A competitive electric motorcycle? Tesla has done it on the road and now ALTA is doing it in the off road motorcycle world. In the american technology capital San Francisco in the neighborhood of Apple, Google and Tesla the electric motorcycle manufacture ALTA is working on the future of motorcycling. Since 2009 the crew at ALTA has worked on prototypes of a electric Motocross bike. After many years of development they started testing in public with the help of different professional riders about two years ago. Last year ALTA hired former professional Supercross racer Josh Hill to race the bike at the Red Bull Straight Rythm event. Hill beat factory Suzuki rider Kyle Cunningham over the course of three heats and advanced to the next round showing the world that an electric motorcycle is more than capable of competing with the gas powered competition. A lot of questions still remaind. How would a production electric bike fair out on the track. How fast does it go and would the chassis be up to par with what we are used to? Not only did ALTA decide to push the electric engine they also build their own chassis from the ground up which is a big challenge in it self. I travelled to Perris Raceway in California USA to find out what the ALTA is all about and if this is really the bike of the future.
Looking at the new ALTA MXR you fell like you made a trip into the future. The design is nothing that is currently on the market. I didn't know what to expect and was eager to get out on the track. It took me only a couple of laps and I felt right at home on the bike. The electric engine is really responsive and ALTA spend a long time developing a power delivery that would make it feel like your normal gas bike. The chassis feels really balanced and handles really well. The MXR feels like a race bike with a agressive set up that sits a little lower in the rear than your ordinary OEM dirt bike. As racers we spend a lot of time and money to set our bikes up lower in the rear to achieve better handling so it was nice to see a manufacture adopt that from the get go. The WP AER forks and WP shock come with a setting developed for the bike and give you a lot of options to fine tune the bike to your liking.
I was suprised with how easy it was to adopt to the bike. The MXR comes with four different mappings that make it change the power delivery signifantly.
Map 1 ECO: A traction map that offers the best range profile. Also a great mao for just starting out.
Map 2 SPORT: Performance profile engineered to line up with 250f race machinery
Map 3 PERFORMANCE: Similar traits as the sport map but with more bottom end and traction. It also makes a great starting gate map.
Map 4 OVERCLOCKED: Maximum torque and power are available without restriction – if you have the skill to control it. Thermal limiting will protect the machine if you push too hard.
Not having a a clutch or a shift lever was suprisingly easy to get used to. Instead of focusing on my shifting points and controlling the bike with the clutch I could just focus on my riding technique and my line choices which made for a very enjoyable riding experience.
A big point of discussion is the weight of the bike. With 259 lbs it comes in on the heavy side but and this is a big BUT out on the track you don't feel the weight. With out the rotating mass of a normal combustion engine the bike feels light and nimble and really easy to handle.
The big question when it comes to electric bikes is the battery life. How long can I ride until I'm out of juice. With the ALTA that really depends on the surface you ride on and how hard you ride. A professional racer gets somewhere around 40 minutes out of the battery on a hard pack track in map 4. Your average rider gets 90 minutes or more of riding time. With Indian tracks being hard pack for the most part you can expect to get around 90 minutes or more of riding time out of your bike.
The Supermoto and Dual Sport version of the bike comes with different mappings which give the bike around 4 hours of battery life. ALTA's new charging system enables you to fully recharge your battery with in 90 minutes. Four hours of riding time in the city or off road is a good amount with a quick recharge time. Indian riders will enjoy the torque of the bike especially on the plated Supermoto version. With a lot of stop and go traffic you will be able to out accelerate everybody.
ALTA's marketing slogan is "The Future of Fast" and after riding the bike I have to agree. As a professional racer I've ridden a lot of different bikes over the years and I would consider the ALTA one of the best bikes I have ever ridding. I haven't had that much fun riding a dirt bike in a long time. The handling, power delivery and easy to control charateristic of the bike will gurantee a great riding experience for everybody.