2017 KTM Freeride E-XC

Editor Score: 86.25%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 6.0/10
Overall Score86.25/100

If your idea of off-road riding is busting big air over triple jumps, the Freeride-E will disappoint. But KTM’s electric-powered off-roader broadens the scope of what’s possible in a dirtbike built to quietly conquer trails of fun.

As a longtime devotee of performance, I was a rider who aspired to bad-ass motocross bikes and ripping up racetracks, that is until I shattered my ankle on a 450 at Glen Helen, suffering through four surgeries and threats of amputation. Since then I rarely ride off-road for fear of re-injury or developing new ones, and it’s a riding activity I dearly miss.

And that’s why I was grinning like a child in my helmet when riding the Freeride-E on the hilly trails around the Wildomar OHV area in southern California – and doing it in near silence. It rekindled the pure element of fun that is the whole reason most of us started riding motorbikes in the first place. It’s fast enough to thrill, capable enough to tackle gnarly terrain, and manageable enough to make even an old dude feel fully in control. Even a salty off-road veteran like our cohort at Dirtbikes.com, Scott Rousseau (pictured in the lead photo), had a blast riding it.

The E-XC is basically a Freeride 250R with its two-stroke engine replaced by an electric motor and swappable battery. It’s been available in Europe for a couple of years in three versions: motocross (E-SX), supermoto (E-SM) and enduro (E-XC), the latter two being street legal. North America is now getting the XC version, but it’s not officially legal for use on our roads.

KTM’s Freeride-E boasts some impressive componentry. A chro-moly steel section in orange mates to a cast-aluminum configuration below the seat to comprise the frame, while the subframe is a high-tech plastic structure that helps shave weight. Wheels feature aluminum rims and spoke nipples and CNC-machined hubs. Aluminum swingarm with a machined section shows attention to detail. Without its battery, the bike would weigh less than 190 pounds.

KTM’s Freeride-E boasts some impressive componentry. A chro-moly steel section in orange mates to a cast-aluminum configuration below the seat to comprise the frame, while the subframe is a high-tech plastic structure that helps shave weight. Wheels feature aluminum rims and spoke nipples and CNC-machined hubs. Aluminum swingarm with a machined section shows attention to detail. Without its battery, the bike would weigh less than 190 pounds.

All electric vehicles suffer potential penalties of weight, range and price. The E-XC balances the range/weight aspects by fitting a relatively low-capacity battery pack with just 2.6 kWh of capacity. For comparison, consider the smallest battery in a Zero motorcycle (FXS ZF3.3) has a 2.9 kWh nominal capacity and stretches up to as much as 14.3 kWh (DSR with Power Tank). The self-contained KTM pack is filled with 360 lithium-ion cells from Samsung, and it can easily be swapped in about a minute. The downside is that an extra batt pack, which weighs about 50 pounds, will cost an extra $3,600.

KTM says the Freeride’s battery can yield up to one hour of off-road riding time, depending on terrain and a rider’s exuberance. Holding it pinned across a prairie would quickly sap its juice, while picking your way through tight trails would enable much greater run time. KTM says it can reach an 80% charge from dead in 50 minutes; from drained to 100% requires 80 minutes. Complicating matters is that the charger requires a 220-volt power supply. This is easy enough to set up at your home, which an electrician will charge about $300, but it means that most petrol-powered generators won’t charge the battery, severely limiting riding options when out riding somewhere off the grid.

This gauge located behind the steering neck controls power modes (1, 2, 3) and indicates battery charge levels. The upper green light shows a charge above 80%, while the lower green indicates a 40-60% charge. The battery is between 20-40% when the bottom lamp is lit yellow, and it’s between 10-20% when red. When flashing red, there’s less than 10% juice remaining and the power mode automatically shifts to 1.

This gauge located behind the steering neck controls power modes (1, 2, 3) and indicates battery charge levels. The upper green light shows a charge above 80%, while the lower green indicates a 40-60% charge. The battery is between 20-40% when the bottom lamp is lit yellow, and it’s between 10-20% when red. When flashing red, there’s less than 10% juice remaining and the power mode automatically shifts to 1.

The Freeride-E loves unraveling twisty trails, using its steep 23-degree rake angle and moderate 238-lb weight to deftly navigate even ultra-tricky areas. It feels almost like a 125cc two-stroke and is nicely balanced like we expect from a KTM dirtbike. The seat is placed a not-inconsiderable 35.8 inches from the ground, but it’s a full 2 inches lower than a traditional enduro like KTM’s 250 EXC. The narrow seat and slim midsection helps disguise its tall nature.

“It’s basically a trials bike with a seat,” KTM’s Tom Moen succinctly stated at the launch.

The Freeride helps its rider feel like its master. Torque is always available and tuned to be nicely controllable for a bike powered by an electric motor. Top speed is said to approach 60 mph.

The Freeride helps its rider feel like its master. Torque is always available and tuned to be nicely controllable for a bike powered by an electric motor. Top speed is said to approach 60 mph.

Powering the Freeride-E is a brushless permanent-magnet motor that utilizes two tiny radiators to shed excessive heat. The motor is remarkably small, and it uses a geared primary drive to a countershaft sprocket, which KTM says its testing proved is a more durable arrangement when pounding over bumps than power taken directly from the motor.

From the upper right following the radiator hose downward brings you to the Freeride-E’s liquid-cooled motor. It’s geared to a primary drive and jackshaft across to a countershaft and chain drive. Above the motor in black is the 2.6kWh battery that simply requires backing out four bolts to remove. A battery swap can be made in less than a minute. The aluminum bash plate is lovely.

From the upper right following the radiator hose downward brings you to the Freeride-E’s liquid-cooled motor. It’s geared to a primary drive and jackshaft across to a countershaft and chain drive. Above the motor in black is the 2.6kWh battery that simply requires backing out four bolts to remove. A battery swap can be made in less than a minute. The aluminum bash plate is lovely.

Peak output is rated at 21.5 hp (16 kW). More impressive is the torque, which is said to be 31 lb-ft, a figure that dwarfs a 250cc four-stroke engine (less than 20 lb-ft at the tire). Three engine modes are available. The Economy setting is basically for beginners and for maximizing range. Full power is available in Enduro and Cross modes, with the latter coming on sooner and being especially snappy. Enduro mode was plenty on the tight and sandy Wildomar trails, with enough grunt to loft the front end over rocks and tree roots when desired, even without fanning the clutch, which there is none. And, surprisingly, I never missed having one.

Brakes and suspension components are borrowed from KTM’s 85 SX model, but don’t let that make you think they aren’t up to the task of supporting the Freeride-E. The suspension has beefier springs to support the full-size Freeride, with a 43mm WP fork that boasts compression- and rebound-damping adjustments, while the linkageless WP shock adds separate high- and low-speed compression-damping adjustability. They do a fine job of sucking up trail-size bumps but would be overwhelmed on a motocross track.

The Freeride’s WP suspension is a fine compromise for a trail/play-bike, allowing good performance within the parameters required from the bike’s reasonably low seat height. There’s 9.8 inches of travel up front; 10.2 in the rear. A 21-inch Maxxis TrialMaxx tire leads the way, while a MaxxEnduro follows.

The Freeride’s WP suspension is a fine compromise for a trail/play-bike, allowing good performance within the parameters required from the bike’s reasonably low seat height. There’s 9.8 inches of travel up front; 10.2 in the rear. A 21-inch Maxxis TrialMaxx tire leads the way, while a MaxxEnduro follows.

The front brake is a tidy little four-piston Formula caliper, radially mounted and biting on a 260mm wave rotor through a braided steel line. Its power and response were terrific for the trails on which we tested. The rear brake is one of the items I didn’t like, as it’s actuated by a hand control where a clutch lever normally would reside. KTM says the foot lever from a Freeride 250R can be retrofitted, and this is an option I’d be tempted pursue to make the bike feel more natural to someone like myself accustomed to regular motorcycle controls. It is, however, occasionally a benefit when braking in right-hand corners.

Mentioned above are the potential penalties of electric vehicles, and to address the third (aside from range and weight) – price – KTM has a fairly bold strategy with its importation of about 100 units.

“KTM has created this pilot program as a way to better understand the level of consumer interest in electric motorcycles, which will assist us in future planning when considering serial production of electric motorcycles in the coming years,” said Tom Etherington, VP of Sales, KTM North America, adding that the E-XC will be sold from just 11 of its qualified dealers. “The exciting part for consumers is that through this pilot program, the Freeride E-XC is available for a price that is substantially less than these models would sell for outside of this program.”

2017 KTM Freeride E-XC Electric Motorcycle Coming to US

KTM says the E-XC will continue to operate in water up to its seat. Required maintenance is low. Lube the chain and drain about 150cc of oil after 50 hours of use.

KTM says the E-XC will continue to operate in water up to its seat. Required maintenance is low. Lube the chain and drain about 150cc of oil after 50 hours of use.

At just $8,299, the Freeride E-XC can seem like a real off-road bargain considering its origin, componentry and performance. And it very well could be for a rider in certain circumstances. For example, a KTM employee has turned many dozens of hours aboard the E-XC by riding from his home in Lake Elsinore, down the street and into the hills beyond. He tires himself out before the battery is drained and returns home for another battery pack or a rest.

But if you live less geographically desirable to off-road areas than the KTM guy, that means loading up and driving out to your favorite trails, places where 220-volt outlets are usually scarce. That means bringing along an extra battery, transforming your $8,299 bike into one costing $11,299. And even then you’d be limited to only two hours of ride time. To open up options for consumers, KTM would be wise to adapt its charger to work on a 110-volt outlet.

Rousseau again looking far more stylish than I aboard the Freeride-E.

Rousseau again looking far more stylish than I aboard the Freeride-E.

DigiNow Zero Super Charger

The brains behind the charging invention linked just above, the brilliant Brandon Noziaki Miller, says he and his company, digiNow, could build a charger that would work on a 110v system. It would be about the size of an extra-thick hamburger and be able to charge at a rate a bit slower than KTM’s 220v charger. I think I’ll put them in touch with each other.

As for competition, Alta Motors has its impressive Redshift we have yet to test, but it’s far more powerful (120 lb-ft) and expensive ($15k) to be an actual rival. A KTM rep likened that comparison to a YZ450 and TT-R125.

Alta Redshift Makes History At Red Bull Straight Rhythm

Rockin’ the whoops in near silence...

Rockin’ the whoops in near silence…

More appropriate would be the Zero FX 3.3. It has 27 hp (20kw) motor and has a 2.9 kWh battery, scaling in just 9 pounds more than the KTM’s weight claim. In its favor is the ability to be charged from a 110v outlet, its street legality and its top speed purported to be above 80 mph, but its use off-road would be compromised by its belt final drive and less suspension travel. At an MSRP of $8,495, they’re nearly equal in price.

Whaddaya say, Zero and KTM. Would you like to see your bikes in a head-to-head battle?

2017 KTM Freeride E-XC
+ Highs

  • Almost no noise and zero exhaust emissions
  • Ease of use and low maintenance
  • Fun, fun, fun!
– Sighs

  • Short range
  • Where do I find a 220v generator?
  • Where’s the brake pedal?

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  • Craig Hoffman

    I love that this bike has real suspension, unlike the other electric dirt bikes. Also digging the liquid cooled motor. I wonder what the run time would be in the slow and truly gnarly stuff? Gas powered bikes struggle here as the clutch has to be constantly slipped and their engine overheats without a fan. In such riding, it is not how far it can go, but how long it can run.

    Also wondering about deep river crossings and if those would be an issue, or perhaps an advantage for the e-bike. I had a wee bit of a problem here in a river 😛

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyyLWjnm7Ms

    Full video for your dirt bike riding pleasure…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roAQI98hH_c&t=59s

    • Kevin Duke

      It should do quite well in gnarly stuff, as it won’t generate as much heat as an ICE bike – throttle off equals zero heat, unlike a gas bike. KTM says the E-XC can traverse water above its motor and battery, so it’ll be better than an ICE bike unless water somehow seeps in.

  • Old MOron

    I wish I had a set up like the KTM guy. You make this bike sound fun.

    But I’m not the type of guy to load up his truck, drive half-way across creation to get to the OHV area, then drive back. Oh well, maybe the SM version some day.

    • 12er

      Would work for my Cousin in AZ. He just opens the garage and heads into oblivion.

  • Percival Merriwether

    “Without its battery, the bike would weigh less than 190 pounds.” Are you suggesting a long extension cord?

    • Kevin Duke

      Just letting readers know that KTM made several choices to keep down weight by using pricier bits.

    • turb0diesel

      It makes for an interesting wet weight metric. I noticed on KTM website their marketing team dropped the ball, its weight is listed as
      WEIGHT READY TO RACE (WITHOUT FUEL) 108kg (238lbs)
      They could have claimed truthfully 86kg. 😉

  • Chris

    Nice to see Kev in the dirt for a change. Good fun out there.

  • Mark Vizcarra

    220v generators are widely available. Not sure why you think you cant buy one from costco, harbor freight, home depot, lowes, etc. Honda and yamaha makes generators that have 220v capacity.

    KTM made a bad decision by opening a location in Roseville. Seriously??? You couldn’t open one up in the BAY area were all of the other competitors are located. Cmon man. Opening one up in the Bay area would have made more sense since people are more accepting to new technologies. I guess I’ll have to take a 2-3 hour drive to buy a bike.

    • DickRuble

      Read the battery pack specs. He would need this to charge in 80 mins.

      http://toolsworld.com/wa-data/public/shop/products/23/72/27223/images/37979/37979.750@2x.jpg

      • Buzz

        Maybe just hook a trailer hitch to the bike and tow this thing around!

        • DickRuble

          That’s the concept behind diesel-electric locomotives. I don’t think the acceleration you’d get would be satisfactory. The jumps could be a bit awkward.

      • Mark Vizcarra

        And what is the problem??? Of course you will need a gas powered generator to charge it. You can easily take a lunch break while charging or have a nice bbq while you take a break after an hour or 2 of riding trails. 220 and 240 are pretty much the same since there is a 10% tolerance in household AC systems.

        • DickRuble

          You don’t see the irony of trucking around a 200 lbs gas (diesel) generator that burns far more fuel per hour than a regular bike just so that you can ride an electric bike? Not to mention that the generator is another $1000. Hint: Duke was being sarcastic..

          • Mark Vizcarra

            I do see the irony, but most buyers will not care because people that buy these know their limitations. KTM knows that. I have a 2017250 EXC-F and that bike only goes on the dirt only. Having it plated is a plus but I I didn’t buy it to ride it on the street or the highway. People that buy these usually haveown campers, trailers or RVs. Guess what they also have in their arsenal? A generator so you can plug in your TV, iphone etc.

            I am fortunate enough to live nearby 3 CA SVRA’s within 2 hours of me. One is literally 20 mins away. But that is beside the point.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            This whole discussion is moot because on DirtBikes.com it says “KTM also mentioned that due to the sine wave requirements of the packs, they will not accept a charge when the battery charger is plugged into a gasoline generator.”

          • DickRuble

            I guess you’ll need an inverter generator.. Just $4500.

            https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81yMwiE3KdL._SL1500_.jpg

    • Sayyed Bashir

      The KTM / Husqvarna dealership in Roseville, CA, MPC (Motorcycle Performance Center) http://www.mpcktm.com has been in business for over 40 years, since when KTMs were sold as Pentons. It is run by the father/son team of Brad and Matt Teegarden. It is next to the oldest BMW dealership, A&S Motorcycles which also sells Ducati, Triumph, Vespa and Piaggio. All the Japanese dealerships are also nearby on I-80 and Auburn Blvd. Since KTM has primarily been selling dirt bikes, this is an ideal location because of the dirt riding opportunities in Sacramento, the Sierra foothills and the Reno/Tahoe area.

      • Mark Vizcarra

        You’re right, it is an ideal location. But being an electric bike, this type of technology is more accepted in the Bay Area than in Roseville. Would have been nice if Moore and Sons would have sold them.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          Well we are not exactly country hicks here since we are a major supplier of battery chargers for all kinds of EVs (including motorcycles), and CARB (which affects emission standards in the entire country and is a major force behind EV adoption) is only a few blocks from here.

    • Kevin Duke

      The generator issue isn’t that that 220V ones aren’t available. KTM tells us it has something to do with the sine waves from generators somehow not being compatible with the charger.

      • Born to Ride

        It’s because Edison thought it was wise to utilize the exact frequency that the stops the human heart for his AC power transmission, 60hz. In other parts of the world, they use 50hz.

  • kenneth_moore

    Although there’s some interesting E-bikes on the market, I’m disappointed they aren’t further along by now. They’re still very expensive compared to gas, and of course range and recharging continue to be eek points. By comparison you can go to a Chevy dealer and buy a really nice Bolt with great range at a reasonable price.

    I’ve been interested in buying one for years, but they just don’t seem to have matured enough for my riding goals. I hope they do soon.

    • Buzz

      Don’t forget the reasonably priced Bolt is getting a huge boost from the taxpayer.

      The problem with bikes, more than cars, is weight. A couple of hundred extra pounds in battery in a car won’t be noticed as much.

      On two wheels, especially in the dirt, extra weight is a huge penalty.

  • I think I could find places to use this right around my home in central KC. Maybe not technically ‘legal’, but I already see downhill mountain bikers building jumps in overgrown terrain on the edge of a local park. i’d practice saying, “Sorry officer, pursuant to Missouri (insert made-up number here) this is an electric bicycle.”

  • DickRuble

    Given that France and UK have announced intentions to ban sale of new gasoline and diesel small cars and vans by 2040, I think the writing is on the wall for motorcycles as well, though that was not spelled out in the press. Time to begin transitioning…

    • Sayyed Bashir

      A lot of gasoline powered dirt bike tracks in Europe have already been shut down due to noise and pollution. Same thing is happening in California.

    • Jason

      The transition has already begun and by 2040 there won’t be a need to ban conventional gas and diesel engine. The market will have already done it by then.

  • DickRuble

    “the brilliant Brandon Noziaki Miller, says he and his company, digiNow” — we’ve already established that the brilliant BNZ and his company are vaporware experts. How’s his “charge-in-60s” venture going? An update is due. BTW, at 110V you would need more than twice the time it takes at 220V. Is that what you call “a bit slower”? Your genius friend doesn’t have to build the step up converter, you can buy it for about $110. Enjoy the 45lbs burger.

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71aVkL%2BYLyL._SL1500_.jpg

    • Kevin Duke

      “BTW, at 110V you would need more than twice the time it takes at 220V.” Not if a more efficient charger is used. BTW, there’s a lot of things that have happened since our first report on DigiNow. More info to come.

      • DickRuble

        The (theoretical) absolute best that can happen, from 110V/15A with no losses (that’s impossible) is exactly twice the time. You don’t have to believe me; USC has a school of engineering. Talk to one of their professors in electrical engineering, or better, call the KTM engineers. Austrians like to have a good laugh.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        We are working very closely with BNM.

  • roma258

    Glad to see these scoots finally making it to the US! But I don’t get why it’s not street legal….not like emissions are an issue. So just throw some turn signals, horn and brake light and really open things up. Honestly, a bigger battery, street legal accouterment, bump up the price to $10k and you really have something (considering EXC 350 and 500 go for well in excess of $10k).

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Not street legal since the rear brake must be foot controlled per DOT standards. Can easily retrofit the foot brake from a KTM Freeride 250R.

      • roma258

        Sheesh, the dumbest reason yet 🙂

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    Mr. Duke is quite a lightweight looking fellow…how long will the battery last with someone like me onboard that weighs 240lbs?

    • Kevin Duke

      A good question that’s almost impossible to answer accurately. Unlike an EPA test for street electric vehicles that has sharply defined parameters, dirt use is hugely dependent on the terrain and riding aggression. Rider weight will play a role in ultimate range, but it’s much less than how hard a rider hammers on it or traveling at a higher average speed.

      • turb0diesel

        2.6Kw is 3.5hp (747w= 1hp)… so you can have an hr at avg output of 3.5hp. So play riding at slow speeds doing trials like training would last a long time. Fast trail riding will drain it fast.