It’s a flavor of physical abuse not covered by the Geneva Convention, and yet somehow our humble electric dirt bikes lived to tell the tale.
Back in August, hundreds of dirt bikes took to the hills of rural Appalachia as the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout rolled into the Trials Training Center just outside Chattanooga. For the GritShift team and e-bikers everywhere, the best part was the ECR eMoto class, the first exclusively electric class at an international hard enduro competition – ever. Four of our riders entered the fray, and not only did they all survive with limbs and egos intact, they shared the course with some of the biggest names in the hard enduro world as well as some familiar faces of the up-and-coming electric dirt bike niche.
In this week’s edition of our E-Bike Weekly column, we’re going on a journey to understand TKO without having to get all sweaty and muddy to do so. We’ll be checking out some of the best videos from Red Bull TKO ECR eMoto 2022 while delving into the unique challenges facing e-bikes that regular gas bikes simply don’t face. Next, we’ll take a look at some used e-bikes for sale across the United States so you can get in on the action yourself. Finally, we’ll preview the next international electric dirt bike event for 2022, although it’s a bit farther away than Appalachia.
We covered TKO’s ECR eMoto class in depth before the event started, but in short, hard enduro is basically a bunch of hooligans tackling trials-style obstacles on regular dirt bikes. That’s already a big ask for a gas-powered machine, and for humble electric dirt bikes like Sur Ron, Talaria, and Segway, it proved to be a monumental challenge for myriad reasons.
As it happened, any e-bike that finished the eMoto race within the allowed time qualified for the second one, but we haven’t seen any videos from the second race, so what you’re about to see all happened in the main race.
Big thanks to Electric Cycle Rider!
Now that we’re back at GritShift HQ, we’re thrilled to have returned from TKO with tons of new product ideas and ways to improve existing parts for those of you looking to push your Sur Ron, Segway, or Talaria e-bike to the absolute limit. Check out our store to see what’s new and in the works. And of course, we owe a huge thanks to our friends over at Electric Cycle Rider – that’s the ECR of the ECR eMoto class – as without them this whole thing wouldn’t have happened. Check out Electric Cycle Rider’s top 5 finish here.
The best e-bike videos of TKO 2022, hand-picked just for you
Electron Racer: Our favorite tour of the course
Let’s start with the first question on everyone’s mind: what did the course look like?
Electron Racer has already answered the question about whether e-bikes can compete with gas bikes, but TKO switched it up by pitting the electrics against themselves – at least until the gas bikes caught up.
In the first race, e-bikes were given a 30-minute head start over their petrol-powered compadres, a gap which shrank and ultimately closed for reasons we’ll explore throughout these videos. There’s no getting around the fact that e-bikes were generally slower than gas bikes at TKO, but whether that’s because of this specific course, their comparative lack of weight and clearance, the local barometric pressure, the wind direction, the day of the week, or the alignment of Jupiter and Uranus is entirely up for debate.
For example, at around the 6:30 mark, multiple e-bikes struggle to climb a hill you could easily walk up on foot. That kind of sets the tone for this course – brief moments of free-flowing single track Zen followed by agonizing climbs and wrestling with the bike for every inch of progress. That’s partially down to a relative lack of weight and those shallow, skinny tires – once they get packed with mud there’s not much grip to be had on any slippery surface, and this course runs right through a riverbed multiple times.
You’ll also notice that the bike’s throttle seems to either be completely on or completely off, a detail found on many e-bikes but one you might not even realize is there if you’re only riding on the road. It’s not until you’re trying to feather the bike out from being stuck on a pile of rocks that you realize there’s no real way to crawl the rear wheel, right about the time a gas bike feathers the clutch and floats right past you. Oh, to have a clutch.
We like this video in particular because it proves that you don’t have to be in first place to make a good video. Plus, the complete lack of engine noise lets you take in just how physically grueling this event was. If the ASMR video you’ve been waiting for is a sweaty man struggling to catch his breath for over thirty minutes while revving up a battery powered leaf blower, your wait is finally over.
Watch the full video to see the course transform from open fields to rocky riverbeds, dense forests, and steep rocky escarpments.
Ka Uila Motors Takes on Tennessee
It’s always great to hear from John of Electric Trail Rider, and his full voiceover walkthrough of the ECR eMoto race offers a glimpse into the mind of someone crazy enough to tackle this course on an e-bike.
From getting stuck at the very first log to knocking his magnetic key loose mid-obstacle later in the race, it’s nothing but realness in this one. Those logs look a lot taller from the seat of a Sur Ron, as do a lot of the river rocks, and around 38 minutes in he even lets a gas bike pass him to keep his pace up. As John explains, that guy was one of the fastest gas riders of the race and there was no sense in holding him up when the e-bikes were clearly going slower overall – one of infinite examples of camaraderie at TKO 2022.
This video also focuses on another aspect of long rides that few people consider: the importance of being comfortable. When you’re out there essentially doing a Tough Mudder with a motorcycle, that’s no time to be constricted by stiff gear. Another helpful hint is to take advantage of walking the track before the race – even if you don’t walk every mile, getting an idea of what to expect is critical to not being caught out by unexpected terrain.
John’s riding is inspiring as well. It’s easy to watch a faster rider blow by you and immediately try to match their pace, but in most circumstances that’s just a quick way to crash. John keeps his cool, runs his own pace, sticks with his lines, and stays positive ‘til the very end, and if you ask us that’s what everyone should aspire to in an event as tough as TKO.
If you enjoyed this one, be sure to check out John’s shorter video of running the TKO Prologue on an Electric Motion Escape R.
SurRon Texas Proves That Even Watching TKO Is Tiring
Frequent e-bike racers have probably seen SurRon Texas at an event before – he’s often out there cheering riders on with words of encouragement from the sidelines, and this video proves that Red Bull TKO is still super exciting – and a bit tiring – even if you’re not riding in it. Of course, unlike the riders, you’ll actually be able to walk at the end of the day, so there’s certainly that to consider.
The challenges facing these e-bikes become even more clear from beside the track. Those hills and drops are a lot steeper than they look through a GoPro – check out 2:10 to see what must have been the steepest hill of the entire event, followed shortly by a mid-course battery swap which we’re not entirely sure was legal, but we’re also not narcs, so it’s whatever.
It’s easy to see how a shorter wheelbase and tighter breakover angle aren’t really what you want on some of the taller obstacles like rocks and downed trees. Check out the 7:00 mark to see what is almost definitely the most abused Cake Kalk in existence gliding gracefully over a log, and by that I mean high-centering hard and being dragged toward the finish line in the most inspiring moment for Sweden since ABBA was on Eurovision.
There are so many riding backgrounds that could come in handy at TKO, and it's interesting to watch those strengths ebb and flow over such a long and diverse course. Many riders don’t want to back out of a line they've chosen through a rock garden even if a better line becomes apparent later on, and yet not everyone takes off like a bat out of hell when a flowy section of single track comes around, some opting instead to embrace that fleeting moment of relaxation for as long as possible. Thankfully, the TKO course was clearly marked, and corner workers were stationed anywhere the direction was questionable, so all riders had to do was focus on the path ahead.
Another striking takeaway is just how slow these bikes are really going. I don't mean in comparison to the gas bikes, I mean across the board – the TKO course is a laborious undertaking much more resemblant of a Tough Mudder than an Ironman. Watch the full video to experience the beginning, middle, and end of the course, by which point you'll see several of the gas bikes had caught up and passed the e-bikes – for understandable reasons.
Behind-The-Scenes Coverage From Gritshift
We wouldn’t be a good business in 2022 if we didn’t shamelessly plug our own accomplishments mid-article, so be sure to check out GritShift’s Instagram TKO story for what turned out to be a pretty unique look at what happens when the pro cameras are put away.
The culture of TKO is worth experiencing even if you’re not riding in the event, from campsite story swapping to movies in the pits at night, and it’s also an extremely busy weekend with a lot going on at all times. We’d say if you’re in the neighborhood you should totally attend, even if you’re not riding in the race. 10/10 would do again.
As it turned out, ours is the only video we’ve seen that takes you behind the scenes as a rider at TKO, so click through and find the Red Bull TKO story circle at the top of our profile to see how it all played out. We also came home with tons of new ideas for parts and ways to improve existing ones – check out what we build by clicking the button below.
Straight Rhythm? More Like Straight up Destroy Your Bike
Our riders didn’t attend the Straight Rhythm Race in the urban metropolis of Nashville, but anyone who did was in for a treat as professional riders navigated what appears to be an American Gladiator course designed specifically to break your bike’s suspension and destroy whatever cartilage you happen to have left in your knees.
It’s basically just bikes going back and forth on a log course laid out right in the middle of Broadway all the way into the nighttime hours, which we can’t say doesn’t look like a great time, but our calling was definitely out in the woods when given the choice. We imagine our beloved e-bikes would have been totally wrecked coming out of Straight Rhythm anyway – Sur Rons and Talarias just don’t have the clearance for those logs – but if you’re making a weekend of watching TKO next time around, the vibe of Straight Rhythm might be right up your alley.
E-Bikes for Sale
The best deals, the worst deals, and everything in between
We always like to look at the used e-bike market on E-Bike Weekly, mainly to make sure people are still asking way over MSRP for lightly modified Sur Rons and bone stock Talarias, but also to prove that you can find pretty good deals if you’re willing to refresh Craigslist every ten minutes like I do. So if you’re ready to get your feet wet and body muddy by taking on a hard enduro of your own – maybe even at the next TKO – this will give you an idea of what it costs to get started.
Bone Stock: Segway X260
This stock Segway X260 listed for $4,500 on San Diego Craigslist represents the most common condition and price range you’re likely to find a used Segway or Sur Ron for sale in. Sitting at just 70 miles, the seller claims they only used it “to get around ranch,” which really, if all you need to be happy is a little Hidden Valley, that’s a lot cheaper than a whole-ass e-bike, but hey, you do you.
To be exact, this X260 costs about $2,000 less than a new one, and that’s assuming you can find anywhere that’s stocking them right now. You can certainly get more for $4,500 somewhere else if you want some mods for your money, but if you’re looking for a stock e-bike with super low miles, this is certainly an acceptable deal in today’s market.
Of course, you’ll need to do some significant upgrading if you want to do any MX-style riding and especially hard enduro, so why not let someone else do some of the modding for you?
Lightly Modded: Sur Ron LBX
Listen, if you’re not willing to drop four G’s after reading a Craigslist description that’s shorter than this sentence, then maybe this ain’t the Sur Ron for you. You see the green seat and green grips? That’s like a Schwinn Stingray and a Tron bike had a baby. Don’t like green? Then don’t buy it, guy. Here’s the description anyway:
this bike has been a pavement princess for the most part. Tons of upgrades, better clamps pegs seat and bars. also added a kill switch for the light.
There’s arguably no better place to start an off-road build than with a bike that’s never been off-road. It’s clean, (hopefully) undamaged, and it might have made it more than a week on its stock forks without blowing them out on about the third jump you’ve ever landed on it. If that sounded personal, it’s because it was, but the point is you know a road bike hasn’t been abused in the sort of way an off-road build almost certainly has.
We’d want to know what mods are installed on this bike beyond what can be seen, specifically whether that’s a proper MX wheel build with good hubs and rims or if those green spokes are just for aesthetics. If that all checks out and you’re looking for a solid starting point for some electric hard enduro action, this Sur Ron listed for $4,200 on Ventura Craigslist could be a top contender.
That’s a No From Me, Dog: New 2022 Talaria Sting
It’s not all butterflies and rainbows on Craigslist of course. This brand new Talaria Sting is listed on Houston Craigslist for $5,300, but when they are currently listed for way less than that right here on GritShift, why overpay?
In our minds there’s no reason at all, especially since it looks like the seller bought this one specifically to flip it. Why else would you order two and immediately sell the first one you get for a big honking profit? The fact that it’s been posted for a month could mean other people have shrewdly detected the seller’s ruse. But hey, if you’ve gotta get on that hard enduro train ASAP and you have 5K burning a hole in your pocket, maybe an expensive bike is better than no bike at all.
For the rest of us, rest assured that this trend will pass – and it isn’t representative of every bike being sold right now. If you’re willing to watch and wait, you can absolutely find Stings and Sur Rons in the sub-$4,000 range, and it isn’t unheard of to see a healthily modded e-bike drop as low as $3,500 or three grand. You just have to jump on it quick – we had 3 totally different bikes bookmarked for this article, and when we went to write about them a couple days later, all three posts had been deleted. Stay strong friends, your moment will come.
E-Bike News and Events
Probably like news and events and stuff
Next Up: FIM E-Xplorer World Cup
On an international level, the next major electric dirt bike event will be the FIM E-Xplorer World Cup. A self-described fusion of “action-packed racing, technical innovation, sustainability and exploration,” which kind of sounds like Anthony Bourdain meets Nitro Circus, the international E-Xplorer World Cup might not have as harsh of terrain as we saw at TKO but it’s sure to be a thrill ride for anyone taking part or watching from abroad.
It’s also an FIM event, just like the Red Bull Tennessee Knockout which is part of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship, so we have no doubt that the course design, facilities, media coverage, and overall quality of this event will be top notch. The website mentions E-Xplorer “will act as a test bed for two-wheel technology,” something the GritShift team can 100% confirm – we came home from TKO with so many ways to improve our existing products, and also ideas for brand new parts addressing the specific needs of an electric hard enduro rider.
Organized electric events like E-Xplorer are fantastic for the riders, the builders, the viewers, and everyone within ten miles of the event center trying to sleep late on a Saturday morning, so mark your calendars for when FIM E-Xplorer comes to a screen near you. When exactly is that, and where? Oddly enough, at the time of writing this article there’s no exact date or location posted on their website for any of the tour’s stops. We’re already past the vague start date of September 2022 and there’s not been a peep of news out of this event. Too good to be true, or just getting started? You decide – and if you’re interested in participating, start by reading the technical regulations here.
Mr. Business going down. Image by Roots Rocks and Mud
GritShift’s E-Bike Weekly: October 10th, 2022
That concludes a spicy tequila edition of E-Bike Weekly, brought to you by GritShift. That’s what voice-to-text wrote when I said, “this special TKO edition,” so I’m sticking to it.
The GritShift team of enthusiasts builds, sells, and races e-bikes, and we’re apparently hard enduro racers now as well. TKO showed us so many ways to improve our existing products and we’re overflowing with ideas for new ones – we’re so thrilled and privileged to be in a position to turn those experiences into ways that other riders can enjoy their e-bikes. Check out what we’re working on by clicking the button below.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit to be the first to see future editions of this and other columns. You can also tag @GritShift on social media to be featured in upcoming articles!