I’ve ridden my fair share of electric motorbikes. Some have been really good, others not so. But even the best ones haven’t had the range that most would consider necessary for a proper motorcyclist. An electrically powered road bike, ridden properly, isn’t going to give you much more than an hour of fun; before you’ve got to charge it up, that is. That’s not going to be enough for most ‘proper motorcyclists’. Not by a long stretch. And the off-road electric bike segment hasn’t yielded a lot that’d get my vote either. Until now. Because I recently discovered a bit of a game changer. And that game changer was the Electric Motion Epure Race that Fagan and I rode at Inch Perfect Trials.
Ok, I know a trials bike isn’t going to rock everybody’s world (growing up, I thought they were stupid… until I had a go on one) but the fact that an electric bike can now genuinely compete with a petrol powered machine, even if it is only in trials, is pretty big news. And it seriously can compete.
I’ll admit that I went into my day of riding on the Electric Motion with a bit of a closed mind. On paper, it ought to have been good; with its 73kg of weight, and its 600Nm of torque (no that’s not a typo – six hundred newton meters). But I just wasn’t convinced. Could it really be as good as a ‘real’ motorbike with a real ‘motor’?
Well, yes, I think it can. After about 30 seconds on the Electric Motion I discovered that, for someone with my limited ability on a trials bike, they might actually be better. And for quite a few reasons.
Let’s start with battery life, which has been my biggest hang-up with electric bikes up to now. I will admit that the Electric Motion’s quoted 43km of range does seem a bit wanky. On a trials bike though, you’ll probably fine that that is more than enough. Because trials bike riding isn’t about doing the miles in as fast a time as possible. It’s about trying to get over that thing that is as difficult as possible. Whether it’s a pile of rocks, a fallen log or your mates shit car. We rode the Electric Motion trials bikes for a good three hours in the morning and the batteries still had about 60% left.
My maths tells me you’d get about seven and a half hours out of a battery, if you wanted to. But you probably wouldn’t want to. From the little bit of trials riding that I’ve done, I know that three to five hours a day on a trials bike is more than enough for a normal person. I’d certainly be sick of the sound of one after 5 hours.
Which leads me onto my next point; the sound they make. They’re not silent when you’re riding them; in fact if I’m being honest, they do sound a bit gash. But they are a lot quieter than a ‘normal’ bike. When you are stationary though, they’re silent – which is really, really good. You can hear yourself think a lot more clearly, you can have a conversation. And possibly one of the biggest benefits of them being so quiet, is the fact that you’re not going to upset the neighbours. And whilst my attitude to that would normally be “fuck ‘em”, it’s always a pain in the arse when the police turn up, in their stupid police cars.
Anyway, where was I…
Performance-wise, you really can’t fault the Electric Motion. The torque is properly explosive just off the throttle, but if that’s not enough you can give the clutch a little flick. The clutch was a very welcome addition, actually. I’d never ridden an electric bike with a clutch before so it was rather interesting. That said, it was nice not to have to use it all the time; I could bring the bike to a stop without having to pull it in, as though I was riding an automatic, or a bike with one of them there Rekluse clutches. In fact for the kind of obstacles I was attacking, I found there was more than enough oomph just on the throttle. And that meant there was one less thing to concentrate on. You don’t have to worry about being in the right gear and you don’t have to worry about stalling, either.
After a few hours of riding the EM, I was tackling climbs and step-ups that I simply wouldn’t have been confident enough to try on the petrol powered equivalent. The fact that it was so balanced, so light, the power was so linear and I didn’t have to worry about using the clutch or what gear to be in, simply made everything so easy. I know I’m a little bit of a wobbler when it comes to trials riding (that’s probably representative of most folk thinking about having a go at it), but I’m less of a wobbler on an electric trials bike. And that’s a fact.
E-Motion, E-Winner, E-by-gum
I’ve been told by people in the know that, at the very upper echelons of professional trials riding, there are certain things a petrol trials bike works slightly better for. But I’m never even going to be in the lower echelons of professional trials riding, so if I was about to buy a new trials bike, it would almost certainly be one of these puppies.
But why is this such big news? It’s not like we’re all about to rush out and buy a trials bike, electric or otherwise, is it? Well the reason I think this is so important is that I genuinely believe that this is the first time an electric bike can directly compete with, and beat, its petrol powered counterparts. Motorsport is no stranger to electrically powered vehicles, but they nearly always have to have their own class. Because they’d get smoked by the proper bikes. But not in trials. Not anymore.