Matt McCutchen's Web SiteMy electric motorcycle adventures  (Top, Bottom).  Email me about this page.

My electric motorcycle adventures

Status: current; 2012-present (supersedes any conflicting remarks left on this page; see the home page for definitions)

I love electric vehicles of all kinds, but especially motorcycles.  When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for a job in September 2011, I had to buy my first car, and I decided to outdo a friend who was very proud of his (non-plug-in) Toyota Prius by buying a Nissan Leaf; that also helped to reduce what would otherwise have been a bewildering decision.  At about the same time, I met another friend who rode a motorcycle.  It sounded cool, and I immediately asked if there were electric motorcycles.  He pointed me to Brammo, but I let the matter rest for about a year.

Eventually, my new coworkers reawakened my interest in motorcycling.  I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation class in September 2012, but before I put down the money for my own motorcycle, I got a better idea of the experience by riding as a friend's passenger on 2012-10-31.  That night, I pulled up the list of electric vehicle models on Plug In America (which at the time included motorcycles; unfortunately no longer), saw the 2012 Zero S, and was immediately hooked by the style.  I waited to work through some challenging times in life and then bought my own Zero, who I named Scott (probably after Zero Motorcycles' headquarters in Scotts Valley, California, where I had been before to charge my car without realizing Zero was an electric motorcycle manufacturer!).  Scott was delivered to me on 2012-12-20, coincidentally the same day that my family came to visit me, so my attention was rather divided.  Fortunately, they took it well, and my mom even took these photos (click for a larger version):

Sitting on Scott, front view
Sitting on Scott, side view

Electric motorcycles are blissful: they're really quiet and there's none of the clutching that I struggled with so much in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course.  Their main limitation was, and still is, range.  Scott's usable range was limited to about 80 miles when traveling at 35 miles per hour and he took about 4.5 hours for a full charge with the setup I had, so in a long day of traveling and partial recharging, we could go about 160 miles maximum.  Nevertheless, we had phenomenal adventures.  One time when Scott spent two weeks at Zero headquarters for repairs, the Zero staff were kind enough to lend me a 2012 Zero DS and suggested that I go to the Santa Clara County off-road motorcycle park, where I promptly had a minor accident and decided that was enough of that, but I still put another 400 miles on the loaner going to other places.  Below are some of my favorite spots.  You can find more photos of Scott on PlugShare if you know where to look.

The famous overlook on Fairfax-Bolinas Rd in Marin County.  I was running way behind schedule on this ride but caught the light at a dramatic time.  Maybe someday I'll make it to Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd...
View from Skyline Blvd mile marker 6.67
An intimate spot on Skyline Blvd
View from Morgan Territory Rd north of Livermore
Scott and some friends at National Plug In Day 2013 at De Anza College, Cupertino

I even wrote a song of 59 of my favorite scenic roads in the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly grouped by region (to the tune of the list portion of "Fifty Nifty United States"):

Calaveras, Niles Canyon, Palomares, Redwood, Skyline, Pinehurst, Canyon, Morgan Territory, Grizzly Peak;
Mt. Hamilton, San Antonio Valley, Mines, Del Puerto Canyon, Quimby, Metcalf, Shannon, Hicks and Alamitos;
Hecker Pass, Eureka Canyon, Highland, Summit, 17, Mountain Charlie, Glenwood, 9, Mt. Hermon;
Zayante, Bear Creek, Empire Grade, Jamison [Creek], Pine Flat, China Grade, Big Basin; Sky Meadow;
Sir Francis Drake, Fairfax-Bolinas, Lucas Valley, Great Highway, 1, Guadalupe Canyon, 92;
San Gregorio, Pescadero, Alpine, Stage, Arastradero, Page Mill, Sand Hill, Moody, Altamont, 280;
Portola, Stevens Canyon, Redwood Gulch, Mt. Eden, Montebello, Skyline and La Honda!

(Save everyone's favorite hangout for last.)

Scott came with me for a brief stay with my mom in Rockville, Maryland in August 2014, and I joined part of a ride with a local motorcycle group, splitting up from them in Charles Town, West Virginia when I ran out of range.  Scott followed me to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the scenery was not as good there, especially because I spent each summer away at an internship, but we got in a few good trips.  On the long weekend of October 10-12, 2015, I took my only overnight motorcycle trip so far, traveling to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  At several places where I stopped, I learned via photos on PlugShare or conversations with locals that famous electric motorcyclist Ben Rich had been there before; it reminded me of following my rival to gyms in the original Pokémon video game.

Scott's favorite parking space at MIT, with an extension cord running from a convenient outlet.  MIT Facilities was not thrilled about it...
One view from the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains
Scott waits in downtown Worcester while I take a ride on a Proterra electric bus
Shore Rd in Magnolia
Scott (just lower right of center) at a National Drive Electric Week 2016 show at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Unfortunately, life changes left me with less and less energy for motorcycling.  Finally, in 2018, I parted ways with Scott in a recall.

I didn't know if I would be able to enjoy another motorcycle enough to justify the money, but in January 2020, by then living with my mom in Maryland, I found a good deal on a used 2017 Zero SR with a charge tank and jumped on it.  My new motorcycle, who I named Ralph (it just sounded like a fun name), came on 2020-02-07.  Here we are (thanks Mom!):

Sitting on Ralph, front view
Sitting on Ralph, side view
Standing with Ralph

Most of our adventures so far have been modest, but on 2020-08-18, we made it to the same spot in Charles Town, West Virginia where I left the group in August 2014.

Ralph charging at American Public University (thanks!)

With Ralph's longer range and faster charging, I look forward to more joy to come.


Matt McCutchen's Web SiteMy electric motorcycle adventures  (Top, Bottom).  Email me about this page.
Modification time of this page's main source file: 2020-09-03 05:43:26 +0000
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