Choose a Motorcycle

On New Year’s Day, my wife asked everyone around the dinner table if they had a resolution for the new year.  I said I wanted to build an electric motorcycle.  Ever since the Mother Earth News Fair a couple years prior, I had the idea in mind.  However, I did not envision converting the Royal Enfield, which was purring nicely at the time.

So I scanned the want ads, looking for a 70’s or 80’s Japanese bike with a blown engine.  This got me nowhere for two reasons:  first, because most of those bikes are still running, and second, because I couldn’t really get serious until I found a place to store the second motorcycle.

Then in the spring, the connecting rod broke on the Royal Enfield, blowing out the bottom end.

Broken Connecting Rod
While I contemplated whether to replace the engine or sell the bike, my wife reminded me, “Aren’t you looking for a motorcycle with a blown engine?”  I had not yet considered the Royal Enfield, first because it had been running so well, but also because the motor and transmission are stressed components.  I wanted a bike with a complete frame.

But I thought more about my wife’s suggestion.  I had a motorcycle with all working lights, brakes, suspension, wheels, bearings, and tires, virtually no rust, titled and registered in my name.  That was a pretty good start.  I stared at the machine, envisioning how the frame problem could be overcome, and I read everything I could find on ElMoto and EVAlbum.

Finally, I stripped off the internal combustion engine (ICE) components and shipped them to a Royal Enfield owner who wanted them, thereby burning the bridge behind me.  Since then, I have become more and more convinced that the Royal Enfield is in fact an excellent candidate for electric conversion, for several reasons:

  • The frame problem actually presents an opportunity:  Shape the frame to fit your batteries and motor.
  • Several attachment points accommodate a double-plate frame solution requiring no welding.
  • The left plate is perfectly aligned for integration of a motor mount.
  • The locking tool boxes on either side are ideal for mounting and protecting electrical components.
  • The ME1003 (or similar Motenergy/Mars/Etek motor) fits perfectly where the transmission used to go.
  • With the motor in that location, even a very small front sprocket will hold the chain away from the frame during swingarm movement.
  • A large aftermarket rear sprocket can be fitted without striking the swingarm.
  • The metal panniers of the military model provide overflow room for components.

I realize this information may not help you choose your motorcycle.  You probably don’t have a Royal Enfield with a blown engine in the barn.

But I thought it might encourage you to know that my motorcycle basically chose me, despite my preconceived notions against it.  And it worked great.  In fact, just about any motorcycle can be converted to electric.  Find a nice looking, non-running motorcycle with a clean title.  Then, go for it!

 Next:  De-ICE