One of my daily stops in the blogsphere is a little tech blog called TechCrunch, which is known for its pretty firm grasp on the pulse of Silicon Valley, and balances its coverage of this fantasy ecosystem we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area with the appropriate amount of irreverence. As much as I like the site, the two-wheeled coverage of TechCrunch is fairly abysmal in its analysis and superficial in its depth, but that is probably a good thing, since it keeps me gainfully employed.

That being said, we should all be thankful for any coverage outside of motorcycling’s very small footprint, as when a tech blog behemoth like TechCrunch covers motorcycles, it exposes our little industry to a new audience of potential future motorcyclists. Such is the case with Lit Motors, which before this week was an obscure EV startup with a novel idea, but now after being named the first runner-up of the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco conference, the Lit Motors C-1 has significantly more buzz about it.

A fully-enclosed electric motorcycle, the defining feature of the Lit Motors C-1 is its ability to stay upright when stopped, thanks to some gyroscopes inside the vehicle. Similar to the MonoTracer design that has been bouncing around for over the past decade or so, the Lit Motors C-1 offers all the comfort and safety benefits of an enclosed vehicle, yet Lit’s design irons out some of the kinks and drawbacks to what MonoTracer was trying to do with its approach.

Touted by founder Danny Kim as having “all the efficiency and romance of a motorcycle, combined with the safety and comfort of a car,” the Lit Motors C-1 uses “1/4 the batter pack of  Nissan Leaf” (that’s a 6 kWh battery pack according to our math…we’ve seen quotes of a 8kWh pack elsewhere though), which the company says is good for 200+ miles.

We all know how accurate these sort of estimates from EV companies are though; and for reference, the 14 kWh battery pack on the Mission R from Mission Motors lasted us a grand total of 75 miles in spirited riding conditions, and the 9 kWh battery pack on the Zero S ZF9 was good for about 60 miles in everyday driving.

As a motorcyclist, I have a hard time with the Lit concept. If you cannot already tell, I’m hardly excited about the C-1. But, that might be the point. The technology around the gyro-stablization that Lit has developed brings up a host of interesting possibilities in the two-wheeled world, and if something like the Lit Motors C-1 appeals to people outside of the already establish (and very conservative) motorcycling community, then more power to it.

I cringed my way through this 13 minute presentation/pitch at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference, but keep in mind that these are the reactions and opinions of non-motorcyclists. If this industry is to grow, it better take heed as it is going to be through winning the hearts and minds of people currently outside of motorcycling’s core constituents. Something to chew on for the weekend indeed.

Source: TechCrunch

  • Angus McFangus

    U.G.LY., you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!
    And Mr. Kim really needs to work on his presentations…he’s terrible.

  • Gritboy

    Mr. Kim wasn’t great, but man that was a tough audience. He should have ridden in and done a tip over test in person, so they’d already be wowed.

  • Gutterslob

    TechCrunch doesn’t exactly ooze credibility in tech circles, to be frank (MG Siegler is a certified twat), but congrats to Lit nonetheless. I don’t see an ounce of “romance” in that shape, though. Heck, I don’t even see bromance.

  • I’m with you on your first comment Grit. Already knowing about the project, I thought for sure when they pulled the cover off the bike, they’d show it just standing there, not on the stand, and then demonstrate that it couldn’t be pushed over. Hell, that’d probably be my whole pitch.

    I don’t think there’s a lot here as a product, but as a technology…my head is spinning…no pun intended.

  • Jonathan

    *A brainstorming session somewhere in Sillycon Valley.*

    “Ok, so let’s reboot the motorcycle. Can anyone suggest what makes the motorcycle a poor product?”

    “You get wet when it rains?”

    “It makes you look badass and antisocial?”

    “It doesn’t have a steering wheel?”

    “Good, good. And can anyone suggest what makes the motorcycle a cool product?”



    “It has, ummm… two wheels?”

    “Excellent! I think we have enough information to work with, so grab your crayons and start sketching…”

    Jesus, is it April 1st again already? That said, I would pay real folding money to watch these things race.

  • PD

    Aesthetics need a lot of work, but if they can hit their targets (0-60 in 6 secs, 100 mph top speed, 200 mile range, $16,000-$19,000, significantly better safety than bikes), this could be something else. The gyroscope technology actually works (at least from the test ride video), and if they can allow it to seamlessly integrate into natural leans during turns, and otherwise generally perform intuitively and “naturally,” its positives may be enough to create a new market. Certainly, there would be nothing else out there like it (assuming they can pull off their targets).

  • Jonathan

    OK, I’ll bite. Jensen mentioned the “very conservative” motorcycle community and he’s right up to a point – gizmos are regarded with suspicion because they are often perceived as adding unwarranted cost / complexity / weight without adding anything to the experience of actually riding a motorcycle. That’s not to say that all advances are unwelcome – we’ve all benefitted from improvements in materials technology, better control of ignition and fuelling, computer aided design and whatnot, but if you earwig on a group of motorcyclists in any car park on any Sunday then the majority won’t be talking about their ABS, or the handy little thinger that they can plug their GPS into. They’ll be comparing how their bikes run, how they sound, or look, turn, or brake. They’ll be exchanging tall tales about “that close shave back in the canyon”, or discussing which suspension tuner / engine shop to pay a visit. And of course they’ll be shooting admiring glances at other bikes and quizzing each other on where a certain accessory was bought from, or how a particular tyre feels. Seemingly mundane stuff, but discussion will be intense, because it matters. It’s part of the buzz. These guys (and girls!) don’t care a jot about the fancy acronym that the manufacturer dreamed up for this year’s combustion chamber design – as long as it works and doesn’t get in the way of the ride…

    The only guys who talk lovingly of the hyperbole in the manufacturers’ brochures are the “me too” crowd. We all know someone like that – they’re a certain age, they have all the gear (colourmatched of course) and their bikes are generally dipped inthe latest and loudest carbon fibre / chrome accessories (delete where applicable). They remind me of the kids at school who used to hang around on the periphery of the “kool gang”, while the rest of us just accepted our nerdiness and did our own thing.

    Hmmm, I appear to have gotten a bit off-track…

    So, the Lit Motors C-1. Catchy name – they must be angling for the BMW crowd. But who will actually buy one? Perhaps the well-heeled Silicon Valley types, but only if Lit can convince them that it’s not actually a motorcycle, even if it does only have two wheels. In fact it’s probably best for all of us that the words “Lit Motors C1” and “motorcycle” are never mentioned in the same breath. Ever. Because when our non-motorcycling friends see this then they will laugh at us. Oh, the shame! ; )

    And I wonder just how long it’ll be before someone with no prior experience on two wheels catches a crosswind whilst driving one of these things and sails straight under the wheels of a truck. It is a two wheeler after all, even if it’s not a motorcycle. That gyro had better be smart.

  • Westward

    Tough crowd indeed. I tend to not expect a founder, or specifically a tech guy to be all that charismatic and entertaining on stage. Though they do try.

    The videos on their website are rather impressive. I am sure this is not the final look of the vehicle if and when it is ever produced. I believe the Carver or the Persu V3 continually go through design iterations as well…

    However, I do see the vast potential in the vehicle itself. I still dream of a Tron style lightcycle or an Akira bike, and this at least gets the world closer to one of those concepts…

  • Jonathan

    @ Westward: I too dream of a Tron / Akira bike (well, who wouldn’t?), but somehow I don’t think they’re chasing our particular demographic. This is like dreaming of a lightsabre and waking up with a bloody iPhone. “Well, it’s very nice and all, but it’s not quite what I was hoping for…”

    As for the tough crowd – I guess it’s called the Scientific Method. They all laughed at the guy who invented the helicopter ejection seat, but that’s because he was an idiot. And anyway, this isn’t a bike – it’s a car minus two wheels. An interesting exercise in technology, but remember that the road along which electrically powered, gyroscopically stabilised vehicles can be a rocky one. Quite literally:

  • Doug Panting

    I really think they have something here.

    I would want the convertible hardtop version for the nice days. What this is now and what it could become age very different. It could morph into something for the Goldwing crowd. It might turn into an Akira bike.

    ” (that’s a 6 kWh battery pack according to our math…we’ve seen quotes of a 8kWh pack elsewhere though), which the company says is good for 200+ miles.”

    The key here is good aerodynamics. 8 kWh pack and 200 miles is 40 watts per mile. We have seen partially streamlined bikes do 40 watts per mile at 35 miles an hour.

    Perhaps they can get their vehicle to 40 watts per mile at 50 miles per hour?

  • Jonathan

    @ Doug: aerodynamic efficiency is defo one are where they could gain an advantage (at least above town speeds), but they may want to consider fairing the wheels into the bodywork if that is a high priority. But I suspect this is more of a styling exercise.

    I’m wondering about the significance of the presence of a steering wheel. Anyone who’s jumped off a bike and onto a quad knows that radically different steering inputs are required for both machines. Similarly, hopping out of a car and into a “Tron” with a steering wheel would provoke the same level of brain recalibration. I’m assuming it has some kind of fly by wire to convert the noob’s “lock to lock” steering input into the delicate countersteering required to tilt and turn a bike.

    I also suspect that the prototype has the turning circle of a barge.

  • paulus

    Kudos to them for getting off their arses and trying.

  • Jonathan

    Zomg! ^^^We’ve been spammed!^^^

    paulus: “Kudos to them for getting off their arses and trying.”

    Trying to do what exactly? Build a car with two wheels? Might as well take the bus – at least you’re not going to look like a complete asshat. ;)

  • Sean in Oz