Do Electric Motorcycles Have Gears?
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MOTORCYCLE

Do Electric Motorcycles Have Gears?

photo of a man or woman wearing protective gear riding a gold and black electric motorcycle on paved road

Do electric motorcycles have gears? The simplest answer is that most electric motorcycles on the market today do not have a gearbox or clutch, nor do they need one. This makes them simpler to build and simpler to ride.

A gas-powered motorcycle has an engine designed to operate at a certain number of revolutions per minute (RPM), so to increase speed, you will need to shift to a higher gear. This involves using a clutch, actuated by a lever, that disengages the engine from the transmission, so you can change to a different gear. Generally, the clutch lever is on the left side of the handlebar, and the shift lever is actuated by the left foot. Gearboxes are complex, with a lot of moving parts.


Cake’s Kalk electric motorcycle illustrates how electric bikes can be designed differently. Note the huge rear sprocket of the Gates carbon belt-driven drivetrain.

Electric motorcycles, like the Zero SR/F, LiveWire One, and Cake Kalk have no gearbox, so no clutch lever to actuate. It simplifies the design and saves weight, which is helpful as most electric motorcycles are heavier than their ICE counterparts.

This simplicity makes them easier to operate, especially for a beginner, and also far easier to maintain. There are no fluids to change from the gearbox or engine. The only fluids are the mineral oil in the brake lines and perhaps some liquid to cool the motor/battery. There’s no clutch to wear out or rebuild.

Manufacturers of electric motorcycles have to set up the gearing to make the bike go the right balance of speed and torque, while also maximizing battery range. Fortunately, electric motors provide incredible torque to get the bikes going easily.


THE FLIP SIDE

Some riders, myself included, do like shifting gears while riding. There are a few companies that are designing electric motorcycles with a gearbox, but those are not on the market yet. We will eventually see them, and for those who prefer a louder riding experience, perhaps Borla will start making one of their EV exhaust sound systems for motorcycles, too.


IMAGES: TONY DONALDSON, CAKE

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AUTHOR: 

TONY DONALDSON

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