About three years ago, in a cramped, musty garage in Graz, Austria, a handful of determined bike gear heads set to work on building an environmentally friendlier motocross-inspired e-bike. What they popped out three months later wasn't quite an FMX/motocross bike and wasn't quite a mountain bike. It was the all-electric EMX, a little bit of both.
When we first picked up a flyer for the EMX, we didn't think much about it. It looked similar to other electric mountain bikes we've seen, like the eSpire or Stealth Bomber. The burly metal frame, the mountain bike tires, the big coil shock in back – just another electric mountain bike designed to help push you uphill and reap the downhill rewards.
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Not exactly. What the EMX doesn't have is a chain, pedals or gears. In that regard, it's more like a light, simplified dirt bike. EMX's designers call it an "electro motorcross-variant based on classic bicycle without pedal assistance." We think EMX is a lot catchier.
The project began in 2010 in the aforementioned garage. A team of five – Johannes Hoier, Andreas Hoier, Karl Maier, Armin Heimburg and Alex Steiner – set to work on the design, wrenching, screwing and welding it together into the wee hours, night after night. Before the year let out, they had completed the first prototype.
"Companies like Apple and Microsoft have already shown us in the past that neither money nor great production facilities are necessary to turn a project one is confident of into reality. All you need is a crazy idea, a friend, and a garage," EMX writes in its promotional materials. "The existence of this project is based on exactly these three cornerstones."
After putting the bike through the wringer, ensuring it could hold up to water and weather, the team brought it to the 2011 Taipei Cycle Show and subsequently found a frame manufacturing partner in Taiwan's Pacific Cycles. While the manufacturing process involved making some changes to the original design, the spirit of a pedal-less e-motocross bike stayed the same when the bike launched last year. We assume that translates to a lightweight motocross bike that handles and tricks with ease, and a bomber mountain bike that flies both up and down trails.
When we asked, Johannes Hoier said that the main advantages of the pedal-less design, when compared to an e-assisted mountain bike with pedaled drivetrain, is in the lighter weight. He was quick to point out that the EMX weighs 33 kg (73 pounds) while the Stealth Bomber, an example we provided for comparison, weighs 53 kg (116 pounds). The weight difference is even more pronounced when comparing with dirt bikes – Cycle World lists the "average" dirt bike weight at 208 pounds (95 kg). The sleeker, bicycle-based construction also gives the EMX a nimbler, ride-anywhere footprint compared to the standard dirt bike.
The EMX is available in two models: the aptly named, street-legal "Street" and the off-road "Cross." Both models have foot pegs to give your feet a place to rest in the absence of pedals.
The Cross uses a 6.7-hp Austrian-built brushless hub motor mounted in back. EMX describes that motor as "maintenance free and virtually indestructible." Electricity comes from a 1.5-kWh Panasonic lithium-ion battery pack inside the down tube cage. The battery takes about five hours to charge with the included hardware.
The Cross is capable of ripping through the dirt at speeds up to 34 mph (55 km/h) and can travel up to 50 miles (80 km) per charge. A "turbobutton" provides the quickest possible acceleration. Other components include a RockShox BoXXer RC mountain bike fork, a RockShox Kage R rear shock, Avid CODE R hydraulic disc brakes and Schwalbe Jumpin' Jack tires.
The Street version is tamed down a little, with a 15.5 mph (25 km/h) top speed allowing for classification as a bicycle. The trade-off is in a greater 81-mile (130-km) range. There's still a turbobutton to jolt you up to that 15.5 in a hurry.
While it may be street legal and slower, the Street is more than capable of wandering off the asphalt. It has the same fork, rear shock and disc brakes as the Cross. It rides on Schwalbe Crazy Bob tires.
Since the Cross and Street are essentially the same bike tuned for different purposes, they price in at the exact same €5,880 (approx. US$7,640). Pacific Cycles builds the frames, and the motor and components are put together in Austria.
Product page: EMXView gallery - 15 images