Here at MO, we like to shake things up every now and then with our motorcycle reviews. You know – think outside the box, not get complacent, keep things fresh, etc. It inspires our creative juices, plus it just makes for a fun motorcycle ride. On occasion, the usual method for a single-bike evaluation can be a bit predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a nice romp in the hills on a fast motorcycle, but we’re often asking ourselves, “What can we do that’s different?” This time, I think we have an answer.

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It was just over a month ago that Editor-in-Chief Duke brought us a review of the Victory Empulse TT, the new and improved version of the former Brammo Empulse R electric motorcycle with a six-speed transmission. Polaris’ purchase of Brammo’s motorcycle assets is a strategic move that helps redefine Victory’s corporate direction, while giving Victory an entry into the e-bike market. It also means Victory has beat Harley’s Project LiveWire to the production e-bike scene. A refreshed version of the former Brammo Empulse R, Victory has added updates in the form of a higher capacity battery (10.4 kWh nominal), revised rubber cush-drive setup, and a switch from the 180-series rear tire in favor of a 160. A controversial move, but one Duke says results in a more agile motorcycle.

Ride to eat, eat to ride.

Ride to eat, eat to ride.

He should know, as he rode the Empulse TT at High Plains Raceway, outside of Denver, Colorado. While there he also noted the bike’s fluid handling thanks to the narrower-profile tire, its splendid Brembo stopping power, impressive Marzocchi/Sachs suspension and a well of power that didn’t leave him bored. However, as fun as racetrack testing can be, it’s not a very good representation of real-world riding.

So, when Victory offered us an Empulse TT to test at home, our interest piqued. The catch, though, was that we would only have the bike for a few days. Sure, we could have done the usual and taken it to the local hills and had ourselves a good time, but after living with a Zero SR, we wanted a small taste of what it would be like to live with the Victory Empulse TT. We didn’t have two months with the Victory like we did with the Zero but, instead, had only two days. The plan, then, was to dyno and weigh the bike on the first day – nearly 100 miles roundtrip. Day 2, however, would be the kicker.

Our real-world test of Victory’s new player in the electric motorcycle market encompassed city streets and freeways.

Our real-world test of Victory’s new player in the electric motorcycle market encompassed city streets and freeways.

Playing off the stereotype of your typical EV owner being a tree-hugging vegetarian, we decided to run a laundry list of errands aboard our Victory all through Los Angeles. Except, instead of errands in our case, we decided to look for the best veggie burritos in all of LA. This was great news for me, since I love burritos, but agonizing, as well, since my tastes are more carnivorous. Our route would start and finish from my home and encompass five different veggie burrito joints recommended to us by word of mouth and/or Google. In total, we covered 83 miles of real-world riding in one charge.

Day 1

The trip to the MotoGP Werks dyno proved very informative, as it’s a 92-mile round trip from my house, according to Google Maps, with about 95% of it on the freeway. Getting there took exactly 50% of battery life, but there was a catch – I rode in ECO mode, cruised in sixth gear, and kept speeds to a maximum of 65 mph the entire trip. The bike’s onboard range meter can cause anxiety as the range number drops dramatically each time you open the e-throttle. Making dyno pulls in each gear dropped the battery down to 36%, so there was no way I’d make it back home without recharging.

It’s incredibly convenient to charge anywhere there’s an electric vehicle charging station, since the  Empulse TT comes standard with a J1772 charge port.

It’s incredibly convenient to charge anywhere there’s an electric vehicle charging station, since the Empulse TT comes standard with a J1772 charge port.

After weighing the bike (475 lbs), a quick look at the PlugShare app (Chargepoint works well also) showed the nearest charging station was conveniently located at a burger joint. Unlike with Zeros, the Empulse comes standard with a J1772 plug, meaning you can charge at one of the many charging stations around the country without a special adapter. Charging back to 63% cost me $1.73, took about an hour (which I used to eat my lunch and check emails), then I was back on the road. The original plan was to recharge to 50% battery, but it’s a good thing I didn’t, as the return route featured steady uphill grades I’d never noticed before on other bikes, using up a fair amount of electrons. As luck would have it, I rolled into my driveway with exactly 0% showing on the gauge. A full recharge from my 110-volt wall plug took roughly nine hours.

The Burrito Tour

Leonor’s Vegetarian Restaurant

The first stop on our veggie burrito tour was a tip from our own Evans Brasfield. Leonor’s Vegetarian Restaurant specializes in “Unique Vegetarian Creations” and Brasfield has been coming here for over 25 years. Getting there took 21 miles, dropping the battery down to 79% from a full charge.

For a hearty and healthy vegetarian/Mexican meal, give Leonor’s a try.

For a hearty and healthy vegetarian/Mexican meal, give Leonor’s a try.

Our commute was a mixture of flowing highway mixed with relatively open side streets. Immediately, I noticed the smoother power engagement from the newrubber cush drive, as it was far less harsh than what I remember on the Brammos of yore. Cruising along, third gear was really all that was needed around town, first and second giving great acceleration, but needing a shift early on. Third strikes a nice balance. Continuing that theme, there’s plenty of power to move around slower highway traffic in sixth, which raises a point we’ve mentioned before with the Brammo: There are three or four gears too many. A high and low gear (and maybe a middle one) are all you really need, plus would reduce the weight of the transmission.

Anyway, onto the burrito. Called the Forever-Young Buffalo Bill, Leonor stuffs a whole wheat tortilla with brown rice, steamed pinto beans, avocado, soy cheese, chopped tomatoes and red onions. We went ahead and added cilantro and soy chicken. Available in small ($6) or large ($7.50) sizes (come hungry for the large one), biting into the FYBB felt… healthy. No one flavor overpowers the other (hard to do when you’re dealing with cilantro), yet you can still recognize each one. Soy chicken tastes similar to the real thing, but with a slightly softer texture. Cap it off with a refreshing flax seed ice tea.

Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe

Another 20 miles southeast of Leonor’s, in the Boyle Heights region of East LA, finds us at Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe. Established in 1955 by Manuel Rojas, the cafe has been serving authentic Mexican food to diners from all over the world. The third generation of the Rojas family continues to carry the torch.

The upper body is placed in a neutral riding position on the Empulse TT, but the rearsets bend the knees more than on the Zero SR we sampled recently.

The upper body is placed in a neutral riding position on the Empulse TT, but the rearsets bend the knees more than on the Zero SR we sampled recently.

Just as the next generation of Rojas is moving the restaurant forward, the Victory Empulse TT is moving transportation ahead, too. It’s an easy motorcycle to ride, though there is an adjustment period to get used to the clutch and shifter. The clutch is only needed to change gears, and even then it can be avoided with a well-timed blip from the right wrist and left toe. Another difference between the Victory and an ICE motorcycle is neutral being located between second and third gear. Despite the change, the bike will still roll when turned off, whether the bike is in gear (any gear) or not.

Living With A Zero SR

It was another 20 miles to get to El Tepeyac, dropping the battery to 56% charge. Open highways meant higher speeds and the charge was dropping at a steady pace. Entering and exiting freeway onramps highlights the increased agility from the 160-profile rear tire, a departure from the 180 seen on yesteryear’s Brammo. It’s more willing to turn in, does so quicker, and holds its line nicely. Handling is the main area where the Victory has an advantage over the Zero SR, the Victory feeling confidence-inspiring whereas the Zero is able but doesn’t inspire its rider to push to their limit. Like the Zero though, the Vic has no problem getting up to speed and blending in with traffic, especially in Sport mode.

Vegetarian or meat lover, El Tepeyac Cafe will make sure you don’t go home hungry.

Vegetarian or meat lover, El Tepeyac Cafe will make sure you don’t go home hungry.

As for the burrito, El Tepeyac delivered a huge flour tortilla stuffed with rice, beans and guacamole, topped with ranchera sauce and both cheddar and jack cheese. When I say huge, I’m not kidding. The burrito could easily feed two people. That said, the taste of rice, beans, guacamole and ranchera sauce was… average. The peppers in the sauce added a nice kick, but El Tepeyac makes up for the lack of bold flavor with sheer size. However, if you’re a meat eater, don’t overlook this place – some of the other dishes I saw the chefs cooking up looked delicious and equally as big!

Worldwide Tacos

When it comes to unique eats, Worldwide Tacos is hard to beat. Boasting over 150 different tacos and burritos, available with real meat or vegetarian substitutes, the menu offers items like a Grilled Lemon/Lime Steak and Shrimp, Piña Colada Shrimp, and Tequila Chili Lime Chicken, all available in either taco or burrito form. We opted to go bold and try the Vegetarian Raspberry Chicken.

2016 Victory Empulse TT First Ride Review

Despite the weird combination of flavors in the name, the result was spectacular. The soy chicken carried a subtle hint of raspberry and barbecue sauce, the mixture of ingredients complementing each other nicely. The rice and cilantro added additional texture and flavor. Sometimes, they say simple is better, but in the case of the Vegetarian Raspberry Chicken Burrito (also available with real chicken) from Worldwide Tacos, that’s not the case.

If you’re an adventurous eater, then Worldwide Tacos will have something to satisfy your curiosity and your taste buds.

If you’re an adventurous eater, then Worldwide Tacos will have something to satisfy your curiosity and your taste buds.

It was another 11 miles from El Tepeyac to Worldwide Tacos, the battery level down to 39%. By now the seat was starting to bother me. Its padding is sufficient nearest the faux fuel tank, but the shape of the seat holds the rider in place, making it difficult to move around. Scooting back on the seat places the butt on a hard plank, as the seat tray between the operator and passenger is very thinly padded. From there, the rearsets are placed in a more aggressive position than the Zero SR I recently sampled. For a commuter, the SR’s rider triangle is more favorable.

Tacos Villa Corona

If you’re like me, any establishment endorsed by Anthony Bourdain is a must-visit. Tacos Villa Corona is one such place. Unfortunately, we arrived much later than the 2pm closing time listed on the front door. By now we’d covered about 65 miles, the last 11 or so leading to Tacos Villa Corona involving bumper-to-bumper traffic, which hardly drained the battery. Being stuck in traffic is no fun in any vehicle, but typically on an ICE motorcycle, the heat radiating from the engine can be punishing. No such thing on the Victory (or any electric, for that matter), as hardly any detectable heat makes it to the rider. Something to keep in mind for the 49 states in the union barred from splitting lanes. One annoyance was the plastic cover over the faux fuel tank, which dug into my legs when trying to squeeze the tank.

If you have to be stuck in traffic, at least the Empulse TT won’t cook your thighs while you wait.

If you have to be stuck in traffic, at least the Empulse TT won’t cook your thighs while you wait.

Señor Fish

With six locations in the SoCal area, Señor Fish could be considered the most chain-like of the establishments we visited. Its veggie burrito is also large, with rice, beans, mushrooms, cheese, and zucchini among the flavors wrapped inside the flour tortilla. Each bite reveals a grilled flavor from each ingredient that I didn’t notice on the other burritos, but like El Tepeyac, Señor Fish relies on size.

See that “RNG” meter in the lower left? It’s best not to look at that if you’re the type that panics easily. The trip computer judging the range remaining in the battery fluctuates wildly once you twist the right grip.

See that “RNG” meter in the lower left? It’s best not to look at that if you’re the type that panics easily. The trip computer judging the range remaining in the battery fluctuates wildly once you twist the right grip.

No Tow Truck This Time

Victory on Victory.

Victory on Victory.

Riding back to my casa after dinner, the roads were finally free from traffic, meaning the blast back could be ridden at a spirited pace. As mentioned earlier, the completed loop took 83 miles, with 5% charge remaining when I pulled into my driveway. Clearly, had the roads been light the entire trip, the Empulse wouldn’t have finished the loop. However, real-world riding involves bouts with traffic. So, like we always say regarding e-bike range, yours will greatly depend on conditions and riding style.

For the sportier e-bike fans out there, the $20k Victory is worth a look. Its chassis and handling dynamics are a cut above the $16k Zero SR, as is its fit and finish. However, rideability still favors the Zero, as its twist-n-go nature makes it supremely easy to ride compared to the Victory’s 6-speed transmission.

Which one you should pick is a personal decision. All we know is we want another Vegetarian Raspberry Chicken burrito.

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  • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

    MO Violation Code 741-B: No MO editor shall ever eat a burrito from an establishment with a health code higher than “C”. Mr. Siahaan, you have done so ON CAMERA and are thereby sentenced to tour Death Valley on that Brammo err… Victory.

    • TroySiahaan

      Wait, so you had no problem with me eating a burrito without meat(!), but the health code is what tripped you off?

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        Sure, I love a good bean-n-cheese burrito! But clean restaurants do not good Mexican make.

        • TroySiahaan

          You should come with me next time to Worldwide Tacos. You’ll love the food and the cleanliness.

    • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

      In San Francisco, restaurants are rated by percentage, so does that mean 75% or lower? In Alameda county, I think it’s pass-fail. In Oakland, there’s a complex system based on how many dead hookers have been found in the bathroom, divided by the strength of the smell of pee in joules.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        Well, at least Oakland got it right…

      • TroySiahaan

        Looks like I need to eat with Gabe in Oakland next time I’m up north…

  • Old MOron

    Many years ago I used to go to the Senor Fish in Eagle Rock. At the time it was one of only two stores. The gent who ran the store in Eagle Rock was married to the lady who ran the Highland Park store. Don’t remember his name, but he was a good guy. Very nice man who liked to meet his customers. I never met his wife because she was always running the other restaurant.

    • TroySiahaan

      I didn’t meet anyone except the guy behind the counter who took my order and my money. :)

  • SteveSweetz

    Awesome video guys, really enjoyed it! Keep it up.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    That was a great story Troy! I love electric motorcycles and burritos, (though I would never order veggie on general principals) so this was kind of awesome.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    That dash seems a little Spartan, and not quite as sexy as I’d expect on a $20,000 motorcycle.

    • Auphliam

      It’s the same dash that was on the $19,000 Brammo…just says Victory now

    • montex

      The dash is perfectly useful as the RPM’s and the gear are the 2 most important bits of information the rider needs. The tach is huge, so not a problem. The transmission gears are…special. Hope Victory improves shifting before they create a pretty, whiz-bang dash.

    • El Apestoso

      Nothing about these bikes is as sexy as it should be for the price.

      • ZeroRider

        You may be thinking: “Motorcycle that is Electric”.
        Try: ” Electric that is Motorcycle “.

        The price makes perfect sense and it should give you a more relevant context for comparisons.

        Though maybe not for ” sexy”. You will need to share more about your sexualities to render a discussion topic.

        • El Apestoso

          Oh, I’m aware of that. That’s why I’ve long said that electric motorcycles are only for people who specifically want an electric motorcycle. For the rest of us, they really don’t make much sense. EVs in general are that way, for the moment. No doubt that’ll change at some point, but we’re not there yet.

          The only exceptions to that are the Tesla, and the Zero FX. Those vehicles could actually be cross-shopped to a pretty good degree with ICEs of an equivalent class.

          • ZeroRider

            There you demonstrated you missed again, by dropping back to ICE comparisons.

            Your “logic” is as fallable as Razor vs Electric Razor. Which is not the avenue for consideration.

            One more try: Compare the Victory to your electric Razor if you are shaving yet, or electric toothbrush if not.

            Or imagine putting your ICE vehicle in gear and lurching around on the starter motor.

            THE VICTORY IS STUNNING BY COMPARISON.

            I didn’t seek Electric Motorcycle. I sought renewable fuel vehicle. These bikes blitzed all alternatives.

          • El Apestoso

            Your silly condescension aside, you keep insisting that people have to think like you, which isn’t how the world works. Most of us don’t care whether a vehicle is electric or not, so we don’t view it the same as you do. Doesn’t make us wrong, doesn’t make you wrong. Just makes us all different.

            On the other hand, you being a smug twit over a consumer product makes you look really, really dumb.

          • ZeroRider

            Your inability to find any part of the bike “sexy at this price” makes you look a sexual deviant. You chose to login and post your sexual frustration rather than stay mute demonstrates a contrariness unfit for kind discourse. Your motivation to drop such negativity into the thread indicates antagonistic tendencies, which when met accordingly you cower behind the skirts by labeling retaliation as aggression.

          • El Apestoso

            In other words: “Stop not liking what I like!”

  • Jeff Baysinger

    Tree-hugging vegetarian EV owners? Really you guys? I realize you were poking fun but that’s still kind of a crap attitude and perpetuates a BS stereotype. I can tell you that my Zero S does just as well on runs for brisket and burgers, thanks, and while your ilk are stopping for fuel, I’m getting my 100% animal product ice cream home before it melts on my genuine cow hide leathers.

    I don’t know why the motorcycle media can’t wrap their heads around the idea that these bikes aren’t about draining the battery for everything that it’s worth every time you throw a leg over it. They’re about keeping up with the general daily use that the typical motorcyclist is likely to throw at it, and doing it better than gas bikes. After over a year of my Zero S with the baby 8.5kwh battery pack being my primary vehicle, I can’t stress enough how convenient it is to walk out to the garage, unplug the bike, ride to work, ride around on my lunch break, run some errands on the way home, pull back into the garage with well over half the charge left, plug it back in, and repeat the next day and the next with no drama whatsoever. In over 3000 miles (would be double that but I don’t commute anymore), Fuel stops, 0. Oil changes, 0. Chain maintenance, 0. Carb cleans, 0. Coolant flushes, 0. The only maintenance I’ve done with this thing is to adjust the tire pressure a couple times. Other than that, it’s all about the riding, and the riding is incredibly good.

    Yes, sometimes I want to ride farther than the Zero can reach, so I jump on my Honda Magna and curse it for not idling right because the carbs have clogged (again). I then jump on my $2,500 Versys, ride it until my butt can’t stand it anymore, then bring it home and park it for another month while I list the Magna on Craigslist and scramble around town on the Zero to pick up oil, chain lube, Seafoam and/or Sta-Bil, and a battery tender for the Kwak.

    Guys, seriously, get your heads out, and quit bashing on these bikes even though you’re heaping praise on them for their rideability and convenience. Are you so afraid that your readers are going to disagree with you and poo-poo your love for something different? Maybe that’s why I’m paying more attention to Lanesplitter these days…

    • El Apestoso

      I didn’t see any bashing, or heaping of praise. Just an objective review of the bike’s capabilities.

  • ZeroRider

    Is there a total somewhere? Dollars on Food… Calories… Dollars on Electricity… Miles…

    Brammo, I mean Victory has scored well with the Energetica. It is good in the EV and eatry field to have choices.

  • roma258

    I get the desire to mix-it-up and try some new gimmicks, but in this case I kind of do wish you guys would have gone with the standard review. LA always struck me as one of the places in the US where an electric bike could work as your primary vehicle. Commute during the week (I’d imagine the bike narrow design helps quite a bit with lane splitting) and play in the hills on weekends. With so many awesome roads nearby and a robust charging infrastructure, you could actually take advantage of the Empulse’s handling characteristics at more places than just highway off-ramps.

  • schizuki

    Assuming you were down to 30% when you recharged up to 63% for $1.73 at the burger joint, and assuming the range is 100 miles, that’s about 5 cents per mile in fuel costs. A 42-mpg FZ-09 at $3.50/gal costs about 8 cents per mile. And the “recharge” takes five minutes, not one hour. Total savings for 33 miles – one dollar.

    55 minutes of my time is worth more than a dollar. Not to mention the Vic costs more than twice the Fizzer.

    • blueson2wheels

      In two years and 15,000 miles on my Empulse, I’ve used a public station less than 20 times. I charge at work (for free) or at home. An EV has to work for your particular use pattern. If you more than occasionally find yourself waiting around to charge up, then it’s not working.
      It’s great that the Empulse at least gives you the option of a Level II public charge.

  • montex

    I own a 2013 Brammo Empulse R and what stuck out to me in this article was the author cruising in 6th gear, going under 65mph. Every Empulse owner will tell you that is nuts because the Empulse uses more energy at low rpm’s than at high – completely the opposite of a gas bike. The manual clearly states that prime cruising rate is between 4000 and 5500 rpm’s. Cruising in 6th gear under 65mph shows the rider in the 2500-3500 rpm range. Probably got poor range because he didn’t bother to read the manual.