A Long Ride for Any Bike
The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is a polarizing motorcycle. People seem to either love it or hate it. No matter how you feel about it, you have to admit that Harley put a lot of time and effort into it.
There is a relatively small community of riders who love their LiveWires, and among them is Jesse Dalba. Recently, Jesse challenged himself and his bike by riding all the way from his home near Fort Meyers, Florida, to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the recent 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
He covered over 2,200 miles, according to the tracker on Bluelane. He really did about 2,400 miles overall according to various social media posts and witnesses. Once at Sturgis, he took his motorcycle to a local drag strip and won in the AHDRA finals against traditional internal combustion engine motorcycles.
He was nice enough to chat with me over the phone about the run to Sturgis and the racing he did while he was there.
The Trip to Sturgis
Doing 2,400 miles from Florida to South Dakota is a big deal on any motorcycle, let alone an electric one. The charging situation is the first major hurdle people think of, and Jesse told me he did 600 miles in the first day.
He was able to use level three chargers along the way most of the time. That means he could charge up in about 45 minutes to an hour. He would ride until the battery was low or near empty and then charge up at a charging station along his planned route.
“I figured I could get there in a reasonable amount of time, excluding South Dakota because I knew what I was getting into there and that there were no fast chargers,” he told me. “There’s an app called PlugShare, and I mapped out chargers that were about 80 miles apart. There were some that were 105 miles apart. I had to find a way to manipulate the battery and make it so the bike could get there.”
It’s important to note that the LiveWire is rated for only 70 miles highway. So, Jesse knew he was pushing the envelope from the start.
Jesse also said that he has an advantage many other riders don’t. He only weighs about 120 pounds. That means the bike had less weight to move, which helped him maximize what battery capacity he did have.
At one point he had a particularly long stint to do. To make the distance, he laid out flat on the bike to minimize wind resistance and drafted a trailer that was also going to Sturgis at 65 mph. He did 105 miles this way.
“At the end of that run, I still had 35 percent battery,” he said.
At another point in the journey, Jesse said he found a paved road in South Dakota that wasn’t on Google Maps but that he knew went where he wanted to go. He said locals know what the road is, but he’d rather not let it get out.
“I just did 35 mph down that road all night without seeing a single car, and I pushed 155 miles out of the bike,” he said. There was still battery life to spare.
Along the way, the places where Jesse couldn’t find a quick charger, he simply found an outlet of some kind. After that 155 mile run, he said he slept on the bench outside a gas station until morning and was able to plug into the side of the building.
Jesse said he had no issues with the motorcycle during the entire trip. He said the belt on the bike got dirty and made a weird squeak at one point, but as soon as he washed the bike it went away.
“I just had infrastructure problems,” he said, referring to the fact that in South Dakota and parts of Iowa he had trouble finding fast-charging stations.
Racing the LiveWire in Sturgis
While in Sturgis, Jesse called Donnie Huffman, a well-known drag racer who he knew through the online LiveWire community.
“Right before the drag races I called him and he told me how to drag race,” Jesse said. “I’d never been on a track before. I didn’t know how the Christmas tree works.”
Jesse said he still didn’t really know what he was doing at first on the 1/8th mile track.
“I’m running normal tire pressure,” he said. “I foul three times and they keep yelling at me and then the light turns green and I end up running a 7.2 on my first run ever.”
Jesse said he knew he could blow the competition away on an eighth-of-a-mile run. He made it all the way to finals. In the finals, he ended up going head to head against a rider on a Buell that was built for drag racing and managed to come away with the win. You can see that win below:
Getting Help Along the Way
Jesse mentioned early on in our conversation that he wouldn’t have made it without some help from the rider community for the LiveWire, specifically he called out Diego Cardenas. Jesse said he called Diego every day on the trip.
If Diego Cardenas sounds familiar, that’s because he’s been in the news before. Diego was the first person to ride his LiveWire from one border to the other. Earlier this year I reported on his run from the Mexico border to the Canada border along what’s known as West Coast Green Highway.
Diego and Jesse became friends through the LiveWire Facebook group, and Jesse reached out before making his run to South Dakota.
“Jesse is probably the youngest LiveWire owner that I know,” Diego said. “He’s only 24 and he owns a LiveWire, so not a lot of 24-year-olds have $30,000 to spend on a bike. He’s a kid who just really wanted the bike. He came from the crotch-rocket world, which amazed me.”
Diego said Jesse would post little videos and posts in the Facebook group like any other member.
“When I did my cross country trip, that’s what sparked something in him to do something unique,” Diego said. “He said, well I want to ride to Sturgis, and I said, you have to plan you can’t just get on the bike and take off.”
Diego said that he worked with Jesse to help him figure out a plan before he left. Once Jesse was on the road, he called Diego pretty much every day.
“He took it a little more kamikaze than I did,” Diego said.
Diego said that when Jesse called, he would try to give him tips about how to get the most out of the battery capacity by adjusting the settings and minimizing wind resistance. Diego also told Jesse that he needed to track and showcase his ride along the way or he would come up with some opposition and naysayers.
“You have to be able to document,” said Diego “You have to be able to tack, and you have be able to show proof that you did it.”
Diego said that a lot of people make claims about what they did on their electric bikes, and then they aren’t believed because they don’t have the proof.
The Future for Jesse Dalba
Jesse is back in Florida now. He’s having his bike serviced even though it’s not up for service. It was trailered home because he needed to get home quickly. There are some minor dings and cosmetic flaws, but no big issues.
When I asked him what was next, he told me he wants to have a career in the motorcycle industry. He wants Harley-Davidson to be a dominant force in motorcycle racing, and he sees the LiveWire as a way to do that.
“Harley-Davidson has a product that can actually hold up against Japanese bikes,” he said.
He’s now working towards that goal. In the immediate future, he wants to put together a charity event at a drag strip where he will race his LiveWire against a variety of vehicles including supercars. He’s also working with Lexin, the motorcycle headset company, to do an Iron Butt challenge on his LiveWire.
I expect this won’t be the last conversation we have, and it’s cool to see a young, ambitious motorcyclist pushing for the future of electric motorcycle technology and Harley-Davidson.