Testing the Stark Varg Electric Dirtbike in Barcelona, Spain
Video review can be found HERE
Last week I had the chance to fly to Barcelona, Spain to see and ride the new Stark Varg electric dirtbike first hand, and it was truly an incredible experience. Before diving into the bike and company itself, I need to extend a huge thank you to the whole team at Stark Future and Austin from Electro & Co for making this trip a reality; never did I think I’d be flying half way across the world to ride a pre-production motorcycle! The Varg really is a massive step forward in technology, and I think years down the road we’ll look back at this time as an inflection point where the sport changed irreversibly in a new direction.
Before riding the bike, our group was able to tour the Stark offices and production facility to see how things were coming along. While we were not able to take any photos, I can say that their assembly line is functional and the first bikes are finally starting to leave the facility! The operation is still small at the moment, however it is set up in such a way that can be readily scaled once the time comes to increase production. Possibly the most impressive aspect of the assembly process was seeing how the battery was built and tested. This is an incredibly important and potentially dangerous part of the build that requires multiple QC checks throughout the process to ensure everything is assembled safely and correctly, and the Stark team has refined each step to a very high level of precision.
Having the opportunity to meet the small but growing team behind the bike and see the level of pride they have in what they do was inspiring to me, and made me even more excited to see what the bike was like out on the track. The attention paid to each part of the bike and the quality of the individual components far exceeded anything I’ve seen previously on a production motorcycle. I really appreciated the fact that they took a fresh approach to areas of the bike that are essentially taken for granted by existing manufacturers, such as the chain adjusters, foot pegs, bar mounts, etc. They took the time to rethink these areas and when you compare them to any other bike on the market the difference is unmistakable.
When we arrived at the track later in the day we were greeted with a fleet of bikes all charged up and ready to roll. After a quick briefing on how to power on the bike and adjust the power maps, it was time to spin some laps! The track we were riding was prepped quite a bit different than what we’re accustomed to here in the US, so it took a few laps to try to adjust to the unique conditions what simultaneously come to grips with a machine that was vastly different than anything I had ridden previously. The first thing I noticed about the bike, however, was how intuitive the power was thanks to a very well tuned controller. I’ve ridden quite a few electric bikes in the past and controller tuning is absolutely critical in ensuring that the rider is able to interpret how the bike will respond to a given throttle input, and the Varg controller was absolutely flawless. The bikes came with 5 pre-set power maps that could be toggled between using the map switch on the left handle bar, however each map could also be adjusted by the rider using the phone in the bar pad. For each map there were two slider bars, Power and Engine Braking, that could be adjusted to the rider’s preference. After playing around with it I settled on around 55hp and 40% engine braking on the slider bars for this particular track. There are plans to introduce even more adjustability in future software updates, but this is a great starting point that is very easy to use and fun to play with.
Keeping on the subject of power, it’s time to address what’s on the front of everyone’s mind and the most common concern about the bike, battery life. The very first thing I did when I got on one of the test bikes was ride a 20min moto as I got a feel for the bike and track. When I pulled off I was surprised to find that I had used less than half of the battery, and although the track was relatively hard packed it did include some power robbing hills so I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to complete a 35min moto under normal condition. This was encouraging to see, and after talking with Stark’s pro test rider Sebastian Tortelli he confirmed to me that he can easily complete a 35min moto even at his faster pace. Battery life will obviously vary based on track conditions and rider speed, but it’s very rare that I ride longer than a 20min moto at a time, especially for amateur motocross racing, so I don’t see any reason why the battery life would be insufficient for me.
The handling of the bike was surprisingly familiar, given the fact that the power train is entirely different than any other bike on the market. Anyone who has spent time on an Alta knows that the front end of those bikes are very heavy feeling, and tend to want to be turned using the front end rather than sliding the rear end around. Stark took a different approach, and lightened up the weight bias on the front end to make the rear of the bike a bit livelier, which I thought was an improvement. In a perfect world I would probably choose something in between both bikes since I like to steer more with the front end of the bike, but this is entirely a personal preference and the handling of the Stark is much more traditional than that of the Alta. I was also happy to see KYB suspension components front and rear on the Varg, especially since I’m a Yamaha guy and already have all of the tools necessary to service the forks and shock as needed. Sebastian and the rest of the testing team really did a fantastic job setting the bike up well right out of the box, and I found that the stiffest of the production suspension options seemed to work best for me. My only area of complain about the suspension was that I felt that the shock was overpowering the forks a bit, especially coming into corners under heavy braking, leading to a little bit of a twitchy front end feeling. As I went stiffer with the fork clickers this seemed to subside a bit, however I think on my personal bike I will be going up one spring rate in the forks to stiffen the front end just a bit. Again, this is largely a personal preference and a very minor area that I felt I could improve the stock setup. Overall I was really happy with the suspension and handling, and it was easy to hop on the bike and feel comfortable immediately.
The last area I’d like to touch on is how confidence inspiring it is to jump this bike. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the fact that electric bikes are extremely easy to move around in the air and adjust pitch. On a gas bike you will eventually run out of gearing in a panic rev situation so the rear wheel can only spin up to a certain rpm, while on electric bikes without gear boxes the rear wheel can spin up to its maximum speed at any time. What this translates to is increased confidence to really push through jumps and keep a faster, nose down trajectory. At the end of my review video I included some footage of riding Stark’s supercross track to really highlight this point, I’m not a supercross rider and I don’t practice this type of riding at all, but I was able to jump some basic rhythms and time jumps easily because of the instant power and very controllable feel.
Overall I came away from this trip really impressed with not only the bike itself, but the company and team behind it. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something like this, and I can’t wait to see these bikes start getting into customer hands and showing up at local tracks!
Owner 3DP Moto, LLC