Off-road electric motorcycling – the same fun without noise compliants!
Noise is one of the greatest challenges facing the expansion of off-road motorcycling.
The reason is simple – internal combustion engines produce noise; noise which never goes down well with planning authorities.
Rewind 10 years to Preston Brook in Cheshire, when E-SCAPE founder Stuart Rutter first approached his local planning authority with the idea of an all-electric off-road riding centre. Some eight years later, in 2014, the now managing director was finally granted the permission needed to transform the site.
“Prior to 2006 I had experienced noise complaints when running off-road motorcycle events at another site I own in Mid-Wales,” Stuart recalled. “The need for noise-reduction had me looking into alternatives to the internal combustion engine.
“I began working with colleagues in the United States on developing a lightweight electric dirtbike called the Blade T6 and marketed some prototypes at UK shows such as The Dirtbike Show.”
Since being granted that elusive planning permission, Stuart and E-SCAPE have never looked back. More than 4,000 people have been trained in off-road riding at the centre, many of whom are completely new to motorcycles altogether. The company now owns more than 40 bikes, ranging from small Kuberg Cross bikes for six- to eight-year-olds up to the more powerful KTM Freeride-E.
Stuart is the first to explain that the volume factor is not the only benefit of going electric off-road. “Electric motors are capable of power and speed comparable to 250 and even 450cc off-road motorcycles, and have the added advantage that the power delivery can be adjusted via on-board controls or a laptop,” he said.
“I first rode our prototype Blade bike in 2005 in a woodland in France. The experience was almost magical – a bit like riding a magic carpet through the trees but still hearing birdsong while hitting speeds of up to 40mph. You soon realise that the “Brrraaappp!” of an MX motor is not that important when a near silent motor lets you ride when you want and almost where you want with the same degree of riding thrill.”
Fast-forward two or three years and competitive off-road riders will, Stuart believes, want to own an electric bike.