Swing a Leg over the Harley-Davidson LiveWire S2 Del Mar

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

June 4, 2024

6 Min Read
2024 LiveWire S2 Del Mar
2024 LiveWire S2 Del MarLiveWire

At a Glance

  • $15,499
  • 84-horsepower, 194-lb.-ft.
  • 3.0-second 0-60 mph

The shift to electrified transportation isn’t limited to four-wheeled vehicles. Electric scooters and e-bikes are all around us, and highway-legal electric motorcycles are also emerging.

Recognizing that the future of transportation is electric, Harley-Davidson has created the LiveWire subsidiary to develop and sell electric motorcycles like the S2 Del Mar that Design News had the opportunity to test.

Motorcycles present an especially challenging case for electrification, and not just because motorcyclists tend to be gearheads who appreciate the mechanical symphony of combustion engines. Electric vehicles tend to be heavier than their combustion counterparts, but while the mass of a four-wheeled vehicle isn’t always readily apparent to the driver, heavy motorcycles are cumbersome for their riders.

Motorcycles are also much less expensive than cars. Both of these factors point toward the use of smaller batteries, which save weight and cost. The S2 Del Mar is a commendably light 436 lbs., which is typical for a 600-cc middleweight sport bike.

Speed itself isn’t a problem for electric power, but the corresponding aerodynamic drag is. Motorcycles have terrible drag coefficients compared to cars. This doesn’t matter so much to slower e-bikes, but the drag at highway speeds quickly saps the batteries of electric motorcycles, producing an unacceptably short riding range.

Related:Engineering Solutions by Design News Talks Harley-Davidson Pan America


This was the case with the $15,499 LiveWire S2 Del Mar. The company says that the S2 Del Mar is good for 113 miles in city riding, but only 70 miles on the highway. And that highway rating comes with a huge asterisk because that range is only achievable at a steady 55 mph. No one ever rides anywhere at a steady 55 mph for 70 miles.

During my test ride on mostly rural two-lane highways with speed limits between 35 and 55 mph, I returned home at 71.4 miles with 3 miles of remaining riding range. This was an absolutely best-case scenario for highway riding, and the range was a short 70 miles.


In the case of real 70-mph highway riding, this range plummets to a LiveWire-estimated 43 miles, making the practicality of highway riding questionable. I didn’t dare attempt an actual 70-mph test myself for fear of getting stranded with a dead battery.

In my testing, I was returning to my ChargePoint Level 2 home charger, which needed a little more than two hours (138 minutes) to recharge the LiveWire. That’s pretty speedy when you are at home. But if you are out of juice on the road, that’s a long time to wait for a charge. That is the best you can do with the LiveWire because it doesn’t support DC fast charging, as most four-wheeled EVs do.

Related:Harley-Davidson Bursts into Adventure Bike Market


As an urban machine, the Del Mar’s wide, flat handlebar and upright riding position make it seem like an ideal candidate. But the harsh ride and uncomfortably hard seat make the idea of navigating through potholed city streets unappealing.

The Del Mar features a double-adjustable 43-mm Showa-supplied inverted fork and a rebound-adjustable Showa rear shock with adjustable spring preload. This is also promising hardware that seems to have not been calibrated to provide a suitable ride. The test bike’s adjusters bore witness marks from having been adjusted previously, and the left and right fork legs had different settings, which suggested that these changes were made haphazardly by a previous tester.


But the desperation that drove those changes was likely caused by the Del Mar’s excruciatingly harsh ride, and the changes that I made mitigated the problem only slightly. It seems like the bike’s spring rate is too stiff. Dialing the compression damping to the softest setting helped, but predictably created its own issues. With the correct spring rates and damper valving, the Showa hardware is surely capable of delivering the ride and handling that the Del Mar deserves, but I was not able to experience that myself.

Related:Electric Motorcycles in the US Adopt DC Fast Charging


Hardware that does deliver on its promise is the Brembo-supplied brake system. The front brake is a single rotor with a Brembo M4.32 monobloc four-piston front caliper and the rear is a PF34 floating single-piston rear caliper. Brake performance and feel is as good as you’d expect from Brembo. Or, more accurately, the front brake’s performance is superb. The rear brake is probably good, but with the regenerative braking at work on the rear wheel under deceleration, the front brake was all I ever used.

The Del Mar has attractively styled cast aluminum 19-inch wheels, which are bigger than the normal 17-inch wheels that have been largely settled on as the best combination of nimbleness and stability. They mount LiveWire-branded Dunlop DT-1 tires, but the limits of the tires were impossible to test when I was concerned that the suspension could be upset by any mid-corner bumps, so I didn’t have the chance to really lean the bike over to see how much grip the Dunlops provide.


The suspension mounts to a rigid frame that employs the battery pack as a structural part of the frame. This is common in automotive EVs, but LiveWire claims it as a first in the motorcycle industry. That pack carries cylindrical 21700-type lithium-ion cells.

The Del Mar’s 84-horsepower, 194-lb.-ft. motor is designed and manufactured in Harley-Davidson’s solar-powered EV facility in Milwaukee suburb Menomonee Falls, Wis. To use that power, the bike offers four pre-programmed riding modes for the powertrain, plus a custom-programmable setting.


The pre-set modes are Sport, Road, Range, and Rain. Range mode cranks regeneration up to 80 percent. It drops to 65 percent for Sport, 35 percent for Road, and a gentle 20 percent in Rain to avoid sliding the rear wheel. With full power on tap in Sport and Road modes, the Del Mar rockets to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds. Top speed is 103 mph.

The bottom line following a week of testing is that the Del Mar boast impressive technical credentials and innovation, but that these showpieces are not optimized yet for the task. I can’t wait to see how LiveWire’s engineering team is able to polish the Del Mar into the bike it deserves to be by tuning the suspension correctly and hopefully squeezing in enough battery capacity to provide 100 miles of highway riding range without making the bike too heavy or too expensive.

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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