Home » The Curtiss ‘The 1’ Is A $120,000 Piece Of Motorcycle Art, But The Company Will Give You A Headache

The Curtiss ‘The 1’ Is A $120,000 Piece Of Motorcycle Art, But The Company Will Give You A Headache


An electric motorcycle company is calling itself the Tesla of motorcycles with its bombastic first offering. The Curtiss ‘The 1’ is an electric motorcycle that looks like an art piece, makes 110 HP, and costs $120,000. However, the company’s marketing will give you a headache, probably as it did to me.

When I was sent the press kit for this one, I was initially excited. I love to see unique designs in the motorcycle world and this hits the spot. I’d love to swing a leg over this in gear dressed up in steampunk style. This is the kind of motorcycle that you turn around and look at after you dismount. I mean, just look at this beauty:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Curtiss 7

However, the more I read the press release, my head began hurting and by the end, I had far more questions than I got the answers to. Let’s dig into this.

Before I get to the motorcycle, I should explain the history of Curtiss Motorcycles. If you believe what’s written on its website, then you’ll think that Curtiss is the rebirth of a long-dormant motorcycle company. The press release says that Curtiss is celebrating its 120th year, which sounds great! Few brands, like Harley-Davidson and Royal Enfield, can claim such a long history.


In fact, Curtiss says that its founder was aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss:

Originally founded in 1902 by American motorcycle and aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss, the company was reborn in 2016 by Matt Chambers and a small team of passionate American road bike experts. Its mission to reinvent luxury motoring through advanced design and superior innovation, is heavily inspired by Mr. Curtiss and his legendary accomplishments.

This is repeated on the company’s website:

Taking inspiration from our Founder, Glenn H. Curtiss, The 1 is packed with superior innovation, reimagining the motorcycle itself from the inside-out; future-proof, infinitely upgradable battery electric technology, sustainable best and finest quality and endlessly adjustable for every type of pilot.

Where Curtiss Motorcycles Really Came From

Confederate Wraith 1

Normally, here’s where I’d explain the story of Curtiss the person, his accomplishments in aviation, and his motorcycling career. For example, on January 24, 1907, Glenn raced a V8-powered motorcycle to a land speed record earning 136.36 mph. The problem is that this doesn’t really matter because Curtiss the motorcycle company has no real connection to Curtiss the person. It wasn’t even founded by Curtiss.

Weirdly missing from any history given in press releases and on the website is the fact that Curtiss Motorcycles is really an offshoot of Confederate Motorcycles, which was founded in 1991. Its founder isn’t an aviation pioneer, but a former attorney named H. Matthew Chambers. Today, Chambers is still the CEO of Curtiss. Confederate Motorcycles was a boutique brand that fired up its first prototype motorcycle in 1994 before beginning production of hand-built bespoke machines with a striking industrial design.


Owners of those machines include Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage, and others. In those days, the company slogan was “Art of Rebellion.” Here’s Cage’s former Confederate, it has changed hands since his ownership:

Confederate Hellcat Rear Right
eBay via Bike-Urious

In case you were wondering about that name, Confederate Motorcycles was pretty weird in that regard. According to Custom Choppers Guide, Chambers is apparently a history buff and is proud of his Southern heritage. His motorcycles reflected that from their bold design to the fact that Confederate was cast into the crankcase. Chambers was so committed to this that Confederate motorcycles had an advertised displacement of 1861cc, a number matching the year of the start of the Civil War.

If you’re interested in reading more about Chambers’ philosophy during the Confederate days, Confederate Motorcycles’ site is archived and has several pages explaining a lot. The short version is that Confederate Motorcycles were supposed to harken back to the time of the “American Way,” when car designs used real wood, had real convertible tops and other real parts, “false” car brands like Saturn didn’t exist, and car companies didn’t make weird vehicles like the Pontiac Aztek.

Eventually, Chambers found himself in an odd position. In 2017, one person was killed and 26 others were injured when a car rammed into a crowd protesting a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The attack triggered riots and further protests. For Chambers, it reportedly meant a loss of business as he found few people willing to spend money at a company called Confederate. When interviewed by Jalopnik in 2017, this is how Chambers explained the name:

“The rebellion we’re talking about is cerebral and spiritual and inside of you,” he said. “We’re not talking about taking it to the streets, we’re talking about you getting right inside of yourself.”

“For all of our Yankee friends, please don’t hold it against us,” Chambers said. “On the one hand you have principles in the South that personally for me I’m very proud of, but then you have a very unprincipled application,” he said. “I’m glad the South lost. I think they had to lose.”

That year, Chambers launched Curtiss Motorcycles as the brand for his upcoming electric motorcycle. Confederate Motorcycles remained in business until 2020, when it rebranded as Combat Motors.


So, this brings you up to speed on the real history of Curtiss. Now, let me be clear, I don’t care what a company calls itself. Taking old brands and restarting them is fairly common in cars (see: Hispano Suiza). I even understand why the company might want to forget its beginnings as Confederate.

The 1

Curtiss 11

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s tackle this motorcycle. This is the Curtiss The 1. Today, Curtiss announces that you can place a $12,000 preorder on this $120,000 motorcycle. What are you getting for that pile of cash? Well, it’s complicated.

This motorcycle appears to be the production version of a concept that Curtiss Motorcycles teased back in 2018. This concept eventually got the name Hades before Curtiss landed on The 1. As for this name, Curtiss explains:

The 1 reimagines luxury motoring as easy, safe and accessible. The “1-life / 1-bike” Curtiss philosophy means that The 1 is designed and handcrafted to last forever (that’s true sustainability), giving you an heirloom quality machine to hand down from 1 generation to the next. In fact, with a fully-modular battery power pack, The 1 can be upgraded over time (first battery refresh included), resulting in a better machine over generations of ownership.

Incredibly, the press kit given to me contained no real information about the motorcycle, instead, it contained a bullet point list and a page about why you should invest in this company. We’ll get to that later because it’s a wild ride.


Thankfully, the specs are available at Curtiss’ site.

Curtiss 6

Let’s start with what you’re looking at. The 1 is constructed out of machined-billet aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. The chassis is said to be machined solid billet and is apparently flex and fatigue-free. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the design. You could stare at pictures of the motorcycle for hours and still find new things. Design is what this company has always excelled at. Love the design or hate it, this motorcycle is something different.

Curtiss says that this motorcycle was designed from the inside-out. This means that the motorcycle’s powertrain is a core element. Curtiss is really proud of what it calls Axis-Centered Design, the company’s architecture which is said to make the motorcycle perfectly symmetrical, from Curtiss:

Curtiss+centered+power+axis+innovation 02


The 1’s Axis-Centered Design (ACD) eliminates weak conventional stub-axle swingarm pivot design, providing strength and longevity to the motorcycle.

ACD’s Axis-Balanced Innovation allows the motor to be placed directly on the vertical plane of the rider and facilitates the rear suspension to pivot coaxially at this centered point.

This proprietary system provides the most balanced operation ever created on two wheels, which enhances rider confidence and motorcycle fidelity.

Innovation+ +super+light+core 02

Curtiss says that this architecture is the future of motorcycling. Though, based on the company’s own explanation, I’m not entirely sure why the average motorcyclist would care about perfect symmetry.

Mounted to the motorcycle is an 8.8 kWh battery. This pack sits inside of a sealed aluminum vessel on the bottom of the bike which contains non-conductive coolant. The coolant is pressurized and pumped around the cells. Curtiss says that this pack is infinitely upgradable, so when battery technology improves, your Curtiss can improve with it.

P400 Yasa

The battery powers a YASA P400 Axial Flux pancake-style motor (above). On Curtiss’ website, The 1 is advertised as making 217 HP. Woah, that’s awesome! Not so fast. If you dig into the motorcycle’s actual specs, Curtiss says that it actually makes 110 HP peak power and up to 147.5 lb-ft torque. Handling all of this is a Cascadia Motion PM100 inverter.



Power reaches the rear wheel through a carbon fiber Gates belt. It’s unfortunate that you have to dig into the specs to find out that actual output is half as advertised.

What’s up with the 217 HP number? Well, that’s what Curtiss calls “future-proof peak power.” The motor is supposed to be another upgradable part of the motorcycle. The YASA P400 happens to be rated for a max of around 215 HP, so one day your Curtiss might make that power figure.

In its current configuration, Curtiss says that The 1 can go 120 miles on a charge in a city or 70 miles on a highway. In terms of charging, it can take a 3.3 kW Level 2 charge. The motorcycle takes 2 hours to reach 80 percent from a dead state and an additional 40 minutes would be required to get it to 100 percent. It also comes with 10 levels of regen to help stretch the range out.

While this all looks super neat, a motorcycle engineer at Gear Junkie points out that the tech isn’t as amazing as it sounds. The motor and inverter are off-the-shelf parts and the inverter has been around for at least a decade.


Curtiss 10

Back to the chassis, stopping is handled by Beringer Aerotech 4D brakes and the motorcycle has an adjustable multi-link suspension front and back by RaceTec. Curtiss is big on having adjustable parts. In addition to being able to set your suspension for the type of riding you do, there are also 19 positions for the rider’s footpegs and 9 positions for the passenger. So, you can really tune this thing just right for your riding. Other useful data points include the motorcycle’s 475-pound weight and seat height that ranges from 27 inches to 29 inches.

Overall, even with the discrepancy in power levels, I’d love to ride and own one of these. As I write this, I’m picturing myself blasting down the Amstutz Expressway and Lower Wacker Drive like a steampunk Batman. But I still have questions.

Curtiss Makes Bold Claims

Curtiss 5

Curtiss calls itself the Tesla of electric motorcycles. We’ve been seeing “the Tesla of” a lot lately and it doesn’t always apply. The weird part is that Curtiss seems to forget that other electric motorcycles exist. Here are the reasons why you should invest in the company:



Curtiss makes the claim that there is no market leader, nor awareness, by any other brand. Well, Zero Motorcycles is generally considered a leader in electric motorcycles. And Harley-Davidson’s spinoff, LiveWire, certainly has awareness.

What qualifies as luxury? BMW has a fantastic electric scooter that’s plentiful in features. The Harley-Davidson LiveWire was regarded as a luxury toy when it launched for $30,000 in 2019. Sure, those don’t cost $120,000 as this does, but is Curtiss the first and only luxury electric motorcycle?

Curtiss continues its claims by saying that The 1 is the first motorcycle with ergonomic and geometric adjustability, the first motorcycle to be built from the inside out, and the first motorcycle to be designed for radical scale.

I have no idea what that last one is supposed to mean, but motorcycles have had adjustable ergonomics practically forever and adjustable suspensions are also a thing.


Curtiss 4

If you’re still in for the fantastic-looking Curtiss The 1, Curtiss says that if you were to put down a $12,000 deposit right now, you’ll likely get your motorcycle in Summer 2024. That’s assuming Curtiss is able to raise the $8.33 million in funding it’s looking for. Pricing goes up from $120,000 depending on chosen color and finish. If you’re not satisfied with the handful of choices offered, you can also pay $180,000 to have your The 1 in your own personalized design.

Despite everything I’ve said, I hope Curtiss is able to build at least a few of these. I may never see one in real life, but I’m glad bold ideas like this exists. Just, maybe the fluff should be turned down a little.

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Matt Chambers
Matt Chambers
1 year ago


When I got into this wonderful business, the reason was to make the American Big V-Twin powered road bike, which Glenn Curtiss invented, world class. Confederate was a legacy brand from Harley-Davidson. I chose it for this reason. We would be to Harley what AMG was relative to Mercedes-Benz. For those who have had the pleasure of riding a Confederate motorcycle you know they are thoroughbreds of the highest order.

On June 29, 2016 we decided ICE motoring on two wheels was a dead shark. We had created our capstone. It was time to move on.

Our previous experience taught, informed and nurtured American road bike design. We would now take that knowledge and re-invent motoring on two wheels with a whole new architectural operating system. Curtiss was chosen as the best American motorcycle brand for this work.

Our team had always imagined the motorcycle growing from the inside-out. This thinking led to the invention of Axis Centered Design; this newly-patented system keys the drive shaft to the centered axial flux motor which symmetrically locates the legs, core, front suspension and ergonomics of the motorcycle. Proportion, balance, aesthetic beauty and the beauty of control are enhanced.

Based upon a lifetime of study and 32 years of enjoyed experiences in this business, I believe this to be the most significant innovation in the history of the motorcycle. It seems entirely appropriate that such creative would come from “Curtiss 2.0”.

Concerning awareness for the electric motorcycle space, we do not believe that any brand has achieved material or substantive awareness. Other brands, Zero, Livewire, et al, may be akin to what the resonance of Nissan’s Leaf or Chevy’s Bolt achieved pre-Tesla Roadster/Model S. But it was those models which put the electric car on the map.

We believe this occurred because the Teslas’ were built on a superior operating system and were the first electric cars that looked cool.

Our work for Curtiss has followed this lead.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 year ago

The true history explains why this looks like a Confederate Motorcycles rip-off although to my eye the big finned cylinder should be the motor and not the battery based on appearance. As for the “Tesla of X” I’m thinking blowhard CEO bombastic press releases and technical and QA issues below the surface with large of helping of vaporware.
Zero and Livewire interest me as serious products intended for the mass market. This is not serious and not for working stiffs so meh.

1 year ago

Like a bat out of Hell I’ll be gone when the morning comes.

Myk El
Myk El
1 year ago

I do not live for the one, I will not die for the one. I stand on the bridge, no one may pass.

Christopher Glowacki
Christopher Glowacki
1 year ago
Reply to  Myk El

Somebody got it!!

Christopher Glowacki
Christopher Glowacki
1 year ago

I just…. Have to. Not the 1. No no no, not the 1!

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