The black machine is quick, smooth and silent. Through twisty sections of road it feels responsive, taut and sure-footed. When the road opens up it zips forward with urgency, feeling long-legged and strong.
This sort of performance is not what most people associate with an electric motorcycle. But then again, the Mavizen TTX02 is no ordinary machine-it's the world's first production electric sportbike. While American companies such as Brammo, Mission and MotoCzysz are developing high-performance electric machines, the small British Mavizen firm has had one on sale for a while now.
The TTX02 was designed primarily as a racebike for teams competing in the various zero-emission series taking place this season in the USA, UK and Italy, but with lights the TTX02 is legal for road use. Built on a KTM RC8 chassis, the Mavizen looks deceptively normal. Wheels are the stock 17-inch Marchesinis with fat Pirelli Supercorsa Pro tires, which is over the top for the electric bike's claimed 82 horsepower.
Even so the TTX02's performance was better than I'd expected, comparable to a 400cc sportbike if not a 600. Acceleration off "idle" was instantaneous and strong, if not outstanding. A seamless flow of power kept the bike accelerating toward maximum speed, the bike's motor and chain noise quickly lost to the sound of rushing wind, no gear changes required.
In many respects the Mavizen is like a powerful scooter, ready to surge forward in response to a tweak of the throttle. That made it particularly quick and easy to ride on busy roads, where I could overtake cars without worrying about dropping a gear. Top speed is said to approach 115 mph, although I wasn't about to test that number in public. Handling was very good, but the Mavizen didn't go around corners quite as well as the RC8 on which it's based, primarily because it carries its batteries high in the chassis, giving a top-heavy feel. Moreover, the electric motors' lack of engine braking gives a slightly unnatural sensation, like cornering a normal bike in neutral.
The TTX02 is said to be good for about 70 miles of normal riding, but repeated full-throttle abuse meant I'd used most of the bike's juice after just 40 miles. At least it was easy to follow the batteries' progress on the dashboard, although the testbike's display was much more basic than the sophisticated one production TTX02s will carry.
Charging the TTX02 only takes a couple hours and costs less than a dollar, a fraction of the price of a tank of premium unleaded. Of course that's not much consolation when the bike itself costs almost $30,000. As such, you'll either have to be an electric-bike racer or a wealthy aficionado to buy one.
The Mavizen might not be a realistic option for most motorcyclists, but it proves that battery-powered bikes can be fast and fun, right now. And if the TTX02 is this good already, we expect that in a few year's time it will be better on all fronts with more power, longer-lasting batteries, a price that will have been reduced by volume manufacture and government grants, plus a network of fast-charge points making refueling easy as well as cheap.
If this truly is the future of sportbikes, as I found myself thinking as the TTX02 accelerated effortlessly and near-silently past another string of slower cars, bring it on!