Zachary Levi is having his moment. The actor had a breakout 2019, earning kudos for his title role in Shazam! and gracing the cover of our April issue. He also resurfaced for a bit of closure as the jilted fiance in season three of the hit Amazon Prime show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And Shazam! 2 has already been announced for 2022. But the actor has always had a daredevil streak—for example, skydiving for his Men’s Journal cover story. And motorcycles.
As an up-and-coming actor in LA back in the ’00s, Levi quickly recognized the value of being able to zip through Southern California traffic on two wheels. He’s the proud owner of a Ducati Monster, as well as a Harley-Davidson Sport Glide, and loves the distinct sensation each bike brings to the road.
Levi recently got the opportunity to test ride the brand-new 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire—the electric motorcycle that the venerable company hopes will (ahem) spark a renewed interest in the heritage brand. Men’s Journal was also lucky enough to take the LiveWire for a spin last summer. Recently, we chatted with Levi about our shared experience aboard the groundbreaking motorcycle.
Men’s Journal: What did you think of the LiveWire?
Zachary Levi: It’s fast, that’s for sure. I was pretty blown away. I can’t wait to get one of my own. I didn’t get to ride it long enough; took it out around my property. [Levi has a ranch in the Texas Hill Country.] But it’s super smooth, and gets up and goes real quick. To jump on and have immediate power like that, and not have to shift or do anything? You get to just enjoy the ride. It’s exhilarating.
Agreed. One of the more shocking aspects was the lack of feedback. Not just that distinctive Harley rumble, but the complete absence of sound or engine vibration. It’s jarring at first, but once we got used to it, we found it kind of liberating.
Exactly. It frees you up to just focus on the environment and what’s going on around you. At first, it’s very weird; your clutch hand is wondering what it’s supposed to be doing, your shifter toe is wondering what it’s supposed to be doing … you feel like you’re trying something completely new and different. But at some point, you realize it’s just motorcycling without all the distractions. You can enjoy being on the bike that much more.
It’s great on backroads because you can go out and not pollute the air or disrupt the wildlife. I went out back on my property and rode right past a deer. He just looked at me. Never even moved. If I was on a combustion bike, any sign of wildlife would’ve been long gone before I ever got within sight of it.
Harley’s betting big on this electric tech, and plans on releasing at least two more electric motorcycles soon. Is electric the future of motorcycling?
Listen, I’m a total futurist. I believe electricity is the future of all transportation. I mean, do I love the Harley rumble? Sure! It’s part of Harley’s DNA. But it’s nice to be able to ride along and listen to music or focus on nature, to just enjoy the environment and not contribute to noise pollution…or “pollution” pollution. Not trying to make some political statement. Although I do think it’s the right thing to do ecologically.
I’m just saying, from a performance standpoint, technology has gotten to where if you want top-level performance, you’ve gotta go electric. What Tesla’s accomplished in cars is incredible. The speed and power, the immediate torque. And with motorcycles, the simplicity is impossible to deny.
The writing’s on the wall, like it or lump it: The combustion engine is gonna go the way of the dodo. I don’t think it’s gonna be that long till we have hover cars and jetpacks and all that stuff.
At some point, we won’t even have rubber on the road.
There’s an old saying that there are two kinds of motorcyclists: Those who have crashed, and those who will crash. Which one are you?
Oh, I’ve crashed! Several times. Fortunately, none of them have been tragic, or even all that serious. Most were just rookie mistakes, those little drops when you’re learning how to ride.
But one of my buddies gave me the best advice when I was starting out: Always assume no one can see you. No one. Not the car next to you, not the car in front of you, not the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Not even that driver you’re positive you just made eye contact with! Just ride like you’re invisible, and take responsibility for keeping yourself out of danger.
Once you assume no one knows you’re there, you become a lot more aware as a rider. You get into an almost trance-like focus on riding. It’s really kind of Zen.
That’s one of the great pleasures of riding, that Zen-like state where you’re focused on the task at hand, and nothing else.
It really is. All the distractions in life just melt away into the background, and you’re just living in the moment. And trying not to die [laughs].
That said, motorcycle sales have been dipping for years, and it seems like young people aren’t taking up riding these days. Let me ask you this: Are motorcycles still cool?
Dude, I don’t know. I’m nearly 40 and while I still think of myself as a pretty youthful guy, the more you traipse around on Instagram, the more you realize you don’t know what the hell the younger generation is into.
Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is available now on Amazon Prime Video. Shazam! can be purchased from Amazon Prime Video and the other usual companies that sell online movies (Apple, Google/YouTube, Vudu, etc). Look for Zachary Levi starring in Shazam! 2 in theaters on April 1, 2022. And if you see him riding his motorcycle, don’t be offended if he acts like you haven’t.
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