Alta’s Redshift MX bike takes on the gas guys
As much as the sport of motocross has evolved over the years with new types of frame designs, hyper-advanced suspension technology and, of course, the backward/forward step from two-stroke motors to four-strokes, one thing has always remained constant—the need for gasoline to make the bikes run.
However, if Alta Motors has its way, that might not be the case for long. As the 2016 racing season drew to a close, the NorCal e-moto brand enjoyed two big victories with its Redshift motocross bike that definitely grabbed people’s attention.
Alta has been working on their two-model line of bikes (motocross and Supermoto) since 2010. The Redshift MX bike features a proprietary, 15-pound motor that pumps out 40 horsepower with 36 foot-pounds of torque with a two-hour run-time. The handlebar-mounted controller allows the rider to pre-program the throttle maps to adjust both acceleration and engine braking. Like most modern MX bikes the Redshift uses an aluminum frame, and to help handle the abuse leveled by modern racecourses, Alta spec’d the Redshift with top-of-the-line WP suspension.
These two events would mark the first time that the bike would go head to head against the top bikes in the 250cc class (versus the bigger 450cc machines that average 60 horsepower).
AT THE RACES
Although a much more talked-about race win was still a month away, Alta actually scored their first talked-about win in September at round five of the EnduroCross series when former Grand Prix competitor Kurt Nicoll rode his Redshift to an impressive win in the Vet class.
One month later, the Alta Redshift made a far more convincing headline when former factory Yamaha rider and AMA Supercross winner Josh Hill signed up for the radical Red Bull Straight Rhythm event, which is basically a one-on-one drag race over a long straightaway that is built up with massive jumps.
Just like the indoor Supercross races that the Red Bull event is loosely patterned after, the Straight Rhythm consisted of two different displacement classes—250cc and 450cc. Josh and his Redshift competed in the 250 class, qualified in fifth and actually rode his electric bike to three race wins as he worked his way up through the program. That’s right, in a head-to-head battle against the gas-powered bikes, the electric bike got to the finish line first.
IN JOSH’S HANDS
“I was looking online trying to find the best electric bikes to try it out, and the Alta seemed to be way better than everyone else’s electric bikes that were out there. I came out just as a hobby just to go play with the bike and see what it was like, so I just reached out to them, got their attention and did some riding,” said Hill recalling how he first got hooked up with Alta.
“I’ve been messing around with them for the last six months, but that’s really all it’s been. I got a bike and started giving them input, and then when I came back a month later, they made a bunch of big changes and made it better. But this isn’t by any means been any full-blown race effort, and I haven’t been looking at it that way. We came down for the Monster Straight Rhythm just for fun. Once we got the opportunity to participate, we definitely buckled down a little bit more,” said Hill. “I instantly got used to the bike. I love it. It’s really fun to ride, and as soon as you get on it, it’s like, wow, this thing has some power.”
For long-time motocross fans, watching the bike for the first time is interesting to see and to hear—or not hear. If there is one thing that most people associate with motocross, it’s the loud sound of the race bikes. With the Alta, there is little more than a high-pitched whine from the motor and the sound of the suspension bottoming out to placate the ears of enthusiasts. From afar, it looks as if it couldn’t be that fast, but as Hill laid on the throttle, it was easy to see the instant torque that the Alta produced.
“I think right now in the 250 class the Alta could be pretty dead-on competitive,” said Hill when asked how he thought the bike would stack up against the competition.
FOR THE FUTURE
Although nothing is set in stone as far as where this bike will be in the future, Alta has put in a lot of time and effort to just get where they are now. While the Alta showed impressive speed, in the hyper-competitive world of motocross machinery, right now the bike’s biggest detriment is its (claimed) 251-pound weight, which is at least 25 pounds over what most 250cc race bikes weigh.
Of course, the bigger question pertaining to the bike is if it (or any electric bike) will ever actually be sold to the public. Being such a “new” bike and impressively capable of competing at a (limited) professional level, the Redshift can only go up in terms of performance. However, seven years is a long, long time for a production schedule, and now, even after its two race wins, there is still no known retail price or actual information on availability. Although industry leader KTM has also stalled on making their electric off-road bike available to the public, the Austrian brand has proven itself far ahead of Alta in terms of actual bikes made and information made available to the public. The Alta Redshift could possibly open up many new doors in the motorcycle industry, but that checkered flag has yet to fall.