Electric Dirt Bikes: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners (2018)
Electric dirt bikes for beginners covers everything you need to know about this new and evolving category. New advances in electric motors and battery technology are changing the way dirt bikes are evolving. In this article, I look at how traditional dirt bike manufacturers are using electric engines in their design.
There are new players coming onto the dirt bike scene like Alta Motors and Stealth Electric Bikes who are building electric dirt bikes without having previous experience with combustion engines.
There is also a new and exciting group of bikes that are light and fast with pedals but have amazing performance figures more akin to dirt bikes and well above your standard e-bikes power output.
I also cover some basic understandings of electric engines for dirt bikes and how much maintenance is involved with an electric bike.
And finally, I explain some of the basic rules about where you can and can’t ride electric dirt bikes.
Battery Powered Dirt Bikes Have Arrived
Electric dirt bikes are part of a growing trend globally of changing to battery-powered transport.
One example of battery-powered transport that constantly finds itself in the media is Tesla. They are a manufacturer in the battery-powered car segment that offers cars that have amazing performance and technology.
And like Tesla cars, e-bikes are going through massive growth and will continue to do so.
Global e-bike sales are expected to grow from over $15.7 billion in revenue in 2016 to $24.4 billion by 2025.
With growing interest and massive opportunities for sales, it’s no wonder there is so much interest in this segment from the big dirt bike manufacturers.
As the owner of a blog that specializes in helping people get into dirt bike riding, the electric dirt bike category is an exciting proposition.
Its exciting for a number of reasons firstly, it has the potential to bring more people into the sport by making it more accessible. Electric dirt bikes are very quiet compared to their combustion engine cousins.
Secondly, electric dirt bikes are very low on maintenance. Check your tires, check the chain for lube/tension and make sure the battery is charged, simple as that.
So for those new to the whole battery powered bike scene lets take a look at what an electric dirt bike is.
What Is An Electric Dirt Bike?
An electric dirt bike is the equivalent of a gas powered dirt bike but uses a battery and electric motor for its power generation. Electric dirt bikes also come in a range of sizes and configurations.
A number of traditional dirt bike manufacturers have been looking at electric dirt bikes for some time and KTM has been on the front foot in this regard by already having a product for sale the KTM Freeride electric.
The best way to understand an electric dirt bike is to look at one.
At first glance, the KTM Freeride electric looks very similar to its gas-powered equivalent. It’s not until you look more carefully that you notice a few telltale characteristics of a “traditional” dirt bike are missing.
The absence of an exhaust system is probably the most obvious sign this bike is battery powered. As no fuel is required, the gas tank is replaced with carefully designed faring which makes the absence less obvious.
It is clear that KTM has deliberately designed this bike to retain the “KTM” look and feel for obvious reasons. They are marketing to a certain type of “buyer” and it would make no sense to get away from what makes the brand so strong. Based on my research this will be the direction that the main dirt bike manufacturers will follow.
The current KTM freeride electric engine delivers up to 18kw of peak power and 50% greater capacity on the previous power pack battery. This allows for up to 1.5 hours of riding time depending on how you ride it.
The good news is that this bike also comes with the necessary requirements for road registration such as mirrors indicators etc.
This bike is particularly good for beginners as you can set the riding mode for your riding style. Three options are available, economy, enduro and cross. Another reason this and most electric dirt bikes are great for beginners is that you don’t have gear and clutch engagement to worry about. This opens up a whole new avenue for people who may have been put off from worrying about gear changes whilst learning to ride. Approximate price is $8,300
One manufacturer that is not from a traditional gas-powered background is Alta Motors. They have only been around since 2010 and have built an amazing product from the ground up in a short period of time. They have achieved not one but four different product lines covering motocross, enduro, and supermoto.
Whilst these bikes are from a new manufacturer, the look of them is very much the traditional dirt bike style similar to what KTM have done. Whilst they may be traditional in style, Alta Motors have definitely put their own design standards into this product.
One example of this is the unique chassis design that incorporates the electric engine “into” the chassis rather than the engine fitting “on” the chassis which is the more traditional design method. The EX power output is based on its 250cc equivalent punching out 42hp.
What I particularly like about this bike is that its performance can be adjusted to suit the rider through throttle response and engine braking all whilst riding!
Depending on how you ride the bike it will go from 25 mins at flat stick riding or 4+hours of single track riding. Click here for more specs on this bike.
The Stealth H-52: A New Perspective On Dirt Bikes
Both KTM and Alta motors have followed the traditional styling of their respective e-dirt bikes but another manufacturer has taken a different perspective and has produced a lean mean dirt biking machine.
As you can see the H-52 cuts down on the bling normally associated with dirt bikes and leaves you with a machine that is all about the riding experience.
For those who prefer the more traditional dirt bike “look” this bike might not be as appealing, but for me, this bike creates an exciting proposition for new dirt bike enthusiasts. It has the capability of a traditional dirt bike but half the weight and associated hassles. For example, notice that there is no chain? All the power comes from the rear hub, so no chain wear, sprockets to replace or chain tension issues.
The H-52 specs show this is a more than capable bike for dirt biking.
- Top speed of 50mph (80km)
- A range of up to 37 miles @ 15mph (60km/h @ 25km/h)
- Power plant: 5200 watts with a recharge time of 3hrs
- Two performance modes allow for limited performance of 15mph or top speed of 50mph (25km/h or 80km/h)
Stealth Electric Bikes In Action
This leads me to my next discussion point; there is another group of bikes that are not made by traditional dirt bike manufacturers and are not specifically dirt bikes because they have pedals.
Electric Dirt Bike Hybrids
At this point in time, I have coined the phrase “electric dirt bike hybrids” for the next group of E-dirt bikes because I can’t quite find the right category to put them in.
What I would say is, these bikes are somewhere between a dirt bike and a high-performance electric mountain bike. They have pedals like a bicycle but performance more akin to a dirt bike.
I find these bikes equally exciting as the new electric dirt bikes coming out. They are like the “love child” of an electric dirt bike and an e-mountain bike.
Utilising the best of “both worlds” technology, you get a bike that is much lighter than a traditional dirt bike but much heavier and more powerful than a standard E-Bike.
The added bonus of these bikes is that you get some additional exercise from peddling and the ability to ride under your own steam if the battery runs out.
For the purposes of writing this article and classifying, I have chosen to use 5000 watts as the minimum power output that places e-mountain bikes as a viable alternative to traditional dirt bikes.
The B-52 Stealth Bomber E-Bike
One such example of what I am talking about is the B-52 Stealth Bomber. As soon as you hear the name you know this is no ordinary e-bike.
Performance specs on the Stealth Bomber are impressive.
- Top speed of 50mph (80km)
- Speed limited for USA application (Read further for USA regulations)
- Depending on how you ride it, a range of up to 60miles (100km)
- Full throttle will net you 25miles (40km)
- Power plant: 5200 watts into DC Hub motor
- Recharge time in 3 hours
- 9-speed sequential gearbox for pedalling and rear hub motor for electric drive.
- Full suspension
- Handmade in Australia, available in most other countries, click here for more information
Compared to a standard e-bike, the B-52 is quite heavy at around 120lbs (55kg), but this kind of makes sense when you are putting so much power through the frame. All components need to be robust to deal with the power and torque generated.
One unique feature the B-52 has is a regen braking mode which puts back kinetic energy from braking back into the Lithium Ion battery pack to increase ride time.
The price of this bike is not cheap but we are talking about a high-end product with high-end components. Price approx $10,000+ USD (depends on customization). Contact your local dealer for accurate pricing and see the website for customization options
The HPC Revolution X
The Revolution X is another fine example of a locally crafted product that is made in the US.
HPC was founded in 2008 by brothers Chris and Derek Hunt and the Revolution X is based on many years of research and development.
The bikes from HPC are not built from “off the shelf parts” but built and tested from the ground up using the best components available.
Like the Stealth Bomber B-52, the Revolution X also has some impressive performance stats!
This bike comes in a range of performance upgrades depending on your budget. At the highest end of mods, you can order a 7000-watt hub motor and an upgradeable battery that will achieve up to 100+ mile range.
All these extra goodies will set you back approximately $17,700 USD, but you can reduce this with lower specs.
Performance specs with all power upgrades
- Top speed of 60+ mph (97kmh) on the highest upgrade
- A range of up to 100 miles on the highest upgrade battery
- Recharge time 2.5hrs on the highest upgrade charger
Based in the US but will ship to most other countries click here for more information
Electric Dirt Bikes For Kids
For the most part, adults are well covered for product availability when it comes to electric dirt bikes.
For kids, there is not a lot of quality products out there, a lot of it is cheap and nasty with poor components and backup service. More often than not kids electric dirt bikes are toys rather than well-made motorcycles.
One company that is improving this situation is Gas Gas. This company has been making trial and enduro bikes since 1985. Their products are super high quality with the majority being handmade in their factory at Salt near Girona, in Catalonia.
In 2017 they released two electric dirt bikes for kids which are called the E12 and T12, the E meaning enduro and the T meaning trials. This kind of makes sense given their main bikes are enduros and trials bikes.
Even more interesting is the fact that these bikes are marketed as being powered by Torrot. Grupo Torrot Electric is a company that manufactures bicycles and mopeds with specialization in electric bicycles. The new company has used its electric technology for the power plants of both kids bikes.
Gas Gas Torrot E12
I think Gas Gas has made a smart move by starting in the kid’s category for e-dirt bikes. From someone who will be looking at purchasing a bike for my young son when he is old enough, the E12 is definitely a product I will be looking at.
The reason I like these bike so much is simply this:
- No fuel to worry about
- Low running costs; the odd chain and sprockets, a set of tires and the cost of power (yee haa)
- No noise issues with the kids riding near the neighbours for hours
- Power range from 600w up to 1500w (depending on your settings) max speed 52km/h (32mph)
- All the Gas Gas e-kids models can be equipped with a wireless controller, which allows parents to remotely limit, configure or even switch off their children’s motorcycles from an Android or iOS app.
- A reasonable price at approximately $2,500 USD
- Age range between 6- 9 years
More information regarding the Gas Gas kids e-bikes can be found here
Electric Dirt Bike Motors
The electric motors used to power electric dirt and mountain bikes come in many different forms and configurations. For the purpose of keeping things simple, I will just cover the basics as the technical side can get quite complicated.
Traditional dirt bikes
For KTM and Alta bikes, the electric motors simply replace what would have been the combustion engine located centrally in the frame of the bike and transfer their power generated to the rear wheel via a chain.
Electric Mountain Bikes
For electric mountain bikes, the majority use two types of electric motors. These are hub and mid-drive motors. The hub motors are mounted in the rear wheel and are usually operated with a throttle and work independently to the rider pedalling. This can be useful if you don’t want to pedal as the hub will do the hard work for you.
Mid-drive motors are usually built into the crank assembly where the pedals are attached. The motor works by assisting the rider as they peddle the bike. Mid drives are regarded as better for climbing as they work with the rider and the bikes gearing to propel the bike uphill.
Hub motors work best at med-high speeds on flat ground.
This video provides a good understanding of the difference between hub and mid-drives.
I would add that even though hub drives aren’t recommended for hill climbing there are exceptions. The Stealth bikes, for example, overcome this problem by having much more powerful hub motors than the standard variety that are often referred to when comparing hubs vs mid-drives.
Electric Dirt Bike Batteries
Batteries for electric vehicles are constantly changing and evolving. There is currently a lot of development happening to make batteries lighter, smaller and with longer ranges. The technology currently being used by Tesla will eventually flow into the bike market.
The main batteries being used at the moment are Lithium-ion (Li-ion) based. There are many different kinds of Lithium-Ion batteries all with their own benefits.
Basically, Lithium-ion batteries last longer and generate more power but they do require specialized software to manage them.
Electric Dirt Bike Maintenance
The maintenance side of electric dirt bike ownership is one of the key selling points. As the Alta Electric Dirtbike website states;
- “Unlike gas bikes which need regular oil and filter changes, the Redshift requires little to no regular maintenance. Other than taking a moment to adjust the chain and check tire pressure, you won’t need to take time away from your life to wrench. Additionally, not having to worry about top and bottom end rebuilds will keep money in your pocket and your wheels on the road”
This is one thing that needs to be taken into consideration when purchasing an electric dirt bike.
Even if the initial purchase price is above that of the gas-powered equivalent, the cost savings from reduced service costs can quickly make up for the difference in price.
Where Can I Ride An Electric Dirt Bike?
Each country and sometimes each state within each country can have different rules regarding the use of vehicles with electric motors. Generally speaking, to ride on public roads, electric dirt bikes need to be street legal with the correct mirrors, tires, lights, and switches that are compliant with local regulations.
In the case of the KTM and Alta dirt bikes that are basically a traditional dirt bike with an electric motor, you can register these as a street-legal bike in most US states with the correct modifications. This usually involves approved lighting, tires, switches etc. If you feel you want to ride more on the street than on the trails then Alta recommends looking at their SM (supermoto) version as it has the appropriate licensing requirements.
Outside riding on public roads etc. you are confined to private land or approved public access areas which are often managed by the Burea of Land Management in the US. Usually, there is a daily permit required and certain bike requirements such as spark arrestors.
Where can I ride an electric mountain bike?
For electric mountain bikes, the access to public trails and general use is currently a complicated area. Trail access in mountain areas is often limited to non-motorised bikes only. Part of the problem with electric mountain bikes is that they are competing for space where traditional mountain bikers ride. It is always best to check with local state laws.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association has recently softened their stand on electric bikes by supporting a limit on speed as part of access requirements. Whilst this is good to get a foot in the door it sucks in terms of the speed allowance at 20mph. I believe this will all change in the not too distant future as this sport is growing so quickly that fair access won’t be able to be denied.
For US electric mountain bike riders, People For Bikes is a good resource that provides state by state updates on where you can ride.
In Australia, the use of electric mountain bikes is equally as complicated. Bikes with a throttle can have up to 200 watts of power or 250 if it is a pedal assist type of motor which is generally a mid-drive. Trail access varies from state to state so check with your local state laws.
The Wash Up
The growth of electric powered dirt bikes and high-performance mountain bikes opens up a whole new riding experience for existing and new people wanting to get into dirt biking.
What I have covered in this article is only going to be the tip of the iceberg as more and more manufacturers bring out there own products.
If you are interested in electric dirt bikes and are looking at purchasing, make sure you get the appropriate riding gear as being electric doesn’t mean you don’t need good safety gear. Click here for some recommendations for helmets and here for some recommendations for boots.