Last May, when Gizmag first featured the “truly, horrifyingly fast” Lightning LS-218, I ended by saying: “If I could take any bike in the world out for a test today, this would be the top of the list.” Well, after a 17-hour flight halfway around the globe, I have now ridden the Lightning. I have also nearly fallen off it, twice, like a complete idiot. With three times the horsepower and some 70 percent more torque than the Zero SR, which is in itself an extraordinary motorcycle, the LS-218 is the king of a new breed of electric motorcycles – one designed to take on the world’s best petrol bikes and beat them on performance, not just emissions figures. Riding it was one of the most extreme experiences of my young life.
The minute I saw the Lightning LS-218, I knew I had to ride it. It wasn’t just the looks of the thing – although it sure is a beauty. It was the fact that this is an electric motorcycle that actually out-performs anything you can buy that burns dinosaur bones.
It makes 200 horsepower, a ludicrous number but one we’re more or less familiar with in today’s modern superbikes. But, being electric, it makes an absolute mountain of torque – 70 percent more than the punchiest petrol superbike you can buy, and…
it can make its full 168 pound.feet of twisting force from almost a standstill.
With an aerodynamic fairing and a smaller sprocket on the rear wheel, it recorded a top speed of 218 miles per hour (351 km/h) on the Bonneville Salt Flats, making it the world’s fastest production bike. Now, we can argue about the fact that the major motorcycle manufacturers have kept their top speeds limited to around 180 miles per hour (290 km/h) as part of a “gentleman’s agreement” so as not to infuriate governments into making the decision for them, but the fact remains that when the LS-218 raced against a field of primarily petrol bikes up Pike’s Peak in 2013, it demolished everything else on the mountain by more than 20 seconds. In racing terms, that’s an absolute pants-down spanking. This thing is capital-F Fast.