Sur-ron X Series Off Road Test in May 2019's Motorcycle Monthly - read the article text below, or view the PDF version here.
WORDS: Ross Mowbray PHOTOS: Gary Chapman
Slowly but surely, the wider motorcycle community is cottoning on to the fact that electric is here, and is here to stay – and as a result, there an ever growing abundance of top- spec electric two-wheelers emerging on the market. Everything from small city commuters right through to out and out off-roaders.
Ok, so it’s not all sunshine and roses. For many, there are still doubts about range, charging – and let’s be honest, price. But with the imminent introduction of ULEZ restrictions and the skyrocketing cost of public transport, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny the value of electric bikes or scooters for city commuting. But what if you’re an off-road demon, looking for a new toy to smash about in the soil? Well, that’s where Sur-Ron’s recently introduced Light Bee electric bike comes in.
Founded back in 2014, Sur- Ron’s the brainchild of a team of three motorcycle and technology aficionados from China.
After getting their hands on some serious investment cash (to the tune of $30 million), its 40 engineers got stuck into research and development and created its own off-road ready electric machine.
Admittedly, bikes of this sort have been doing the rounds for a few years now – think Bultaco, Kuberg and even Oset – but now there’s a new brand on the scene.
As some sort of unconventional hybrid between a lightweight electric motocross bike and a downhill mountain bike, Sur-Ron’s Light Bee is a seriously cool bit of kit.
But what’s the point? Well, over the years, numerous tracks have been shut due to complaints from frustrated neighbours, who were sick of listening to the high-pitched squeals of two-strokes tearing around.
To the off-road world, it’s a travesty – but it looks like there might be a silver lining on the horizon. Electric bikes don’t squeal or scream. Instead, they emit an unthreatening and altogether gentle whirr, allowing you to fly around a track in almost eerie silence without disturbing anyone.
It’s actually my first time on a machine of this kind – and I’ve got to say, I was hugely impressed with the little Sur-Ron right out of the gates. It’s great fun to ride – quick, lightweight and impressively agile. It’s by no means a full-size machine, and if you factor in that it won’t deliver power while the brakes are in use, I reckon it could make a fantastic tool to introduce young riders to the sport in a safe, unintimidating way
Despite that, I’m 6ft 2” and a fairly avid off-roader – spending time on the trails on everything from Honda’s easy-going CRF250 up to Ducati’s monstrous Multistrada Enduro Pro. And yet, every time I sat on the Sur- Ron’s slim line seat and twisted the throttle, a smile was soon plastered across my face.
Power pick-up from the belt-driven motor is exceptional, allowing you to get up to its 47mph top speed in no time at all – and there’s more than enough oomph to yank the front wheel in the air to dive over obstacles. Its mountain bike-style brakes are well up to the job, too. Direct and aggressive, with plenty of bite, but enough feel to ensure you won’t lock the wheels without serious intent. For more competent riders, the fact that the Light Bee’s brakes deactivate the throttle is a bit of a shame, as it means you can’t feather the brakes when encountering some tricky terrain or a steep downhill section. But don’t worry, because it’s simple enough to change – simply remove a cable from each brake lever and away you go.
Its suspension is very capable, munching bumps and lumps with absolute ease. It’s a little on the soft side as standard, but with full adjustment at the rear and preload and compression adjustment up front, you can dial it in to find the perfect setting for whatever you’re up to, be it enduro, trials or a bit of bombing about in your backyard. And if you fancy upgrading the suspension to something more serious, the existing unit can be switched out with a set of high end downhill mountain bike forks from the likes of FOX or Ohlins.
The Sur-Ron Bee Light comes fitted with a removable Panasonic battery pack (and a fast charge system). It’s claimed the bike will return up to 60 miles if you take it easy in ECO mode, or around 25 miles if you’re pushing it to its limits in Sport mode. After spending a week together, I reckon those figures are about right. Admittedly, 25 miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re pushing hard on technical trails, that’s more than enough to give you a good workout and put a smile on your face. And when slowing down or coasting, the Bee Light recovers kinetic energy and feeds it back into the battery pack, enhancing both range and ride time.
For charging, the Bee Light comes with a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery charger, which works to return the battery from the dead within three hours using a normal domestic power point. To keep an eye on your charge, the Bee Light comes fitted with an LCD gauge, and there’s a small LCD speedo fitted as standard, too. It also comes with surprisingly powerful front and rear LED lights, in addition to USB power source to keep your phone (or GoPro) full of juice.
If you’re into diving around in the dirt, no matter whether it’s enduro, trials, freestyle, hillclimbing or a bit of back garden fun, the Sur-Ron’s well worth a look. It’s not a motorcycle and it’s not a mountain bike – instead it blends the best of both worlds into one capable, confidence-inspiring package. It weighs in at a tiny 47kg, comes with 6000W of peak power and will get up to 47mph in a flash. Ok, so there’s no ignoring its price tag - just shy of £4,000 certainly isn’t cheap. But is it worth it? Honestly, only time will tell. It’s proved capable of taking a serious beating in our time together, and if it can manage that in the long term, I reckon it’s worth it.
Don’t just take my word for it. Four- time World Enduro Champion David Knight loves his, too. Here’s what he thinks: “The Sur-Ron really surprised me the moment I first tried one. They are so much fun to ride, handle incredibly well and I have a massive smile on my face every time I ride one. Thinking about it, everyone that’s tried mine has loved it too, and had a massive smile on their faces.”
The law – where can I ride the Sur-Ron?
The law’s not altogether easy to understand, but the short answer is no, you can’t ride the Sur-Ron Light Bee on the road. But it’s not why you’d think.
With electric two-wheelers still a relatively recent development, the legislation and law surrounding their use can appear a little convoluted at first glance. Essentially, there are two set of rules, depending on the sort of electric bike you want to ride.
If you’re 14 or over, you can ride an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’ without the need for registration, tax or insurance. It must have pedals, and its motor should not propel the bike once it hits speeds of 15.5mph.
If it’s not an EAPC and is propelled without pedalling, it will be classified as a motorcycle or moped. As a result, you’ll need a driving licence to ride one, and it’ll also need to be registered, taxed and insured. Oh, and you’ll need to wear a crash helmet, too.
Technically, the Light Bee could be ridden on the road (with a bit of work), but if you want to hit the Tarmac, you’re probably better off dishing out an extra £500 and get your hands on the road-ready version, which is already restricted to meet moped licencing regulations (and is limited to 30mph).
Sur-Ron Light Bee
Motor: Permanent magnet synchronous motor Rated power/Peak power: 3000W/6000W Rated torque/Peak torque: 10.2Nm/39NM Top Speed: 47mph
Battery: 60V 32A Lithium Battery
Charging time: 2.5-3.5 hours
Max. range: 60 miles @ 20mph
Suspension: (F) DNM inverted forks with 203mm of travel and preload and compression adjustment (R) Adjustable DNM shock with TR suspension link system
Brakes: (F) Sur-Ron 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes with 203mm diameter (R) Sur-Ron 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes with 203mm diameter
Tyres: (F) CST 70/100-19 (R) CST 70/100-19 Weight: 47kg
Seat height: 840mm - 860mm
Wheel base: 1260mm
Warranty: Battery - 18 months (or 20,000 miles)/Other components: 12 months (subject to servicing)