Saroléa’s fascinating, road-going Manx7 electric superbike
This Belgian company may not have taken the electric racing crown at the Isle of Man TT yet, but Saroléa first race-derived streetbike, the 163-hp (122-kW), 150-mph (240-km/h) Manx7, offers impressive range figures and showcases some very cool ideas you could only execute on an electric.
Based on the SP7 race bike, the Manx7 cuts an arresting figure. Its silhouette recalls race bikes from the mid-1960s, with its curved front fairing, thin tank and planky seat with a café racer-style bump stop in back.
Then there's the finish: carbon everything, everywhere, wrapped around the midriff with a golden, patterned sash that looks like it draws inspiration from fancy handbags and expensive chocolate boxes, with a dash of your auntie's old curtains. Even the sidewalls of the tires get half-painted with a fine, cubic pattern.
And that helps draw the eye back toward the fully carbon fiber swingarm, which is where things start to look very odd. The axle, you might notice, is fixed, with no sliding or eccentric capability to adjust the chain with. Likewise, the rear brake caliper is tucked into a hidey-hole in the swingarm.
That's because you don't adjust the wheel on this bike. You go up the other end and shift the direct-drive motor itself back and forth. Think about doing that on a combustion bike and it'll do your head in. So many moving parts, so many wires and hoses and cables and intakes and frame mount points to change.
That's not to say it hasn't been done. Take the top-end Aprilia RSV4 superbike, for example, which allowed racers to reposition the engine and mess around with swingarm pivot points and steering head angles with different spacers to alter the bike's geometry. But that'd take hours. With the Manx7, you loosen a couple of bolts, then slide the electric motor around as you will. It actually looks like a much more pleasant way to adjust the chain, if you can handle the fact that you're shifting a heavy component around and altering the bike's weight balance every time you do it.
The fact that it's electric, and the wheelbase stays completely consistent, lets Saroléa design one of the cleanest side profiles you'll see on a sportsbike. Instead of running a complicated set of rearsets and gear/brake levers that dangle outside the bike in all their mechanical rudeness, the Manx7's footpeg hangers are hidden back behind the swingarm somewhere, and they poke right through little curved slots that allow the swingarm to articulate around them.
There are no foot levers – it's a single speed direct drive motor capable of 150 mph (240 km/h), so there's no gear lever or clutch, and presumably the rear brake is connected to the left-hand lever, so there's no foot brake to sully the view. There is, however, a hopping swingarm to bang against your heels a lot when you go over bumps, so it'll certainly be interesting to ride.
Suspension is Ohlins, front and rear, the brakes are twin four-piston radials at the front and a two-piston arrangement behind, all by Behringer Aerotec. The wheels, which are largely hidden by the big ol' brake discs, are beautiful forged aluminum Oz Gass-R designs. The bodywork is carbon all over, with titanium screws and mirrors helping keep the (wet? fully charged?) weight to an impressive 217 kg (478 lb), along with bits and pieces from Rizoma.
If you're getting a creeping feeling that all this is starting to sound a bit pricey, you've been paying attention. But we haven't got to the big ticket item yet: batteries.
Standard, the Manx7 comes with a 14-kWh pack that's good for a range of 143 mi (230 km) of combined-cycle style riding. Ride it flat-out and this thing will go like a dog after a ball with its whopping 332 lb-ft (450 Nm) of torque. Ride it like the gods intended, and presumably it'll get you to the shops and back.
So you'll be wanting the larger battery pack options. There's an 18-kWh arrangement good for 174 mi (280 km), and a monster 22-kWh unit that will allegedly take you 205 mi (330 km), both at that very civilized combined-cycle pace.
Now, before we talk price, let's remember, it looks like a limited-edition Gucci-branded Ferrero Rocher chocolate. And can you really put a price on that?
Yes, it seems, you can. A jolly big one. Let's rip the Band-Aid off, shall we? The small battery version will cost you €42,975 (US$50,350), the medium is €46,280 (US$54,230), and the Big Mac is €48,760 (US$57,130).
Yikes. That's quite a Belgian dip into your wallet; another overpriced, ultra-deluxe electric that no honest daily rider's going to be able to afford or justify.
But, as always, it's a good indicator of what's to come if and when some of those promising battery technologies we keep hearing about make it out of the lab and into production. We live in hope. Reservations are being taken now.