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The Gospel of Ely (part I)

This blog has been a personal outlet of mine for the past few seasons where I can reflect on the racing and bike builds for a couple of reasons... 1 - It's a core part of Lightfighter's mission to get the word out on electric bikes and 2 - It forces me to reflect on what worked and fully appreciate the lessons that were learned, and progress made. In this post, however, I'm happy to have the other half to Lightfighter, Ely Schless of Schless Engineering contribute his words and perspective... Enjoy! - Brian.

Ely with v1 of the Lightfighter in 2019. This test at Thunderhill in the early days showed us that the concept was sound.

The Making of the LightFighter (Part 1).

Brian Wismann, my partner in this LightFighter saga, has done an awesome job racing the bikes over these past four years, while I hunkered down out of the limelight at my shop in southern Oregon. Besides specifying the core foundation of the LightFighter's design, Brian does the hardscrabble track day work plus all the promotional releases and sponsorship wrangling. Our relationship is based on mutual trust and respect for one another's skill set. If you've seen the movie “Ford VS Ferrari”, Brian is Matt Damon/Carroll Shelby and I'm Christian Bale/ Ken Miles...

Yeah, something like that. Ok, not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea...

It requires two distinct personalities; Brian is essentially a designer/ promoter and I'm essentially a mechanic/ builder. The bike, as embodied in the LightFighter, is simply the product of our collective histories; how we've both lived our racing experiences prior to this LightFighter effort. Brian has told you what compels him. This is what drives me:

Besides in his fully equipped prototype and fabrication shop in Ashland, Oregon (or making homemade bagels), this is where Ely is happiest... on a race bike!

When I was 10, I stuffed a lawn mower engine into a stripped mini bike frame my mom bought at auction for $4. I don't recall it ever actually running. By 15, I had three after school jobs and 3 motorcycles; a Bultaco, a Montesa, and an insanely cool bobbed 650 Bonnevile with Ceriani forks and TT pipes. My mom would sign loans as long as I paid up.

At 16, I quit school to work full time in a Yamaha shop and spent the next 15 years racing dirt track and roadracing, supporting myself as motorcycle / aircraft mechanic and earned my AMA Pro Superbike license in 1985. I moved from Florida to LA, ultimately creating my own special effects company, building robotic puppets and other mechanical gadgets for commercials and feature films in Hollywood. (Editor's note: If you're a child of the 80s and 90s like me, you've seen Ely's work in major films of the era without realizing it, but we'll save that for another post.) In 1989, I built my first electric motorcycle based on a Honda NT650 Hawk that I had recently blown up at Daytona. Then in the 1990s, I built several successful electric race cars and prototype conversion cars for Honda, GM and others. From 2000 to 2010, I designed and built about 90 electric motorcycles that I sold over the web under the names Denali Cycles and ElectricMoto Blade.

While Zero, Alta, and Stark would eventually make headlines with their electric motocross bikes, Ely was the first to market with the Electricmoto Blade back in 2007. This bike also inspired Brian while at Brammo, Inc. to work on an electric motorcycle for the street which eventually became the Enertia.

Ely at speed at The Ridge at a trackday. He's probably built too many gas and electric race bikes to count, but still enjoys this Honda RS250R electric conversion with a high voltage version of Parker's smaller GVM142 motor making roughly 80hp.

Editor's note #2: Ely and I worked together on several prototype race vehicles over about a decade prior to Lightfighter, with the most successful being the Isle of Man TT Zero bike that William Dunlop rode to a 2nd place finish in the 2016 TT Zero race. We'll save that dive into history for another time. Look for Part II on Ely's behind the scenes look at his CAD modeling and development process for the Lightfighter.

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It's always good to have the back-story about what motivates folks to do what they're best at, thanks!


Harry Mallin
Harry Mallin
Sep 26, 2023

I met Ely at Laguna Seca and was a bit overwhelmed with the experience - I knew just enough about him to know his place in electric motorcycle history, even back then. I'm pretty sure he appeared a couple of times in the Brammofan blog. Once, I think he was photographed on an Enertia that had knobbies on it, jumping on a dirt track in Ashland. Really enjoying reading this brief autobiography and already looking forward to the next excerpt.

Brian W.
Brian W.
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

Ha! There should be a "seven degrees of Ely Schless" meme for anyone in the electric motorcycle space. He's been an unwitting influencer before being an influencer was even a thing.

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