In April of this year, I went to the first round of the 2010 TTXGP season at Infineon Raceway. From the start I've been curious and excited about the potential for electric motorcycle racing—and in a bit of personal realization it struck me that I should also write about it. So at the Team Werkstatt party, I cornered Founder and CEO Azhar Hussain to learn more about the visionary who started it all, and interviewed him later that weekend.
Azhar's passion for TTXGP is infectious, and I quickly saw that this (the whole electric motorcycle industry, and racing as a way to speed up innovation) held the potential to be as big as the Internet back in the 90′s. We became fast friends and have remained in contact since. So when he told me he would be in California, I knew I wanted to spend some time with him. He asked me to show him around LA, which I did via motorcycle on a rather cold and foggy Saturday… which quickly turned into a week's worth of adventures.
The week began with Azhar's presentation at Intel in Santa Clara, a cross-promotional event intended to show Intel and Silicon Valley more about electric motorcycles and all the fun things you can do with an Intel Atom processor on a motorcycle. There was an interesting mix of attendees who braved the cube farm we had to pass through to get to the conference room, and much pleasant networking was done.
TTXGP Goes To Hollywood
Early the next morning, we hit the road for Azhar's first trip down I-5 and what felt like my millionth. Like any European, he was soon asking “Are we there yet?” We were transporting Jennifer Bromme's Mavizen TTX02 race bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles to display it at Hollywood Electric‘s One Year Anniversary party, then to ship to Europe for the upcoming season finale at Albacete. Azhar Hussain and Harlan Flagg (co-owner of Hollywood Electrics) joined me for the trip south. I had loads of fun driving up there and this video shows why it's best other people drive my car.
While I wondered if this would be the time my trusty Joe Hauler finally gave out, or some other catastrophe befell this one-of-a-kind $40,000 race bike, Azhar and Harlan took turns behind the wheel. That is, when Azhar wasn't holding us up working at what few rest stops we made along the way that had wifi. This man needs a USB internet stick more than anyone I know. Our conversations on the drive revolved around the electric motorcycle industry and specific people in it, racing and how awesome it is, as well as electric motorcycle mods and aftermarket fun bits. None of which is going to be published here today, of course.
The following day Azhar met with the press and Los Angeles Times' motorcycle correspondent Susan Carpenter took the Mavizen for a spin. I'm looking forward to reading her take on it. Then it was time for the Hollywood Electrics party—at which more networking occurred and I took a ride on Brammo's Southern California Service Manager's Enertia. Dave had given it to Race Tech to develop and install aftermarket suspension components. The handling was better, but the real difference was in the braking. The gold valve forks made for much crisper braking with almost no dive.
Electric Motorcycle Debauchery
Tom also got to ride the Mavizen, as he was the only one present with any burnout experience. It was a horrible thing to do to the environment, but oh! what a glorious burnout it was…
On Friday, I lent Azhar my Yamaha R1 to ride out to Fontana for a meeting with the owners of California Speedway. He returned ecstatic and expressing a sense of guilt over having enjoyed a gas-powered bike so much. I told him to think of it more as setting a higher benchmark for the Mavizen, and that went over well. It's already one of the faster electric bikes on the market, so we'll see what a few hours on a 180 hp motorcycle does for development. Although really, it seems the two biggest issues are battery life and overheating. The motors are capable of equivalent power, just not for very long. Yet.
The Enlightened Debauchery Known as Mindshare LA
Friday night, he gave an overview of TTXGP at Mindshare LA, an evening of “Enlightened Debauchery” started by the same guys who brought you that OK Go video with the massive Rube Goldberg machine. There were some really good questions from the crowd, which is why I love Mindshare. It's a room full of really smart people, having fun. In Los Angeles. We love shattering misconceptions. Afterwards we explored downtown LA nightlife, then sat in front of a taqueria and watched a TV show being filmed around us.
The next day, we rode my R1 all over town, and I made him drive because I don't like having big passengers. Although I was a terrible backseat driver, I must admit. We argued over whether it was more appropriate to really use the motor and keep it in a lower gear (my preference) or use the transmission even if that means forgetting to downshift and finding oneself in 3rd gear going 20 mph on a bike capable of reaching 100mph in 1st gear well before redline. Well, the bike didn't complain nearly as much as I did, and once we're all on electric bikes that won't matter. I'm looking forward to Albacete, where all the top teams from the US, UK and EU series will be competing. As with all TTXGP races, if you can't get it on TV you can always get it at www.egrandprix.tv.