Dirt First Racing’s Custom Electric KTM Supermini
Story by Jett Lessing, Photos by Trevor Hunter
To begin, I really enjoyed riding the bike. It was an interesting experience, and the outcome was nothing I expected. I’ve had previous experience with electric dirt bikes before as my younger sister rides and races the KTM SX-E, KTM’s electric 50cc motorcycle. From time to time, I spin some laps around the neighborhood on her electric bike and am able to “train” because it is extremely quiet – no complaints from the neighbors. This is the versatility of most e-bikes and…like it or not…they are the future of motocross and off-road. Some people are very close minded, but myself and everyone here at DBT are very open minded and see the perks that no noise and minimal regular maintenance can bring to the sport.
Let’s get into the Freeride Supermini by Dirt First Racing. The first thing I noticed was the absence of a clutch lever and shifter. This was a little difficult to get used to and I often found myself reaching for the non-existent clutch lever throughout the day. However, this actually turned into an unlikely advantage with the benefit of more control and grip. Fewer fingers on the clutch meant more fingers wrapped around the grip for safer riding, as well as one less thing to think about while riding. Another thing I liked about the bike was its weight, or lack thereof, while riding on the track. With fewer moving internal engine parts, equaling less inertia, the bike felt much lighter on the track than the listed weight on a scale. The bike is claimed to hover around 230 lbs with a full charge, but it feels as if it’s half that weight while riding. If I hit a kicker or got sideways off a jump, I was easily able to move the bike around and correct the bike. I’m pretty light myself so this was a cool feature that I don’t normally experience when riding a traditional gas powered dirt bike. Smaller or lighter riders may really enjoy the light feel of riding an electric bike.
One major difference in comparison to my usual supermini is the power delivery. We felt we had to accelerate earlier than we anticipated to keep up momentum due to the lack of “bottom end” power. The lack of a “hit” at the crack of a throttle doesn’t upset the bike or chassis when cornering and allows us to be more aggressive with the throttle without many adverse effects. The smooth transition from no throttle to wide open does provide traction and the bike was very smooth, making it easy to go up hills, hit jumps out of corners, etc.
Although the bike doesn’t necessarily feel the fastest, it’s much closer in power and speed than you’d think. The lack of noise, a smooth power delivery, and seemingly always finding traction and moving forward propels this bike at a good rate without translating to raw speed in your mind.
Run time on this bike is around 25-30 minutes at a fast pace. We had Trevor Hunter, a Pro level off-road racer, put in a 24 minute continuous moto on Glen Helen’s main track before the lights started flashing, signaling it’d go into limp mode soon (under 10% power left). The Dirt First crew has had faster mini kids do ~29 minute motos before the bike goes into limp mode.
The cockpit, and more so the foot peg depth over anything else, is something that isn’t fully liked by everyone. The pegs are further back and down in relation to everything else, and is one of our bigger complaints on the stock Freeride E-XC with adults onboard.
Personally, I’m 5’5 and on my normal gas-powered supermini, I can’t fully grip the bike with my legs. I am able to grip my regular supermini from my knees and below. On the electric supermini, the foot pegs were deeper than my normal bike, so I was able to grip with my knees and thighs and that allowed me to feel more in control and able to charge the rougher parts of the track. Dirt First built a bracket to mount a rear brake pedal on this bike, eliminating the hand brake and that is a huge hit for those of us who have tried riding with the hand brake and don’t prefer it.
I found the bike to be a little difficult to push/roll around without any power assistance. With electric units being without gears (ie. there’s no neutral), putting this bike in a more off-road environment could see difficulties in a section where needing to push the bike around is prevalent. But then again, we feel this power delivery could make it easier to become unstuck or avoid that situation all together.
Being owners ourselves, electric dirt bikes are pretty low maintenance. You often don’t have to worry about typical motor issues and bike maintenance associated with a traditional gas-powered dirt bike like oil, air filters, pistons, clutches, etc. The KTM Freeride has a user-friendly removable battery, which can be swapped in a mere 30 seconds with two people on hand to help.
One thing to note about Dirt First Racing’s KTM Freeride E-XC Supermini is the cost. Retailing for $17,995 + tax and title fees, it’s a pretty penny to purchase this bike and go racing or even riding. Not to mention, spare batteries can cost upwards of $4,000 a piece. While this is a major investment, some things to think about are a lot of it is an upfront cost. As mentioned above, you can eliminate some consumables including gas, oil, clutches, top ends, and more. Additionally, time is money and not having to spend as many late nights in the garage working on the bike goes a long way.
Additionally, the limitations on who can ride this bike, when it can be ridden, and where it can be ridden are much greater than that of a gas powered dirt bike. The three map modes can severely limit the power output to where a first timer can jump on and be safe and comfortable, or open the power up to ride around Glen Helen’s National track with ease and at speed. The lack of noise allows you to take the bike to areas where noise isn’t welcomed, which could be in your backyard, down the street, or at a local field waiting to be developed for houses.
Overall, we believe electric dirt bikes can be competitive and contend with gas-powered bikes. The electric supermini has potential and with the right rider and crew, can be a contender in the future. Emphasizing the capability of electric dirt bikes, my sisterKatin regularly challenges the other gas-powered dirt bikes and remains competitive while racing on an electric bike in the mini ranks, even winning some NHHA and WHS championships along the way.
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