History in the Making: Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Electric Hard Enduro 2022

Event Information

The Red Bull Tennessee Knockout is a blistering test of man and machine, and our friends at Electric Cycle Rider have partnered with the event’s organizers to introduce an electric dirt bike class for the first time at this year’s TKO event. It’s called ECR eMoto, and it’s possibly the first electric-only class ever to appear in an international dirt bike competition, a significant milestone in the widespread adoption of electric dirt bikes across all disciplines of off-road riding.

Not only is GritShift bringing a team of four to compete for the podium, we’re running several prototype parts on our competition bikes to refine them before they hit the market, along with many new parts you might not have seen in the wild before. Stop by our campsite to see them for yourself!

Today we’re taking a deep dive into all things TKO, exploring its first-ever e-bike competition class, and giving you a preview of what GritShift is bringing to the party at the 2022 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout ECR eMoto Class Championship.

Red Bull TKO transparent PNG GritShift

 

If you plan on camping, spectating, or racing, you need to sign up fast! Last we heard the grid was almost full, so if you have a bike and you have the balls (and an AMA membership), sign up for Red Bull TKO 2022 before no slots remain.

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Tennessee Knockout: A Properly Grueling Hard Enduro

The FIM Hard Enduro World Championship is a series of individual competitions hosted around the world. From Romania to Austria, stunning backdrops set the stage for globetrotting riders vying for the title of Hard Enduro World Champion. But this isn’t just for the pros – each event in the Hard Enduro circuit is open to newcomers, local riders, amateurs, factory teams, and former World Champions alike. The Red Bull Tennessee Knockout (TKO) brings the Hard Enduro circus to Appalachia, and the knockout format requires riders to place high in each round to make it all the way to the end.

So, what exactly is hard enduro? In a nutshell, it’s endurance dirt bike racing with incredibly challenging terrain. Riverbeds of sharp rocks and mud-covered cliff faces give way to motocross-style rhythm and jump sections, which can just as soon turn into thick forested woods packed with spectators. It’s an hours-on-end free-for-all of everything off-road – with elements of motocross, hare scrambles, trials, and everything in between – and riders need diverse skills and talents to even consider competing for the win.

TKO Hard Enduro quote PNG GritShift

Image quote from Red Bull’s Hard Enduro World Championship Guide

Much of the terrain in hard enduro is tricky to walk across, let alone ride across, and physical fitness is as much a part of a victory as the machine you’re piloting through the course. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is not like other forms of racing where the entire pack is expected to finish the race unless something goes seriously wrong. Not only is it a given that much of a hard enduro field won’t even see the finish line – be that from mechanical failure, bodily injuries, or just sheer exhaustion – it’s commonplace for a rider to reach their next checkpoint with nobody else in sight.

To get an idea of how hard we’re talking, check out this raw footage from last year’s TKO. For the e-moto class, imagine the same thing except the only sounds you can hear are people grunting and bikes getting destroyed. Weird, right?

Of all the things the Hard Enduro series has seen over the years, there’s one thing it hasn’t seen: electric dirt bikes. That is, not until now.

Electric Cycle Rider ECR EMOTO PNG GritShift

TKO’s eMoto Class Is History in the Making

For the first time ever, 2022’s running of the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout Extreme Enduro will see a field of e-bikes taking to the course!

Tucker of Electric Cycle Rider on YouTube and ElectricCycleRider.com has been instrumental in creating the ECR eMoto Class event at this year’s TKO. This isn’t just the first time e-bikes have had a class at Tennessee Knockout, it’s the first all-electric class ever featured in a Red Bull Hard Enduro event. And since the FIM E-Xplorer World Cup doesn’t kick off until September, this could be the first international competition ever to feature e-bikes racing in their own class – just for the TKO event, mind you, but that’s still a huge deal.

Even if it isn’t the first, it’s safe to say we’re still in the infancy of electric dirt bike racing in all its forms. That makes this moment incredibly important for e-bikes and electric dirt bike riders – the world is watching, and we plan to impress.

We aren't being sponsored to say any of this, by the way – we’re just excited to watch our humble hobby throw down on a world stage, and to experience the chaos of thrashing lightweight electric dirt bikes through proper Hard Enduro terrain.

Running the ECR eMoto Class

ECR eMoto is being handled a little differently than the regular TKO knockout classes.

  • Limited to just 40 riders, ECR eMoto consists of a single race on Saturday morning right before the first amateur races. Anyone who finishes within the 2.5-hour time limit can also compete in the Saturday afternoon amateur race alongside gas-powered bikes.
  • ECR eMoto is an open class, so anything from bone stock Sur Rons to tricked out Talarias can hit the field. Don’t worry if your bike isn’t modded to the hilt: if you’ve got the skills, you can challenge the pack.
  • A valid AMA membership is required, and riders and bikes must meet certain criteria. Find more details and eligibility requirements on the TKO website.

If you want to race, head over to the TKO eMoto event page and follow the links to register. Be warned, though: the GritShift team wants a 1-2-3 podium, so you better bring the heat! We’ll post the latest news and updates in the Talaria Owners USA (Official) Facebook Group, on our Instagram story, and right here on the GritShift blog.

Racing an E-Bike in Hard Enduro

Lightweight electric dirt bikes from Sur Ron, Segway, Talaria, Stark, and others are a far cry from a typical petrol-powered dirt bike, and with much of the Hard Enduro field running 300cc and 350cc two-strokes, sending an eMoto Class bike through the course is sure to be a very different experience.

For starters, there’s the bike’s weight. It’s common for riders to need to lift their bikes during the race, whether that’s to get up from falls or to unwedge the front wheel from rocks, and that’s all much easier on an e-bike that only weighs a shade over 100 pounds. These lightweight e-bikes will be much easier to handle in those situations than a KTM or Beta 300, for example, which weigh about 225 pounds each in stock form.

On the other hand, that lack of weight could turn dicey over the loose, jagged rocks in the riverbed sections of the Tennessee Knockout course, causing the bike to pinball underneath the rider. But combined with tall and wide handlebars, a lightweight electric dirt bike should be far easier to wrestle into the line of your choice than a two-stroke with twice the weight behind it. Of course, that will also affect tire wear to an unknown degree, and an e-bike’s tires are already much smaller to begin with – in short, there are a lot of unknowns here.

Range is a concern as well. The already limited range of many e-bikes is only exacerbated by aggressive gearing and power-hungry driveline upgrades, and considering the extra weight of modded suspension, brakes, and all the protective cladding necessary to survive the race at all, we’re almost certain to see more than a few bikes run out of power within the 2.5-hour time limit of the eMoto race.

So, what does it take to win the eMoto Class at the Red Bull Tennessee Hard Enduro? We won’t know until the winner is crowned, but the team here at GritShift has come up with a few ideas.

Rusty Dirt Kings GritShift

We’re Fielding a Segway X160 With MX Suspension

At this point you might be wondering how a Sur Ron, Segway, or Talaria could ever compete in such a grueling race with its bicycle-style suspension and brakes.

In short, it probably can’t. Although these e-bikes are more than capable enough for the casual rider, once they are pushed to their mechanical limits – which happens pretty much immediately in a hard enduro environment – the need for beefier components becomes clear. Light electric dirt bikes like Sur Ron, Segway, and Talaria will likely need numerous modifications to reach the end of an event like TKO, mostly centered around improving suspension, brakes, and overall durability.

After breaking numerous sets of mountain bike forks doing far less than hard enduro, our lead R&D tech, Rusty, took things to the next level by developing the GritShift Big Sender MX Fork Conversion Kit for Sur Ron, Segway, and Talaria e-bikes. Ahead of his run at the 2022 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout eMoto Class podium, Rusty designed a way to adapt KTM 85 or 85 SX dirt bike forks directly onto these e-bikes with no fabrication required.

Our conversion kit allows you to run the forks, brake line, caliper, rotor, and pads from a KTM 85 along with the front wheel of your choice (KTM or other) to substantially strengthen the front end of your e-bike, enabling it to tame some truly insane terrain like the kind you’ll find at Red Bull TKO.

We’ve made our part of the conversion as affordable as possible while still delivering the ruggedness and durability needed to win races. But make no mistake: this is a serious investment for experienced riders wanting to see what a lightweight electric dirt bike is truly capable of.

In our experience, you’re looking at about $1,000 all-in for an earlier KTM 85 setup with conventional forks and $2,400+ for a brand-new air fork setup (if you can find one, that is). That’s a lot of cash, but you’re getting a lot in return – combined with driveline and ergonomic upgrades, the Big Sender Kit catapults a Sur Ron, Segway, or Talaria e-bike to a much higher level of performance.

But hey, we know the proof is in the pudding. That’s why the designer of the conversion kit, Rusty, is running his own Segway X160 with 2022 KTM air forks in the ECR eMoto Class at the 2022 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout! Having podiumed at E-Jam Spyder MX, E-Jam Pax Trax MX, and the Electro & Co Electric Showdown, Rusty’s Segway X160 moto build is about to take on its hardest challenge yet.

Read all about the build in Dirt Kings: Rusty’s Race-Winning Segway X160 Moto Build and follow Rusty’s progress on our Instagram story August 11th to 14th, 2022.

Do You Need All That to Win?

Not at all! We don’t want to give you the impression that you need to spend a ton of money to win races. A racer’s stamina, skillset, and strategy are often more important than the hardware at their disposal. What’s more, strategic modifications offer far greater rewards over simply throwing money at a bike left and right.

And hey, we’re all in new territory here! For all we know, a stock bike could complete a Hard Enduro in the right hands – and stock bikes are allowed in the race! If you make it to the finish line at TKO on a bone stock e-bike or anything close to it, expect a hearty handshake from us along with all our respect.

Dirt Kings: Rusty’s Race-Winning Segway X160 Full Moto Build
Dirt Kings: Rusty’s Race-Winning Segway X160 Full Moto Build

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 Ru...

 Talaria Fox GritShift Cropped

GritShift Is Showing Up Strong

We’re thrilled to share that Team GritShift has four riders entered in the race – and we’re all eyeing the podium!

Honestly, we would be doing this even without GritShift – we all live to race. We’re going to TKO to have a good time and support the e-bike community. We’re excited to meet some like-minded e-bikers and ride alongside world-class racing legends. Bring your best though because we’re gunning for those top spots!

  • Both our CEO and Head of R&D will be in the race and at the campsite to answer questions about parts, tuning, and the meaning of life
  • Our team will be running several new and prototype parts including Talaria Sting skid plates and our Big Sender KTM Fork Conversion Kit
  • We’re hoping to organize a designated pit area so us e-bikers can all hang out and keep our batteries and gear together
  • We’re planning to get there early enough to stake out an e-bike camping area for anyone that wants to camp as a group

Camp Out With Us!

All are welcome! Feel free to find us and hang out even if you aren’t camping. We’d be happy to talk bikes, tech, and anything else with you if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

If you’d like to camp with us, there are a few things you need to know. First off, camping at the Red Bull TKO event site costs $30 and involves several rules and guidelines. You don’t have to be participating in the race to camp at the site, but each person will still need a spectator pass in addition to a camping ticket. If you’re racing, this will give you a good place to keep all your gear, but there are no electrical hookups in the campsites – it’s all primitive camping unless you bring a generator, though we’re sure there will be some around if you need electricity. These are e-bikes, after all!

If you want to camp with us and have questions, please call us to get the fastest response.

E-Bikes and Hard Enduro: Name a More Iconic Duo

Be sure to watch our Instagram story August 11th to 14th, 2022 as Team GritShift takes on the ECR eMoto Class at the 2022 Red Bull Tennessee Knockout.

We want to give a special thanks to Tucker of Electric Cycle Rider without whom none of this would be happening. Check out Electric Cycle Rider on YouTube and visit ElectricCycleRider.com for more awesome e-bike content.

In the days leading up to the Tennessee Knockout, here’s some more electric hard enduro to keep your blood pumping:

Be sure to watch the GritShift Blog and our social spaces to see the follow-up to this article, where we answer all the questions raised about how an e-bike will do in hard enduro, how many bikes will actually make the finish line, and how many hours of sleep a person can actually get at TKO.

Author: Justin D (The Dake)

A longtime automotive journalist and the Editor of GritShift, Justin Dake has been recognized by everyone from his neighbors to his former classmates. He enjoys wrenching on anything with wheels, talking about anything with wheels, and gluten-free pasta. His road racing and mountain biking experience will undoubtedly lead him to buy multiple e-bikes just as soon as his money tree starts bearing fruit.
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