View Full Version : Empulse Test Ride

28 October 2012, 1236
The bikes were fresh off the chargers and looked stunning. Black, white, and red models. Much better than their pictures. Great fit and finish.

We had a spirited test ride on sunny afternoon with slightly cool air in sparkling San Francisco. Charging through the fast sweepers of upper Market St., then turn right onto the "back"(south) side entrance to Twin Peaks, past the tourist lookout point, and down the north side and back to Scuderia West's shop on Duboce St.

Chatted with James and Jake from Brammo's dealer tour. Jake on a KTM lead our group of three on the ride. I noticed that when we were sitting utterly silent behind him at traffic lights, his idling gasser sounded SO primitive. I mean, really, how 20th century gauche!

First impressions of the ride:

Seating position (6'1", 31" inseam) was very neutral with slight weight on the hands and a knee bend I could live with, though I suggested to Jake that they consider offering a peg-lowering kit for us old farts. I don't think I'd want to bring the bars back at all, since I won't be doing long-distance touring on this bike. The seat was comfortable enough that I didn't notice it at all, but of course our ride was short.

The shocks were excellent, soaking up San Francisco's infamous potholes, yet feeling well-planted in the twisties. They definitely felt set up on the "sport" side of things, as compared to the "cushy" ride of, say, a big Honda. The frame felt rock solid and I do believe they've got the geometry dialed in.

The bike does feel noticeably heavy as you lean it over a bit, but that disappears quickly once underway. No problem having feet on the pegs and inching along at walking speed in traffic. Neutral center of gravity.

Very sure feeling in the turns, though obviously heavier to flick that the TMax scooter that's been my ride for the last year. In all fairness. the TMax has a 500cc parallel twin flat on the ground and is one of the most flickable rides I've ever been on. I'd say the Empulse's handling slightly exceeded my BMW R1200R with Wilbur shocks, which is high praise indeed. It was always graceful and never fought back in any way, though I didn't try to drag any pegs or even put a knee down: I very much didn't want to be the one who's noted for wrecking the first publicly ridden Empulse bike!

WOW, the acceleration with strong torque on tap, absolutely anywhere, was a surprising thrill, especially after riding the 2012 Zero bike a few months ago. Love that whine to go with it. It really did exceed my expectations. In absolute 0-60 terms, maybe not terribly impressive (though fast enough for me), but the actual EXPERIENCE of that straight-line torque curve got my blood pumping during a couple of times of full-right-wrist-twist in 2nd gear. This is a real motorcycle! (I'm definitely not Zero-bashing here: it appeals to a different niche and I very much enjoyed riding it; it just doesn't fit my needs as well, though the 2013 model may come a lot closer).

Although, as we all know, emotes are relatively quiet, the motor and drive train produced more whine in a pleasing visceral sort of way than the almost totally quiet Zero, even at low speeds. Nothing objectionable at all, and kinda cool on take-off. The Zero sounded like riding a magic carpet; the Empulse sounded like a riding a toned-down fighter jet.

I felt some pronounced lash in the drive train. Would take me a few days' worth of riding to finesse my throttle control. But again, I'm coming fresh off an auto CV tranny, and not my R1200R shafty with the famous Teutonic ker-CHUNK gear box.

Regen in first gear (good up to 60 mph) is VERY pronounced compared to IC engine braking, which is just perfect for San Francisco's hills. I barely needed to use the brakes in ordinary traffic. Matter of fact, my not having yet developed refined throttle control on this bike, I found 1st-gear regen a bit much on the flats, and found I preferred to ride all the time in 2nd gear in the urban areas. I also tried starting off in 3rd which the motor handled just fine thank you. Noticeably less acceleration had me going back to 2nd, however for the rest of the ride. I would use first pretty much only for hole-shot situations and for braking on our very steepest hills. Gears 3,4,5,6 I'd guess would find utility for the freeway, which, alas, we didn't have time to ride. The tranny shifted smoothly and surely, though my foot couldn't feel the click as clearly as on some bikes I've ridden. The gear-shift indicator on the dash seemed to lag a moment with each shift. But there's weren't any mis-shifts, or disconcerting vagueness.

I'd love it if the regen were refined a bit more: either have progressive regen from reversing the throttle from its neutral position, ala Vectrix, or, have the computer give free-wheeling no-regen at first back-off of throttle, then progressing exponentially toward throttle-neutral position. If we have modulated "GO", why not modulated "SLOW" throttle control? The Empulse probably does this already, but in first-gear, unfamiliar with the throttle, in traffic, it seemed a bit too on/off for my first ride.

Speaking of deceleration, the Brembos' 8 pistons up front easily do the job with one finger most of the time. I did have to grab a handful fairly hard as a light changed on us at about 50 mph, and all the stopping had total progressive certainty and right now. Very nice.

Don, the owner of Scuderia West, along with Jake and James interviewed us after the ride for a brief chat out on the sidewalk to get our impressions. All 3 riders had big grins. Many thanks to Brammo, Jake, James, and Don for a great experience.

Summary: I want this bike! Now!