomings of an electric machine. “It’s like the difference between a record and an MP3,” Felber explains. Records may have imperfections, but that doesn’t mean they’re worse. In fact, that’s part of the appeal. Felber’s reaction seemed to be, by and large, the one shared by Harley enthusiasts who in attendance. The refrain was that LiveWire was quite appealing, but it wasn’t quite for them. Figuring out what can change existing riders’ minds may be part of what Harley is after as it gets feedback on the bike. LiveWire has been in development for about four years, and Harley isn’t saying how long it might be before it prepares a new version (or, for that matter, if that version will actually go on sale). The market for electric vehicles is growing though, and Harley realizes that it’s worth paying attention to — even if that means adapting. For now though, it doesn’t plan on throwing its history out the window. Electric vehicles are merely an opportunity for it, says Michelle Kumbier, Harley’s senior VP of motorcycle operations, “We don’t see a time that they’re going to replace our traditional combustion engine.” End E L E C T R I C