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Electric Flat Track Motorcycle Racing Proves The Future Will Be Just Fine

Feb 14, 2020 at 08:00. 17 comments

Last weekend at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Colliseum something truly new happened. You could feel a change in the air as the old boy’s club of motorcycle racing embraced a new technology. For the first time ever, at the 11th Annual One Pro motorcycle dirt flat track race, the pros went head to head on race bikes powered purely by electricity.

The competitive spirit of humans isn’t dulled by the loss of exhaust noise. These riders put on an excellent show, not in spite of electric power, but because of it.

(Full Disclosure: Indian Motorcycles invited me to ride its new FTR1200 Rally in rainy cold Portland, as well as attend the 11th running of  The One Show. It also put me up in a posh hotel and kept me full of coffee and food.)

Yes, it was just one class in an entire 12 hour day of racing, but it managed to blend into the fabric of the race as though it were always there. A few handfuls of the professional racers entered the class on a selection of Alta and Zero machines. Being the first ever race, entry was comped for expert-level racers and the only real rules were that the bikes had to use 19" wheels and an electric motor.

Here’s how it all went down.

The track surface was nasty and rutted most of the night. The dirt trucked into the stadium was wet, naturally, because it’s the Pacific Northwest in February. Shit happens, grip it and rip it.

Early in the day I made it a point to be at the first heat race for the EV class, watching Andy DiBrino take an early lead on his Blatant Moto-built custom Alta Redshift (below), and stick it out there until the checkers. That first race was intense, as you could hear the distinct thwap of a body hitting the ground. You don’t often get to hear the beating and banging going on, but with the quiet electric motors it was all there laid bare.

Later that evening was the “Electric National” for all the proverbial marbles. Because this was one of the big ticket races, the track officials made sure the dirt got nice and groomed before it ran. Right out of the gate it looked like another win for DiBrino as he got off the line better than anyone else.

And then this happened.

The fast Alta went wide through the run at turn one on lap two. DiBrino says that he wasn’t used to the track being so smooth and went in too hot expecting to catch a rut to follow the corner through. The Zero of Trevor Doniak went up the inside and the two bikes made contact. Again, DiBrino says he didn’t know the other bike was there, because it was so quiet! That must have been an absolutely trippy experience.

You can watch the whole electric main from helmet cam of third-place finisher Cory West. It’s intense to see these bikes just zoom up out of the corner like that.

In the end, that one move on lap two allowed Sammy Halbert up into the lead where he stayed until the finish. First place went to Halbert, second to Doniak, and third to West. All three riders were on Zero FX-based machines.

Here’s Doniak’s machine, chilling outside the ladies’ room. That’s a good looking flat track bike.

All of this just reinforces to me that a switch to electric propulsion will not be the end of days for enthusiasts. Electric motorcycles are a lot of fun, and in the right environment, can make for some great racing action. Congrats to all involved, and especially The One Pro organizers for their forward thinking EV bike racing initiative.

Racing improves the breed, and you can bet that more and better electric bikes will be built for this class in the future. 

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