Every year Motorcycle.com gets invited to the press introductions for several new motorcycles – it’s the biggest perk of our job, and the reason all of us have stuck around as long as we have! The cycle goes like this: at the end of one year or the beginning of the next, manufacturers talk a big game about a new model launch, and/or the internet goes wild with social media rumors and opinions about a new bike. In turn we, the media, can’t wait to be the first to throw a leg over said bike to see what the fuss is about. Sometimes the motorcycle in question is a dud, other times it exceeds beyond our wildest dreams. Then you get the rare model that didn’t get much fanfare but turns out to be unexpectedly awesome.
I just spent last weekend riding Ol’ Faithful, my 2008 Honda CRF450R, up in Mammoth, California, on trails very similar to those I rode in Nevada City on the Alta Redshift EXR. Riding up in the Sierra Nevadas is an absolute must for any off-road or dual-sport rider, but it got me thinking… We were riding at a base altitude of about 7,880 feet before climbing up even higher into some of the area’s mountains and lookouts. As a result, Ol’ Faithful was starving for air and running out of steam on her top end.
The Erzberg Rodeo is the toughest enduro in the world, and Alta took two riders to Austria last month to compete. Ty Tremaine qualified 43rd in his first ever attempt at Erzberg, and Lyndon Poskitt might’ve done much better than 113th if his race bikes and gear hadn’t been stolen out of his van at a rest stop dammit! As it was, Poskitt qualified on Ty’s back-up bike and then sat out the race. All you have to do is cover 22 miles in four hours to finish Erzberg; the Alta team came up just a bit short, but with what they learned this year, Husqvarna, KTM, Gas Gas and Beta could be in for a shock in 2019.
Alta’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Derek Dorresteyn, is a motorcycle racer, and in his prime during the early 2000s, he was trying anything he could to squeeze more power and performance out of his KTM 450, but any gains he got somewhere, he lost elsewhere. Derek and his riding buddy Jeff Sand, another eventual co-founder and current Chief Development Officer, would get together and talk shop all the time, and they loved the idea of a smooth and perfectly responsive torque curve but understood how difficult this was to achieve with a gas-powered bike.
Love them or loathe them, electric vehicles are here to stay. Electric cars are already highly practical: Tesla’s Model S can go over 300 miles on a charge, and even the subcompact Chevy Bolt EV hatchback is supposedly able to go 238 miles. But those are cars, and the Tesla’s battery weighs 1200 pounds, the Bolt’s 960. Not so practical for a motorcycle, where the whole vehicle needs to weigh about half that.
Two weeks ago we got the opportunity to ride the all-new Alta Motors 2018 Redshift MXR, as well as the Redshift MX for comparison. It was my first time riding an Alta, and an electric dirtbike for that matter, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. How easy would it be to ride and how would it compare to a regular gas-powered dirtbike?
We’ve all heard about them, talked about them, and maybe even looked them up on Google, but in the end, most of us probably figured a full-size electric dirtbike is an expensive and impractical novelty motorcycle only those with deep pockets could afford to add to their toy collection… until now. Alta Motors has just released an upgraded 2018 Redshift MX model as well as its all-new Redshift MXR, and we finally got to throw a leg over both, not only to see if they lived up to the hype, but how they stack up to their gas burning rivals.
(Update: We’ve received some clarification from Harley-Davidson: the product of Project LiveWire is on track for 2019, but the arrangement with Alta Motors is for new electric models beyond the LiveWire. This story has been updated to reflect this information.)
As futuristic as the future may one day be, I’ll be the guy hoarding all the loud, leaky, inefficient, fossil-fueled motors that most of the world will consider to be boat anchors and giant paperweights – call it my Redneck 401k. One day they might be considered old-fashioned, but there’s just something extremely gratifying about an internal combustion engine that an electric motor could never replicate. Mostly it’s the sound and feel, obviously, and it used to be about the performance, but electric motorcycles have evolved and come a long way in recent years.
Astute e-bike fans might remember the name BRD, the group setting out to make an electric motocross (and supermoto) competitor from the ground up, called the Redshift, with an emphasis on performance. As we found out at the AIMExpo recently, 2015 brings the bike and the company a few surprises.