Spy Shots: Brammo Empulse RR Testing at Thunderhill

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Yesterday was a sunny day in the San Francisco/Bay Area, with weather in the mid-60’s. Just recently getting my bike back from a tune-up, I was itching for a ride and decided to pack things up early for the day, and go for a quick jaunt up to Thunderhill Raceway to gatecrash Brammo’s latest testing session with the Empulse RR electric race bike (close-up shots from Laguna Seca last year here).

Using my best ear-to-ear smile at the front gate, I rode into the paddock to see Brammo’s Director of Product Development Brian Wismann shaking his head upon my arrival, and muttering something about someone posting the session’s schedule online. Always a good-sport, Wismann graciously allowed me to stick around for the remaining day’s sessions, while Brammo’s CEO Craig Bramscher definitively removed me from his Christmas card list (you’ll still get a card from me though Craig).

Gearing up for the electric motorcycle racing calendar, Brammo was out at T-Hill catching up on testing that they had to put off because of the winter weather (yeah, winter in California is officially only three weeks long). With various data acquisition packages attached to the Empulse RR, Wismann piloted the electric bike himself for quick three-lap spurts (out lap, hot lap, in lap), gradually tweeking the Empule’s power settings, and running over various technical things that makes my social sciences degrees look a Denny’s coloring pad.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather in January, so I’m really glad for that and think we had a very fun and productive day at the track. It’s nice to get the team out from behind the computers every once in awhile as well! This was Brammo’s first test of the new year with the Empulse RR since it’s returned from a couple of shows in Europe (EICMA in Milan and EuroMold in Frankfurt) and was mainly aimed at validating some new drivetrain components,” said Wismann.

“The mass of electronics taped to the tail is our data acquistion system (it’s not pretty, but it gets the job done!), which was used to gather GPS, chassis accelerometer, suspension travel, and multiple temperatures within the motor and cooling system.”

“We, of course, also run the Empulse RR with our VCU (Vehicle Control Unit), which is the same used on the Enertia production bike, that allows us to measure and record all parameters of the battery and motor controller system among others,” he added.

Missing last year’s season, Brammo looks ready to take on the established entries of MotoCzysz and Lightning Motorcycles, as well as Mission Motors’ new race bike the Mission R. The Empulse RR is fairly quick out of the corners, and is capable of some impressive outright speed. The real danger for other teams though is going to be Brammo’s maneuverability and cornering ability. While in the photos you can see some scars from the Empulse RR’s bellypan finding the tarmac, Wismann looked able to easily dive into corners and make mid-corner corrections on the nimble RR, even if the day’s goal wasn’t outright ludicrous speed.

“Given that the track was cold and dirty, and we were just out to gather data rather than light the track on fire, my limited riding skills could be put to use,” Wismann humbly explained. “As the pace increases for future tests and we start focusing on suspension setup for racing, you’ll probably see a more accomplished test rider on the bike.”

Brammo has yet to announce who will be at the helm of the Empulse RR, and which events specifically we’ll see them enter. But Wismann did hint it would likely be at events that run in conjunction with established series, so as to bring more press and fans to the event. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised if an electric backyard death match of Oregon vs. California emerged on a lazy afternoon.

Photos: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0;
Videos: Courtesy of Brammo