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Electric bike Grand Prix is a big yawn

For once, I'm ambivalent. It's a rare event, as I normally have an opinion on everything from how many cylinders a proper Ferrari should have to precisely where Jack Layton should shove his coalition. She Who Always Equivocates finds my certitude exasperating; it insults her need for complexity. I find it liberating; the less time I spend vacillating over details, the more time I have for medicinal mojitos down at Sassafraz.

But I really don't know what to make of the Isle of Man's TTX GP. Now, understand that almost any form of two-wheeled competition gets my blood racing. Watching two 50-cc scooters drag race, albeit very slowly, is still better entertainment than Dancing With the Stars. And motorcycle aficionados will recognize at least part of this event's name, as the Isle of Man TT is the worlds oldest and perhaps most famous bike race.

Dedicated Post Driving readers may even remember our own Team Rigor Mortis' adventures when we all flew to the Isle of Man for those legendary TT races. Two weeks of Guinness-fuelled madness ensued wherein, each day, the state government would close down all the roads for a few hours and a bunch of lunatics (including our own Pat Barnes) raced 175-horsepower motorcycles around a goat path. It really is quite mad; the motorcycling mayhem is as close as the modern world gets to actually approving rollerball.

The TTX GP, on the other hand, should prove to be far more sedate. In fact, it could have quite easily been called the Politically Correct TT; certainly the Environmentally Friendly TT. But perhaps the most apt appellation would be the Really Boring TT. Most motorcyclists -- even the drunken hooligan contingent that can normally be counted on to disgrace any event -- will ignore the race.

But the media will lap it up. That's because the TTX GP is the world's first zero-emissions motorcycle race. Pundits will proclaim it yet another sign of our seismic shift in thinking when, yes, even bad-ass bikers climb aboard Al Gore's train to planetary salvation.

The premiere event in the green Grand Prix will be for electrically powered bikes. To that end, the event's organizer, Azhar Hussain, displayed the first entrant into the race, his own TTX-01, at the recent Birminghammotorcycle show. For a homegrown affair, the TTX is a pretty sophisticated affair. Sure, the Suzuki GSX-R750 on which it's based is a few years out of date and it boasts less horsepower than a Buell with a duff spark plug. But Hussain is to be commended for finding a way to stuff two 43-hp Agni Lynch electric motors and 75 kilograms of batteries beneath the Gixxer's fairing without too many jumper cables hanging out.

However -- and this is where my ambivalence begins to overwhelm my love of two-wheeled racing -- the TTX-01 has a range of just 80 kilometres. The TT course runs about 60. That means it's once around the block for Hussain et al., and then off to the pub with you, where you have enough time to eat a steak and kidney pie, get drunk and sleep it off just in time for the batteries to be recharged for you to complete another lap. OK, I exaggerate, but the two hours Hussain claims are needed for a full recharge is something of a long pit stop. Future racers, he says, will have "hot-swappable" batteries. But is it really all that callous of me to note that motorcycles do up to six laps of the TT and really only have to stop because the fans are bored and the riders are tired?

Even putting aside its unsuitability for motorcycle racing, the electric motor's abilities to conserve fuel seem wasted in a motorcycle. Even the least fuel-efficient motorcycles get more than 40 miles per gallon, a mid-sized sports bike driven sedately will go about 60 for every Imperial gallon and a scooter, ridden conservatively, can top 100 mpg. It would seem that efforts at reducing our consumption of fossil fuels might be better spent elsewhere.

However, motorcycle fuel injection systems -- with perhaps the exception of BMWs and those on some Hondas -- are unsophisticated and clumsy affairs compared with those on even econocars. Despite their relatively low fuel consumption and small engines, many puff out more emissions than automobiles. Perhaps Hussain and other environmentally conscious bikers should lobby for emissions-tested racing for motorcycles that emit less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. It might not garner the same headlines, but it would be more relevant than some silly electric racing motorcycle.