In January 2014, I was made aware of an Austrian motorbike by one of my FB friends, who is into new technologies, especially renewable energy technologies. The » Johammer J1 (formerly known as biista) is a purely electric vehicle with quite a polarizing appearance. Some fall in love at once, others are more, uhm, let’s say … deterred.
As I am quite into “out of the ordinary” design, especially when it comes to motorbikes, I am part of the first category.
A few weeks later I got really lucky. You might want so say serendipity stroke once again.
One person missed out on a free test ride, and I was invited to take the place. Needless to say that I took this unique opportunity. So in April 2014, I enjoyed one long, sunny day riding the Johammer with Hans Hammerschmid and a group of nice people through a most beautiful part of Upper Austria.
Before I tell you why I am a fan of riding an electric driven motorbike now, I’ d like to mention that I owned two bikes.
As I am a quite small person, saddle height is the most important criterion. Which means I was into sport bikes.
In the early 90s I owned a Cagiva Mito (125ccm, the 90s version had round lights and 39hp, two-stroke, approx. 150kg, saddle height 760mm). Later I owned a Honda NC30 (400ccm, 59hp, approx. 170kg, saddle height 755mm). I tried other bikes, too – a Honda CBR 600, a Ducati 748 and a Kawasaki ER-6f (loved that one, perfect for touring). I am certainly not the most talented biker, but I do have driving experience.
And here is what I have to say about driving the Johammer J1:
The manoeuvrability is most impressing.
Especially at low speed. You can steer her easily by moving the front wheel, which you cannot do with most motorbikes because of the limited steering lock. Additionally, the Johammer J1 is very well balanced. Even people with a not so well developed sense of balance (like me) can handle her quickly and easily. You look good, getting into or out of a parking spot ;)
The saddle height is very low.
Really low. 650mm. It was the first time ever that I could put both my feet completely on the ground. No tiptoeing whatsoever – which is really nice, especially if you need to stop quickly and cannot check for uneven ground first (always kinda tricky for a small person like me). The good news: handlebar and footrest positions are adjustable. Therefore small people are comfortable and tall people do not look like a hunchback. As far as I am aware, you can completely customize your sitting position when ordering a Johammer J1.
The right hand throttle is a most important tool.
It offers three functions – regulating speed, driving backwards, and regenerative braking. When standing still, you turn your wrist forward to start driving or – if need be – turn it backward to reverse. The Johammer J1 is not that heavy, but to move 178kg it’s sometimes quite convenient to add some power to your leg muscles.
Be aware – you do not need to engage a gear. As soon as the motor is started, the Johammer J1 is ready to play. You do not really hear her, she only vibrates very softly … just so much that you are made aware that she is up and awake.
When driving, you turn your wrist forward to gain speed, just like with any other motorbike. However, if you turn your wrist backward, you brake. Regeneratively. Which is very, very cool – especially when you keep an eye on your charge level indicator.
While some of us might not consider the Johammer J1 as beautiful or Mac-like, the info displays, which are integrated into the rear view mirrors, are special.
Motorbikers are used to look down on the instruments in front of them. But with the Johammer J1, that changes quickly. One display offers driving information like speed, the other informs you about your charge level. I first thought these integrated displays were there because they look cool and futuristic, but using them is becoming normal so fast that you ask yourself why they are not the standard solution.
You get used to driving the Johammer J1 as fast as to using an iPod.
Other handlebar functions – e. g. activating the turning signal – are still the same. But there are some changes. Because you do not switch gears, you do not need a clutch lever. Both hand levers are for braking (back & front). However, you get very easily acquainted with these changes. You even get to appreciate them.
Only one thing was kind of a challenge for me … when you learn to ride a motorbike, one lesson is important: always use the front brake (handle) and the back brake (pedal) together. That way the bike stays more stable when braking hard. With the Johammer J1, you have the hand throttle regenerative brake, and the two brake handles. No pedal.
And that was what my right foot missed dearly – to use the back brake pedal became second nature to me long time ago. Everything else was a breeze, but my right foot kept looking for the pedal :)
On the other hand, I did not miss looking for the neutral with my left foot.
My left foot was quite content and happy with doing nothing. Which was quite strange, because I love to switch gears. It is one of the things where you can become good at controlling your bike skillfully.
However, with this motor, and the continous variable gear, you do not miss it. You simply control the speed. With your right wrist. That’s all. But if you become good at that, you do not need anything else, except for emergency braking. And you can even “refill your tank” with your wrist (so to speak). Which is another thing one can become good at – and that’s fine with me!
Plus … for me, to stop is normally always a little bit tricky. Is the ground uneven? Will I tilt? Getting my balance, looking for the neutral, and the first gear – hopefully fast enough, because the traffic light might be turning any moment. I manage, but it is unnecessary stressful. Which I realized driving the Johammer J1.
With her you simply stop if you need to. Motor off. You want to move on? Turn your wrist. Motor on. Move on. Full focus on what is going on around you in terms of traffic.
True, the horse power of the Johammer J1 might not impress (11kW/15kW), but so do range (200km) and torque. We drove up some beautiful mountain roads, with nice bends. It is pure fun to lean her into the bend, and let yourself be pulled out again by the torque of an electric motor. High speed is electronically limited (120km/h).
One thing is for sure: I never, ever drove with that much pleasure.
You can really enjoy a ride through most beautiful landscapes. You do not disturb anyone or anything, buzzing softly along – rather feeling your bike than hearing it. The energy consumption is low, and if you are able to charge the Johammer J1 with electricity generated by using renewable resources, it is simply the perfect combination of the joy and freedom of riding a motorbike and being an environmentalist.
And I really do think that being an environmentalist may be enjoyable and merry.
If you are into technology, look for patents by Hans Hammerschmid. You will find two which are used for the Johammer J1 – and might be used for other (ev) products, too. They built this bike from scratch, using proven technology and adding some new. Quite impressive. Nearly every part of the Johammer J1 is made in Austria, not imported. The appearance is also made in Austria, by Jean-Marie Lawniczak and Leonie Lawniczak (visit » yellow.at).
One last thing – the company culture of this small, special purpose machine constructing firm (40 employees at the moment) is impressing. CSR is not a mere buzzword. No wonder they were able to come up with such a unique concept with amazing (even disruptive) innovation potential.
For more information concerning the Johammer, please visit » johammer.com or read their » blog. If you speak German, you might want to watch “Hans im Glueck”, a documentary by Johanna Tschautscher » johanna-tschautscher.eu. And if you liked what you read, why not visit Upper Austria and take a trip with the Johammer J1? You can book guided tours on their website :)