I was on the start line for the inaugural TT Zero race back in 2009 and, like many others, I wrongly sniggered at some of the prototype bikes. Rob Barber won the race with an average lap speed of 87.434mph, which didn’t really set the paddock alight with excitement. But times have changed – literally. The bikes are now light-years ahead of those first efforts, and the lap record now stands at just shy of 120mph.
Victory joined the race this year with North West winner Lee Johnston and Southern 100 star Guy Martin on board (a last minute stand-in for an injured William Dunlop). The day after finishing an impressive third and fourth at their first attempt we snatched the bike away from the team for an exclusive first ride.
I was expecting the Victory Racing TT Zero bike to be heavy, long, slow-steering and sluggish, but I was totally wrong. It really took me by surprise and has properly opened up my eyes to electric race bikes. It’s much lighter than I was expecting, and carries its weight low in the chassis, turns like a conventional race bike and is far from slow. It’s probably on par with 600 Supersport road bike of five years ago. On the back straight you can feel the front going light, even at speed.
But there’s no clutch, and no conventional gearbox, and the power is instantly available without any lag, hesitation, or noise. The throttle works conventionally, but the team can turn the power up or down, as well as varying the engine braking which can extend the life of the battery through regenerative energy. Braking from the Brembo four piston radial calipers is impressive considering the weight of the race bike (218kg). It remains very stable and doesn’t try to pivot around the headstock.
The Öhlins TTX rear shock runs a direct linkage between the bespoke swingarm and the main battery housing. They needed to run a direct linkage to give more room for the Parker GVM motor and the batteries, and to keep things simple. The front end is stolen from a Ducati 1098 and obviously modified to suit. With the right set up and gearing you could really embarrass some conventional sportsbikes in perfect silence.
I can’t remember the last time a bike took me so much by surprise. I’d completely underestimated the TT bike, and really enjoyed it. Maybe this is the future after all.
NEXT WEEK IN MCN – 29.07.15
World exclusive first ride of an all-new Victory road bike!