Dirt Kings: Rusty’s Race-Winning Segway X160 Moto Build
Some people might think a Segway X160 is what you buy when you can't afford an X260, but Rusty would disagree.
As head of R&D here at GritShift, Rusty has built an insane e-moto out of the X260’s smaller sibling. His comprehensive overhaul improved on every weakness of the stock X160, to the point where it now rides – and wins – in the company of some very big players in the electric dirt bike scene. Now packing three times the power of a stock X160 and a plethora of heavy-duty components straight off a dirt bike, this 2020 Segway X160 moto build dominates dirt track racing and surprises much larger and more expensive bikes on the daily.
Check out some of what this X160 e-moto has won:
- 1st Place, Open Modified class, E-Jam Spyder MX
- 2nd Place, Open Modified class, E-Jam Pax Trax MX
- 3rd Place, Full Mod Sur Ron class, Electro & Co Fully Charged Electric Showdown
Of course, Rusty didn’t nail the setup the first time. Starting with a stock X160, he experimented with the bike’s handling, power, and ergonomics to find the best setup for his riding style. There’s a lot to be learned from such a successful build in the hands of such a capable rider – mistakes, scope creep, hindsight realizations, and so much more. To try and absorb some of that vast knowledge, we’ve interviewed Rusty as the first subject of our new series Dirt Kings.
Whether you’re at the start of an upgrading spree or just want to see what these bikes are truly capable of, there’s something for everyone in the journey of Rusty’s 2020 Segway X160 that’s purpose built for MX racing.
The most impressive aspect of Rusty’s Segway X160 is undoubtedly the suspension setup. When an X160 is pushed to its mechanical limits – which happens pretty much immediately in a racing environment – the need for beefier components becomes clear. That’s exactly what led to Rusty developing the GritShift KTM 85 MX Fork Conversion Kit to adapt KTM 85 or 85 SX dirt bike forks directly onto a Sur Ron, Segway, or Talaria. All you need are the forks, brake caliper, rotor, pads, and line from a KTM 85 along with the front wheel of your choice (KTM or other) – no fabrication required.
Preorder your GritShift KTM 85 MX Fork Conversion Kit today and witness a live demonstration as Rusty and the GritShift staff take on the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Extreme Enduro August 11th to 14th, 2022.
Front: GritShift Big Sender MX Fork Conversion Kit, KTM 85 SX front forks (rebuilt and revalved), Pro Taper ⅞” SX Race Bend handlebars
Front: KTM 85 SX front brake caliper, Hope Tech 3 V4 master cylinder
Rear: Hope Tech 3 V4 rear master cylinder and caliper, Warp 9 rear disc guard and mount
Front: KTM 85 SX 19” wheel
Battery: MotoClops 60V 53 AH
Controller: MotoClops BAC4000 12 kW
It’s rare to find someone who’s as skilled with CAD as they are on the track, but that describes Rusty to a T. He’s a race-winning dirt rider and head of product R&D here at GritShift HQ in South Florida. Rusty’s diverse experience gives him unique insights into what effects each upgrade will have on overall performance.
Our questions are in orange – everything else is straight from Rusty unless otherwise noted. Rusty, take it away!
Introduce us to your bike! What kind of riding did you build it for? What's your ultimate goal?
I’m Rusty and my bike is a 2020 Segway X160! My bike is built for the dirt and mainly racing and jumping. I have upgraded the suspension as much as it can be at this point, and my goal is to be able to send it on the bigger Motocross tracks without any suspension breakages or worries.
What was it like riding a stock Segway X160 before all the mods?
Slow, boring, and suspension was horrible. Out of the box the bike just felt slow and sluggish, and the suspension couldn’t take any hits without blowing through the fork and shock to bottom out. Even on lighter trail riding you would blow through the fork stroke so fast.
Image: Cased a jump, broke the rear linkage, and bent the rear shock shaft. Walking home after that one for sure.
What needed to be changed right off the bat?
Right away suspension needed to be completely ripped off and changed. The stock forks are not sprung correctly or valved correctly for the weight and forces the X160 is capable of. Even with me weighing only 145 pounds (66 kg), it was downright bad how easy it was to blow through the forks with any light spirited riding. It was the same story with the bike’s power – suspension had to be done before power was added, but I knew I would want more power once the bike began feeling more planted.
What upgrades made the most significant difference? What surprised you the most?
The combination of the KTM 85 SX fork and EBMX rear shock was a pleasant surprise. It is incredibly hard to bottom the bike out now, and even hard hits are much more manageable. The bike feels a lot more planted and controlled when hitting fast whoops and jumping. And the spring is fairly soft! It's not stiffened up like most people are running on mountain bike shocks! I got the correct sag and the valving actually works!
The power was also very surprising. The difference moving to 12kW from a stock Segway X160 making 3kW makes it a completely new bike capable of going vertical up 5-foot walls and jumping as big as you desire. You no longer are limited by the power, only by your riding ability.
It's basically a mini KTM Freeride to me. My bike weighs just under 155 pounds (70.5 kg) while making 12 kW of power. A KTM Freeride weighs in at 245 pounds (111 kg) and has a max output of 18 kW, which results in my Segway X160’s power to weight actually being a slight bit higher. And it’s fairly close in all-around capability with the great suspension on it now.
Editor’s note: Rusty’s Segway X160 really does have a better power-to-weight ratio than a KTM Freeride: 170 kW per metric ton for the Segway versus 162 for the KTM. Wild!
What was the most satisfying part of the build and what challenges did you encounter along the way?
The most satisfying part of the build was figuring out the suspension, and it was also the biggest challenge. I am not a big supporter of mountain bike components on these bikes – even the best brands do not have accurate valving for the spring weights the Segway X160 requires, and because of this they are failing prematurely. I personally went through 4 different shocks and 4 different forks before finally deciding to try a full moto suspension build.
I believe the reason it took me that long to convert is I was trying to keep the weight numbers down. I picked up roughly 15-17 pounds (6.8 to 7.7 kg) with the combination of beefier wheels, brakes, and suspension which meant adding about 15% more weight to the stock 105-pound bike (48kg). This was a big concern for me in terms of whether the bike would still feel balanced when jumping and if the power was still going to be enough at that weight.
It was an honest surprise to feel the bike after the moto suspension build. The bike feels more planted and more stable everywhere. I'm also able to ride much harder without worries of breaking components. And price wise, it actually came out cheaper than buying mountain bike parts. Granted I was looking at higher-end parts like Fox 40s and such, but you would have to if you wanted to get close to this level of performance, and even those did not feel nearly as good as the moto suspension does.
Is there anything about the build you wouldn't do again?
Go straight to moto forks! If you're riding your bike on hard trails or hitting MX-style jumps, I repeat, go straight to moto forks! You can get used moto front ends from KTM 85’s for less than $700 USD. All you have to do is rebuild them and you will have a very stable front end for your bike! it will handle abuse and not have you debating if you're gonna blow your wrists out or get thrown off the bars.
Are there any parts that are so significant you would suggest people buy them right out of the gate, at the same time they buy the bike if they can, and just take the stock part off immediately?
Ditch the stock brakes! Brakes with mineral oils that have low boiling points are prone to lose pressure due to how hot the brakes get trying to slow down a 100+ pound bike versus the 30-pound mountain bikes they were intended for. Brakes with DOT fluid work much better – nobody I know has randomly lost them yet, whereas we (the GritShift staff) have personally lost stock brakes at high speeds and incurred injuries as a result.
Beyond that, it will depend on riding style more than anything. If you're riding in the dirt and your goal is to basically have a moto bike that’s quiet and nimble but not full size and less prone to injuries, then suspension is key! The power I would wait on before doing suspension if I did it one at a time. If you ride more streets, power may be a bigger priority to you since not only do you gain power but also range can increase from better efficiency.
What would you tell people NOT to change immediately?
I would recommend riding the bike stock first. The modding process won’t be the same for anyone. For example, if you’re taller, ergonomics will most likely need to be adjusted before anything else! It's your bike and no matter how crazy or simple you go with building the bike, build it to be comfortable for you! The more comfortable and confident you are, the quicker you will be pushing the bike and more fun will be had!
This is a big one: Would you still build a Segway X160 knowing what you know now?
At this moment I would, but only because of the power mods and parts availability. Here soon I will be looking into building a Talaria Sting as controller and power mods become available. The Talaria’s frame and ergonomics seem like a better fit for a full-on dirt build, as well as the wider frame will give a much better area to grip onto when riding hard, so it seems like a win all-around. But I’ve had a blast with my X160 and would encourage anyone to build one and see for themselves.
As the world of aftermarket parts continues to grow, what are you looking forward to most? What would you like to see happen?
I'm really looking forward to some different aftermarket motor options! If as a community we continue to develop the motors and controllers, I feel these bikes will really start to be downright crazy with the capability of what you will be able to throw at them. Other than a few small options in limited quantities or unsealed, currently there isn’t a good option for plug and play motors that can handle more power without risk of blowing magnets apart.
What would you say to someone who's starting fresh in the world of e-bikes?
Ride it stock and find friends to ride with! Decide what you want your bike to be and how you would gain the most benefit. You may use yours as a combo street and dirt setup and that’s good! Just may need to adjust your build in certain areas to be better for this. These things are all about fun and being able to rip almost anywhere without worries of getting in trouble or pissing off the neighborhood! So enjoy it the way you want.
How do you feel about the future of e-bikes and electric dirt bikes?
As e-bikes continue to grow I think it will become the future for dirt bike riders. Soon I see everyone thinking the e-bike is the replacement to get more riding time. Let me be clear, I don't see these replacing full size 450 or 250 bikes, but I see this for everybody else on the weekend and just wanting the most ride time!
E-bikes like Segway, Sur Ron, and Talaria are between pit bikes and full motorbikes. They ride like a bigger bike than a pit bike but maintain the strong power to weight ratio seen in much larger bikes. This gives a great opportunity for more practice time and quick rides around your house or a woods area by the house that typically isn’t accessible because of noise ordinances in the area. This may also help save some of the moto tracks we’re seeing shut down due to noise ordinances in certain parts of the world. I think this is just the start, and as the technology grows and becomes more affordable, with more range and more power, there's no telling – in 4-5 years there could be electric supercross racing!
GritShift’s Dirt Kings: Segway X160 Moto Build
We hope you enjoyed this inaugural edition of Dirt Kings from the team here at GritShift! Rusty’s Segway X160 moto build is a perfect example of how far the X160 can be pushed while remaining balanced and usable at every turn. If it’s a race-winning competitor you want, an X160 can be built to hold its own through jumps, whoops, steps, and more while remaining lighter and less complicated than many of its rivals.
Dirt Kings brings you expert advice straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s like you’re walking up and asking about the bike in person, but you don’t have to get muddy to do it. Want to see more e-bike builds and stories?
- Follow GritShift on Facebook and Instagram
- Tag us and your images may be featured in future articles
- Learn how to make your e-bike street legal
Cover photo courtesy of David Lando. Follow him on Instagram. Used with permission.
Author: Justin Dake
Justin Dake is an automotive journalist and collector of anything with wheels.