I pull my jacket tight against the morning chill and follow the crowds into the Circuit of the Americas. It’s the Electrify Expo here in Austin, TX — the largest e-mobility festival in North America — and the grounds echo with the whir of a hundred electric bicycles lapping each other on a serpentine demo course.
Nearby, a small road winds up a hill, populated with electric car demos and, surprisingly, only two electric motorcycle brands: industry staple Livewire and newcomer Ryvid. This is the first time that Ryvid’s inaugural motorcycle, the Anthem, is available to be demoed by the public, and I watch as the bike draws curious onlookers from the motorcycle and bicycle contingencies, alike.
I’ve been anticipating riding the Anthem ever since I wrote Iron & Air’s ‘Exclusive Look,’ an article that outlines the groundbreaking design choices behind this new EV. In designing the Anthem, Ryvid’s co-Founder Dong Tran re-conceptualized the fundamental concepts of motorcycle design, from the materials he chose to the user experience for battery charging, and everything in between. Taking cues from his Vietnamese heritage, his professional background in aerospace and automotive design, and his personal dedication to environmental health, Tran’s design implicitly challenges what we consider to be inexorable rules for motorcycle design and sport mobility.
Approaching the Anthem, I have to remind myself that this is still a demo bike. The first round of production models will not be sent out until early 2023, and a number of features will be altered for the real deal. Even so, this bike is pretty close to the end result. And it should be; Tran and his team have been developing this motorcycle since 2019 and consciously chose not to beta-test on the public. Rather, they very intentionally are sending out the first fleet as market-ready production models. In other words, they’re all in.
The Anthem stands at the ready, awaiting my gripping tour around this snail’s-pace demo course. I lift the bike off the kickstand effortlessly, a testament to its featherweight, planar frame of folded sheet metal, held together by rivets and aerospace-grade adhesive. In fact, only five or six major, carefully-crafted components comprise the entire bike. The result is a lean, 300 lb curb weight for the demo model, which will be further reduced to 240 lb in the production models via slots in the frame and the replacement of 7-spoke wheels with 5-spoke. The weight alone will speak to newer, younger, and petite riders, as well as urban commuters daunted by incessant street parking.
At the press of a button (the bike has a keyless ignition), the 4.9-in TFT, full-color dash comes to life, ready for my signal to ride. I twist the throttle and the bike glides forward — smooth and nearly-silent — across the parking lot. The Anthem is nimble, easy to handle, quiet, and zippy even in eco-mode. A smile emerges beneath my helmet as I reach the start of the demo course.
I slow my pace at the entrance, using hand levers for both the front and back brakes. There is no foot brake on the demo model, but the production model will come with a standard back brake pedal and a hand-lever as an optional add-on. I gradually come to a near-stop, but the bike wants to keep going. It’s missing the engine braking sensation to which I’m accustomed. Tran later tells me that this is because they have set this bike’s regenerative braking to 30 (out of 100) for demo purposes, and that the production models will be set at 60. The higher setting will allow for more energy to be recovered as the bike slows, and will more closely resemble the engine braking of a traditional, gas-powered motorcycle. This is a setting that can be adjusted by the rider to reflect their own needs and preference.
I find myself lusting after the off-road kit that Ryvid is developing, which can be retrofitted to the existing Anthem platform.
Pulling out onto the track, I round the curves with ease. Whether due to the upright riding position or the ultra-lightweight feel, I find myself riding the Anthem like a dirt bike — pushing the handlebars down through the turns and shifting my weight to the outside. The bike’s low-slung battery makes it easy to maintain balance at slow speeds, for which I am grateful as I poke along behind the electric car demos. The battery placement is a very intentional design choice for Tran, whose team put hours of thought and research into the bike’s optimal center of gravity. This, Tran feels, has been a missed opportunity for other electric bike OEMs, who continue to design new bikes using an antiquated blueprint in the absence of a gas tank and combustion engine.
The Anthem’s lowered battery also serves a second purpose: it allows its owner to more easily remove the battery for charging. The mobility of the battery is further facilitated by built-in wheels so that it can be rolled like a suitcase, rather than requiring the owner to dead-lift the full 65 pounds. This utilitarian feature caters to us apartment-dwellers who have no place to charge our bikes at ground level.
The slow pace of this demo track gives me time to play with the bike’s features, the most notable of which is the adjustable seat height. At the literal push of a button on the left handlebar, the seat height can be raised and lowered between 30-34″ even while riding. The seat moves smoothly and slowly enough that it is not a jarring change. Since I am 5’10”, I set the height at the tallest setting and leave it there for the remainder of my ride.
Tran expects that most riders will set-and-forget their preferred seat height, but this feature is more than just a clever design choice. In a way, it acts as a subtle yet direct acknowledgement of riders who are often overlooked in conventional motorcycle design: shorter riders, women, and riding cultures around the world who share a single bike amongst various family members, friends, or colleagues.
My contemplation on the global implications of seat height is interrupted when I see a small patch of gravel on the side of the road. It’s a far cry from a proper off-road excursion, but I seek it out nonetheless. The Anthem’s chassis is stable across the gravel. The suspension is stiff, having been set for on-road demos; however, the bike’s proprietary planar frame offers multiple suspension mounting points so that it can be easily adjusted to the rider’s preference. I find myself lusting after the off-road kit that Ryvid is developing, which can be retrofitted to the existing Anthem platform.
In fact, only five or six major, carefully-crafted components comprise the entire bike. The result is a lean, 300 lb curb weight for the demo model, which will be further reduced to 240 lb in the production models via slots in the frame and the replacement of 7-spoke wheels with 5-spoke.
I approach the peak of the summit and come to a series of straightaways. Switching the bike into sport mode, I give myself enough room to open it up. The run is short-lived — not long enough to reach top speed — but the quick acceleration elicits a cheer of excitement from me. I ride in sport mode for the remainder of the straightaways, but ultimately decide that eco-mode would be sufficiently spirited for an everyday commute. I’ll save sport mode for when I can put the production model to the test.
I make my final descent to the end of the course. Once again stuck behind slow moving drivers, I try to imagine how it would feel to take this bike through the canyons of southern California. With production demo models being sent out in January, this reality is only a few short months away. And at the end of the day, some things are worth waiting for.