Zen and the art of motorcycle innovation
This story is part of Gear Patrol’s ongoing look at different approaches to sustainability, leading up to Earth Day on April 22.
Combining speed and freedom, the motorcycle has long represented a spirit of revolt. That tradition lives on in Brooklyn, where a startup called Tarform is producing a new breed of electric machinery, reinventing what’s possible from the ground up. Far from manufacturing methods and the use of obsolete materials, the brand has already ventured into uncharted territory: a world where motorcycles are recyclable and biodegradable. The dream is to become a powerful player in the clean energy revolution and bring a new generation of riders with them.
“Where I think design should be decapitated today is not just creating things that are superficially beautiful, but using design as a driver to embrace a more sustainable mindset,” says founder Taras Kravchuk. Now 37, the Stockholm-raised former martial artist went from digital design and software development while fixing vintage bikes on weekends to founding the semi-eponymous brand five years ago. years. “Be like water,” he says, quoting Bruce Lee. “I think that sums it all up.”
Safe from the pandemic, the brand’s zero-emission motorcycles are becoming a reality. The first handful of limited-edition Founders models appeared earlier this year, and Tarform aims to ship a few hundred of the most accessible Luna-series bikes to customers this summer — then move into volume manufacturing in 2023.
While the Luna might look like something blade runner, even Philip K. Dick could not have imagined the innovation of this state-of-the-art machine. First, there’s not an ounce of petroleum-derived plastic on the thing. Recycled aluminum makes up the frame, while bio-based resin, woven flax fiber and seaweed pigments blend together to create the bodywork.
“We started playing around with all these recipes and making prototypes and eventually found a way to create a composite panel out of these three ingredients,” says Kravtchouk. “[The thinking was] if we’re going to build something, let’s build something that does the least damage to the environment.
The bikes also incorporate vegetable leather, 3D printing and bioplastics. The result is a high-performance work of art powered by clean technology.
The sculptural form is reminiscent of mid-century automotive design, distilled to capture movement in as few pen strokes as possible. “It took months to refine every line of the bike to define its silhouette and shape,” says Kravtchouk. He wanted the bike to communicate organic power, even when stationary—and it does.
With parts sourced from artisans around the world, the bikes come to life at Tarform’s headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a historic location with centuries of industrial heritage. The importance of returning to a former home of American manufacturing is not lost on Kravchuk.
“It almost felt like fate,” he says. “They were building warships, and now we’re building electric machines.” Sitting on 300 acres, the space also hosts a test track.
The magic of Tarform’s evolutionary approach is that the Luna can be adapted for tomorrow, a stark contrast to our current all-disposable era. Thanks to a modular platform, what becomes obsolete in bicycles can be upgraded. As new materials and technological advancements surface, Tarform can swap out the battery, powertrain, and other mechanical components.
For now, the bike can hit 60mph in under 4 seconds and reach a top speed of 120mph, with a city range of around 120 miles, charging via a 110-volt household outlet in around four hours.
The Luna is offered as a Scrambler or (Cafe) Racer, two bikes with the same basic skeleton and capabilities but different styling and trim. Both versions lean on a classic aesthetic and can switch between three riding modes (highway, city and natural trail), but the Scrambler has knobby tires and taller suspension.
Much like Priority Bicycles, their belt-drive, pedal-powered neighbors in TriBeCa, the bikes are virtually maintenance-free and require no scheduled maintenance. They start at $24,000.
This price is quite high. Longtime leader in the electric motorcycle space, Zero, offers the stripped-down FXE for as little as $9,795. The California brand’s top-of-the-line SR/S – with a top speed of 124 mph, city range of 156 miles and full charge time of 4.5 hours – from $20,595.
While fans of old-school motorcycles might find it hard to come to terms with the Luna’s lack of gearbox and shifter, they’ll probably appreciate the sound. Tarform chose to amplify the natural sound of the engine through the use of an acoustic resonator – similar to the operation of an electric guitar – creating a distinct sonic hum.
For anyone who’s ridden an eerily quiet e-bike, this feature is appealing: it emphasizes exhilarating acceleration while enhancing safety, giving other motorists an auditory signal that they’re not alone. .
Even though the Luna is state-of-the-art and 4G-connected, Tarform aims to use data intuitively, improving the connection between bike, rider and environment without getting too fancy.
“There’s a fine line between using too much technology in the two-wheeled experience,” observes Kravtchouk. “Ultimately, we [didn’t] want to put on a giant screen and ride the bike alone. It’s not a Tesla. You create the experience.
To that end, a notable feature is blind spot detection, which has been around in cars for decades, but is far less common in two-wheeled vehicles. (Ducati just rolled it out to the Multistrada V4 a few years ago, for example.)
“[It works] by haptics [feedback]says Kravchuk. “So seat vibrations alert you if there’s a car in your blind spot.” There’s also a front-facing camera that can advise drivers to put extra braking distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them.
It’s clear that for Kravchuk, Tarform isn’t just about making revolutionary motorcycles; it’s an exercise in human potential – which makes it hard not to wonder if it plans to expand beyond two-wheeled transport. “Yes,” he said with a half smile. “What it is will remain more of a mystery for now.”
So let’s not rush. With the ambitious brand still in its infancy, it’s best to borrow some wisdom from another of Kravchuk’s influences, Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – or, more accurately, a simple twist an electric throttle.
The truth about Luna
Tarform’s flagship bike stands out in several ways. Here are a few.
The Luna Racer and Scrambler offer a blend of performance and style. Continuous hardware and software upgrades allow for improvements in the powertrain, battery, and mechanical components that extend the life of the bike.
The modular body allows riders to customize the aesthetic elements, and this is how Tarform can offer two variations of the same basic design.
Three riding modes – highway, city street and natural trail – adapt the bike to better suit specific environments. Each mode corresponds to an acceleration profile with personalized regenerative braking.
Connected to the cloud via 4G, the cyclist can see the bike’s health status live, such as battery charge and temperature, and receive information on optimal range.
Tarform can predict part failures through the operating system and adjust service times based on mechanical wear, rather than relying on arbitrary maintenance intervals.
The Luna Scrambler and Racer share many of the same specs:
- Charges via a household outlet (110v) in 4 hours or a level 2 charger (220v) in 2 hours
- 4G connectivity and over-the-air updates
- Modular powertrain and body
- Maintenance-free powertrain
- 0-60 in 3.8 seconds
- 120mph top speed
- 120 mile urban range
- Lowest weight in its class (440 lbs)
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