All Charged Up!
We get a taste of some real-world dual sporting on Alta’s new Redshift EXR
The Alta electric motorcycle is one of the most intriguing platforms to come into the high-performance off-road market in decades. It inspires curiosity and instant thoughts of invisible, silent hooliganism. But considering one for purchase comes with a wheelbarrow of questions about range, power, power character, ride quality, build quality and price tag.
It’s truly unique and futuristic and trendy. But, is it a viable alternative to existing gas-powered, competition-inspired off-road machinery? Can it pull duty as an urban-transport alternative? Are its range and re-charging cycles capable of delivering a quality experience similar to tried and true gas-burning moto and off-road machines? Is it better than the electric motorcycles that have come before it?
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ALTA
Honestly, real-world testing of the Alta product line has been almost non-existent. Media rides, even ones we’ve reported on here in Cycle News, have been short, and ride time and range have been largely controlled by the company. We’ve been begging Alta for a chance to try a bike in real-world terms for months. So, when they offered to send us up to their headquarters to jump on the all-new 2019 Redshift EXR dual-sport model for a couple days, we took it in hopes of getting a real ownership-style experience. Our test days consisted of urban commuting through the heart of San Francisco and a dirt rip in the mountains of Nevada City. Surely this would be enough for us to answer some questions, right?
The all-new Alta Redshift EXR fills the dual-sport spot in Alta’s lineup of serious, some would say aggressive, race-focused machinery. It shares the same soul as the MXR model you’ve seen and heard about but comes with a license to go as on or as off-grid as you wish. It also receives significant power updates from the 2018 EX off-road model and gets faster charging and a lower price. If this was a gas bike that’d be a win-win-win-win already.
Its gas-powered dual-sport counterparts from KTM, Husqvarna and soon-to-be Honda have been fueling a rare growing segment of motorcycle sales for a few years. It makes sense for Alta to go here if their bike can go the distance. In fact, it’s a similar path the Austrian and Japanese manufacturers take on their way to consumers’ garages. Build a race bike and race, build a street-legal dirt bike that looks like the race bike and ride. It works and the bikes in this class of dual-sport are quite literally all the rage these days. Plus, they’re also some of the best off-road bikes ever produced. The competition is fierce.
The Alta Redshift EXR comes with high-quality components familiar to Austrian bike owners. WP Xplor forks replace arguably dismal 4CS units on previous models and the brakes are the Brembo kind. Already, this bike is much better equipped than any other dual-sport electric motorcycle in the history of my testing experience.
The new EXR also comes with Alta’s latest R-Pack battery system and the latest software/firmware to pump out 50 countershaft-counted horsepower and over 40 ft.-lbs. of torque from a standstill. Those numbers impress. Charging time gets an upgrade over previous packs with a 1.5-hour total charge time on 240V and around three hours on a standard 120v United States-style house plug.
The Alta’s range depends on how many times the wheel spins, obviously, and we have more info on that down the story a bit. But for averages sake, Alta claims around 50 miles of city-style commuting and somewhere in the 30 to 40-mile range of spirited trail riding, or four hours, whichever comes first.
Finally, power drop-off is claimed as nearly non-existent as battery levels deplete. Alta claims this new R-Pack only starts losing performance during the last five percent of charge. You should probably be pretty close to home when that happens.
Let’s go riding—almost!
Our first stop on the Alta tour was their Bay area-based headquarters and manufacturing facility. This is an advanced-yet-grassroots company filled with passionate motorcyclists. It’s not just nerds, but, I mean, there are certainly nerds there. But they’re motorcycle nerds—our favorite kind. It’s the kind of place where your motorcycle people radar really goes off. To put it another way, there are a lot of gas-burning bikes parked at Alta. A lot.
The production and assembly facility is clean, simple, efficient and impressive. Considering every component of the bike is engineered in-house and a lot of them are hand-built on site, it’s a very cool operation. We saw R-packs being assembled and turned our cameras off at times as secret doors were opened where component creation was churning. The assembly line is advanced with connected tools and torque settings registering the bikes’ birth straight to the cloud. If you are into barcodes and how computers can track actions and time into numbers in cyberspace, you’d really like this place.
There’s also a dyno. And I can attest that a 50-horsepower electric motorcycle on a dyno is actually pretty loud.
At the end of the line and of our tour was a stack of newly built Redshift EXRs. This got us ready to ride our test bikes and we were soon on our way.
Let’s go riding!
Commuting through San Francisco’s neighborhoods on an Alta Redshift EXR should probably be against some laws, especially with a group of dirt bikers at the controls. We don’t condone illegal riding behavior, but it’s sort of impossible not to accelerate with aplomb and utilize all of the immediately available torque.
Wheelies were witnessed. Tires were abused.
Filtering through traffic on the narrow and nimble machines is easier than on a bicycle (thanks to the hefty power punch warp-speeding you in front of accelerating cars). There is no heat so you’re sort of always more comfortable than on a gas-powered bike. And the RC-Car whirrrrr is an addictive sound to replicate once you realize your throttle hand makes it happen and making it happen makes your arms straighten.
As a commuter, the Alta power pack and the motorcycle containing it is pretty great, if not somewhat rowdy. You can even talk to people while you’re riding, and you probably will because no one has seen anything like an Alta on the street, most likely, and they’ll constantly yell questions at you. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a buddy with one, you can giggle to each other as you skirt the edges of motorized traffic regulations.
Our rip through the city was over a little too soon, really. There were so many narrow lanes and alleyways we didn’t kick dust up on. Do you think I could hit that mound in the park that is manicured into a perfect jump face? I guess there’s always next time.
VIDEO | 2019 Alta Redshift EXR First Test
To the mountains!
The Alta Redshift EXR, like all Altas, is built with a focus on competition and even though the platform is seriously updated from what the company originally launched, the focus of being a race bike is not lost.
Alta is hell-bent on competing with this platform. And the EXR is the most advanced motor and power pack they’ve produced. Even with blinkers and a horn, this bike has a soul of a race bike.
This spunky core is unavoidable. We were almost immediately set loose into some incredibly fun and tight single-track outside Nevada City, California. The massive trees and soft, loose soil made a perfect backdrop to silent assassination of the trails. And after a few miles we could listen to the tires as a signal for traction and really let the bike sing. And sing it does. No, there isn’t a speaker making dirt bike sounds. But there is a rush of air and the sound of tires working their magic that puts you into a sort of riding zone.
The Alta Redshift EXR isn’t a lightweight motorcycle. With a claimed weight of 273 pounds, it’s pushing 20 pounds heavier than a current KTM 500 EXC. But the weight feel of the bike when riding is a lot different. There is nearly zero rotating mass inside the powerplant. The electric motor shaft and a gear reduction to the countershaft sprocket is it. And that’s centrally located so it’s influence in the chassis balance is minimal. The bike can lean with control and fight through the turns way below it’s weight class. This bike has a two-stroke handling feel with quick changes in direction done easily and effortlessly.
Acceleration is where it’s at. If you buy an electric motorcycle for one thing, it should be torque. And the torque that propels you forward with the Alta EXR is a great experience. The throttle is easy to control so you can destroy your tire at will or creep along, it’s pretty easy to have fun on the Alta.
The front-end feel is pretty good. I’d like to spend more time setting up the sag and likely adding some spring to the fork for my weight, but I wasn’t too concerned with the suspension and chassis getting out of control.
In total, we rode about a 13 or 15-mile loop in the woods. A good warm-up to a great day, and the Alta seemed like it was working perfectly. That loop took a little more than half the battery according to the dash gauge. I wasn’t taking it too easy on the bike, so this is probably a good indication of what someone could expect to do maybe twice on a charge. To be safe, I’d start with 25 miles of fast riding before I started pushing the limits.
Is that enough? That’s a loaded question. In the current competitive landscape, it doesn’t compare to the gas-powered bikes in range. But how could it? In performance without range in the equation, the Alta is seriously competitive. It produces ample power and handles well.
After our lap and some photo sessions in the woods, we headed down-road to more traditional dual-sport terrain. Open roads, two-track, a big sand/gravel wash that reminded me of poaching gravel pits as a kid. Here, the Alta EXR was in its true element. Not as a race bike trying to line up at Anaheim, but as a perfect escape vehicle for an after-work rip to a riding area where a guy could rail some berms and practice hopping some logs. For this, it’s perfect.
After our short ride that day in the mountains, the only thing I can wish for is about twice the range. But I didn’t run it out of battery so I’m not sure where that limit is yet. Maybe I’ll get to steal one again. I sure hope so! CN
||2019 Alta Redshift EXR
||High Speed PMAC, electric
||50 horsepower (claimed)
||42 lb-ft @ rear wheel
||Waterproof Li-Ion 350v, R-Pack
||2.7kW or 3.3kW Offboard
||1.5 hrs. (240v – Rapid); 3 hrs. (120v – Standard)
||Alta-Digital, 4 Maps
||Forged and welded aluminum
||Permanent mold aircraft aluminum
||WP Xplor 48 fork, fully adjustable
||WP Alta custom spec, fully adjustable
||Brembo dual piston 260mm rotor
||Brembo single piston 220mm rotor
||Warp 9 Elite (21-in. front, 18-in. rear)
||80/100-21 in. Metzeler 6 Days Extreme