Saietta R Electric Motorcycle

Saietta electric motorcycle

Saietta electric motorcycle

I’ve never really given much consideration to electric motorbikes. The ones I’ve seen have far too often looked somehow cobbled together, probably a necessity due to the size of the batteries, needed for a sensible range, being shoehorned into a conventional bike shaped package. Add in the fact that there’s a general perception that electric motorcycles are slow and can’t be ridden far before they need a recharge and you can see why I wouldn’t be that interested. Sound familiar, perhaps?

It was therefore very surprising to catch sight of a Saietta R being put through its paces on the hill climb course at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, a petrol head’s heaven, looking like no other motorbike I’d ever seen, nor for that matter, sounding like one.

Having seen it charging up the hill, I made a mental note to myself to try and find out some more about the strange looking bike that was making a subdued whirring noise while posting impressive times. I didn’t have to wait long either as I soon found one on display among all the new cars and accessories on show on trade stands around the perimeter of the course.

A quick conversation ensued which led to me discovering that I had seen a Saietta R from Agility Global being ridden up the hill and would I like a test ride sometime?

A few weeks later I found myself outside an anonymous door in a central London mews, my leathers and helmet on ready to ride while looking at an electric motorcycle; the same one I’d seen at Goodwood.

Pre ride check out

Every other test ride I’ve ever done normally goes along the lines of here’s the keys, enjoy yourself and please don’t crash. Not this time. Yes, the bike was there, ready and waiting for me just like normal, well as normal as if every other test bike had been campaigned at Goodwood, and was still replete with data logging equipment and scrutineering stickers. Before I could head off and enjoy myself, Lawrence Marazzi, the CEO of Agility Global, the company that is behind the design, development and production of the bike, wanted to check I could ride it. Surely some mistake? Hadn’t I explained that I’m a motorcycle journalist with years of experience on all things two-wheeled?

Lawrence talked me through the controls and then asked me to gently pull away, barely opening the throttle. That’s when I discovered why the cautious approach. The slightest twitch of the throttle and the bike pulls and there’s no clutch to slip as the power comes in. Wow that was surprising. This may be an electric motorbike but it feels more like a two-stoke with a power valve. No throttle lag just instant power. However, unlike a two-stroke there’s no need to keep working through the gearbox to carry the speed. Heck, there isn’t even a gearbox. That’s one of the big advantages of electric vehicles; the power delivery is such that a gearbox is redundant. The biggest implication of this on the Saietta for me, at least, was the afore mentioned lack of clutch. Or to be more precise, a lack of clutch lever. Usually, in urban riding situations I’ll spend a lot of time with the throttle set and then control the power delivery with the clutch. Time for a rethink on that while riding the Saietta.

The ride

Once my brain had come to terms with the fact that there was not only a complete lack of clutch but also no gear lever to concern myself with, nor a foot operated rear brake for that matter, I began to relax and start to enjoy the ride. It was just a case of going back to my days riding scooters, where the right bar lever pulls the front brake and the left the rear and my feet just idly sit there.

What was immediately noticeable, once I was out on the streets of London, was just how stable the bike felt, which was again something unexpected given its extremely short wheelbase. Apparently, the bike’s wheelbase is similar to that of a 250 GP machine and while it was quick to turn in, it also felt very stable at the same time. How is this possible? Well, it’s down to the front end set up. Described by Lawrence as a wide, double-wishbone. It looks remarkably similar, to me at least, to a Hossack set-up and is said to offer adjustable geometry, rake below 24 degrees (the exact figure was not revealed despite my questioning) and most interesting no trail. It is certainly different and a quick twist of the throttle lets the bike simply pull away with no reaction from the suspension.

Design freedom

The unusual design of the front suspension came about because the engineers were given free reign to do what they deemed to work best without any styling constrains being placed upon them and that in turn led to the striking styling of the bike’s bodywork as it covers the linkages and single shock with its hunchback like looks.

Like the suspension, the bodywork has been developed especially for the bike. Built from a secret composite materials (again I asked but was not told), it is a monocoque structure that not only acts as mounting point for the suspension and electric motor but also acts as an integrated housing for the batteries. All of which works to keep the bike’s overall weight as low as possible.

Saietta electric motorcycle

Saietta electric motorcycle

I would tell you all about the technology used in the Saietta but I can’t! Due to the time spent developing the new technology used not only in the batteries, but also the suspension and bodywork, there are a significant number of patents in place and Lawrence wants to keep it exclusive for as long as possible to protect his investment and so he was very guarded about what he would and wouldn’t tell me.

While I don’t know what the bodywork is made from is it claimed to be very strong. Strong enough that the steel subframe that supports the seat is just there for show. Apparently, the steel tubing was originally needed but composite material development now means the monocoque of the body is strong enough to be self supporting and the subframe simply remains as customers feel reassured to see it there.

Back to the riding. It was at first difficult to concentrate on what was happening underneath me with the bike because every time I stopped at traffic lights or a junction I would have pedestrians and other road users alike asking me questions about the bike, simply because it looks so unlike anything else on the UK’s roads.

However, once I was able to see clear road ahead of me the real joy of the electric motor became obvious; twist the throttle and feel the acceleration. No grabbing gears, no stuttering as variable rollers do their thing, as on a conventional twist and go scooter, just a feeling of power. Then there is the realisation that it’s really quiet. There is noise from the motor but with a helmet on it’s so muffled that I had to really listen for it to notice it.

If I was to be critical of one aspect it would be that way the power is delivered, but then again I’m coming to the bike with a set of expectations brought with me from years of riding regular motorcycles. Due to the very sensitive nature of the throttle when I reached for the front brake I would move my hand slightly upping the power output! Once I’d adjusted my grip on the bars the issue was solved. Later talking to Lawrence about this he told me that the bike’s power delivery can be changed simply and easily using a computer interface. Want more engine braking or slower throttle response these and more options can be dialed in.

So does the Saietta R make sense? In the right environment with out a doubt it does. The ability to turn quickly and not having to slip the clutch makes it a great ride around town. No forgetting the claimed 0-60mph time of four seconds. There is, of course, though the issue of range, which is quoted as currently being 112 miles for the R model and 60 miles for the S version. So it’s not a bike to go touring on, but in a city, such as London, where there are numerous, free electric vehicle charging points it starts to look like a real alternative option. Providing you can get on with the unconventional appearance…

Link: Agility Motors

Comments

  1. Ian says

    Had a good look at this at Goodwood too. Whilst nicely put together and apparently pretty quick it’s a struggle to get past the looks, making it a doubly hard job to change peoples perceptions.

    I saw it go up the hill, following a load of the most iconic and noisy race bikes of recent times, in silence. The only noise was a slight whine and a mass sniggering of the crowd around me.

    Says it all really.

    • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

      The design freedom electric motorcycles make possible is something designers will have to approach with care, depending on the potential customers they’re trying to impress. As we’ve mentioned on The Kneeslider before, motorcyclists seem very wary of anything that doesn’t look like their mental image of what a motorcycle is supposed to look like. Stretch that too far and you’ll scare them away.

      • B50 Jim says

        Paul –

        Thank you for having the nerve to post this! Sure, it looks strange, but think about riders’ “mental image of what a motorcycle is supposed to look like”, and then visualize a classic Triumph, any modern adventure tourer, a Ducatti and anything from Confederate. About the only thing they have in common is two wheels, a means of steering and a place to sit. Riders have a large capacity to absorb changes in styling and seem willing to try just about anything. When I first saw this, before I read the copy, I thought “Confederate”. The humpback styling would take some getting used to (It’s not to my liking but that’s only me), but as I’ve said before, builders of e-bikes will have to make a different styling statement to distance themselves from fuel bikes. The Saietta looks as if it is poised to do just that, but with a healthy dose of technology to reduce weight and improve handling. It appears to be an out-and-out performance machine with limited but not crippling range, but with on-board digital controls I’m sure it can be quickly “tuned” for more economical operation. 112 miles for the R model isn’t too bad; my weekly commuting mileage is 200 miles and I have to fill my B50′s tank once during the week (It only holds 2 gallons). If I rode an e-bike with even 100-mile range I would have no trouble; just plug it in when I park it in the garage (like I do with a battery tender now) and it’s ready to go the next morning. E-bikes are here to stay; battery technology is improving at a modest pace but improving nonetheless. My personal opinion of the Saietta is that it’s one odd-looking machine, but I can’t deny its performance is stunning, according to Duncan’s report. And I wouldn’t mind riding a quiet bike with no clutch or gearshift to bother with — most 4-wheelers sold today have automatic transmissions — in heavy commuter traffic I could concentrate better not having to monitor the mechanical aspects of riding. As a rider of vintage English bikes, I have more than the average experience with this. Plus, they’re gross polluters; I can only justify riding them by choosing a late-model 4-wheeler with modern emissions controls as my “other” driver. So kudos to the folks at Saietta — helping to drag us, kicking and screaming, out of the fuel age.

    • Wave says

      That’s awesome! Looks like a great build. Only 30 miles range out of $3000 worth of batteries, but they’d be a very fun 30 miles!

  2. akaaccount says

    Looks crazy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Wayyy outside the box and it works.

  3. says

    “The slightest twitch of the throttle and the bike pulls” Sounds like the throttle controls voltage, which makes the throttle VERY twitchy at low speeds. Having the throttle control current should be much smoother, but it’s a lot harder to find off the shelf controllers with current throttles. The motor looks off the shelf, likely two http://www.agnimotors.com motors. (which are DAMN nice motors)

    No trail up front is interesting. It’s unlikely to be ride able no-hands, but should only require a very light touch on the steering. CG looks pretty high and forward too. Someone obviously spend a lot of time with http://ruina.tam.cornell.edu/research/topics/bicycle_mechanics/JBike6_web_folder/index.htm or some equivalent tool given the good manners.

    Definitely a Hossack/Fior suspension up front. Always love to see those in action :) Especially love to see them when they’ve been carefully engineered, the added design freedom can cut both ways.

    Range looks respectable and quite useful. Still if you want more range, a proper tail box and low rolling resistance tires will make a dramatic difference.

    Me like!

  4. says

    “….material development now means the monocoque of the body is strong enough to be self supporting and the subframe simply remains as customers feel reassured to see it there.”

    THIS! Drives me crazy. How many times have I read on the Internet comments like:
    The wheels will fall off
    It won’t be able to turn
    Bet such and such breaks as soon as it hits a bump

    The list of armchair engineering is nearly endless, as if those building something for mass public consumption haven’t thought about things so basic as turning. I take a general trust that someone somewhere when involved in the development of something has thought of roads having a bump or two in them. Aptera comes to mind, or the Delta Wing (even though the wing wasn’t built for the everyday mass produced use, it sure shut the skeptics up despite being wrecked)
    Just because something does not follow the traditional look we are accustomed to does not mean the minimum basics weren’t considered. We need to open up as consumers and let the things get built without having to satisfy our need for potentially needless design just because we are hung up that part x must look exactly like part x that we know and are familiar with.

    • Fred M. says

      Perhaps motorcyclists are rightly skeptical of radical new designs after seeing things like the Zero MX bike where the frame failed catastrophically in competition, leaving the rider with multiple, serious injuries (concussion, collapsed lung, etc.).

      I work in the aerospace industry. It’s a lot easier to get permission to use a “legacy” design or methodology than to try some radical new concept. Same reason: Engineers are imperfect and the risk of failure is too great given the potentially devastating results of a failure.

        • Fred M. says

          So did Zero MX not do the tests? I think it more likely that the tests, like the bike, were flawed. That’s the problem — engineers designing tests are fallible humans, too.

          • Paulinator says

            Good point…or they were pushed to release the product prematurely by monetary and/or time constraints.

  5. Jim says

    On the “looks like” thing, I’m reminded of a how to ride a motorcycle book I read after I’d learned in the late 60s. It was from the 40s and was written by someone who had started learning in the 20s or early 30s. A very important thing to remember, apparently, is to flap your knees out on corners so you don’t hit them with the handlebars. Keep that in mind cause I’ll bet you’re all doing it wrong. :)

    Things change.

  6. rohorn says

    “Due to the time spent developing … the suspension and bodywork, there are a significant number of patents in place and Lawrence wants to keep it exclusive for as long as possible to protect his investment and so he was very guarded about what he would and wouldn’t tell me.”

    If it patented, then it IS protected.

    Is this a press release?

    • Rob says

      Patents aren’t magic, there are plenty of people that will a. illegally ignore them completely b. use them to reverse engineer and build something slightly different so as to circumvent the patent.

      • rohorn says

        See spectator’s comment below.
        Anyone can look up any patent and see everything about it. A patent with claims left out due to a need for secrecy won’t protect the holder’s “secrets”.

        Anyone can file an improvement on an invention, including the original inventor. The improvement doesn’t change the claims of the original inventor or invalidate the original patent. In fact, improvements by others can make the original patent more valuable.

        Disclaimer: I’m not a patent attorney, but I’ve spent a lot of money on them and paid attention to what they said.

        Hence, I think Spectator’s conclusion is vastly more polite than what I was going to post.

        I wonder what the laws are concerning false claims of holding or pursuing patent(s)…

  7. .Chris. says

    Legal protection can be expensive to enforce. Especially against a larger firm.

    It may be more practical to keep certain things secret until the bike is on the market and revenue in generated from the patents.

    • spectator says

      Rohorn is closer to the mark. The basic quid-pro-quo of patents [limited government enforced monopolies on articles of manufacture] is that the public be informed of the content of the patents so that they may put them to productive use. Trade secrets are the antithesis of patents, all protection of trade secrets ceases once a “person having ordinary skill in the art [phosita]” could figure out how the trade secret works.

      SO the patent system is a publication system which gives information to the public, and trade secret protection only protects things which you do not disclose. You pick one or another. You can’t have both.

      Either they are bullshitting and they haven’t begun the patent application process [and haven't established a priority date in the patent system] [UNLIKELY] or the person speaking has no idea what they are talking about relating to the bike OR the patent system [LIKELY].

  8. spectator says

    I ride motorcycles because it’s the closest convenient thing to flying like superman. I would rather NOT have the motorcycle at all. The less noise and interference that a motorcycle makes with my flying fantasy, so much the better. I predict that e-bikes in about 10 years are going to be exactly what I want – performance of ICE 600′s at under $10k.

    • Oldernowiser says

      Hopefully the warranty on these magic flying machines will include a couple trips to the “shrink”!

      (Sorry spectator, you must admit that you left yourself wide open on that one!)

  9. MacKenzie says

    Reminds me of H. R. Giger’s Alien – you remember that slimy dragon/insect, could have been made of carbon fiber or it’s organic equivalent? But seriously ….. what is concealed under the “hump”? Could the front suspension components really extend that far above the “visual center” of the design? If not ….. why? I for one do not find the “hump aesthetic” particularly appealing, whether it is found on the Confederate or even the hallowed Egli-Vincent. Even the mini-hump on my F800S bothers me at times …..

    Mike

  10. JR says

    The big “tank” is so you can lay down and take a nap on long rides…. but being serious…it looks like you could lean forward and take a load off.

  11. FREEMAN says

    Sounds like improvements in range are slowly and steadily improving for electric motorcycles. My only nitpick is that it’s probably hard to see the front wheel. Not a real big deal, I guess, considering the rake.

  12. Frooqi says

    In response to your statement:

    “I’ve never really given much consideration to electric motorbikes. The ones I’ve seen have far too often looked somehow cobbled together, probably a necessity due to the size of the batteries, needed for a sensible range, being shoehorned into a conventional bike shaped package.”

    Are you familiar with ‘Zero Motorcycles’?

  13. says

    B50 Jim! and Paul really enjoy yr comments and wanted to say thanks! they are balanced and thoughtful!i have been mesmerized by electric vehicles and bikes in particular!Have friends in the isle of man and so wanna go to the TT next year and really wanna see electric bikes angry and in action!

  14. wortherthorth says

    Drives me nuts too. I design and build production machines. I build ‘em with cantilever platforms, or hang things from the top, or use a lot of obtuse angles, curves and vectors to support things in such a way as to be very accessable for maint. service, or changeover. I build super robust, but I can’t count the times owners, super’s and even engeneers have insisted that I add non functional “braceing” because they did not understand how the frame carried its loads.

  15. B50 Jim says

    Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrated decades ago how strong cantilever design can be. In Chicago we have cantilever bridges that carry millions of tons of traffic over the Chicago river every day; we haven’t had a bridge collapse in more than a century of operation. I agree that a great many consumers, and even engineers who should know better, get all hairy when they see unsupported structures. It’s probably a holdover from the days when materials weren’t very strong and needed support. Or maybe they remember their days in Boy Scouts when they built bridges from branches. They should have looked up into the trees to see all those cantilever branches holding up tons of timber with no support whatsoever.

    • Paulinator says

      I the belle province of Quebec I pucker every time I pass under a bridge…for good reason.

        • B50 Jim says

          A railroad bridge collapsed last summer just down the street from my office, but that was because a train of heavily-laden coal hoppers derailed after the track warped from days of record heat. Two people died when the train fell on their car. So yes, I do watch what’s happening on a bridge when I go underneath. But the design is good; most failures are a result of lax maintenance, usually brought on by reduced funding, which usually is brought on by politicians (generally conservatives) who think the private sector will somehow take care of municipal infrastructure problems. Just reduce taxes on the super-rich, make a shrinking middle class bear more of the burden, and everything will work out — yeah, I don’t understand their reasoning, either.

          • Paulinator says

            Or let a cherry-picked extraterrestrial give your great-grandkids’ pension to Wall Street, big auto and the like. Why not try a home-grown American businessman with credentials, rather than a life-form that was beamed onto the political scene from a distant star.

            • Carolynne says

              To bad this isnt a political blog I would love to get into a discussion about that. One thing for sure Americans have facinating politics

              • B50 Jim says

                Carolynne–
                Good thing it’s NOT a political blog! At least we all agree that motorcycles are a good thing and we all like them; our only disagreements surround style and function. Politics, especially American politics, is a bundle of snakes you don’t want to step in. Trust me on this!

  16. frogy6 says

    Batterys in the space behind the handle bars. So a portion of the weight is quite high.

    Aren’t zero trail bikes quite prone to tankslappers and generally quite twitchy?

    Also battery mileage is at best going up minutely. Very little advances have been made in a long while.

  17. Scotduke says

    This bike is hideous if you ask me. Its performance however is interesting. A friend of a friend is one of the team working on this bike and I’ve seen images of it before but I wasn’t aware they’d been released yet. I did miss it at the Festival of Speed.

  18. Fred M. says

    Also valid points — perhaps the tests were abbreviated due to budget and schedule considerations.

    If this design were coming from Honda, BMW, or Ducati, I’d have much less concern. But when a radical new design, featuring composites in structural roles, is coming from a relative unknown, presumably of more limited means, I think caution makes sense.

  19. says

    Hmm. Zero trail or Zero offset? Impossible to see without removing the bodywork, but it almost looks like zero rake as well.

    I’ll happily be corrected but I’m extremely dubious that there’s anything here that is patentable or even much of a trade secret. At least in terms of the frame and suspension. Hossack, Foale, Fior, BMW, Hoyt McKagen and many others have built M/C with a dual A frame front suspension. The only real innovation is in the exact details of the locations and types of the bearings.

    I’m also pleased that there’s a road legal prototype but disappointed that after several years now, it doesn’t seem any closer to even limited production.