Bespoke Living

6 New Motorcycles Sure to Make You Want to Swap Four Wheels for Two

Hassle-free, socially distanced, and often boasting fewer emissions, traveling by motorcycle has never been more appealing

Motorcycles are seeing a surge in popularity, not least among city-dwellers seeking a new, socially distanced form of transport. The Wall Street Journal recently reported a sharp uptick in sales in China and some European markets, saying that, “in many countries, small motorbikes or scooters may hit a sweet spot between the expense and parking hassle of cars and the health risks of public transport.”

And the motorcycle itself is being reinvented. The electric revolution sweeping the car industry is also producing hugely appealing zero-emission motorbikes that are simpler to ride and won’t dirty the air—or your hands. The latest models offer a raft of new tech to improve safety and convenience, such as big-screen displays, Bluetooth connections and active stability management. And, inspired by motorcycling’s new relevance, bike design is more free-thinking, varied, and exuberant than ever. Here are six of our favorites.

1. The BMW CE 04

A man rides the BMW CE 04 on a city street
The BMW CE 04’s design is based around a slim energy storage unit in the underfloor assembly and a compact drivetrain, while its low center of gravity makes for fun handling and surprising dynamism.

BMW’s new electric maxi-scooter is strikingly styled, carries a prestigious and trusted badge, and, with its long wheelbase, low center of gravity, and single-speed electric motor, it’s easy to ride. It’s aimed at urbanites who want emissions-free private transport that does away with the hassle of a car—but with its huge 10-inch display, satellite navigation, and USB-C charging ports, the CE 04 still offers some of a car’s handy features. An 80-mile (130 km) range and 75mph (120 km/h) top speed mean it can cope outside the city, too, though bigger and more powerful electric BMWs are likely to follow.

2. The Harley-Davidson LiveWire One

The new Harley Davidson Livewire One motorcycle
The LiveWire, Harley-Davidson's first electric motorcycle, combines instant acceleration with sophisticated technology, using a high-voltage battery to provide 146 miles (235 km) of city range.

Despite its gritty reputation, Harley-Davidson was the first manufacturer of mainstream motorcycles to embrace the new electric revolution. Its LiveWire model made its debut in 2019, and has been such a hit that Harley has just announced plans to spin it off as an all-electric sub-brand, renaming it the LiveWire One and with more electric bikes to follow.

The bike itself remains largely the same, and that’s no bad thing. It looks gorgeous, is crazy-fast, with a supercar-slaying three second 0–60mph (96.5 km/h) acceleration time, and has a few neat tricks, like a “heartbeat” throb that lets you know it’s ready to go when you’re stationary at the lights.

3. Honda Grom

A fronA side view of the Honda Grom motorcycle
The all-new 2022 Honda Grom boasts a new engine, with a higher 10:1 compression ratio that increases power and adds to the bike’s zippy performance, plus a refreshed look thanks to customizable body panels.

Honda was a pioneer in small-wheeled fun motorcycles with its iconic Monkey model in 1963, and the new Grom is its spiritual successor. First introduced in 2013 and recently revised and updated, it has been a colossal hit, especially with younger riders who like to customize its easily removable body panels.

The Grom delivers big-bike performance, handling, and braking, but in a compact package that’s ideal for city use, or for those new to biking or who want to stow a “proper” bike on their R.V. or boat. Unlike most of our selection, it’s powered by a petrol engine; but the much-reduced emissions of its charismatic air-cooled 125cc motor meet all the new, tighter legislative requirements.

4. Zero SR/S

A blue premium Zero SR-S motorcycle
Inspired by cutting-edge aerospace design, the new look of the Zero SR/S is rooted in its all-new aerodynamic fairing, and its noise-free electric engine promises the unmatched thrill of truly focusing on the ride.

The new SR/S is the first fully-faired model from Californian pioneers of electric motorcycles, Zero. It might have the look of a sports bike, but that seductive bodywork is really there to improve aerodynamic efficiency and allows the SR/S to travel further on a single charge. In fact, with the optional extra battery capacity, Zero states that it can go up to 136 miles (220 km) in mixed city and highway use. It’s also a lot more comfortable and practical than its sharky looks suggest. With its upright riding position and the ability to fit luggage, it makes a great commuter or tourer, and on road trips it can be fully charged in an hour while you grab a meal.

A man rides a Cake Makka moped along a race track
Light, powerful, and robust, Cake's Makka is a smart electric moped with category-leading performance. It’s available in seven standard configuration bundles, as well as a build-it-yourself version.

This new Swedish start-up only makes electric motorcycles, and does so with a typically Scandinavian minimalist design aesthetic. Cake’s look is as distinctive as its name, and lets other road users know you’re making the right choices.

There are three models: the ultra-simple new Makka commuter; the practical, endlessly configurable Osa; and the Kalk scrambler, which unites Sweden’s passions for backwoods adventures and zero emissions. Despite their simplicity they’re not cheap: you can spend €14,000 ($16,500) on a Kalk, and even the most basic Makka costs from €3,500 ($4,120). But this hasn’t dented their popularity: the Makka is sold out until March 2022.

6. Triumph Rocket 3 GT Triple Black

A new Rocket 3 R Black motorcycle on a black background
With only 1,000 of each model available worldwide, the new Rocket 3 R Black and Rocket 3 GT Triple Black promise extra exclusivity along with high-specification technology and phenomenal handling.

While our final pick definitely isn’t electric-powered or zero emission, the Triumph’s Rocket 3 GT makes the list for its undeniable cool factor and appeal on the open road. Hailed as the bike version of the Batmobile, it’s propelled by an enormous 2.5-litre three-cylinder engine, the largest ever fitted to a production motorcycle.

It also has the highest torque—the “twisting” force that defines acceleration—of any production motorcycle, although with a weight (without rider or fluids) of nearly 660 lbs (300 kg), that doesn’t make it the fastest. This is very much a bike to take on long adventures, and there’s a massive range of accessories to make touring easy. You can always get a Cake for your cross-town commute.

Banner image: The Harley-Davidson LiveWire