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What is an Electric Dirt Bike?

By Darrell Laurant
Updated May 23, 2024
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The electric car has remained problematic for engineers over the years, in no small part because of its size. The battery power required for a vehicle weighing over a ton (907 kilograms) is daunting, to say the least, and there are serious issues with power and cruising range before recharging becomes necessary. The motorcycle, however, is a different -- and much smaller -- beast, and it is there that much of the progress in electric transportation has come about in recent years.

Even within the motorcycle class, electricity has found a niche. Electric dirt bikes are generally driven a short distance, are lightweight, and rely more on bursts of power than long-term cruising speeds. Moreover, the use of electric rather than gas-powered engines eliminates all of the exhaust emissions and most of the noise that has ruffled the feathers of outdoor lovers who see dirt bikes as brazen interlopers into their tranquility.

Neal Saiki, one of the pioneers in electric dirt bike manufacture, came up with a vehicle weighing only 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms) with a two-battery power pack installed, roughly half the weight of a gas-powered dirt bike. His creation went on to capture a number of important races and earn instant respect in the dirt bike community. Part of the appeal to riders was the use of multiple power packs to avoid having to wait for re-charging. Nevertheless, an electric dirt bike can only travel about 40 miles, or two hours trail time, before re-charging becomes necessary.

One interesting feature of some electric dirt bike models is a "half-power switch" that cuts power in half simply by the use of a switch. This is ideal for beginning riders or city travel. On full power, according to company literature, Saiki's Zero model can go from 0 to 30 mph in under two seconds and reaches a comparable top-end speed as gasoline-powered bikes.

As with many innovations, the electric dirt bike is more expensive at this stage in its development. Part of this is because some of the parts have to be specially made -- at this point, it is expensive and difficult to simply convert a standard bike to electricity. Also, most of the companies producing the electric dirt bike have been entrepreneurial start-ups like Saiki.

In December of 2008, however, Honda announced plans to develop its own electric motorcycles, which would presumably include an electric dirt bike. The company said it hoped to have one available in two years. Another firm, KTM, already has a prototype.

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Discussion Comments
By honeybees — On Dec 02, 2011

@SarahSon - My dad has a Mongoose electric dirt bike, which I think is really more like a scooter than anything.

He absolutely loves this little scooter. They live in Florida in the winter and he rides it all over the place. He also has a golf cart, but likes to use this electric bike when he is out and about.

I tease him that he hardly even knows how to drive a car when he is down there because it is so convenient to just hop on the electric bike.

He certainly isn't the only one with one of these, as you see them all over the place down there. My mom even enjoys driving it around, and I wouldn't be surprised if they end up getting another one for both of them to have.

By SarahSon — On Dec 02, 2011

My husband has always had a motorcycle, and you can imagine how interested our boys are in riding something like this.

When they were younger we bought them mini electric dirt bikes. I think we only paid around $300 for each of them.

This was a perfect way for them to get used to riding a dirt bike. It gave them a chance to see how to handle one without such a big fear of them getting hurt.

They only go about 12 miles per hour, but when you are first learning, that is plenty fast enough. They can also go about 10 miles before needing to be charged up again.

This is something that they quickly outgrew, but I felt a lot more comfortable with them learning on something that was their size. Once they were bigger and wanted something different, they were ready for it.

Now my parents are interested in getting some kind of electric bike or scooter for the senior citizen community they live in. Anybody have any good recommendations for something like this?

By truman12 — On Dec 01, 2011

@tigers88 - Wow, that sounds really cool. It makes me want to get an electric dirt bike. Our situations sound very similar. Maybe you can answer a few questions for me.

First, how much would I expect to pay for one of these things? I am not obsessed with having the newest or the best stuff and would be happy to buy a used bike. Second, I'm kind of a tinker and will probably end up working on the bike. How easy is it to find electric dirt bike parts? Is there a chance that something will break and be irreplaceable? Thanks a lot for any info. Maybe I can get one by the spring time.

By tigers88 — On Dec 01, 2011

I have an electric dirt bike and I use it when I need to go on short trips around the city. Most everything I need or want to do is within a few miles of my house so the electric dirt bike is perfect.

I love it because it is so convenient. I get around just as fast as I would if I had a car but I save a ton on gas and I don't pollute as much because I use electric power. When the weather is bad I just use my wife's car. When the weather is nice I use my bike and enjoy the fresh air.

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