Agility Motors Saietta R electric bike. First test ride and review
By: John Milbank
An RS250 with a 1400cc V-twin engine. That was the vision of Lawrence Marazzi, CEO of Agility Global when he founded the company five years ago – a compact bike with lightweight handling and huge torque.
Agility is based in Central London, which may seem a strange place to develop a motorbike, but it makes good commercial sense when you consider that it's intended to be the ideal commuter machine. A top speed of 80mph will never impress track riders, and while 0-60 in a claimed 3.9 seconds is supercar fast, it's not quite superbike. But... put the Saietta in its natural environment – the leafy suburbs and busy streets of the capital – and it's a formidable piece of engineering, and much, much more than simply a motorbike with a battery and a weird fairing...
Tell me about the engine
An internal combustion engine produces its peak torque at a few thousand revs per minute. An electric motor produces it at zero rpm. No, it doesn't make any noise, and no, it doesn't have a lovely two-stroke smell, or the characterful pulse of a V-twin. What it does have is instant power the moment you touch the throttle, and the ability to deliver that power perfectly smoothly, all the way up to the top speed.
Fed by a bank of Lithium-Ion batteries, the Saietta R uses a unique motor, developed by the Agility team. Many of today's performance motors use 'rare earth' magnets – neodymium or samarium-cobalt – which despite their name, aren't actually that rare. They are, however, brittle and susceptible to corrosion. Somehow, Agilty have produced a powerful and efficient unit using more traditional magnets, that delivers more than enough range and speed for a very spirited commute.
The powerplant is mated to a compact 'Drive Torque Geometry-ControlTM', which links to the rear wheel with a traditional chain and sprocket. The rider is totally unaware of any of the workings here: as soon as the throttle is opened, the bike's off.
What’s the chassis like?
At 20mm shorter than an Aprilia RS250's wheelbase, the Saietta exceeds the original brief. However, there is so much more to the chassis than its dimensions. This is the only bike to use a composite monocoque chassis. Just like a Formula 1 car, the main 'frame' is basically a box. Fixed to the front is the (again F1 inspired) unequal-length double-wishbone suspension. To the back is the almost dragbike long swingarm (which pivots before the front sprocket).
The suspension is fully adjustable, while the front is designed to allow an adjustable level of dive, making for a very stable ride. A single 320mm disk with four-pot caliper is more than enough to stop the 220kg bike, and the two-pot on the rear offers plenty of feel through its left-hand bar-mounted lever – with no gears, there's no need for any controls hanging off the foot pegs, so the clutch lever is replaced with the rear brake. It takes a few miles to get used to, but just like riding a scooter, it soon feels second nature.
Should I buy one?
This was always going to be a controversial motorcycle. In fact, it's designed to turn heads. If you want to get noticed, then this is without a doubt the best bike you could buy. During my 90-minute test-ride around the capital with Agility's development rider, Gary French, I was amazed at the attention we got. Pedestrians would rush over to ask if they could take photos, and couriers would sit behind for several sets of traffic lights, staring at the machine. At one point a van driver shouted over to ask us to pull over, then held up dozens of angry drivers as he blocked the road to take a photo.
What is vital to remember about the Saietta R is that it's a commuter's machine. It's built with the intention of getting London workers into, and around the city. This could be the bike that changes the face of motorcycling, but to the benefit of motorcyclists – whatever they ride – across the country. Getting more people to understand and accept motorcycling can only be a good thing, and if the Saietta R is the success it deserves to be, it could be key to that goal.
So should you buy one? Some very good friends of mine live in Kent, and work in central London. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending they consider it. Yes, it's expensive, but this is a premium, exclusive product, you don't pay any road tax and servicing is minimal. Oh, and of course, there's the small issue of economy. Assuming our friends commute 10,000 miles a year, that's about £2000 in petrol. With a full recharge (if they're on Economy 7) costing 45p, the Saietta would set them back around £45 over the same distance.
What's it like to ride?
It's the future. Don't start writing in just yet – I'm as much a petrol head as the rest of you, but it's impossible not to be impressed by the way this bike delivers its performance. Before you say that it's not got the range you'd want for a weekend thrash, or it's not got a high enough top speed, remember what this bike is designed for: city commuters.
It feels like the love-child of a bloody fast scooter, and a race-rep. Even with brand new tyres on one of the two bikes I rode, it felt secure on the busy streets, very easy to flick about thanks to its wide bars: it felt every bit the sportsbike. Agility told me that the first machine I rode had been programmed to be at around 40% maximum performance. After a few miles the other bike was obviously faster, and while I'm told this was running at around 60-70%, the difference was clear. It took me a few sets of traffic lights to stop chuckling at the way I could surge away at green, then pull up quickly, without fuss, at the next red.
The Saietta R really does seem like the perfect commuter bike (if you have the money). It's no tourer, or hard-core scratcher, but if you get the chance to ride one, you'll be as excited as me about what the future might hold with this technology. We've all got a money-no-object dream garage, and mine's now got to make space for one of these too.
Price: £16,770 (inc VAT)
Engine: High torque electric motor
Seat height: 770mm
Range: City 112 miles; Highway 58 miles; combined 74 miles
Current Issue: Oct 2014
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