SurronSki Challenge
Inspired by Robbie Maddison's Pipe Dream

Pipe Dream showed us the impossible. Seeing a motorcycle cross an open body of water might give our parents nightmares, but not us. And because we have mechanics, fabricators, and an R&D team at our disposal, we decided to give ourselves the biggest challenge the e-moto world has ever seen.

Success means building a fully functional Sur Ron that can go from land to sea at a moment's notice. Failure? Not an option, unless you count bellyflops and drowned bikes as failures. We just call that fun.

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The Crew

We’re all obsessed with off-roading and the outdoors in general, and that obsession helps fuel our pursuit of everything e-moto. From stunting and MX to trail riding and on-road commuting, we’d ridden on all kinds of surfaces, but none of us had ridden on water. A few of us had skied or surfed before, and almost all of us had seen Pipe Dream at one time or another, so although we didn’t know at the time, we already had the perfect team to tackle an impossible task.

The First Water Test

The first water testing phase of the SurronSki Challenge was a thrilling leap into the unknown. Planning and execution amounted to driving a bone stock Sur Ron into the cold waters of a rural Florida pond to see what would happen. The goal was simple: find out what would fail in the worst-case scenario of the SurronSki going under. With no waterproofing measures and no clue what we were doing, (what broke). Back to the drawing board.

Pulling A Ski Behind an E-Bike on a Flooded Road

To consider what would happen in the best-case scenario of the SurronSki staying above water, we attached a tether to the back of our Sur Ron and took it to a nearby flooded road. On the surface this might look like some guys with too much free time horsing around in a flooded parking lot, and it definitely was. But this test also allowed us to gauge whether splash action alone would damage any of the Sur Ron’s electrical components or ingress into its bearings.

The Second Water Test

The second water testing phase was a more rigorous examination of the Sur Ron's submarine capabilities. Taking what we learned from the first submersion, we extensively waterproofed the battery, main wire harness, plugs, and controller. But to our surprise, not much changed. The bike did operate for longer underwater than before, but the throttle was our weakest link this time. At least the bearings stayed dry this time.

Early Fabrication

At this point we decided to split our team’s focus in two: waterproofing the bike and fabricating the ski. Early fabrication was a critical stage in the SurronSki Challenge. We took our standard Sur Ron and began the transformation process, starting with Jenny in R&D creating various CAD models which Rusty and the fabricators worked tirelessly to bring to life. The design itself proved to be its own challenge, requiring not only stability and control while moving across water, but also giving the rear wheel enough space to create propulsion by moving massive amounts of water. Last but not least, the entire system needed to work on land as well, while remaining light enough that our burly test riders could still retrieve it from underwater.

Waterproofing The Wiring Harness

Meanwhile, Josh and team set about thoroughly waterproofing the Sur Ron. From soldering wiring junctions to packing bearings with marine grease, every change was meticulously planned and executed to ensure that the Sur Ron was not just water-ready, but also safe and reliable on dry land. This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project. The Sur Ron's electrical system had to be completely protected from water ingress to prevent short-circuits and potential damage, including the motor, controller, and entire wiring harness, all while staying as close to a stock Sur Ron as we could. We decided to switch out the Sur Ron’s stock drive-by-wire electric throttle for a conventional cable-driven throttle, but beyond that it’s all Sur Ron from top to bottom. Except for the big metal ski, of course.

Custom 12 Cup Paddle Tire

Since our goal is to make an amphibious vehicle and not just a jet ski, we needed a form of propulsion that would work on both water and land. The obvious answer was to slap a sand paddle on the back and call it a day, but we soon discovered that off-the-shelf sand tires caused too much cavitation, causing the bike to sink. So we started reaching out to tire makers, and one of our first calls was to a company called Skat Trak. Now you might not know this – and we certainly didn’t – but Skat Trak actually designed the paddle that Robbie Maddison’s KTM wore in Pipe Dream. We got about halfway into telling them our plans and they said, “You’re doing the Robbie Maddison thing aren’t you?” Soon our humble back-of-shop project bike was wearing a one-off Skat Trak paddle tire designed and vulcanized specifically for the SurronSki project, and this little pipe dream of ours was one step closer to reality.

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