Boom! Let's talk urban commuters.
The word motorcycle often conjures imagery of open roads, exciting twisties, and large, powerful machines. The fact of the matter is most of the world's riders are doing something different. They commute on small bikes or scooters. Smaller motorcycles make a lot of sense in dense urban environments where space is a precious commodity and heavy traffic is the norm. We don't tend to embrace that in the US, partly because many of us are conditioned not to like scooters, but also because many Americans have commutes of over 30 miles each way daily.
Electric vehicles excel as commuters. They don't waste fuel in traffic, they don't kick off heat, they're incredibly quiet, and they don't make emissions that further impact air quality. It makes perfect sense, then to offer a basic electric commuter that will get anyone from point A to point B, is street legal, and is easy to ride.
People have been turning to the internet in recent times and purchasing random, nameless electric motorcycles and scooters from China without knowing what to expect upon delivery, ending up with disappointment more often than not. This is not to say that electric motorcycles from China are inherently bad, but you need someone to offer consistency. This is where a company like Boom Moto comes in. The idea is that they sift through different manufacturers until they find one that is willing to work with them and design a bike to their specifications.
The thing to remember about Chinese goods in all categories is, "You get what you pay for". You're not going to find a LiveWire-killer for $5k on AliExpress. The factories over there are more than capable of producing high quality bikes. Working with a manufacturer, you then spec out all the parts and features you want your bike to have. As a company, the more bikes you purchase, the greater your ability to control quality, new features and upcoming improvements to your future models.
Boom Moto is a division of Boom Mobile, a cellular phone service/tech company. It might seem unorthodox, at first, to make a jump from cell phones to electric motorcycles, but there are actually a lot of overlapping areas which make sense to marry together. Look at Zero's recent SR/F platform, for example; they have SIM card integration on the bikes to record and track riding data for users to monitor their rides and riding data. Need to find charging stations? Consult your phone. All of that could be integrated into a bike. Heck, all the Boom bikes already come with built-in bluetooth speakers so you can blast tunes while you cruise around. Which we totally did.
The primary difference with these bikes and most of the competition and larger bikes is a hub motor. There are plenty of videos covering the difference between hub motors and mid-drive motors, but the main considerations are always the same: a hub motor is outside of the suspension meaning it is what is known as 'unsprung weight'. At higher speeds it can affect handling in a negative way. On the plus side it frees up space for more things like batteries or storage because the motor is literally inside the rear wheel. The other benefit is it's nearly silent. It makes for an extremely pleasant riding experience, especially through quiet neighborhoods. In short, their best role seems to be smaller bikes and commuters.
Pros of the bikes:
- Will happily do a 40-60 mile commute, depending on model
- Almost entirely silent
- Very tame and easy to learn on
- Attractive price
Cons of the bikes:
- Ergonomically cramped for people over 6'
- No on-board charger; external only
- No ABS or rider aides
- Braking power leaves something to be desired
So who are these bikes for? I can think of at least 3 key demographics:
Someone who wants an EV but nothing too big and scary
A lot of people really want to dip their toes into the waters of the EV world. And motorcycles. However there are lots of bad press about bikes in general, so a lot of people opt for "starter" bikes. I would say these strongly fit into this category.
The Short Range Commuter
These are perfect for around town going to work, running errands, and not worrying about finding parking spaces. Plug in at home or bring the charger with you and plug in at work. Cut through traffic if you're in one of two non-ridiculous US states that allows it. This is the main market I see.
The RV Camper
These bikes are light enough so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to mount one on the back of an RV. Take it off at the campsite and happily zip around silently and respectfully. No reason disturb the peacefulness of nature with noise and pollution.
At the time of this review there are 4 different models available. The i100, i200, and i300 models all seem to have similar performance and components. With their battery packs expect to get a comfortable 40 miles before needing to charge. I, personally, got a legitimate 44 miles before the bike ran out. Therefore plan on at least 40.
The i300x, however has a larger battery, and should be good for at least 60 miles. Brandon got over 70 on it, so plan on a comfortable 60.
Ergonomically it seems the numbers may correlate to how upright the bikes are. The i100 has sport clip-ons, lending itself to more of a track-style positioning. The i200 has sort of hybrid clip-ons, almost like clip-ons with risers. The i300 series has upright handlebars. I found it to be the most comfortable.
We were flown out not to review these bikes, but to inspect them and give recommendations on what should be improved. As such there are things on the bikes we rode that we recommend changes be made. They're not deal-breakers, but we have given our recommendations and it will be interesting to see what changes are made for the future. Here are some things I think it's important to note for the current crop:
- There is no contactor. The battery has a breaker that will trip if the battery needs to disengage. I tripped this breaker by pulling too aggressively on a low-charge bike. It was easy enough to reach in with my gloved hand and and reset it so I could get to a charging location.
- There is no kick stand sensor. If the bike is keyed on, it's live. I expect until this is added there will be a couple people who twist the throttle with the kickstand down and accidentally drop the bike. Thankfully they're not heavy to pick back up.
- Some of the bikes, I think the i100 and i200, have bicycle style gear shifts that are used for mode switching. It's easy to accidentally change modes while riding.
- The brakes leave a bit to be desired. On that note I should mention that the rear brake is controlled by the left hand lever usually where a clutch would be. Boom has told us improved brakes will be addressed immediately.
I took my dad out for breakfast recently, and he asked where electric motorcycles are headed. I pondered briefly, and then told him I felt there were two distinct paths forming. The first is of the high-powered sport bike with the associated high-powered price tags that seem to dominate the American market. The second is smaller commuters and scooters on which Europe, Asia, South America, India, and most of the rest of the world rely. In fact, many major cities around the world are planning to eliminate gas vehicles in the very near future. People riding smaller bikes and scooters there do it out of necessity, convenience, and the fun that bikes like these offer. Bikes like these will do well in those areas, and with Americans' strange aversion to scooters, these might be an acceptable low-power alternative. I certainly hope so.
He smiled and said, "Well, my days of motorcycle pioneering are at a close. The future is probably yours. Also, if you see the waitress would you let her know I need more butter for my English Muffin?"
"No problem, dad."