Updated: Dec 22, 2021
When we rolled up for our first race with AFM back at the start of the year, I had no idea our pit selection would lead to our first customer bike build. We ended up next to the Feel Like a Pro race team, with their massive rig and pit setup, who were fielding about a dozen bikes that weekend - mostly Ninja 400s. One of the racers who was renting a bike for his last season as a novice racer named Nick that had moved from Australia to join Tesla Motors in Silicon Valley. The company he left for that position, an electric motor manufacturer, had allowed him to build a prototype electric race bike, but shortly thereafter, pulled the funding to get it operational. When he saw the Lightfighter, it re-ignited a dream that began thousands of miles and several years earlier. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn't scare him away from having a bike of his own to race and develop... he understood the road to a finished bike would be expensive and take an agonizing 6 months, but he remained patient throughout and even got involved in tracking down parts for the build. In the end, his shouts of joy and fist pumps after his first laps confirmed it was all worth it! And we couldn't be happier seeing the Lightfighter family expand to include Nick and his wonderful wife Whitney.
While the build took roughly 6 months, in all fairness, Ely had started a second v2 frame the winter before as a way to prove out some new equipment for his CNC mill that would make the tube mitering faster with less hand fitting. So... we had a bit of a head start already, although Nick's interest really kicked things into high gear.
Nick's bike is an evolution of our v2.0 design that Troy's been racing all season with some revisions for manufacturability and general design improvements. With Ely focused on the larger portions of the fabrication effort, we also outsourced the machining of the motor endplates and gearcases components. The bike leverages the same awesome Parker-Hannifin GVM series motor coupled with our own design endplates and gear reduction to deliver 238 lb-ft of torque at the countershaft.
Before we paint the frame and complete the wiring, a mock-up of all parts ensured that all the revisions in CAD were working out as expected. With no major surprises at this point, it was time for Nick to pick his frame color.
After applying a generous coat of House of Kolor Neon Green on the frame, the bike was ready for final assembly. The Ohlins front end of this motorcycle has an interesting history, having been used on another fast electric bike - the class winning (and 2nd overall) Victory race bike at Pikes Peak in 2016.
After a few weeks of electronics tuning and ride tests on an undisclosed test track in Oregon, we let Nick know that the time had finally come to start thinking about a trackday to introduce him to his new bike. With Ely in Oregon and me in Santa Cruz, we couldn't make the logistics work until early December to get the bike down to me for final prep. This left very few opportunities for testing as the trackday season was all but over for the year - save for one last event at Laguna Seca in mid-December. We knew the weather this time of year at Laguna (ask us how we know...) would be a bit of a gamble, but we were out of options and it was worth it to try to get Nick his first ever laps on an electric superbike.
Luckily for us, the predicted rain held off and while the track was cold, we were treated to a very sparsely attended event with hardly any traffic to contend with. Nick was able to put in about a dozen laps and made minimal changes to the baseline setup while he got more comfortable with a very different motorcycle from what he was used to racing. The Lightfighter was stiffer suspension wise, exaggerated by the cold and shakedown pace, and the power significantly higher than what he was used to. Brief as it was, every session ended with smiles on both sides - Nick for getting a little more comfortable and me witnessing another rider get a taste the addictive torque and butter smooth delivery of the electric powertrain.
After a successful shakedown, Nick took his new machine back home to park under the X-mas tree. He'll be busy in the off-season thinking of ways to make the bike his and start some development work of his own. It'll be neat to see how the bike evolves throughout the season. Speaking of which, Nick's hoping to campaign the bike (pending discussion with the organizers) in AFM and CRA Twins classes (the bike is detuned compared to the bike we race in Supersport classes) as well as some electric classes in CRA (Formula E) and AHRMA (Formula Lightning Extreme). If you're attending any of those events, please stop by and say "hi"!
We're very excited to have reached this important milestone and meet one of our original targets for this program of exposing more riders to the potential of electric powertrains. If Ducati's recent announcement is any indication, I'm prepared to be blown away by what advancement and innovations we'll see once the industry fully embraces these bikes as the future of the sport. We're just touching the tip of the iceberg...
Oh yeah! Nick's our first happy customer, but Ely's slaving away in Santa's workshop in Ashland, Oregon over the holidays building a couple more frames. One is already spoken for, but the other is up for grabs...