Zeus's Whip: Ultraviolette F77
Performance and silence don’t really go hand in hand. Yet, here I am, at nearly triple-digit speeds, tipping an electric motorcycle into a corner carrying a lot of lean and a wide smile plastered on my face. In relative silence. Quite a strange feeling, but one that the Ultraviolette F77 manages to make you feel quite often. The F77 is the only performance-oriented electric motorcycle in the Indian market, and one that makes a fair number of claims. Does it manage to live up to the hype and should you get one over a more traditional middleweight motorcycle? I spent a week with it to find out.
Range is the biggest concern when getting an EV and Ultraviolette has addressed this with a massive 10.3kWh battery which is the largest among two-wheeler EVs in India. 307km on a full charge is what the IDC claimed figure is for the top-spec Recon variant of the Ultraviolette F77. With performance being at the core of the F77’s value base, this number doesn’t translate to the real world for obvious reasons. The F77 has three modes — Glide, Combat and Ballistic. All with very different throttle and power delivery mappings. Unlike many other EVs, the difference in performance is immediately apparent. The difference in performance in each mode makes the bike very useful for different applications. As the names would suggest these modes either give more emphasis on range with Glide or more on performance with Ballistic. Combat straddles the middle ground perfectly. Considering this is an enthusiast focussed magazine you can safely assume that Ballistic was my favourite mode. In fact seeing the company claimed 147kmph top speed for the Recon variant is hardly a challenge when in Ballistic mode.
Perspective is important. The F77 goes up against a really competent segment of ICE motorcycles. Ones that cost significantly less as well. Does the F77 hold a candle to the performance and more importantly, feel, that those bikes offer? The short answer is yes. While, as is the case with most EVs, this still doesn’t have the ‘feel’ and character of an ICE motorcycle, it does have the performance and thrills. The bike feels on par with something like a KTM 250 Duke or even 80 per cent of a 390 for that matter. The best part of the Ultraviolette F77 is that apart from the obvious tell-tale signs like the lack of a clutch or the rumble of an ICE engine, it feels like a regular motorcycle, and that in my opinion is the biggest compliment an EV can get.
At 10.3kWh, the battery pack on the Recon is the largest there is on any two- wheeler EV in India. But when that is powering a nearly 40bhp motor tuned for performance rather than efficiency, you can’t expect mind-boggling numbers. In my range test of this motorcycle, I could have easily eked out over 210km on a single charge if I rode with a relaxed throttle hand. However, considering how much fun the bike is to ride at the limit, I was barely efficient in my riding style. On my riding route mix of city traffic, highways and some nice twisties, the F77 returned around 165km on a full charge with around 10 per cent left to spare. Bear in mind this riding was done primarily in Combat mode with a healthy dose of Ballistic too. I only used Glide if I was in traffic or desperately trying to save range. Now if you were to ride only in Ballistic mode, plan your ride well. Because if you keep that throttle pinned, getting more than 70km on a full charge would be rather challenging.
To keep track of your consumption, Ultraviolette has included a nifty meter on the screen with a Wh/km readout. There’s also a suggested figure for each mode — less than 40, 52 and 60 watt-hour for Glide, Combat and Ballistic respectively. Charging the battery to the ‘brim’ takes around four and a half hours using the Boost charger and that is pretty close to what Ultraviolette claims. The Boost charger uses a 15A plug so that is something you will have to keep in mind, if you are buying the bike. The charger also has strap hooks, like you find on soft luggage solutions with the corresponding hooks built right into the bike to be able to mount the charger. While this does come in handy, it is not the most elegant solution because there is no proper way to secure the rather bulky and unwieldy wires that make up the charger.
We already know that the F77 is a great bike to ride in terms of its riding dynamics. But what is it like to live with? With the F77, the riding stance is quite committed, one very similar to a supersport bike. While this does translate to a lot of fun and control in the corners, it is not the most comfortable for everyday commuting or long distance riding. The 207kg kerb weight is also quite apparent at lower speeds and especially while navigating a tight parking space. This is where you really come to appreciate the reverse mode.
Riding position aside, the bike is quite comfortable to live with. The suspension setup, while on the sportier side, is quite compliant and the fact that it is preload adjustable is quite nice. Even the 160mm ground clearance was never a real issue. One thing that could do with a massive update is the regen system. 207kg plus quick acceleration in a committed riding stance means that your wrist takes the brunt when it comes to hard braking. Plus the lack of the sensation of engine braking is not the best feeling. Although the company promises that a more comprehensive 10 stage regen system is in the works and would be made available via an OTA update.
After having ridden the F77 for nearly a week, a lot of my questions about the ability to live with an electric ‘motorcycle’ have been answered. Considering this is more a tool for fun than practicality, the usual questions like ‘can it carry groceries?’ are out. With the F77 I used the same yardstick used to measure sporty middleweights, and on that front the bike scored really well. It has solid performance, a chassis setup on par with most of the bikes in the 300-500cc sporty bike space, enough range to go for a weekend ride (touring is still not its forte) and a fat feature list. Does it justify its near `5 lakh asking price though? It really depends. If you’re willing to look past the convenience of being able to fuel up at one of the many thousand petrol bunks, then yes. Because with the F77 you get a taste of what is to come on the performance front in EVs, and this first bite, it’s quite delicious.