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HomeScience and NatureI really wanted to love the LiveWire S2 Del Mar

I really wanted to love the LiveWire S2 Del Mar

by News7

A great concept is undermined by flawed execution.

Posted on May 29, 2024 8:15 PM EDT

Don’t expect a comfortable cruise on the LiveWire S2 Del Mar. LiveWire

Riding electric motorcycles like the LiveWire S2 Del Mar and the Zero SR takes some getting used to when you’re coming from a typical bike with a combustion engine. Where’s the clutch lever? The left side handlebar is nearly bare save for a bar-end mirror. The difference is jarring. 

Thumb the main power switch on the right handlebar to the “on” position and press the “start” button embedded in its center and the LiveWire is ready to roll. This boot-up process takes a few seconds from when you switch on until the bike is ready to go, so it actually takes longer than starting a combustion bike, which is a surprise. Underway, the Del Mar’s 84-horsepower, 194-lb.-ft. electric motor blasts the bike to 60 mph in an effortless 3.0 seconds, with a top speed of 103 mph.

The clutch-less configuration takes some getting used to. Image: LiveWire

As a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, LiveWire’s nearly silent electric bikes mark a significant departure for the company that once tried (unsuccessfully) to trademark the very sound of its signature V-twin engines. But while Harleys were the primary source of the thunder in the annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day rides to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., the company recognizes that it sells bikes in the future, not in the past.

That future is electric, so Harley is positioning itself via LiveWire to begin introducing riders to the experience of riding without combustion. Silence has its own advantages, for example. And electric power can be precisely metered and applied according to preset preferences.

Selecting your riding mode

The Del Mar offers four riding modes that are easily selectable using a mode button on the right-side handlebar controls. They are Sport, Road, Range, Rain, and Custom. Predictably, response to the twistgrip speed controller (it isn’t “throttling” anything) is sharper and more immediate in the Street and Sport modes and softer in Range and Rain. 

In Range mode, the bike prioritizes regeneration when you let off the throttle in order to keep as much charge in the battery as possible. That causes the bike to quickly slow down as soon as you let up. Range mode cranks regeneration up to 80 percent. It drops to 65 percent for Sport, 35 percent for Road, and a gentle 20 percent in Rain to avoid sliding the rear wheel in slippery conditions.

The high deceleration in Range mode means you can’t really take you right hand off to point out objects in the road. I learned this the hard way when pointing out a black snake to the Harley bagger behind me on a rural highway. You’ll need to be quick with that mode switch in such situations if you like to leave the bike in its high-regen mode for longer riding range.

It is also harder to point out such things and to respond to the motorcyclists’ courtesy wave with your left hand because the bar-end rearview mirrors’ mounts obstruct the end of the handlebars. You get used to that, I suppose. The view through the mirrors is decent for a sporty bike. That handlebar has no vibration from a combustion engine’s pulses, so there is none of the finger numbness that such vibration can induce while riding the S2.

LiveWire equips the S2 with a credible horn, which is possibly more frequently necessary when riding a silent bike. I did find that people were merging into my lane with greater-than-usual frequency while riding the silent Del Mar. This seemed to have more to do with their inattention, cell phone use, or other incompetence, but the bike’s silence could have contributed.

How’s the ride?

You know the feeling, when pushing a shopping cart across a supermarket parking lot and it jostles and jars your eggs on ever crack in the asphalt, no matter how seemingly insignificant? That’s how the S2 rides. It is absolutely punishing.

I experienced a similarly harsh ride with the Rivian R1S and chalked it up to an overly aggressive attempt to control the ride motions of a vehicle with a very heavy battery. But with its 10.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the S2 Del Mar weighs 436 lbs. That is pretty much the same as my Honda CBR600 with fuel, and it is significantly lighter than the BMW CE 04 electric scooter’s 509 lbs. of mass, so weight is not the issue here.

The fully adjustable 43-mm inverted Showa cartridge fork and rebound-adjustable rear monoshock seem like capable hardware, so it should be a matter of correcting the spring and damping rates. Fortunately, there is some adjustability in the LiveWire’s suspension, which lets the rider adjust the fork’s damping rates and the spring preload and rebound damping of the rear shock.

Witness marks on the adjusters showed that these had been adjusted by someone previously, and the as-delivered settings were terrible. Worse, there was variation left-to-right in the shock’s settings, as the left tube was two turns out from full soft and the right side was ¾ of a turn from full soft. Technical numbers aside, misalignment in this department is bad news when it comes to a bike’s ride.

Considering the problems I was experiencing, I turned both to full soft and took a turn of preload out of the rear spring to make it easier to start compressing as it hits a bump. All of this moved the needle in the right direction, but for it to still be too harsh at full soft with a 175-lb. adult rider aboard shows that the valving and spring rates are just too high. 

The ride discomfort is worsened by the seat’s hardness. The unforgiving cushion is enough of a problem while you’re sitting on the bike during the ride. But its squared-off edges dig into the rider’s thighs when you put your feet down at traffic lights, exacerbating the discomfort.

Needs more cush for the tush. Image: LiveWire

The rubber on the road

The LiveWire-branded 19-inch Dunlop DT-1 tires seem good, but there was no way to really lean the bike over to test the limits of their grip because of the S2’s stiff suspension. It would have dumped me on the deck if I’d encountered any pavement ripples while leaned over. Smaller-diameter wheels are typical for sport bikes like this, but it seems like styling considerations overruled the agility benefits of 17-inch wheels and tires in this case.

I have a regular test loop that includes a short bridge with a rough surface followed immediately by a tight 90-degree right turn. This is an excellent test of vehicles’ suspension and other test bikes have handled it well, though with varying degrees of control. The Indian FTR 1200 S, for example, handled this challenge with aplomb.

Hard to handle

I’ve always marveled at the difference between the more sophisticated suspension of the Porsche 911 and the simpler suspension of the 718 Boxster and Cayman models in soaking up the bumps so the car is ready and able to turn into this corner.

The S2 falls in the discombobulated 718 territory, not in the poised 911 territory. So much so that the low-power turtle icon appeared on the instrument display, dialing back the bike’s power until it felt safe again. The same icon appears when the bike’s battery is nearly dead, showing that the S2 is operating at reduced power.

The sudden power loss was a surprise to me, so when I pitched the S2 into the turn following the bridge and opened the throttle at the apex to stand the bike up on the drive to the corner exit, I got the shock of a limp response and a bike that continued to lean and turn while the road straightened. That wasn’t fun.

It’s the little things

The S2’s push-to-cancel turn signal is…unpredictable. It’s maddeningly uncooperative and leaves the rider double- and triple-checking that the turn signal isn’t flashing after every turn and lane change. This would be enough for me to return the bike if I’d bought it without noticing this deficiency because it spoils the relaxation that is the point of riding.

A minor annoyance while riding the S2 is the bike’s high-pitched gear whine during steady-state 25 mph riding, which is what I do for a mile when entering or leaving my neighborhood for every single trip. As with the BMW CE 04 electric scooter tested last year, the piercing whine goes away at other speeds and isn’t apparent at low speeds when accelerating or decelerating. But a few minutes of steady-state whine seems like much longer when enduring this noise. Fortunately just slowing to an indicated 23 mph eliminates the racket.

Image: LiveWire

Brembo supplies the S2’s powerful Brembo M4.32 monobloc four-piston front caliper and PF34 floating single-piston rear caliper and their performance is impeccable. Well, at least, the single-disc front brake performs with great power and with precision that is easy to meter. The electric motor’s regeneration on the rear wheel makes the rear brake even less necessary than usual, so I barely touched the pedal for the rear brake.

Keep cool

When slogging through stop-and-go traffic from one red light to the next, I appreciated the fact that the Del Mar does not roast its rider in engine heat. The dramatically styled (some might argue excessively so) cooling fins on the sides of the Del Mar’s electric drive system never seem to get particularly warm, so the bike is a great partner for summer riding.

It does have a heat exchanger behind the front wheel for cooling the motor and power electronics. This radiator seems unobtrusive enough, but its cap is a styling miscue, sticking out prominently among all the careful industrial design. Considering the relatively low heat rejection requirements of a bike like this, it seems like a missed opportunity to bury that radiator somewhere out of sight where the cap isn’t an eyesore.


The S2’s riding range is disappointing. LiveWire’s rating for highway riding is only 70 miles of steady 55-mph riding. Which means that on a 70-mph Interstate, with the cut-and-thrust of traffic, range falls from “short” to “nearly useless. On a ride sticking to two-lane highways with speed limits between 35 mph and 55 mph, I limped home with 3 miles of range remaining after only 71.4 miles of riding despite what I considered best-case scenario conditions. This was with the bike in Range mode for most of that distance.

The 113-mile city distance rating seems plausible, but when the display forecasts that range on departure for a gentle test ride, it is an unwelcome surprise to encounter range anxiety on the way home.

Recharging on my Level 2 9.6-kilowatt ChargePoint home charger was quick, with the bike estimating 136 minutes to go from 1 percent state of charge to 100 percent. I saw it charging at 4.4 kW, but it might have ramped up that rate as the charge progressed.


The LiveWire, like any two-wheeler, is a bundle of fun. And the technology seems promising, especially at the $15,499 price tag. But prospective riders need to understand that this is not even a casual two-lane cruiser. Between the dismal highway riding range and the excruciating seat, a cruise is not a realistic job for the Del Mar. 

It really should be an around-town machine. It would be good for commuting if not for the punishing ride. In total, there remains a lot of promise here, but even more work remains to be done. My next bike might well be an electric, but it won’t be this version of the LiveWire Del Mar.

Fun and promising, but overall disappointing. Image: LiveWire

Source : Popular Science

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