Last year during the Red Bull Straight Rhythm, Alta Motors unveiled their Redshift motocross bike proving to critics the electric bike is no longer a novelty. Recently, I had the opportunity to test ride the Redshift bike and tour Alta Motors. I was blown away by the power of the bike and thought if someone replaced my gas powered bike (KTM350SX) with the Redshift I would not miss a beat. The Redshift is comparable to any modern gas powered 250cc four stroke motorcycle, minus the noise pollution and emission of exhaust, but this article is not about the breakdown or the technical aspects of the bike.
There are quite a few articles out there that already do an exceptional job of reviewing the Redshift, you can find the information at www.altamotors.com. Having a competitive Electric Motorcycle that offers comparable or superior performance to a gas powered machine can open new opportunities to the Motocross world and ultimately expand the industry, key word expand not replace. Electric motorcycles are the future, opening doors to new riding areas and attracting a fresh generation of enthusiasts.
Ripping in the city, causing no disruption.
As city populations grow, riding areas and racing facilities continue to decline. Racing facilities are coming under fire for noise pollution, and in some cases are pressured to close or relocate to a further distance. This problem began with 2 Stroke motors but 4 Stroke motors have significantly amplified the issue. Electric bikes are not completely silent, but they are quiet enough to ride in highly populated areas without disturbing neighbors. Anyone with land can have their own track, it doesn't matter if it's next to a library, the bikes does not cause noise disruptions. With quiet motors and no exhaust, indoor riding facilities become a possibility. Earplugs and giant industrial sized fans will no longer be required to make an indoor facility bearable.
Having fun while not bothering anyone.
This is not to say electric bikes will not encounter their own challenges, run time was my main concern. With that said, I hammered the Redshift (as fast as a 42 year old B rider can) on a motocross track for a solid 45 minutes and 18.9 miles before the battery was done. It takes 2.5 hours to recharge, so if I had plugged the motorcycle in during my water break (about 30 min) I could have added approximately a quarter of charge back to the bike. If I had charged the motorcycle it would have outlasted my fitness. Alta Motors explained the bike would decrease power as the battery ran down, but I hardly noticed the difference. The Redshift is the first generation of Alta Motors and motorcycle performance, and battery life will only improve from here. With simple updates to your motorcycle’s software Alta motorcycle owners are constantly receiving the latest upgraded technology. Rather than rebuilding your ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) motor, you can install an update.
I often ask people at motorcycle dealerships their opinion of electric and I receive instant resistance that is eerily similar to the past when motorcycles changed from 2 Stroke to 4 Stroke. I remember the first 4 Stroke motorcycle I owned, it was a 2001 YZ426 and after 4 months I decided I was done with Motocross. It was hard to start, it flamed out and handled like a bread truck. As gearheads we sometimes struggle with accepting change. For example, how much attention does any 2 Stroke event receive these days? In 2004 after a few years of not riding, I was convinced to try a Honda CRF450 and to my surprise it started easy, had trackable power and handled like a motorcycle. I was back riding and hooked on motocross again! If electric follows a similar development curve, bikes in the next few years are going to rapidly improve as the starting point is further developed than 4 Stroke motorcycles were in 2001. Electric motors are simple and leave opportunities for manufacturers to create a plethora of bikes to suit all rider’s needs and budgets.
The guys hard at work in the assembly line.
Today's kids are not riding motorcycles because they have iPads, Drones, Xbox and many other electronics to compete for their attention. If electric motorcycles create more urban riding areas and motorcycles with less bike maintenance, electric has potential to grab hold of the next generation. My kids enjoy riding but don’t like the extremely loud sounds of 4 Stroke motorcycles and the 1-2 hour commute to our nearest track. They would rather commute 10 minutes to the nearest BMX or skate park. Imagine if parks could convert into an electric motocross track, far more kids would try motocross. We need to involve younger kids in the sport we love or risk losing it. I would love to see motorcross as a high school sport. Electric motorcycles will not take over all aspects of motocross, the electric motorcycle’s battery life may not be suited for sand tracks or long rides for quite some time. There is definitely room for both electric and gas motors to coexist. Motocross riders, myself included typically have more than one bike. I would love to ride an electric track in town during the week and then hit the Sand Dunes on the weekend with an ICE bike. Both can exist and compliment the industry and lifestyle.
I am a gear-head at heart and love the smell of burnt 2 Stroke oil, the vibration of an ICE motor and the sound of a full gate of motorcycles wide open waiting for the gate to drop. These sounds and smells will never be replaced for me because they invoke memories that make up my entire life. While electric bikes do not offer the sound or smell stimulations as and ICE bike they will open up new opportunities. Have you ever wondered what Supercross riders say to each other after a dirty block pass? With Electric bikes there is a good chance you will hear the conversation. Will the electric generation of racers use trash talk? No more need for pit boards, just yell! The same joy I receive from the smell of 2 Stroke oil or hearing a bike roar will be what the electric generation receives from a buzzing sound similar to an RC car along with the sound of tires spinning. Yes, I said the sound of the tires on the dirt. About 5 minutes into my Redshift ride I stopped and checked to see if I had a flat. Chad at Alta Motors erupted into laughter as almost everyone who rides the bike assumes the same. Dirt Bike tires make a lot of noise, but the motorcycle usually drowns out the sound. Hearing your tires might lead to advancements in tire performance, who knows?
The team at Alta Motors received homologation for FIM North America competition in the 250 class. This unlocks Canada and propels them halfway closer to AMA Supercross, where they really want to race. They have big plans this offseason. Alta Motors is returning to Red Bull Straight Rhythm and including additional European Supercross events. While racing with gas bikes proves they are not a novelty, attention should be focused on an electric only event too. If the Electric bike is as fast as or faster than an ICE motorcycle the sport could expand to unthinkable territory. All the major manufacturers have purchased Alta Redshift motorcycles to study and dissect. They see the future and it’s ELECTRIC!
Here are some other articles and podcasts out there with information about the Alta Redshift: