This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
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If there is a heaven for motorheads, it probably has dirt bikes.
The screaming fast — and screaming loud — two-wheeled projectiles fly through dirt and often air in a dazzling display of what small engines can do. And the smell of burning oil and sound of crackling exhaust are as much a part of the experience as mud on the visor.
Can this crowd go electric?
“Epic. It’s a game changer,” said John Soldan after riding a Stark Varg, one of the first large battery-powered off-road motorcycles to come to market, during a recent Edge Powersports demo event at Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicle State Park in Rose Park.
Electric motors are legendary for delivering torque, which is the force it takes to turn the wheels, and they can handle any speed without the need for a transmission.
“Very smooth. Very fast,” said Soldan, a motorcycle and car enthusiast who said not having to worry about shifting and clutching allowed more focus on driving.
Quiet, but not silent
Electric dirt bikes don’t have the deafening roar of regular ones, but they aren’t quite silent. Anyone nearby will hear the engine’s whine when they’re going all out. Yet from a distance, it’s barely noticeable.
Electric dirt bikes only comprise a tiny sliver of Utah’s large OHV presence at this point, but their growth is outpacing gas-powered vehicles. And while it’s possible to get an electric side-by-side UTV in Utah, they’re still rare. Electric motorcycles, which can get by with much smaller batteries, are starting to have their day.
“It’s a pretty popular segment right now,” said Rob Coats, sales manager at Honda World in South Jordan, which carries small electric dirt bikes from Talaria. In the first three or four months they’ve had them, they’ve sold about 20, Coats said.
“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of like is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.” —William Arthur Ward