[Review] Test-Driving the All New Xoto Electric Motorcycle

Getting Around Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert Roads through Innovative + Sustainable Fun

TLDR; Broadly describing my experience test-driving the Xoto Electric motorcycle as a digital nomad building a home in the Mojave Desert.

[Review]: Test-Driving the All New Xoto Electric Motorcycle

Getting Around Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert with Innovative Fun

The XOTO Team Visits Black Cactus Co-Working

They drove from LA today after a solid call yesterday so we could begin brainstorming on some ways to more deeply collaborate. Their passion for mobility and electric vehicles are inspiring and a reminder of what’s possible when we creatively work together to create big solutions which improve lives.

XOTO builds self-stabilizing 3-wheeled electric scooters. They have a patented suspension and front wheel drive technology that allows 3 wheeled vehicles to lean with the agility of a motorcycle but with better stability and control. 

About the XOTO Electric Motorcycle

The three-wheeler uses a patented system to lean the scooter up to 45 degrees, giving the stability of three wheels and the carving operation of a two-wheeler leaning into turns.

The self-stabilizing mechanism is said to make it easier for new riders. And since it doesn’t require a motorcycle license in the company’s home state of California due to having three wheels, it’s likely to see a number of beginner riders

Working With Leimert Park Legend Ben Caldwell of Kaos Networks

Building Sankofa City Through Art, Culture, Movement and People

The Leimert Park Arts Walk

Having collaborated with Ben Caldwell for over three years, I've had the privilege of witnessing profound transformations in this community. Leimert Park, often affectionately referred to as 'The Black Greenwich Village,' boasts picturesque tree-lined streets and exquisite Spanish colonial revival homes. Notable figures such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and former L.A. mayor Tom Bradley have all called this neighborhood home.

While Leimert Park remains a vibrant hub for Black artists, music, literature, and entertainment, we've also experienced the closures of cherished establishments like Fifth Street Dicks, a beloved gathering spot for Black poets and writers, as well as the iconic Babe's & Ricky's Inn Jazz club.

 Additionally, the impending full-service launch of the Metro's new Crenshaw/LAX line, expected by late 2023, promises to further reshape the neighborhood's distinctive character.

Driverless Food Tours in Historic Leimert Park

In Leimert, Ben and I collaborated on Food Tribe, my food tech platform. We explored art and cuisine's intersection, focusing on Leimert Park's unique food stories.

Our idea: through monthly themed gatherings centered around an art walk, we'd have the opportunity to connect and innovate. 

Technology helped us understand how the Leimert Park community behaves around and values food.

Engaging local food providers helped us to build a network of passionate chefs and restaurateurs. They became our culinary pioneers.

Arts Walks as a Connection to Community Needs

During each of the art walks, booths gathered foodie experiences, revealing what made eating and drinking in Leimert Park special:

 culture and connection.

Patterns emerged over months—demand for diverse cuisines, convenience, and local support. We prototyped a user-friendly app integrating our partners' cuisines, even coordinating deliveries during art walks.

Art walks transformed into gastronomic adventures celebrating diversity and community.

Through art, culture, and innovation, we found a new way to connect—through concepts centered around transportation and mobility.

Through my work with Ben and his collaborator Raul David “Retro” Poblano, I was able to meet Tim and Diego of XOTO. 

My 2005 Toyota Rav4, George, Died

250,000 Miles Total: 50,000 Short of My Goal

Migrating from Los Angeles to Twentynine Palms

Part of my experience collaborating with Ben involved my slow migration from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert. Part of my process included driving back and forth from the Joshua Tree Gateway communities to Los Angeles and Leimert Park.

In order to plan for the art walk, and work with my collaborators in Los Angeles, I would put several miles on my car. 

Part of that process included driving back and forth between a historic Burning Man this past year - my assumption is I put too much pressure on the car, under appreciating its limited capacity.

A Passion for Engines and Parts

While I had big plans for restoring the vehicle, I am proud of the way it was maintained and some of the broader accountability I've been able to develop around the cars in my "fleet." 

My 1978 Dodge Sportsman, Harriet, is an automotive restoration project I've taken aboard that continues to excite me. 

While its not complete yet, I've had fun learning about cars and some of the excitement associated with bringing something that was once considered dead, back alive.

I recently purchased the Haynes manual, and have developed a deep affection for Toyota's. 

Part of that is rooted in the nature of Toyota vehicles in my family, including what I believe is a deep connection to Japan. 

4Runner, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers and the like are all favorites of mine, and while the Rav wasn't my first choice in vehicle, I was pleased to use it. 

The XOTO Test Drive Came at the Right Time

Getting a chance to test drive the XOTO was an experience that I didn't realize I needed:

I've been without a car for the past two weeks, since the death of my car, and have been at the mercy of Uber's and public transportation. 

Getting a chance to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, in the form of hitting the open roads of the Joshua Tree Gateway park communities on Highway 62, from Downtown 29 Palms to Joshua Tree and back, was a spiritual experience that I needed.

The wind on my face, the connection to the road, and a passion for movement all amplified the experience.

Keep reading to learn more about how the XOTO faired, including the vision for the future its founders are focused on building in cities like Twentynine Palms and beyond. 

Full Video Review Coming To YouTube

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel! I'll be diving into the XOTO, its features, and what I thought about riding a self-stabilizing electric motorcycle in the areas around Joshua Tree National Park 

Subscribe to Watch

Relying on Ubers and the Morongo Basin Transit System

Getting around the High Desert Without a Car

Born And Raised as a Road Warrior

Born and raised in LA, I've always had a deep love for driving. Learning to dive a manual transmission was a milestone I never looked back from: 

Putting your pedal to the metal, shifting at the right time, and really connecting the RPMs facilitating the forward propulsion that is the freedom of the road.

Exploring local destinations like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix have all been about getting behind the wheel and taking advantage of the vast infrastructure connecting locals, to their interpretation of their individual slices of life.

My passion for driving has deeper roots in my background, as I've spent time working with ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Instacart, which, as a member of the creator economy and someone who is mindful of the perils of "side hustle" culture, I'm grateful for the ability to choose work providing me the autonomy to pursue my creative passions and pursuits.

Battling LA Traffic

While living in LA, and right before I moved out, I had given up my car. Navigating LA's notorious traffic woes had been a constant struggle. 

Not being able to get around due to daily  traffic congestion impacted both my productivity and my mental health: I'm not a fan of sitting in traffic.

With time, I realized that driving in LA wasn't practical, mostly because it wasn't home anymore. 

Growing up as someone who craved to drive, my preference for efficiency and also a higher quality of life included embracing  public transportation, especially when alternatives like Uber and Lyft were cost-comparable and realistic options to buying a new car.

aerial photography of city road

The Allure of Desert Driving

The desert presents an entirely different driving experience. My initial Dodge car had its adventures, from getting stuck on soft sand to getting me lost on the backroads of unincorporated San Bernardino County. I eventually transitioned to a more rugged Rav4, which I affectionately named George, for my hero, George Washington Carver.

Exploring the desert landscape brought reminders of 4x4s and off-roading in Texas, ATVs in Mexico and Ventura County, and opportunities to understand the unique challenges faced by drivers in San Bernardino County and the rural communities surrounding it. 

The expansive desert terrain, dirt roads, and proximity to the Marine Base all contribute to the distinct driving conditions here in Twentynine Palms, yet we all have similar experiences which can be communicated holistically and comparatively. 

Mobility and Challenges

In the desert, driving takes on a new dimension. Due to the local geography, a lot of our towns, and the infrastructure and services they offer, are typically associated with the highways and roads most effectively allowing the free movement of people and vehicles.

It's not just about the joy of the open road though. In my opinion, mobility in the desert comes in the form of understanding and addressing mobility challenges for at-risk communities. 

In rural communities, local residential and commercial property zoning comes down to understanding what the city is responsible and what the County of San Bernardino is responsible for:

From there, widely distributed citizens are typically responsible for "filling the gaps," when it comes to services such as water, sewage, and transportation. 

For instance, I've personally experienced the difficulties of arranging rides like Ubers in the desert. 

There are notable challenges for both drivers and passengers, often making it more practical for them to head "down the hill" to urban areas where transportation options are more readily available, mainly due to limited alternatives.

Adapting to Local Transportation

Since my car died, my daily routine has offered new opportunities to engage with local transportation. 

Adapting to the Morongo Basin Transit Authority's bus system meant learning new routines and embracing reliance on friends and neighbors, a common practice in this community. 

These bus rides not only allowed me to maintain my daily activities but also ensured I got plenty of steps in. 

Interestingly, I've also noticed local taxi drivers gathering in the parking lot of Black Cactus, a sight that's piqued my curiosity. 

It reminds me to ask them about their reasons behind this congregating, as it's a notable feature of local life.

Observing Desert Wheels

As I continue to research a new vehicle to obtain for my life in the desert, I'm keen on observing the types of vehicles that thrive in this landscape. 

Commuting here reveals a diverse range of wheels on the road, from sturdy trucks to energy-efficient EVs and even some rather interesting rides like golf carts. Your choice of vehicle seems to be an expression of your personality, a cool aspect of desert living, and a fixture announcing who's where and when.

As I consider sustainable options, I've come across electric vehicle charging options in Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, including one at the Grocery Outlet parking lot in Yucca Valley and another at Tortoise Rock casino here in Twentynine Palms, highlighting the accessibility of sustainable transportation choices in the  desert.

Opportunity for high-speed rail development

And while we're talking mobility, I'm going to continue to dream big and wish a local rail station were an option for residents in the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities.

Brightline West offers an opportunity to explore its feasibility as a viable, local option. Brightline West is a proposed privately run high-speed rail route in the United States linking the Las Vegas Valley and Rancho Cucamonga in the Greater Los Angeles area through the California high desert. 

The line will connect with existing rail at Rancho Cucamonga station of Metrolink's San Bernardino Line, a commuter rail line in Southern California. The project is intended to provide an alternative to air and automobile travel between Southern California and Las Vegas. 

Construction on the route is expected to begin in 2023 pending result from a $3.75 billion in grant application from Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is expected to be announced in October 2023. Revenue service is planned to begin in 2027.

The line was developed starting in 2005 as DesertXpress and has passed through several developers and investors. 

Connecting with Tim and Diego of Xoto

Learning More about this LA Clean Tech Incubated Transportation Company

Connecting Leimert Park to the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities 

Prior to meeting the team at XOTO, I had collaborated with Raul David “Retro” Poblano, through my work with Ben Caldwell in Leimert Park.

Retro is Founder of Mobility Couture and designer of its autonomous MicroShuttle. 

He's also part of a wide ranging vision of urban mobility partnerships and projects. For retro, the possibilities that is far beyond the dominant automobile culture of his LA roots, offers opportunities for improved lives.

As an MIT Media Lab PhD candidate, Retro made significant contributions to the development of the folding CityCar, RoboScooter, and GreenWheel bicycle: light electric vehicles developed for shared-use and mobility-on-demand (MoD) networks. 

Retro is one of my favorite people to interact with and engage with during my trips to Los Angeles for the monthly Leimert Park Art Walk.

In addition to getting a chance to catch up on relevant current events, many of our conversations center around cool technology projects including:

  • Rapid battery charging designs
  • Autonomous vehicle controls 
  • Drive by wire systems 

I'd like to think that our friendship and working relationship aligns in the mutual goal of seeking ways to accelerate the adoption of electric and driverless vehicles for community--‐tailored networks.

Based on a request, Retro eventually introduced me to the team at XOTO. 

About Diego

As Vice President of Business Development, Diego Cardenas  is responsible for leading XOTO's efforts to identify and pursue new business opportunities. 

Diego's work includes developing and executing strategies to expand the company's product portfolio, identifying new markets and customers, and building relationships with key stakeholders.

During our conversation and throughout the day, I learned about Diego's passion for technology, mobility, and electric vehicles.

In addition to having put an impressive 500,000 miles on electric vehicles, he participates in local communities and events associated with the car and automotive communities.  

We had some fun brainstorming the possibilities for bringing fun electrical vehicle races and meetups to the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree Gateway communities. 

About Tim

Tim Huntzinger is the Founder of Xoto. Tim has worked mainly in the aerospace and transportation fields however has lead many augmented reality and wearable product development programs. As an instructor at ArtCenter College of Design in the Graduate Transportation Design Tim developed hardware focused hands on curriculum. 

Over the years Tim has had the opportunity build product development teams in a broad variety of companies; giants such as Boeing Commercial Airplanes, General Motors, GE Energy, 3M and GE Healthcare. 

Innovators like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, LEGO and many leading-edge electric vehicle companies such as Kittyhawk, Fisker Automotive, XOTO, First Automotive works (FAW) and Rivian automotive have counted on Tim's expertise and experience. Tim holds numerous patents for electric vehicle technologies.

During our conversation and throughout the day, I got a bit of a chance to learn more about XOTO and Tim's future for the company, but for important cities ranging from Los Angeles to Twentynine Palms. 

I learned about more about XOTOs hybrid team, and explained some of my reasoning for moving out to the Mojave Desert. 

He explained that he too had a passion Joshua Tree and the Greater Palms Springs region. In addition to being a motorcycle enthusiast, we also discussed our backgrounds in the Los Angeles startup scene, with XOTO receiving the support of LA Clean Tech Incubator, an important asset to the Silicon Beach economic scene. 

Connecting in the Mojave Desert at Black Cactus Co-Working

Innovative Entrepreneurs Drive Out to the Desert

Beginning the Day at Black Cactus Co-Working HQ

Our day began at the Black Cactus Co-Working office in Twentynine Palms. With Tim based in Los Angeles and Diego close to San Diego near Temecula. The two entrepreneurs and automotive enthusiasts loaded 2 XOTOs on to a trailer and arrived just before 10am PST.

They arrived at the office while I was on a call with a member of the Black Cactus team, we spent a few minutes touring the Black Cactus' coworking facilities. In addition to understanding the community we were interested in building, it became important to get an understanding of the community Black Cactus is lucky enough to operate in.

 After the facilities  tour, we went outside in order to inspect the vehicles. What I liked about what I saw is that the bikes looked relatively easy to transport.

Although the guys tour the XOTO often, I was impressed that the two electric motorcycles only required ratchet straps and a small trailer to make the long desert drive. 

Once the XOTOs were unloaded, I took a few minutes to sign an electric waiver. Immediately after, I had some time to listen to Tim and Diego about the features of the XOTO and items to consider as before hitting the roads. 

While I don't remember the details about the conversation, the functionality was similar to mopeds I had ridden in the pass with gas and break options. The difference I would come to learn, would be found during the actual riding experience. 

Lessons Learned Getting Around
Traveling with an Mobile, Electric Vehicle as a Digital Nomad Building a Life in the Mojave Desert

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane: Mopeds in Thailand and Hawaii

My first encounter with a moped happened during a vacation to Thailand. I vividly remember the black gas-powered scooter lined up against a row of what felt like a million others. In addition to seeming like a convenient way to explore the surroundings, the price point wasn't bad.

However, let's just say that my initial moped experience didn't quite go as planned.

My second trip on a moped came during my time in Hawaii. That adventure, thanks to a loaner from my friend Andres, allowed me to explore the outskirts of Honolulu while uncovering one of the coolest Buddhist temples I've ever seen.

I can't help but laugh when thinking about my first moments in the parking garage of his condo;  'Fred Flintstoning' is what Andres called it as I gingerly put my foot on the gas. 

My time on the XOTO was a little different. With time, I grew at ease with the self-stabilizing technology, which meant I didn't always need to put my feet on the ground. 

Despite feeling a tad cramped, especially given my desire for control, I eventually found my flow state and began to appreciate the newfound sense of freedom, especially after covering around 50 miles at 40+ mph speeds.

Navigating Highway 62 and the Rural Roads of the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities

Our moped journey took us from the starting point at Black Cactus, heading south on Adobe Rd until we reached Highway 62. 

Traveling along Highway 62 took us a bit, mostly due to my learninv curve, to one of my favorite desert spots, a vibey coffee and tea spot called Mas o Menos.

Along the way, we encountered several types of desert terrains, including hills that required some maneuvering. 

If I'm being honest, driving alongside roads with a 65 MPH speed limit wasn't always easy, especially when sharing the road with towering 18-wheelers and large vehicles.  I felt vulnerable and was grateful for the helmet. 

However, we handled it well, and with time,  driving on the median strip posed no issues.

While my heart tells me the XOTO is built for urban life, they show immense promise for rural communities.

I easily can see them as a persons primary vehicles in bustling urban areas. With some customization, they could become even more versatile for desert living. 

XOTO Aspirations: From Fun Rides to Community Development 

I'm excited to announce my plans to eventually acquire a XOTO. Thinking long term, I'd love for my initial investment to expand to five Trikes that I'd be able to offer the region.

One of these Trikes will be for pure enjoyment, a blank canvas waiting for my personal customization. 

The remaining four will find their home at the Black Cactus office, where they'll play pivotal roles in enhancing our operations, performance, and services. 

The purchase of these XOTO's align with Black Cactus's vision for a more accessible Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree Gateway community. We're actively exploring options, contemplating whether to focus on offer the XOTOs for rent or to perhaps take a step back and approach mobility at large within the High Desert region.

My personal mission extends to connecting at-risk communities, addressing the Digital Divide issue, and accommodating the needs of aging populations, all while fostering autonomy and mobility.

Creating Community Experiences 

My commitment to Twentynine Palms goes beyond a potential collaboration with XOTO. We're dedicated to making Twentynine Palms a place where people want to stay and thrive. 

With cities like Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs and Twentynine Palms on the rise, we're striving to establish a unique identity for Black Cactus, distinct from the Low Desert. 

We envision Black Cactus as a cornerstone in the community's development. 

Our initiatives span workforce development, economic growth, and providing spaces where artists can live, work, and collaborate. We're also actively working on crafting corporate retreats and experiences that bring individuals into our community, individuals who understand the value of preserving and nurturing this special place. 

This journey includes the restoration of what once was, possibly even the revival of Twentynine Palms' historic rodeo, or perhaps including it alongside activities associated with Pioneer Days.  And with the XOTOs, getting around will be a breeze,  thanks to their exceptional quality and committed team.

Terence Latimer is an Information Communications & Technology professional, consultant, and entrepreneur based in the Mojave Desert.

I write about my experience in startups, tech, and the art of business. I’m also the Founder of Food Tribe, a socially conscious restaurant review platform.

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