Electric Motorcycles are coming!


Chris Cooksey

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.

IMG_0220.PNG.03c0388c78fc2b9c3fe3cf971f53d5a7.PNG
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.  

IMG_0218.PNG.99d1ee314742e61ccf85e1c5b2f99f44.PNGHaving 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.

IMG_2340.thumb.JPG.4cb0c5e6e8ab7323a65030017d673049.JPGA look inside the Redshift motor


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.  

IMG_2341.JPG.ab57905bd192d8d11534bbd6afb5e78a.JPGThe 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.

IMG_2343.thumb.JPG.96c608f2d7cf4ed2b59c17b07471b9d0.JPGI got the guys to smile for a pic, then right back to work.


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?

IMG_2304.thumb.JPG.098dc82bb59b07e41da891b171f9843a.JPGChad from Alta showing his Endurocross prowess.
 

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!

IMG_2319.JPGAnother shot of Chad.
 

Here are some other articles and podcasts out there with information about the Alta Redshift:

 

 

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Chris, the woods behind my house are begging for one of these near silence machines! It won't replace my 690 R, but it would definitely add to the fun.

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Great article, Chris, thanks! This is Marc from Alta - if folks have questions about the bikes, the company, or the tech, I'll do my best to answer them below. I think Chris nailed it... we saw an opportunity to open up more riding possibilities, new levels of performance, and increase participation in the sport we love. I hope we've done that and continue to do that, and I'd love to hear from the community what more we can do.

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Yeah, like Bryan posted the MX weighs 267#. However, literally everyone who has ever ridden the bike comments on how light it feels. If we don't tell people the weight, they guess 220-230#. You'll feel it when you lift it off its side or onto the stand... everywhere else it's not just that it disguises its weight; it feels lighter than anything out there. If the purpose and measure of a light bike is how much effort it takes to ride, I don't think you'll find a less fatiguing ride that is easier to do with it what you want, whether at MX speeds or low speed technical work.

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Im a 3 week old Redshift MX owner and its been absolutely amazing so far. It has opened up my local riding areas again, due to its quietness. I raced it this past sunday in 2 20 minute GP motos (2nd 40B) without issue, and my kid will be stadium MX racing it this coming weekend. Comparing it to a stock 250F isnt giving the bike the credit it deserves, it is atleast more powerful, if not faster.

For a crusty old woods racer like myself, not having to subconsciously think about clutching or shifting in corners has freed up my mind to think about, and practice basic riding fundamentals. In time this will improve my speed and abilities on my Traditional bike.

The fact that the charger knows whether its charging on 110V or 220V on its own is pure brilliance. Quick charge with 220 when away from home, and just plug into garage when in no hurry.

And of course its quite the conversation piece too. 

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Kids today do not ride because the Commie Greenies stole all the place to ride.

Sand to Snow monument is a classic example.

Useless to anyone who rides in the wide open spaces the west.

My 4 gallon tank gives me 100 plus miles of range if I need more I just fill it up.

Noise?  just put a second muffler on your bike.

I had a TY-175 that I put a super trap on to the stock muffler and the only noise was the rocks bouncing of the skid plate.

 

 

Edited by Truman Sparks
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Trials is one step ahead again. Most of the youngsters start out on OSET or Mecatecno electrics. The FIM held an electric world round in France this year with four participating manufacturers. Only one is in full production from Electric Motion but GasGas and Mecatecno are in development.

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1 hour ago, Truman Sparks said:

Kids today do not ride because the Commie Greenies stole all the place to ride.

Sand to Snow monument is a classic example.

Useless to anyone who rides in the wide open spaces the west.

My 4 gallon tank gives me 100 plus miles of range if I need more I just fill it up.

Noise?  just put a second muffler on your bike.

I had a TY-175 that I put a super trap on to the stock muffler and the only noise was the rocks bouncing of the skid plate.

 

 

Yeah, these aren't going to compete with a 4 gallon tank anytime soon. For desert and dunes, gas bikes will continue rule for a long time.

Alta's intent has never been to take away anyone's gas bikes. We have too many of them in our own garages. But if electrics can get us back some of the lost riding areas, and open up new ones including backyards, urban and suburban tracks, I can't see that as anything but a win. And if they can do that while actually being faster, more fun to ride, and easier to own... :cheers:

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$15 Grand? Seriously?

Who do you think will spend that kind of money?  

I could buy a 5 Honda CR 500's and a Chevy truck with a 454 to haul them in.

Your crew says it all Skinny Jean Fag Boy Hipsters.

Harvey Mushman is rolling in his grave.

 

SM_SF_07132017-(202-of-226).jpg?format=1

 

Edited by Truman Sparks
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Mr Sparks, youre right its not for you. If youre still obsessing over TY175 and CR500s in 2017, the world has left you behind. 

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14 hours ago, ohio said:

Great article, Chris, thanks! This is Marc from Alta - if folks have questions about the bikes, the company, or the tech, I'll do my best to answer them below. I think Chris nailed it... we saw an opportunity to open up more riding possibilities, new levels of performance, and increase participation in the sport we love. I hope we've done that and continue to do that, and I'd love to hear from the community what more we can do.

I wish I could trade my 08 WR450F in for this!? Silent, no more oils! SIGN ME UP!!!! What about making it street legal like I did with the WR?

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11 hours ago, Truman Sparks said:

$15 Grand? Seriously?

Who do you think will spend that kind of money?  

I could buy a 5 Honda CR 500's and a Chevy truck with a 454 to haul them in.

Your crew says it all Skinny Jean Fag Boy Hipsters.

Harvey Mushman is rolling in his grave.

 

SM_SF_07132017-(202-of-226).jpg?format=1

 

 

11 hours ago, Truman Sparks said:

$15 Grand? Seriously?

Who do you think will spend that kind of money?  

I could buy a 5 Honda CR 500's and a Chevy truck with a 454 to haul them in.

Your crew says it all Skinny Jean Fag Boy Hipsters.

Harvey Mushman is rolling in his grave.

 

SM_SF_07132017-(202-of-226).jpg?format=1

 

You noticed their pants? Hmmmmmmmmmm. ;) The rest of us just saw the bike... :p

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12 hours ago, spizz5 said:

Mr Sparks, youre right its not for you. If youre still obsessing over TY175 and CR500s in 2017, the world has left you behind. 

Well $15k for a bike that will only go 65mph? My It510 will do that in 3rd gear.

I do not think that is progress.

The battery is 370 Volts would you really want to fall crossing a a stream, can you say electrocuted.

I have been deal with EV.s for the last 15 years and I would NEVER buy any vehicle powered by a battery.

 

Recharge Time

2.5 hrs(240v)
4 hrs(120v)

Spend most of the weekend at Johnson Valley running the generator watching the bike charge rather than riding.

 

Edited by Truman Sparks

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I agree, I think these are at least part of the future.  However, at their entry cost of $14k+, I doubt too many parents are going to be replacing their kid's X-Boxes/PlayStations with these anytime soon.  Pricing should come down but by half?   Personally, I'd love to have one but I don't have the funding either, nor do I ride MX tracks.  Their battery life has to be proven to be able to ride many more dirt miles than now AND, perhaps have a reserve charge so you can get back to the truck if you get too far out while following your buddies using gas bikes.  My other question would be, how many recycles do you get?  Will we have to replace the battery every 5 years, 10 years, 2 years?  I also understand they ride light for their weight but when you're out on the trail and you simply HAVE to lift your bike for some reason, weight WILL be an issue.

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14 hours ago, Truman Sparks said:

$15 Grand? Seriously?

Who do you think will spend that kind of money?  

I could buy a 5 Honda CR 500's and a Chevy truck with a 454 to haul them in.

Your crew says it all Skinny Jean Fag Boy Hipsters.

Harvey Mushman is rolling in his grave.

 

SM_SF_07132017-(202-of-226).jpg?format=1

 

"Your crew says it all Skinny Jean Fag Boy Hipsters."  

 

I only see one guy in skinny jeans.  The guy behind him has baggy jeans, the dude in the shorts is wearing shorts-not jeans, the dude with the Camera is wearing bike gear and the dude behind him is wearing shorts.  1 out of 5 does not a crew make.

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8 hours ago, Colin Wolfe said:

I wish I could trade my 08 WR450F in for this!? Silent, no more oils! SIGN ME UP!!!! What about making it street legal like I did with the WR?

The SM that we just launched is street legal. Converting the MX to street legal is electrically and mechanically super simple, but legality depends on the state. In CA we can no longer upgrade an off road VIN to an on road VIN. One of our Colorado shops did it for a customer: 

 

1 hour ago, rroeckel said:

I agree, I think these are at least part of the future.  However, at their entry cost of $14k+, I doubt too many parents are going to be replacing their kid's X-Boxes/PlayStations with these anytime soon.  Pricing should come down but by half?   Personally, I'd love to have one but I don't have the funding either, nor do I ride MX tracks.  Their battery life has to be proven to be able to ride many more dirt miles than now AND, perhaps have a reserve charge so you can get back to the truck if you get too far out while following your buddies using gas bikes.  My other question would be, how many recycles do you get?  Will we have to replace the battery every 5 years, 10 years, 2 years?  I also understand they ride light for their weight but when you're out on the trail and you simply HAVE to lift your bike for some reason, weight WILL be an issue.

We'd love to be able to offer them cheaper, but performance and tech cost money. The battery tech is literally the most advanced in transportation... about 30% ahead of Tesla and 50-100% ahead of anything else in motorbikes. No question it is not an alternative to a used bike or trail bike, but neither is a new Husky. Price will come down and range will go up over time, but not like with laptops and flatscreens, which is why I say these aren't replacing gas they are just adding to the options. If the bike suits your use (and it doesn't for everyone), my experience says there is nothing out there that is faster, more fun, and easier to own. Literally everyone that has ridden the thing has been faster by the end of day 1 than they were on their own bikes that they know well and have tuned and personalized. From recreational rider to pro, and from hard enduro to motocross. The question is how much is, say, 5 riding seasons worth to you?

On battery life, the pack is engineered for a minimum 500 full charge cycles which equates to about 1000 hours depending on your riding style. I've never seen a still-competitive MX bike with more than 200 hours (maybe a few converted to trail use and running with about 50% compression...). If you don't discharge to zero every time, the life will be much longer, which is why i say minimum. We've torn down test bikes with no drivetrain maintenance at 150 hours, could find no measurable wear, reassembled them and poured the old oil back in, and are still running them at ~300 hours now. If you had to replace the battery at 1000 hours, it'll take 20 minutes and be about the cost of a new 450 block ($3199) and your drivetrain will be better than it was when new - more range, more power. What's left of a MX chassis (*any* MX chassis) at 1000 hours though...

It's still an MX bike and won't last forever, but I do think it delivers on the promise of outlasting any gas competition-level MXer out there by a multiple.

Finally, yeah, you feel the weight when you lift it off its side or onto the stand or are dragging it out of a hole. The good news for me is I drop it a lot less than my 250.

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2 hours ago, Truman Sparks said:

Well $15k for a bike that will only go 65mph? My It510 will do that in 3rd gear.

I do not think that is progress.

The battery is 370 Volts would you really want to fall crossing a a stream, can you say electrocuted.

I have been deal with EV.s for the last 15 years and I would NEVER buy any vehicle powered by a battery.

 

Recharge Time

2.5 hrs(240v)
4 hrs(120v)

Spend most of the weekend at Johnson Valley running the generator watching the bike charge rather than riding.

 

It's a purpose built mx bike (track bike).  It doesn't need to go past 65 and with the MOUNTAIN of torque @ pretty much 1 RPM, I bet it gets to that top speed faster that your gasser or many gasser for that matter. Haven't you ever seen Telsa 4 door boats pulling Hemi Hellcats in the 1/4 mile? Also, the battery is waterproof.

The issue here is less the bike (save the price) and more that it wasn't designed to appeal to rider like yourself. No Progress? I suppose that's true if you don't count how far eBikes have come (a LONG way).  But to be fair, neither of us have ridden one, so all we have are stinky opinions. But I know Chris Cooskey well, he's no slouch on a bike, so I'll take his word on his impressions of the bike.

Considering that we've lost many mx tracks over sound, we should all be rooting for vendors like Alta to make it. I am! No matter how much we like the sound of a bike at WOT, most in the world don't and we're not changing that.

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When expansion allows I would really like to see you produce a full, competitive, American made, Trials bike. These would be the ultimate backyard bikes. Others, and ICE manufacturers, are going there - so should you.

Go Team USA!

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3 hours ago, Truman Sparks said:

Well $15k for a bike that will only go 65mph? My It510 will do that in 3rd gear.

I do not think that is progress.

The battery is 370 Volts would you really want to fall crossing a a stream, can you say electrocuted.

I have been deal with EV.s for the last 15 years and I would NEVER buy any vehicle powered by a battery.

 

Recharge Time

2.5 hrs(240v)
4 hrs(120v)

Spend most of the weekend at Johnson Valley running the generator watching the bike charge rather than riding.

 

At first I had the impression you were a crusty old vintage guy, but now Ive realized your a quad guy, whos obviously had more than one six pack strapped to the rear rack. 

I dont know or care where or what you ride, but I can tell you for me living in the suburbs, its reopened my local play areas that I can ride easily after work. In 20 years of racing offroad, Ive never had the need to go more than 65mph, not MX, enduros, hare scrambles, or GPs. 

The Alta is ISO certified, so water intrusion is not an issue, in fact last weekend I crossed a creek multiple times during our race, and Im still here to talk about it. 

Want more data? The +40 A & B line had upwards of 20 bikes on it, some 2 strokes, some 4. 250s, 300s, 450s. In a roughly 200 foot long start, I pulled 2 bike lengths by the end of the straght. Guess what? There was even a Service Honda CR500 on that line. But its not for everybody, including those that buy roached out used bikes for $1,000 and then cant make their mortgage payment. Where do you fit into?

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I will never own a electric MX bike.  EVER.     And those who think "quiet" will appease the tree hugger's  , I disagree.   Erosion will be their go to reason for keeping area closed. jmo. 

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I have been involved with EV's for the last 12 years.

The website says 50 mile range for the Super Tard.

A hipster who lives in Santa Monica cant even ride one to the Rock Store if they bought one..

Now in real life with hills that will be more like 25 miles.

Rolling resistance is critical with an EV, if you run a lower tire pressure for increased grip your range will be reduced.  

This is nothing more than an expensive toy.

With a 370 volt battery pack it will not be very long before someone gets electrocuted.

ATV's?  Never rode one.

But I have been riding bikes for over 50 years.

 

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