E-Racing’s 40-hp, 75 lb-ft Minibike!
Speedway is one of the oldest, rawest, most elemental forms of motorcycle racing, where riders slide broadside around dirt tracks on brakeless methanol-fueled 500cc machines, riding right on the very knife’s edge of control. The machines are unique to the sport, featuring leading-link forks, hardtail rear suspension, single-speed transmissions, and single-cylinder engines. While the sport’s origins are up for some debate, the thrill is not:
“Speed is an old god. Humans have been obsessed with the quickest way around a dirt oval since before Homer began uttering the first syllables of what would become The Iliad. It’s a tradition older than the languages on our lips, and these days, it’s played out on two wheels in both speedway and flat track races.” –Motorcyclist
Recently, we talked to Michel Riis, a veteran speedway champion and industrial designer who’s worked in Yamaha’s Advanced Labs — their advanced design department — and now serves as head of design and co-owner at one of the world’s leading electric motorcycle companies, Switch, builders of the eScrambler.
Even as flat track racing has experienced a resurgence in recent years, motorcycle speedway has seen its star fading. Fortunately, there are folks like Michel who are working hard to keep the sport alive…with a little jolt of electricity:
“The sport is near dead in most countries. We started E-Racing in 2020. Our goal is to make sure motorsport has a place in the future.”
Much like FIM Trial World Championship, where electric bikes are now competing directly against gas-powered ones in the Trial2 class, motorcycle speedway is gradually opening its doors to electricity. As of 2023, for instance, electric speedway bikes are now competing against their methanol-fueled brethren in the Czech Republic.
This kind of progress is due in no small part to the work from Michel and E-Racing, who’ve developed a plug-n-play speedway kit that makes 35-40 horsepower and a stump-pulling 100 Nm (75 lb-ft) of torque!
Over the holidays, Michel embarked on a bit of “shock therapy” with one of these speedway kits:
“This build is my therapy build to get a bit away from the computer. I’m also doing the Switch motorcycle and our speedway project…. Took about 5 days to do. All done in-house.”
Michel readily admits the high-powered motor is overkill for this project, but that’s part of the fun. The entire chassis, forks, single-sided swingarm, and the rest of the bike were mainly made from tubing they had lying around the workshop, while most of the other components were 3D-printed. Michel’s wife even made the seat cover.
As you might imagine, the power and torque in this application is nothing short of “Stupid / Fast”:
“With this gear ratio, we should do 0-100 km/h in less than 4 sec. Top speed is around 150 km/h. We’ve got the same system on a street bike. That bike beats a KTM 690 from 0-100 km/h.”
And this is just the beginning. Michel plans to do a 2023 series of builds using the same kit, showing what can be done accomplished with the powerhouse motor:
“The idea is to build a new bike every month using the same kit. Some builders spend a year building one electric bike. Builders / Designers no longer need to know anything about the electric part of it :)”
Below, we talk to Michel for the full details on this little high-powered minibike!
Electric Minibike: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Michel Riis. I started racing speedway at age 12. Late 1980’s. Since then I have been in love with bikes and motorsport.
Since 2007 I have been working as an industrial designer. After doing a lot of speakers and stuff I don’t care about, I started at Yamaha Motors in 2013 in the advanced design department. We designed the future for Yamaha motorcycles / speedboats / Waverunners / snowscooters and so on, looking 10-20 years forward.
After a few years at Yamaha I joined Switch as head of design and co-owner. During that project I also started working on my long-time dream of building electric speedway bikes. The sport is near dead in most countries. We started E-Racing in 2020. Our goal is to make sure motorsport has a place in the future.
This was only possible because I meet Marco (co owner at E-Racing). He is a battery/controller expert with a love for dirt bikes and racing. This match is perfect for us. We can move super quick.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
This bike I built right after Christmas as a “get away from the desk” project. For a long time we wanted to show how quick designers / builders can build electric motorcycles with our plug and play kit. The drivetrain is our speedway system. The power is total overkill.
• Why was this bike built?
Just because I had to do it. We’ve got a perfect workshop and the parts to go crazy.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted to make a bike that people just want to jump on and ride. A bike that has references to a toy bike and a touch of 1985 with cool BMX bikes and bold colours.
The bike is super simple and the frame is made from a few tubes we had in the shop. The seat is made from an old speedway seat. My wife made the seat cover.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
We made the frame and the whole drivetrain. Most of the small details are resin 3D printed.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I think the best name would be Stupid/Fast.
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
The drivetrain is from one of our speedway bikes. We do about 35-40 hp with around 100 Nm on the motor. With this gear ratio, we should do 0-100 km/h in less than 4 sec. Top speed is around 150 km/h. We’ve got the same system on a street bike. That bike beats a KTM 690 from 0-100 km/h.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The bike is crazy to ride. The weight is a bit off to one side and it handles a bit like a chopper with the front fork angle. But the bike scares you fast — the torque is just crazy!
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
That I figured out to do single-sided swingarm.
• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
The E-Racing team for trusting this build would be worth my time 🙂