By Ryan Snelson - 1 min read
Originally published on NYC Motorcyclist.
I was talking to a kid about electric skateboards at the Pump Track in Williamsburg. He was skating the Boosted mini and I mentioned having the longboard. We decided the only real difference between boards was in foot position and length. We talked briefly about how maneuverable and portable the boards were in different scenarios.
I gave him a Motoveli sticker for his helmet, and he asked if it was about riding gas motorcycles or about riding electric. I was so stumped because I never thought about it before. I said that we ride gas motorcycles...but that we could ride any kind of motorcycle.
Like the boards, I started thinking about different kinds of motorcycles—especially in the context of New York City. What exactly is a motorcycle besides two wheels with an engine? Wikipedia defines one of the first motorcycles as a steam-powered bicycle called the Roper Steam Velocipede. It had two wheels, a steam engine, and a top speed of around 25 mph. This was in 1867. The Velocipede was an attempt to make a better bicycle—something faster that didn’t need to be human powered.
Bicycles and motorcycles actually share a very similar DNA. They both have two wheels with a limited footprint—both in physical space and in regards to the environment. More notably, both vehicles can effectively outmaneuver all the car traffic here in New York.
I commute about eight miles each day on my bicycle. This is because I live and work in the area, and because I don’t want to get stuck in car traffic on my moto. The 900 triple engine can barely get out of first gear during rush hour, and so I mostly ride the motorcycle early or later in the day, or sprint out of the city on weekends.
It’s the behavior of getting around the city that has me thinking about what actually defines a motorcycle—especially in New York. Should classification depend on engine type or maneuverability? What could this mean for electric motorcycles?
The Oxford dictionary is pretty straightforward and says a motorcycle has a combustion engine. But as combustion engines fade in favor of electric, where does the motorcycle go? What about electric bicycles or motorcycle frames with electric engines? There are so many blended variations of bikes right now. Your typical E-bike is small enough to park on the sidewalk and quick enough to holeshot the bicycle lane.
E-bikes can actually outmaneuver most vehicles in this city—and they’re fast. Most can easily do the city speed limit of 25 mph (my Boosted can hit 21 mph). On top of maneuverability, those food delivery E-bikes and scooters are easy to park on the sidewalk.
Let’s assume the subways won’t get better and that the car congestion will only get worse. The best option is to find new ways to move around. You might even consider some kind of bicycle or motorcycle—even if that’s not what they are anymore.