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Tarform Electric Art – A Museum Piece

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Tarform makes an impression with a sleek new modular design.

As illustrated by the multitude of startups on the electric motorcycle scene, the young industry is rife with opportunity. Many of the new companies are in Europe which is a hotbed of design. China has many electric options coming online and Canadian companies have joined the list of potential builders. The US has a number of companies with Zero Motorcycles the most successful of the bunch, but others are keen to distinguish themselves from the burgeoning crowd.

Style is an ongoing issue in the development of electric motorcycles. How to make them attractive to motorcyclists has become an oversize problem. The rest of the build process isn’t easy but it’s less of a hurdle. There are battery, brake, motor, and suspension suppliers—all the major mechanical bits for the engineering work. The great advantage is the increased simplicity of the electric motor yet the concern voiced by some is that— in the visceral sense—riding one electric motorcycle is much like riding any other. Where’s the individual flavour of traditional ICE motorcycles? What is there to distinguish one bike from another here in the very early days of the supposed electric revolution? Range is still a significant factor and so is battery charge time but these issues are somewhat universal. Two factors will distinguish the good from the better. Style, and quality of the build.

electric motorcycles canada - tarform electric motorNew York-based Tarform Motorcycles has taken a multi-prong approach to stand out from the crowd. They promote the electric motorcycle as an environmentally friendly option, but nothing out of the ordinary there. This appeal is the backbone of the entire electric movement be it cars or motorcycles. But the company kicks it up a notch by saying it will build motorcycles from environmentally sourced materials and make things even better for the environment by producing a bike that is both performance and stylistically upgradeable. No need to buy a new motorcycle, simply improve the one you have. 

The build materials will be biodegradable and/or recyclable, says Tarform, although there are components not much different in construction than any motorcycle. The forks are Öhlins, the brakes Brembo. But Tarform has developed a lightweight composite created from flax seed and pigment based on algae for other body parts and the seat which looks like leather is actually a material derived from cactus. They say that the ultimate goal is to use no petroleum based materials in the entire build process. 

But Tarform also claims the bike will not go out of style due to its modular design and that it can be updated with new body panels and other components thanks to the simplicity of the electric motor which allows it to be replaced if something better comes along.

Green efforts aside, the bike has some interesting technical features including three Ride modes and a 4G cloud connection for realtime updates regarding charge and range. The software is said to have the ability to make recommendations regarding range optimization. Probably the most frequent suggestion would be “slow down” because rate of travel is far and away the most predictive of range. 

There is another interesting feature of the software system that would be useful for all motorcycles: “Predictive Maintenance.” The system predicts component failure before it happens and recommends service on the wear period rather than any set time. Although interesting, predictive maintenance should theoretically not be needed all that often because the company calls the drive train “no maintenance.”

So what of the specs? The Tarform will charge on a household plug in four hours. The top speed is a factory-spec 120 mph, city range is 120 miles and straight-line performance a claimed zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. The bike is surprisingly light at 440 pounds and priced at $24,000 US. 

There is a scrambler and cafe racer in the lineup with only minor differences to warrant separate classifications. Components swapped out include the headlight, body panels and wheels. Tarform hints there will be further upgrades to the body that can be incorporated into the current bike including those to either the battery or motor.

There was a founder’s edition that cost $42,000US, one of which made its way to the collection of the Barber Motorsports Museum. This is a significant acknowledgement as the Barber’s curators are known for carefully assembling their collections to showcase bikes of cultural and technical significance. That the museum wanted one of the first Tarform motorcycles built validates their importance.

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