Victory Motorcycles bought long-time electric motorcycle partner Brammo in January. The first fruit of that appears to be participation at next month’s Isle of Man TT Zero race, where the company will be campaigning two de-tuned Brammo Empulse RRs.
Let’s back up a bit. Based out of southern Oregon, Brammo was the most promising of the handful of electric motorcycle startups that cropped up just before the Great Recession. Unlike Zero, Brammos bikes were actually good to ride and unlike Mission, they seemed to exist a little closer to reality. Production never really happened, for reasons likely involving maximal cost for innovative new machines and minimal demand for a product that, despite its excellence, was inarguably slower than cheaper ICE motorcycles.
With no reciprocating inertia to spoil feel or steering speed, the Empulse was one of the best handling street motorcycles I ever got a world exclusive on and, with 166 lb-ft of torque, the Empulse RR, which really only shared part of its name, was the fastest motorcycle I ever got a world exclusive on, period.
This “Victory electric race motorcycle” won’t be quite as fast though. It’s a very slightly tweaked version of that Empulse RR, with modifications made to improve its efficiency over the 37.7-mile endurance race.
“Victory,” top; Brammo, bottom. Same chassis, fairing, suspension, swingarm and Parker Racing motor. Different seat, different fake battery pack bracing and a huge step backwards in style.
Brammo raced the bike in the TTXGP, which was run on much shorter road courses over only a handful of laps. There, its 14kWh battery gave it a range of 5-8 laps, depending on the track in question. For the Isle of Man, this not-an-Empulse RR has gained a 17kWh battery, an improved seat unit and a strengthened head tube to deal with the additional weight brought by the battery. Victory told Motorcycle.com that the motor has been de-tuned from the 173rwhp and 166 lb-ft spec I rode it in to 150bhp and 162 lb-ft.
The Isle of Man’s Mountain Course is one of the fastest stretches of pavement that motorcycles race on, anywhere in the world. ICE superbikes now average over 130mph around its 37.7 miles, holding the bikes wide open in 6th gear for extended periods of time. The electric lap record of 117mph was set last year by John McGuinness aboard his definitely-not-a-factory-Honda.
As such a long race for the electrics, the TT becomes more about efficiency than it does outright pace. Bikes like this Empulse RR are capable of out-lapping even the fastest ICE superbikes today, but their battery packs simply lack the energy density of gasoline. So, the race is more a brutal proving ground for technology than it is a speed contest. What average speed can they achieve while emptying the battery packs just seconds after crossing the finish line?
What of Brammo? You can see a new “Brammo Power” sticker incorporated into the bland new paint scheme. They’re now focussing their efforts on electric powertrain development rather than trying to make money selling these things.
Still, it’s encouraging to see Victory’s parent company Polaris investing some money in something that isn’t a not-a-Harley. Here’s hoping they don’t require their racers for hire, William Dunlop and Lee Johnston, to wear assless leather chaps.