For years boutique shop Lightning Motorcycles has been advertising they make the world's fastest production motorcycle. They've been featured on Jay Leno's garage, the Discovery Channel, and more touting the nearly $40,000 LS-218 Superbike. In early 2019 an announcement was made that they would be making a consumer grade electric motorcycle in three different variants, from entry level to a premium spec. This new model would be called the Strike, and it took the attention of prospective buyers by storm. It promised incredible specs at reasonable prices from $13k-$20k USD. Prospective owners wanting to get in line placed $500 deposits for the entry or mid level bikes, but people prepared to shell out more cash put down $10,000 deposits for the Carbon Edition. The Carbon Edition was promised as the top of the line bike, and indeed its stats looked amazing. 180 lb/ft of torque, 150mph top speed and boasting 120 horsepower made it a top-tier contender in the market. Pre-orders started immediately following the announcement early 2019, and then very little was heard. A launch video was made which, at present, is hard to find, which featured the Strike going back and forth over the same stretch of a mile or two. The video had generic music that occasionally said it was the demonstration version of the audio, and no color correction, leading users to wonder what happened to the marketing department.
It looks like they've swapped out the sample audio track but the video is still completely bizarre. Then complete silence until September when, reportedly, the first user took delivery in the SF Bay Area. In interviews the CEO stated they would be delivering the Carbon Edition models first which promised:
Shortly after delivery, a gallery of images of the bike surfaced. Immediately questions arose, including concerns about the bodywork, displays, and charging. It was also reported that the owner took delivery of an incomplete bike, and that it had many features missing.
It continued to get uglier. More silence from Lightning HQ and media outlets began to report the early success of the Lightning Strike despite no field testing. The internet was desperate for information. In February 2020 two more owners surfaced. Both were receptive to discussion, and one of them was within 20 miles of us. Wanting to know more, we reached out and he responded.
A private man, the local owner of the Strike Carbon Edition we found was actually taking ownership of his first motorcycle, electric or not. He was new to bikes, riding, and the general motorcycle world. The bike he received did not have the promised specifications of the $20,000 bike he paid for in full. His Carbon Edition had:
Unfortunately, the problems go even deeper. There are many missing features beyond these. Some of them may have slipped through the cracks due to budgeting or technical constraints. Some of them are intended to be that way, and that is something of major concern. This bike is specifically designed without, what I would consider, essential features other bikes have had for the last decade.
This bike has no estimated range
Every company has complex algorithms to estimate the remaining miles on your bike until it's empty. This one does not. Because it was never mentioned as a planned feature, and the AIM dash lacks that functionality, it's safe to assume this was by design.
This bike has almost no SoC gauge
Every company has a gauge from 0-100% battery capacity estimation readily available. This bike has a small LED screen that shows pack voltage. It is up to the rider to infer what 134.2v means in terms of when they should recharge. The owner we talked to told us Lightning instructed him, "not to let the bike go below 100 volts." The bike's dash has functionality for a single digit SoC, though. Hopefully looking at that and seeing 0-9 will be useful to someone. "Hey, do you need to charge? How much battery do you have left?" "Uhhh, 5?..."
This bike has no rider modes
Because these vehicles are basically programmable computers, it's not a big stretch to add rider comforts like different settings. For instance, if it's raining out, limit the torque and/or the top speed. If you want to maximize range, adjust top speed, torque, and regenerative braking. Zero has offered this for almost a decade, and expanded on this with the SR/F platform. Energica bikes all have multiple rider modes. The LiveWire does, too.
The bike's top speed was somewhere in the 80 mile per hour range
Despite a promised 150mph top speed, the only way we were able to break 90 on the Carbon Edition Strike was downhill. It got to 91. Like Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, the bike has no legs.
This bike does not support passengers
An Open House was given by Lightning in 2019 which included a 13 page presentation on many features of the Strike.
However, upon consulting the owner's manual, the following is listed:
Frankly, upon seeing a picture of the exposed frame, it's obvious why. There is no rear structural support. The bike's frame ends before the passenger seat area, so it's just an empty carbon housing.
This bike has no kickstand switch
This feels like an egregious safety oversight, but the bike will accept throttle input even if the kickstand is down. Perhaps it is due to Lightning traditionally attempting to make bikes more geared toward the track and racing where kickstands are prohibited, but it is extremely important from a safety standpoint to have the bike become disabled while the kickstand is deployed.
The foot pegs are not mounted to the frame
This one blew our mind when it was point out to us. Foot pegs need to be able to withstand a lot of stress. People stand up on them, sometimes one-legged, so it needs to be able to support the rider's full weight. Instead of being anchored to the frame, the left foot peg on the Strike is mounted to the reduction gear housing. Or, as Phil Waters from Cleveland Moto described it on the Motorcycles & Misfits Podcast, "...every other motorcycle in the world, my left foot is held to the frame of the motorcycle. It's not held to the literally outboard-mounted countershaft."
The batteries on this bike have no protective housing
This is the big one. This is the thing that gave us cold sweats at night thinking about it. Every other EV manufacturer puts their battery cells in a protective housing. No exceptions. Zero's cells are bundled inside protective housings, securely coated in a potting compound, and then put inside another enclosure. Energica's batteries are sealed in water-tight containers with gaskets and then enclosed in a MASSIVE aluminum case. The LiveWire also has a large housing around the cells to protect them.
On this bike, the clusters of pouch cells are mounted to the frame with no casing. No housing. No moisture protection. No countermeasures against oxidization, salt bridges, or even road debris. In fact, the main thing separating the live pouch cells from the rider is a large piece of carbon fiber. Which is electrically conductive. This goes beyond oversight. This is pure disregard for even basic safety measures. DO NOT ride one of these bikes until a battery enclosure is in place.
An industry person. who asked not to be named, after seeing this bike pulled me aside and said, "You can't let [owner] ride this home. He has to trailer it back to Lightning.
And if he takes it home he can't charge it inside his garage!"
I shrugged and responded, "He can't leave it outside. There's things like morning dew." The color drained from their face. "Oh no. Oh no no no." Looking utterly dejected, they asked, "Why do we spend so much time at work in safety meetings and debriefings if someone is going to put something this dangerous out there?"
The following is an incomplete list of all the major concerns we have about this bike, separated by what we are able to confirm as intended versus likely unintended Intended:
Probably not intended:
In light of the daunting list of major flaws, we urge people to refrain from even test riding them in their current condition. Lightning has a lot of work to do before this bike is safe. Let's see if they're up to the task.