Long Way Cock-Up?

I binge-watched the first three episodes of Long Way Up last night as they premiered. The first episode is free, by the way, just to hook you in.


Clearly Harley Davidson and Rivian were keen to help out McGregor and Boorman. We don’t get to hear their reasoning for choosing an unfinished prototype adapted Harley Davidson Livewire over a proven Zero DSR, although we see both ride DSRs in episode 1, which they appear to like.

But not hearing the logic around the choice of bike — something which was an intrinsic part of the original Long Way Round story — leaves me feeling short-changed.

We hear Ewan’s EV mate, Michael Bream of EV West, assure them that the range of any electric motorcycle is 70 miles maximum, only for Charley and Ewan to disprove that in episode 1. But that’s something that any one of hundreds of owners could tell them was blatantly untrue anyway. That it comes from someone of Bream’s EV expertise is bewildering.

Did the guys speak to ANY seasoned electric motorcycle riders?

The Zero DSRs they rode in the first episode were perfectly suited and Zero have had level 1 charging (the ability to charge from ordinary, domestic power supplies) sorted for years.

Last year, German Thomas Jakel and Kenyan Dulcie Mativo rode a Zero DSR Black Forest edition almost 10,000 miles across Africa.

Meanwhile, Harley Davidson delayed the start of the journey in Ushuaia by three days, with the team stuck at the start point, because they didn’t have level 1 charging working!

Charley and Ewan were clearly both unfamiliar with EVs at the start of the journey, although it was seemingly Ewan who quite rightly insisted in Ushuaia on having the ability to be able to charge from any standard, domestic socket. But why, given all the otherwise meticulous planning, had that not been clarified until they reached Argentina?! Cue three days while Harley Davidson try to figure out something that Zero bikes have done for years.

You don’t ordinarily choose to take vehicles which haven’t even been finished, let alone proven, on that kind of journey unless there’s more than pragmatism at work.

It doesn’t do the reputation of EVs much good with the wider viewing public when we have them calling on generators and running out of power on the first day of the journey!

170 miles a day is easily achievable on a Zero with a single stop and AC charging. Even I managed that on my own, three years ago, with a stock Zero DSR and two external charge units I took with me. I can’t help being constantly bewildered as I watch as to why they didn’t take Zero DSR Black Forest editions, which would have given them three AC charging possibilities: on board stock charger (1.3 kW), Charge Tank (6.5 kW), and accessory socket charging (additional 1kW charging per 1, 2 or 4 external charge units).

Charging my Zero DSR in 2017

To be fair, we don’t know what they’re contending with in terms of domestic or commercial AC supplies in South America and they don’t go into the tech details, because that’s not interesting to the wider viewing public.

12 volt battery problems cause issues at some point, with Charley stating that all EVs have standard 12 volt batteries. That’s not strictly true. Many EVs do have second, standard 12V batteries for the kind of things ICE vehicles have them (lights, and other auxiliary equipment), but they also have them to engage the relays which switch on the high voltage battery. Zero bikes didn’t have a 12 volt battery until the latest generation. The DSR doesn’t have one. Instead, it has a DC-DC 12V solid state step-down converter fed from the bike’s main battery.

Many will be watching and not unreasonably expecting things to just work. I mean, you just get on or in an ICE vehicle and ride or drive, right?

Well, yes, but we’re dealing with a couple of blokes unfamiliar with EVs, riding prototype bikes, adapted from bikes which at the time of filming hadn’t been released to market, and worked on by Harley Davidson employees in their own time; and a team driving prototype Rivian support vehicles (and an ICE support vehicle, which runs out of fuel, by the way) in an area which apparently can’t reliably support charging the bikes from domestic power supplies.

Wrong tools for the job? There are clearly better, more suitable tools (as far as the bikes go).

Does it make for entertaining viewing?

Absolutely! 😊