With all the talk of the British government’s decision to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040, there’s plenty of interest in electric vehicles.
Currently there are only a handful of electric motorbikes sold in the UK, but one area where battery bikes could really take off is in the off-road world. Electric motorcycles for children are proving increasingly popular, with brands like Oset and Kuberg offering good performance at reasonable costs, and it’s a trend that could well follow for adult riders too.
The off-road world is under increasing pressure from environmentalists and NIMBY neighbours, who object to motocross and enduro bikes circulating within earshot of their homes.
Electric bikes overcome objections from both sides, being silent and emission free. Currently there are two main electric dirt bikes for adults on sale in Britain, and Insidebikes have ridden both.
Austrian firm KTM has got the off-road market sewn up, with a range of two and four-stroke bikes that pretty much outsell every other off-road brand combined. Launched in 2014, the Freeride-E is KTM’s electric offering and comes in three flavours: the E-XC, E-SX and E-SM.
The SX is a pure off-road motocross bike, minus lights and the other stuff required to make it road legal, but the SM (supermotard) and XC (enduro) can be registered and ridden on the road.
Whichever you choose, the Freeride-E is great fun. Like all electric engines, the motor is smooth and torquey. There’s no gearbox, just a twist and go transmission, and for the novice rider it’s very easy to ride quickly off road. Because it is so smooth, it’s a bike that’s physically less demanding than most petrol bikes.
It’s light too, at 108kg, but there’s a trade off, of course. The small battery makes for a limited range, but it’s not too bad. From fully charged, you’ll get a 30 minute session when ridden enthusiastically on a motocross track, or two to three times more than that on gentle trails. It recharges in around an hour, or it can be swapped for a spare (an optional extra) and changed over in minutes.
If ridden on the road, the E-XC and E-SM are classified as A1 bikes and can therefore be ridden by learners on an L plate. Peak power is just over 20bhp, with 42Nm of torque and it costs £9638 for the E-XC. It’s not cheap, but there are virtually no running costs.
Zero is the undisputed market leader in the world of e-motorcycles, and the FX is their road-legal off-road variant. As well as the FX, which has spoked wheels and knobbly tyres, the supermoto style FXS is also available, with different suspension and Pirelli street rubber on 17” alloy rims.
The Zero is a bigger and more powerful bike than the Freeride-E. The American company’s ‘Z-Force’ motor puts out 44bhp and a whopping 106Nm of torque. Range is greater than the KTM too, but the flipside of the bigger batteries is more weight – although at 131kg it is only a little more than a fully fuelled 450cc enduro machine.
Like the KTM, Zero’s FX is super smooth and a cinch to ride on and off road. Like the KTM, it has scooter style twist and go transmission and, like the KTM, it can be equipped with a spare battery that can be switched out in the field. The downside is that the Zero’s battery takes longer to charge than the KTM’s.
As a road bike, even an occasional one, the Zeros are more practical than the Freerides. It’s cheaper too, because although the American bike has a screen price of £10,490 it is eligible for a £1500 government grant, meaning that you’ll be riding off on a Zero for £8990.