Alta Motorcycles is getting plenty of attention these days: Ty Tremaine’s entry into the Erzberg Rodeo (arguably the toughest enduro on the planet); Lyndon Poskitt’s Alta bikes being stolen on his way to compete in the same race; Buttery Films doing hooligan things for Instagram and general wonderment at the electric bike phenomenon. Whatever the latest, it can’t be ignored that Alta has been building a reputation for producing hyper-capable dirt bikes... that also happen to be electric.
Alta's newest entry into the lineup, the 2019 Alta Redshift EXR (available for purchase now), adds a dual-sport component to their stable. That gives Alta a second street-legal model, alongside the SM supermoto. And rather than just slapping some lights and a license plate hanger on one of its dirt bikes, Alta has upgraded its battery and suspension components to further its product’s legitimacy as a dual-sport option.
The EXR is equipped with four ride modes that allow riders to customize the bike to their skill level or the terrain they’re currently facing. A partnership with WP brings all new suspension, based on rider feedback, to the party. Brembo brakes add muscle to its stopping power. The 1,000-hour maintenance interval means more riding time. And a new battery allows for even faster charging times (1.5 hours at 220 volts).
Who is the EXR really for?
Naysayers love to point out that electric motorcycles won’t let you ride all day, like gas-powered bikes do. Fair enough. But this bike’s technological advancements provide other benefits.
The EXR most easily finds a place in a garage where it isn’t the sole bike. Its owner recognizes that it isn’t capable of a 150-mile dirt loop, but buys it anyway. They’re looking to use the bike as the precision machine that it’s designed to be. One that allows for hours of riding and practice without the usual maintenance intervals or a “she just won’t start today” situation. All while being a grown-man-giggle-inducing torque monster. The EXR tackles trails with ease.
This bike could also easily be the right fit for a new-to-dirt rider. The lack of a clutch means riders can focus on throttle control, body positioning and line choice when they invariably find themselves in a tricky situation. The more approachable seat height (36.5 inches, versus a seat height of 37 to 38 inches on many off-road bikes) allows new dirt riders to avoid the zero-speed tipovers that are often associated with taller gas bikes. A few elite suspension shops around the country specialize in lowering WP suspensions, which could take this to next nevel in user-friendly seat height (East Coast riders: meet Solid Performance). The four ride modes give the rider a chance to keep the power output mild while growing into the bike and the battery range will outlast newbie off-road endurance.
New riders often struggle to identify the right bike for their needs. The EXR could well be it.
Riding the Alta Redshift EXR
On the road, the Alta EXR performs much as you would expect an electric dirt bike to. Its 42 foot-pounds of instant torque can be a bit surprising to riders more accustomed to gas bikes. Even if you’re prepared for the powerful throttle response, it's a new experience to have it delivered without noise or vibration. Other than that, the EXR delivers your standard plated dirt bike experience, getting you from one trail to the next, legally. In exclusively on-road use, you can expect up to 60 miles of range (if you can contain yourself from baiting the torque monster), while the tightest of off-road situations allow for up to four hours of riding or 30-plus miles of trails from a full charge.
Off-road, the EXR is most closely compared to the Goldilocks 350 cc four-stroke dual-sport bike. While that's a nice place to live and all, it doesn’t necessarily convey what it’s like to ride the EXR. For one thing, it’s easier. It’s easier on the person trying to get through the tough bits. There’s no clutch to fry, no engine to stall and with its closed-loop “traction delivery” software, which modulates power to the rear wheel 5,000 times a second, “It climbs like a mule,” as Ty Tremaine puts it.
Aside from its battery and electric motor, the EXR is still a premium dirt bike, with its fully adjustable WP suspension, a wet weight of 273 pounds (which really does feel lighter, due to the positioning of the weight and lack of rotational mass), and a familiar-feeling steering geometry that makes it feel at home on the trails.
The lack of a clutch changes the off-road riding experience in a few ways. For riders who are adept at feathering a clutch on a difficult section of trail to find traction or dumping the clutch in order to loft the front, you’ve lost that tool in your toolbox. The good news is your riding habits adapt; throttle inputs become twice as important and your brain quickly makes that adjustment. A ride or two should have you feeling pretty confident in this change.
On the other side, you’ve got no clutch to burn out, no way to stall your bike, and no sketchy moments when you find yourself in the wrong gear mid-trail. While the clutch is an important component for gas bike users, wth the Alta, power mode choice, body positioning, and throttle modulation stand in its place.
Like the rest of the Alta lineup, the EXR offers four different modes the rider can choose from on the fly, called Eco, Sport, Performance and Overclocked. Those ride modes range from entry-level dirt-appropriate to a bike-flipping, 50-horsepower beast. (Ask seven-year pro card holder and MX racer Tyler Gantt about flipping his at the starting gate of a race.) You get multiple personalities in one package, and even the most jaded riders could get their blood pumping simply by trying out Overclocked.
I stayed mostly in level two, for its smoother power delivery and light, simulated engine braking. Level three has a slightly more aggressive throttle response but a noticeably stronger engine braking characteristic. One can hope for the day programmable maps are available via laptop, but for now these four modes are what we get.
Noise and maintenance; less of both
Contrary to the hype, electric motorcycles are far from silent. Tire and chain noise inputs mean that you’re constantly hearing your bike and what it’s doing, but at a much lower decibel level than your average dirt bike. Riders who are lucky enough to have their own home tracks can ride the early hours of their weekends without annoying their neighbors. A quiet bike also means less rider fatigue, a more focused mind and a day on the trails without fiddling with uncomfortable ear plugs.
Electric dirt bikes may also be a solution to trail closures in some places around the country. Loud bikes close trails faster than you can say "BRAAAP."
The other advantage is maintenance. There are no piston rings to wear out, no valves to adjust. The EXR’s first major service interval comes at 1,000 hours. It consists of flushing a small amount of coolant that surrounds the motor and checking and updating the software. If this were a gasoline-powered engine, you’d be on your third to 20th top end, depending on how hard you ride, and let's just say you’d be pouring in your 100th liter of 10w-40 by then. No air filters to clean and no oil changes to perform mean more time on the trail and less money spent on maintenance.
The EXR's MSRP of $12,495 puts it floating right around the other premium dirt bikes in the category.
That said, this bike can’t compete on refueling time and range. It needs three hours to charge fully at 120V and 1.5 hours at 240V, so the EXR’s owner might have to be a fan of long lunches. But the premium package that the EXR represents means it should be a contender on the short list of every rider who doesn’t have a range requirement.
While industry advancements in charge time and range continue to develop, the Alta EXR represents stellar competition to the establishment, today.
|2019 Alta Redshift EXR|
|Battery||5.8 kWh Li-Ion|
1.5 hours (240 volts)
3 hours (120 volts)
|Motor||Permanent magnet AC|
|Front Suspension||WP XPlor, fully adjustable|
|Rear Suspension||WP, Alta custom spec, fully adjustable|
|Front Brake||Single 260 mm disc, Brembo two-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||Single 220 mm disc, Brembo single-piston caliper|
|Tires||Metzeler 6 Days Extreme, 21-inch front, 18-inch rear|
|Steering head angle||26.3 degrees|
|Seat height||36.5 inches|
|Wet weight||273 pounds|