On May 14, 2021, seven electric riders set out from Anaheim with the sole intention of being the first to downtown Reno. Across the 3 brands there were actually no duplicate models; the only premium production bikes missing were a Zero SR/S and an Energica Ego 13.4. If you haven't already, you can read my initial writeup and predictions in this article. We were followed in an unofficial capacity by a support van piloted by Stefano from Energica with future-owner, Gabe, running camera duty. They had the ability to hold and rescue up to 3 bikes should disaster occur. Gabe really wanted to participate in this race but shipping backlogs in Oakland delayed the delivery of his bike.
Stop clickbaiting! Who actually won?
Rider Bike Miles Total Time 1st place: Robert Energica Ribelle 21.5kWh 502 12 hours 55 minutes
2nd place: Daren Energica Ego+ 21.5kWh 502 13 hours 2 minutes
3rd place: Alan Energica Eva80 13.4kWh 571 13 hours 41 minutes
4th place: Morgan Energica SS9 13.4kWh 569 16 hours 1 minute
5th place: Patrick Zero SR/F 14.4kWh 542 16 hours 33 minutes
6th place: Diego H-D LiveWire 15.5kWh 558 16 hours 54 minutes
7th place: Edwin Energica SS9+RS 21.5kWh ???* 18 hours 18 minutes
*Edwin forgot to log his mileage
As you can see, quite a bit of variation that hinged on quite a bit of strategy. My prediction of Alan easily winning? That went out the window when Daren and Robert took Highway 395 which knocked nearly 70 miles off the trip and removed the extreme elevation climbs. 395, in case you've not read my previous writeup, was something I considered high-risk-high-reward. Charging stations are spaced, in some cases, 100 miles apart with significant elevation climbs. I thought it would be a massive risk even with the larger battery Energica + models. I was wrong. I was incredibly wrong. But let's start the story properly by painting a picture of the events in the days leading up to the start.
The days prior
Alan, Edwin, and I all live in within 100 miles of the greater SF Bay Area, meaning we had to do a full day's ride just to get to LA. We did this on Wednesday and treated the run as a sort of ability test. Alan has the most touring experience on motorcycles, but I have more electric touring experience, and I knew the route. Having stayed the night at my place, we all left Wednesday morning at around 8. Somehow I stayed ahead of them both all day. I actually ran into them more than once at various charging stations, usually as I was halfway through my charge session. For example, I had just finished making a selfie update video at Paso Robles when Edwin rolled in.
As I left this stop I found myself about 8 car-lengths behind Alan on the highway. He turned into his next station before me, an EVgo in San Luis Obispo behind a strip mall next to the dumpsters. I refuse to use it because it reminds me of the locations they put level 2 stations that I no longer have to use. I have left the J Plug life behind me. Even though I went to stations 10 miles further down the road in Pismo Beach, I was still way ahead of Alan. My next stop had only one functioning charger, and as I was halfway through my session Alan rolled up again. Turns out he got lost trying to find the previous stations. He also had a nasty habit of choosing locations with single stations "because they're free" but more often than not were offline. Meanwhile, at the end of the day, I was at a glorious 10-station stop North of LA and this happened:
Quite frankly it messed with my head that I was able to outpace both of the bikes and I didn't know what to think.
The next evening we had a pre-ride meeting at the restaurants of Disneyland Resorts. Coordination was a little dicey but *most* of the people made it there. Truthfully people were a bit stressed. Alan was refused entry because he was carrying some small pocket tools including a screwdriver, and he decided he'd rather not store them on his bike. Ramon, a local with an Ego I had met that morning, was turned away because they wouldn't let him carry his expensive helmet in and he didn't want to leave it in the garage. We were, however, joined by another local Energica owner who was carrying both his helmet and a pocket knife. So, you know, keep up the good work Disneyland security.
In my family we have a tradition for betting. We never bet for large amounts; it's always $1. The bet must be agreed upon ahead of time with the stipulation that the loser must write on the dollar a sort of vague description of the bet, sign and date it. These go into our personal collections and are fun tokens to comb through years later and wonder what the dollar with the phrase "Zak shot me" actually means. In this case, the bet was that Patrick, on his Zero SR/F Premium, would take more than 24 hours to cross the
finish line. While I was aware Patrick had acquired the new additional Rapid Charge module, I knew there was very little Tesla Destination network support along the route. What I didn't know is that literally the day before Patrick had received and installed Scott Harkless' Double J-Plug mod, allowing Patrick to use 2 J1772 stations at the same time. Having seen the time results above, you all must realize at this point I lost a dollar to Daren.
The day of
I awoke a little after 4am and shot a selfie video which, while I did willingly supply to Gabe for editing, I hope it will never see the light of day. I was about 25 miles from the start location so I wanted to get there early, top up, and have time for some group photos. Giant, empty LA freeways and warm California night air beckoned, and I accepted. A few miles from the start location was an array of Electrify America stations. After shooting another selfie video, a shiny red Energica EVA Ribelle rolled up next to me, presumably with the same idea in mind.
I found directions around Disneyland to be somewhat frustrating, so I cruised around slowly to make sure I understood where the sign was and where people were meeting. I found the sign, but there was no one else there. This section of the meetup was also not properly coordinated, and at 15 minutes to launch I found myself in a fast food parking lot trying to find someone, anyone! Eventually Robert and I found a small lot that said EXPLICITLY NO PARKING next to the sign which we parked in and debated what to do. At that moment, Daren rolled up onto the sidewalk in front of the sign, presumably for a photo. Illegal? Slightly. I shrugged, maneuvered my way around, and joined him. By the time we got 4 bikes up we had attracted angry Disney employees telling us to leave. I heard one sadly mutter, "...not the sidewalk, man..." like it was the final straw breaking in his day of misery.
And with that unceremonious start, the day began!*
*2 side notes. Patrick was not expected to do anywhere near as well as he did and was given a start time of 4am with the agreement being it was total time from Anaheim to Reno, not a specific time on the clock. The second thing was that Diego somehow got lost and couldn't find the sign. I actually passed him at exactly 6am on the road out and tried to get his attention to no avail. It would not be the last time I saw him that day.
And they're off!
Alan, Edwin, Diego, and I headed North West up and over the Grapevine and variations of Highway 5 or 99. Meanwhile Daren, Robert, and Patrick all went North East and Highway 395 which included, as I have mentioned several dozen times, a 98 mile stretch of road between DC stations. Both Daren and Robert, who were neck and neck for most of the day, traversed the gap, which included a 4,000 foot climb, and had over 30% battery to spare. That's a gamble that paid off, incredibly.
"But wait," you say, "Patrick went that way too? On his Zero?" Excellent observation. When I stared at the routes on PlugShare I also turned on the filters for J1772 and Tesla Destination to get an idea where Patrick might go. There was a gap of 170 miles between level 2 stations. Obviously he couldn't go that route. Except he could. I haven't thought like a Zero rider in some time now, and forgot about the flexibility of AC charging. Patrick was looking at RV parks and NEMA 14-50 outlets. You can plug an EVSE station into those and easily get 6.6kW. Carry two EVSE stations and you could theoretically get the full 12kW provided you have enough adapters and extension cords. And wouldn't you know it? There were 3 RV parks with NEMA 14-50 plugs filling in the 170 mile gap. I didn't even think to check that. Score another one for Patrick being very clever.
The remaining 4 of us felt sort of like suckers as we spent the majority of the day in mid 90 degree heat on boring freeways going straight and sweating a lot. One might even say it felt like two separate races altogether and it really altered my predictions quite heavily.
I tried to make videos at each charging stop via FaceBook livestreaming and engage the audience as best I could. Diego did the same, but Edwin and Alan went more or less radio silent. Whenever they did check in my predictions were confirmed as fairly accurate. Alan was pulling ahead of me nicely, though not as much as I would have thought. Edwin's battery was quite warm and he was experiencing charge stops close to 2 hours at a time. To be fair, it was a warm day of inland California, averaging 95°F for most of it. My battery stopped being able to cool down into "green" or full charge rate and dropped me to down to as low as 13kW from my maximum of 19kW which is still a full charge in under an hour. I love my bike.
There's not a ton of scenery along Highway 99. It's quite an industrial route, punctuated by farmland, groves of almond trees, and truck stops. I made the best of it, though, and was able to capture the essence of Fresno in a photograph:
Another thing I wanted to do was increase audience engagement with my FaceBook streams. To shake off some of the boredom of the long, hot, straight highway I asked viewers for custom motorcycle playlists on Spotify promising to listen and review any that were sent my way. As a rather welcome surprise my friend, Ryan, sent me his list titled, "MOTORCYCLE MUSIC". If you're so inclined you can listen to it here. For my review, I will say I was a big fan of the Industrial tracks, but not so much of the Hip Hop/club stuff. It definitely kept me distracted and intrigued for many miles. If anyone else has thoughts or riding playlists, let me know in the comments. I'm willing to make this an ongoing segment!
On the other side of the mountain range, Patrick was getting through 3 back-to-back RV parks to reach a steady supply of J1772 stations he could double up on and get a full charge in an hour, but also taking time to stop and enjoy a wind farm.
Around mid-day both Robert and Daren passed Patrick and continued their neck-and-neck battle.
"I had tucked like Sonic the Hedgehog and set cruise control at 70 for most of the way, being very strategic with going slower up hills and increasing speed down hills to maintain good average speed while conserving energy. As a marathon runner, I use a similar strategy" - Robert Despite the constant rivalry, both found time to make new friends with the Mongols MC.
Much of the day between the two was spent playing small games of leapfrog. One would arrive to a station first, but the other arrived with a higher SoC and was able leave quicker, daring each other to push the batteries too far into temperatures that would cut back charging rate.
"When I arrived at Bridgeport, I had lost valuable time trying to get the chargers working and only had about a 7 minute lead on Daren at this point, but my bike had a chance to cool down slightly and absorbed energy at a slightly faster rate as a result, allowing me to once again leave before Daren...
...My internal clock knew that Daren had to be close to arriving or was charging elsewhere. That's where I was surprised to see him just a block up the road charging. I didn't know how long he had been there but he looked too happy, so I had a feeling he was leaving right behind me. I used my extra SoC to create some distance between us..."
Meanwhile, back on the sweaty side of California, Alan had increased his lead significantly. Diego and I were making semi-regular check-ins, and Edwin was falling behind as his battery continued to throttle back his charging in the 95°F heat. This is exactly what I predicted would happen in my previous writeup, and had more of these bikes taken the Westerly route we would have seen more examples of this. Daren couldn't resist taking shots at my predictions.
The day stretched on and I faced Sacramento traffic. I welcomed it, actually, as casual lane splitting becomes a fun mental diversion and the lower speeds increase my range. I picked my way through and made my final stop before Donner Pass at the town of Roseville. I still had over 100 miles to go. I was also informed that Diego was about to hit the Sacramento traffic I had just escaped. It didn't sound like a problem at the time, though. Shadows lengthened as I was doing my routine check-in video and was informed Robert had crossed the finish line safely.
Almost immediately after him, Daren breezed through.
I knew Alan couldn't be far off, and I certainly didn't have a chance of catching him. My concern was Diego potentially catching me, and I started to worry. I took a deep breath, geared up, and merged back onto Highway 80 to Reno and a 7,000 foot ascent. I decided it was probably best to play it safe and hang with the slower traffic in the right lane. I was feeling good about this decision until a black and red blur tore past me and disappeared. Sum of all fears: Diego. I remember sitting up and blinking, attempting to process what I should do. Surely he couldn't go that fast all the way up this thing I didn't know what to think. What I didn't know was Diego's aggressive pass was literally just before his next full charge stop in Auburn, and I still had plenty of battery.
At my next stop I noted my battery was well and truly cooled off and would happily sustain full charge rates once again. It was actually a lovely 65°F out and I wondered if I'd even need to use my warmer jacket liner or the heated grips I installed expressly for this purpose. Also, Alan had turned up in Reno.
My bike only takes 30 minutes for a full charge, while the LiveWire takes a full 60. I didn't know how Diego planned to tackle Donner Pass so I kept my charging times to 20 minutes or so, or basically whenever my charge rate began to taper from being full. Usually this is ~85%. I hopped back on and jumped to my final stop approximately 40 miles from the previous one. I was just under the summit where new free DC stations had recently been installed. I, however, had not tested them and couldn't take a chance that they didn't work, so I stopped at known working ones. While there, I learned Diego had only very recently left Auburn. Reno was only 60 miles away at this point, and almost all downhill, right? I certainly wouldn't need a full charge, but I had visions of Diego's headlight creeping up in my mirrors and couldn't shake them. Also, Patrick had crossed the finishing line on his SR/F. It would appear him leaving at 4am was unnecessary, after all. Or, as Daren put it, "No more head starts for you."
Patrick is listed as 5th place as the rules are total clock time from start to finish. Still, excellent job representing Zero, Patrick!
Feeling under pressure, I made the decision to stop my charge session at 65% battery with 57 miles to Reno. I mean, after the summit it was downhill, right? Surely I can just coast.
....or not. The descent isn't steep enough to coast properly. That is to say if I turned regen off and coasted I would only go about 30mph, so I would need to apply throttle to maintain highway speeds. There were also straight sections and some small hill climbs. My palms began to sweat from more than just the heated grips which, incidentally, worked perfectly. I became intensely focused on the road, not dying from nighttime animals wandering across, and constantly peering into my mirrors for Diego's headlight. However, no lights were to be found, and I rolled into Reno at 10:01 with 6% battery remaining.
The rest of the group had taken refuge inside a casino microbrewery and had been gorging themselves on beer and pizza for the last few hours. I parked in a nearby garage that offered J1772 and Tesla plugs and saw Patrick's SR/F happily gulping away at a Tesla Destination station. Dang bike was already full. I do miss some aspects of powerful level 2 charging.
I'm not clear on exactly how or why but Diego could not find the large illuminated sign that said WELCOME TO RENO so he went to the Reno Harley-Davidson dealer a few miles down the road and plugged in. I'm counting that as his finish time. The following picture is from his Instagram; the mileage shown stopped tracking while he was still on Donner Pass so I added it up myself.
Edwin did eventually arrive after midnight and let us know he was safe. I think he was tired beyond the point of a photo at the sign, and I don't blame him.
The next morning something had come up and I decided to hitch a ride back to the Bay Area with Stefano in the van. My hotel was less than half a mile away from the Reno H-D dealership, so I decided to top up there while I waited. This was, incidentally, the gathering location for the group ride scheduled to happen at 11 and promised to go around Lake Tahoe, so while I was at the station other riders began trickling in.
Local electric owners who weren't able to attend the ride itself swarmed in on the location, including the SS9 with saddlebags shown above. Owner, Don, chatted with Alan and Robert. I said my goodbyes and hit the road. Plans for the ride went a little sideways with scattered showers and lightning loomed around the greater Tahoe area. The day turned into more of a hunt for microbreweries than anything else.
Sunday, however, was apparently glorious riding weather and found Robert, Daren, and Diego scouring every back road they could find.
All in all everyone had a great time. All riders arrived safely and with fun stories to tell. I kind of wish the option to do Highway 395 didn't exist because it did turn my predictions a bit upside down, but such is the way of a Cannonball Run. What I hope, more than anything, is that our little adventure inspires you, dear readers, to go out and do this yourself. Get a group of excitable idiots of your own together and hit the road. Then come share your stories, your pictures, and your videos. We want to hear all about it!
P.S.- I am also including my power consumption for funsies and data nerds. Enjoy.