Electric bikes are slowly improving, are petrol powered bikes destined for museums?
Two-strokes are bad for the environment and four-strokes while better are not emission free – an electric dirt bike is quiet so it opens up a large amount of riding areas.
With Stark Varg releasing the details of their new electric dirtbike the motorcycle industry has exploded with talk about electric bikes and whether or not it’s going to be the future. Not having a whole lot of experience with electric bikes I was on the fence as to whether or not electric would be the right direction for our industry.
I was born and bred a petrol sniffing motocross kid. I grew up mixing fuel and racing two-stroke motorcycles where a decent percentage of the fuel we poured in the fuel tank came out of the exhaust unburnt. This on a mass scale is bad for our environment and no amount of arguing can change that. Two-strokes are bad for the environment and four-strokes while better are not emission free.
In today’s age, riding petrol burning dirt bikes projects us as the villains to society. This is where electric comes in. An electric dirt bike is quiet so it opens up a large amount of riding areas.
I’ve lost trails to housing in my local area but having a dirt bike that emits no sound means I can now ride right behind these houses without having them call the Police. The other bonus is the lack of emissions. I’ll be brave enough to put my hand up to say I’m not one that has ever been too concerned about this point.
I’ll likely be long gone from this planet before we ever cause enough damage for it to affect me, but becoming a father has got me thinking about what we are leaving behind for my children and grandchildren. Not only that but I want them all to enjoy motorcycles just as much as I have.
The Storm Bee
This brings me to the Sur-Ron Storm Bee. When I received the message that we were going to test the Sur-Ron Storm Bee my first thought was “who the heck is Sur-Ron?” A quick Google search tells me they have been around since 2014 developing a bike on the quiet.
My next thought was “oh no, not another Chinese bike”. In the past we have tested Chinese bikes which have left us stranded in the bush while we wait for the rescue crew. I told myself I would go into this with an open mind and take the bike for what it is and not judge it too harshly.
Looking at the Storm Bee you can see that it is Chinese made but it looked well put together. They have paid attention to things like wire and cable placements and where and how things are mounted. I have noticed in the past Chinese bikes are built to a price not a standard but the Storm Bee appears to have been made with build quality in mind.
E-bikes are generally just a mountain bike with an engine and they feel very foreign but once I threw my leg over the Storm it felt just like a dirt bike. Sur-Ron has done a good job at replicating the feel of a petrol bike. The seat to foot pegs and pegs to bar ratios all seemed correct and comfortable.
I commend Sur-Ron for this is as being a company that has not mass produced dirt bikes in the past this could have been easily overlooked. After a crash course on how to turn the Storm Bee on and how to select the power modes I was off for my first experience on an electric dirt bike.
How Did It Go?
The first ten minutes was me getting used to the electric dirt bike and the power but mostly the brake on the handlebar. While getting used to the Storm Bee I was thinking to myself “how am I ever going to tell people how good this bike is without them thinking I’m full of it?” Honestly, I was riding around wondering whether this was real or the mushrooms in the forest were spawning and I was hallucinating.
The lack of engine noise allows you to hear the chain and tyres as well as the sticks banging on the swingarm and frame. One noise I did find to my advantage was the rear wheel noise. You can hear it biting into the dirt or spinning and breaking traction. This isn’t something you usually hear on a petrol bike and all of a sudden you can use your sense of hearing to control the rear wheel traction rather than feedback through the pegs and seat.
The rear brake on the handlebar threw me for a while and I did find myself going for the foot brake out of habit. By having the brake on the handlebar you can feather it with your finger while going through tight trails much easier. You don’t have the weight of your foot on the pedal trying to throw off the balance while you‘re trying to steer.
One question thrown at me the most since the test ride was “how was it having no clutch?” I never once felt like I needed a clutch. The torque of the electric motor allows you to pop the front wheel up any time with the smallest blip on the throttle the same as a clutch. The smoothness of the engine allowed me to trail the throttle through turns without needing to pull a clutch in to skid or change direction.
The balance of the chassis works very well. The Fast Ace suspension comes from mountain bikes but they did a good job at developing and tuning a setup for trail riding. The front and rear is balanced and tuned well together.
Not having a whole bunch of rotating mass in the engine such as a heavy crankshaft and cam shafts which you fight against to change directions means you can corner and turn the Storm Bee very easily. It is a great bike to stand up on the pegs and tip in and out of the trees. It requires no effort from the rider to steer it whatsoever.
The power modes are a great addition but I found myself riding around in full power and managing it with the throttle. If you don’t have great throttle control the slower modes would be a great addition. The Turbo mode sounds like a cool feature but it wasn’t something I felt I needed to use so I only turned it on a few times. The reverse feature is certainly something different on a dirt bike and while I only used it out of curiosity I could see it being handy if you get stuck in a deep rut or bogged.
The brakes have a nice solid feel to them and while they are not Brembo they did do a good job for trail riding and managed to pull the bike up easy enough.
We rode the Storm Bee for a solid four hours predominately through single trails at slow to moderate speed. We rode it hard for the entire time up many challenging steep hills that required the engine to work hard and we only got the battery down to 50%. I would assume that this run time would cut down if you were riding in sand or on faster tracks and the power would drop at some point but for us the battery did everything we asked.
Handling – The Storm Bee was a very smooth and easy bike to ride. It might be a little on the heavy side but it did not feel that way to ride.
Power – This electric dirt bike has plenty for the average trail rider. The bike was smooth but aggressive when you needed it to be.
Traction – The throttle feels directly connected to the rear wheel. There is no lag time between the rear wheel and your wrist making the Storm Bee a very easy bike to find traction on.
We Didn’t Like
Racing – While we had loads of fun on the Storm Bee I would want more out of the motor and the suspension if I was going to race it. In saying that we had a petrol bike to back it up against on the day and we all felt faster on the Storm Bee through the tight trails than it.
The Name – Come on, Storm Bee? Why not Typhoon Tiger or Monsoon Mamba? There’s nothing tough about a Bee.
I was born and bred a petrol sniffing MX kid but the tech enthusiast in me was always curious about an electric dirt bike. I kept telling myself the technology isn’t there yet to compete with a petrol engine but maybe one day. I feel like I need to toss away a large amount of masculinity to admit this but the technology is there and in some circumstances I would even have to say better.
There is so much rotating mass in a petrol engine that negatively affects the way the bike handles. We try to make parts lighter, move the engine around and alter the way the chassis flexes to make it better but it’s a problem we just can’t eliminate. With an electric engine we solve this problem and the bikes handle and react completely different but in a much better way. I am basing this decision solely on what the Storm Bee was like to ride and if this is the start for electric then I think we are heading in a very exciting direction for the motorcycling industry, as long as we allow it to.
MOTOR/OUTPUT: BLDC Mid Motor/22.5kw peak and 520nm of Torque
BATTERY: 90v 48Ah Sony VTC LI-ion (Removable)
RANGE: 105kms claimed – Varies on conditions
SPEED: 110km/h Offroad use only
TRANSMISSION: Oil Bath Gear Reduction
BRAKES: Dual Piston Front 270mm Disc and 240mm Rear
FRONT SUSPENSION: 290mm Fast Ace 47mm Inverted Fork
REAR SUSPENSION: 290mm Fast Ace Air Absorber
CONTRUCTION: Aluminium Alloy Forged Frame
TYRES: MX and Enduro F21/R18 CST Mud Tyres
WHEELS: 80/100 – 21 Front and 110/100-18 Rear
LIGHTS: Headlight and Rear Taillight on Enduro Model
THROTTLE: Fly By Wire Twist Throttle with Eco, Rain, Sports plus Turbo Modes
USB: USB Charging Point On Board
HILL CLIMBING: Up to 80%
CHARGE TIME: 3 hours (Fast Charger)
WATER RATING: IP55
LOADING: Max Loading Weight 120kg
DIMENSIONS: 2120 x 805 x 1265mm
SEAT HEIGHT: 940mm
WARRANTY: 12 months
BIKE WEIGHT: 126kg
RRP PRICE: MX $12,999 ENDURO $14,999 plus on road costs