There's a little magic in the new Sora, the first Canadian-built street-legal electric motorcycle, which hits the road this fall.
Stand next to the brutally elegant beast, drenched in carbon fibre and aircraft-grade aluminum, and it looks like a menace to ride. Swing a leg over it, start the motor, pull away and the bike disappears.
Without the snarl of rpms nearing redline or the neck-snap of a manual gear change, acceleration is deceptively quick. The slight whir of the motor quickly fades into the sound of rushing wind and the automatic CVT transmission progresses seamlessly through the gearbox.
With levitation-smooth suspension and quick steering, it feels like riding a hoverbike from Star Wars. ("Sora" does mean "sky" in Japanese.) And its 260 kilos are so easy to handle, a new rider could do it with confidence.
Where the quiet motors of other electric motorcycles often reveal the clatter of a chain and the rattle of flimsy parts, the belt-driven Sora is so well sorted that it makes virtually no sound at all.
And that adds a hazard to motorcycling. With the Sora, you have to be careful what you say out loud. It's so quiet that passing drivers, cyclist and pedestrians can hear if you curse their wanton lane change or comment aloud on their physical attributes.
There's another drawback to the silence. Without an engine that growls when revved, there's no way to draw attention to how badass you look atop the Sora. Those who do notice, however, often stop, stare, turn their heads and drop their jaws as you play it cool and pull away in silence.
Or you could try to get noticed in town by raising the novel electric seat to its maximum height of 85 centimetres, then drop it back while riding to its bottom 10 cm lower on the highway to tuck out of the wind.
And there are other novelties. The glove-friendly touchscreen instrument display and controls allow the switch from normal to performance power delivery to access all 57 horses of power, 66 lb-ft of torque and reach the maximum speed of 190 km/h. And for those concerned about the 200-kilometre range and nine-hour charge time, there's a safe-range mode in which you enter your destination into the onboard GPS, and the computer manages power consumption to ensure your trip is done before the battery is dead. Plug it in, and the bike will e-mail you when it's fully charged again.
The Sora began in 2009 when Quebec automotive engineer Jean-Pierre Legris founded LITO Green Motion Inc. He wanted to use the design and manufacturing techniques he'd learned working for Honda in Japan and Citroen-Peugeot in Europe to create a motorcycle company in the suburbs of Montreal.
Instead of doing it all himself, building a concept vehicle and then re-engineering it for manufacture, Legris partnered with several of the design and technology companies that have clustered around Montreal transportation industry leader Bombardier. Together, they conceived the Sora with its manufacture in mind, so each component was designed and tested for production.
As a result, the Sora moved quickly from the drawing board in Legri's basement to a manufacturing facility in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil, where the hand-built bikes roll out this fall to fill the initial orders, mostly from Europe.
And the bikes have the polish and refined built quality of a new Honda or Yamaha, without the rough edges that come with most bikes from such small manufacturers.
It's not for everyone, but if $46,399 seems ridiculous for a motorcycle, consider all the used custom choppers now for sale on AutoTrader at about the same price, listed by people who bought unrideable bikes poorly built with 1950s technology, after watching too much of Jesse James or the Teutal family of Orange County.