Review: Harley-Davidson Serial 1 Rush City

Get one bike - pay for two

The Harley electric bike is actually great - but the price is excessive.

Published 26 October 2021 - 7:00 am
Harley-Davidson Serial 1 Rush City
Peter Gotschalk

The first real motorcycle from the legendary Harley-Davidson saw the light of day way back in 1903 under the name Model One. It was a prototype that could go 56 kilometers per hour. The motorcycle was mass-produced in the period 1905-1906 and appeared i.a. with classic bicycle saddle and wide, white bicycle tires.

And it is precisely this über-classic design that has been the source of inspiration for Harley-Davidson’s new electric bike, Serial 1, which we were finally allowed to test over three autumn days in Berlin in mid-October.

Harley-Davidson Serial 1 Rush City
The special and very robust design is strongly inspired by the Harley-Davidson Model One, the first actual Harley motorcycle from 1903. The motorcycle was mass-produced in the period 1905-1906 and appeared i.a. with classic bicycle saddle and wide, white bicycle tires. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Even though the name Harley-Davidson is writted all over the place on the rather special electric bike, Serial 1 is in fact an independent company that produces the bike under license from Harley-Davidson. Thus, the bike is also just ‘Powered by Harley-Davidson’.

The original plan was to try the Serial 1 Rush City in Copenhagen, but in the end we had to go to the german PR company in order to get our hands on the bike, and we therefore ended up cycling around Berlin on cobbled streets and narrow bike paths filled with holes.

But nothing is so bad that it is not good for anything, because the somewhat more bicycle-hostile Berlin was of course also a greater challenge for the most expensive Serial 1 model than Copenhagen would have been, and thus we were able to really put the expensive electric bike to the test.

The saddle is nicely designed, also with inspiration from the Harley-Davidson Model One from 1903. But it is not comfortable to sit on. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Heavy electric bike hurts the butt

Berlin does not have many large hills, but the city lacks good cycle paths, and therefore one quite often moves around on the ordinary roadway among cars and motorists who are not very good at making room for fellow road users by bike. In that context, it is practical to have an electric bike that can move fast, and Serial 1 Rush City can happily do that. Especially when accelerating.

The electric bike is equipped with a 250 W Brose S Mag motor, which has a torque of 90 Nm and is centrally located between the pedals. Serial 1 thus basically has lots of power, and in addition there is a so-called Enviolo Automatiq CVT automatic transmission, which ensures seamlessly sliding gear changes, so you can really thread the pedals, even when you start after waiting at the red light. With the small bicycke computer on the handlebars, you can choose between four different driving modes – Eco, Tour, Sport and Boost – which regulates the acceleration force and the speed of the gear shift. And if you drive in either Sport or Boost mode, the bike pulls off faster than most cars, so at that point, there is not much to criticize.

computer1 computer2 computer3 computer4
The small bicycle computer shows the driving mode on the TFT screen. At the top you can see how much battery you have left, while the number at the bottom right shows how many kilometers you can drive in the selected mode. The problem is that the numbers are not correct. Here, for example, the computer shows that we have 44 km left in the green Eco mode, 57 km in the Tour mode and 62 km in the Sport mode. It should be just the opposite. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The problem is that Serial 1 Rush City due to its heavy and wide frame and 2.4” wide tires weighs a full 27 kilos. The electric motor can easily pull that weight when accelerating and driving below the permitted 25 km/h, but that speed is reached quickly. If you drive just around 25 km/h or a little faster, you get no further assistance from the engine, which results in the electric bike’s high dead weight suddenly being extremely noticable.

The driving experience is not enhanced by the fact that the Serial 1 Rush City is not equipped with even the slightes of suspension. Sure, the electric bike has wide tires, but the combination of the high weight, lack of shock absorption and the hard saddle make it a pain in the lower back side of the body to ride on such an uneven surface that Berlin’s streets and bike paths have to offer.

A bold design detail is that the Serial 1 logo is surrounded by LED lights. If you need more light when it gets dark, you can turn on the powerful LED light that is located on the handlebars. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Missing crucial technology

But perhaps the slightly mixed driving experience is bearable, if one really, really likes the aforementioned iconic design. You have to suffer for the beauty, and in addition you can also choose to ride on a more even surface. After all, riding a Harley-Davidson was always a matter of style.

On the other hand, better paving does not help that the Serial 1 Rush City lacks a lot of technology, which honestly should have been expected at the price.

The automatic transmission is from the manufacturer Enviolo. The gearshift is seamless and smooth, and both clock and cadence can be set via Enviolo’s own app, which connects to the electric bike via Bluetooth. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

For all the Serial 1 models are frankly expensive at home. The smallest and cheapest edition, called Mosh City, costs GBP 3,339, while our test copy comes with a price tag of GBP 4,499. And well enough, the design of the electric bike with the distinctive saddle and black frame gives nostalgic memories of Harley-Davidson’s first hog, but is it really enough to justify the exorbitant price?

serial1_batteri1 serial1_batteri2
The 706 Wh large battery is mounted in the frame just above the Brose S Mag engine. It can be charged via a switch in the frame itself or disassembled and taken up to the apartment for charging. The included adapter supports both. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

This is a good question when you, for example. compare Serial 1 Rush City to the Vanmoof S3 or X3, both of which cost less than half. Because no matter how great the design, Serial 1 may offer, the Harley electric bike competes against products on the market, which we have called the most innovative and technologically advanced electric bikes you can buy for money when we tested them last year.

Not least because Vanmoof’s bikes both offer numerous safety features such as built-in GPS and a burglar alarm that goes off immediately if unauthorized persons try to move the bike – a protection that is absent on the more than twice as expensive Serial 1 Rush City.

On the other hand, you do not have to lug your 27 kilo Serial 1 Rush City up to the apartment to charge the battery, which was the case with the Vanmoof bikes, both of which have the battery built into the frame. The 706 Wh large battery can be removed and charged using the included adapter, which takes six and a half hours from 0 to 100 percent. But that and so possibly the design (depending on taste and liking) is also the only real advantage that Serial 1 Rush City has over the competitors from Vanmoof. And that would also have been the conclusion, even if the bikes had cost the same.

Serial 1 Rush City is only ‘Powered by Harley-Davidson’, not produced by the iconic motorcycle manufacturer. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)


But they do not. Instead, you have to soften almost GBP 5,500 for a heavy, poorly sprung bike that can may well accelerate quickly, but has no more than the most necessary technology built in. And you have to be more than usually enthusiastic about the Harley-Davidson style to want to pay for thet, we should think. At least we have a hard time giving a wholehearted recommendation.

Harley-Davidson Serial 1 Rush City
High End

We think

Iconic design and lightning-fast acceleration. And then the battery can be removed and charged upstairs in the apartment. Heavy cycling provides a heavy riding experience over 25 km/h. Also lacks shock absorption, and the hard saddle does not help either. Has no built-in alarm, GPS or any other anti-theft protection.

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