Best Buy may not be a store most people associate with motorcycles. It certainly isn't the place most riders would think of when it’s time to pick up a new bike and hit the highway. But the electronics retailer is exactly where you can expect to find electric motorcycles soon.
At first blush, the people behind motorcycle maker Brammo could be dismissed as nutso for even thinking of hooking up with a big-box store as the primary outlet for their electric cycles. Keep in mind, the Brammo guys are people who know motorcycles, ride motorcycles, and know other people who do. And the Brammo Enertia is a real motorcycle, a full-size bike capable of highway speeds.
But the folks at Best Buy bought into the idea too, so much so that they are an investor. And as odd as it might seem at first to find a $12,000 electric motorcycle tucked in amongst the flat-screen TVs and laptop computers, the relationship does make a certain amount of sense.
As Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher explained at a recent New York City media event, the idea of working with an electronics store came out of what he calls an epiphany that occurred during development, when a group of people involved were standing around looking at a disassembled Enertia. The assorted parts, they reasoned, had every bit as much to do with electronics as they did mechanics. Indeed, the Enertia has few moving parts and lots things like batteries, capacitors, controllers, and gizmos. Bramscher even describes the power cord as looking like the ones powering Hewlett-Packard computers in offices across America. Brakes and tires are about all there is to maintain, as long as the motor and batteries hold out. And if they don't, bring on Best Buy’s Geek Squad.
Company officials point out that many Best Buy stores still have two- bay garages from the days when the company did a brisk business installing aftermarket audio systems. Since that business has all but dried up, that space is available.
Charged to be wild
While our test ride was limited to a quick trip around the block on the streets of Manhattan, we came away favorably impressed. Acceleration is quick and smooth, and disc brakes are powerful and easy to modulate. The 285-pound Enertia feels and looks solidly put together, and it is light and agile, absorbing New York’s famous potholes well. Brammo says performance and handling is comparable to a small, 250cc motorcycle. And it’s easy to ride, with no shifting. You just twist the throttle and go.
Lithium-ion batteries are said to be good for 1,000 charges, and the Brammo has a range of 45 miles or so - enough to satisfy the needs of most commuters. And it can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in four hours using a standard 110-volt outlet.
Aside from the slow charging, it all sounds good, but the business model still seems like a risky one. The little or no maintenance factor will likely appeal to some buyers, and brisk motorcycle performance will make it a go for others. New riders, particularly those in urban areas, may find the Brammo particularly alluring.
But the price may be more than most bargain-hunting electronics buyers or even green-thinking commuters are looking for. And first-time riders who would most benefit from the Entertia’s easy operation might find a regular scooter to be a more-affordable way to try life on two wheels. (See our motorcycle and scooter buying advice and ratings.)
Brammos are set to start hitting Best Buy stores in early July, with a nationwide rollout beginning on the west coast. The Geek Squad has already been dispatched to company headquarters in Oregon for the necessary training to service the bikes.