Stealth makes some of the baddest electric-powered two-wheeled transport around. We can attest to this after having an absolute blast on the Australian company's high-powered flagship, the B-52, but what happens when you take an extreme e-bike and replace the pedals with dirtbike-style pegs? We climbed aboard Stealth's H-52 model to find out.
The brainchild of former motorcycle design engineer John Karambalis, Stealth bikes sit somewhere between a mountain bike and a dirt bike. Far more powerful than your average pedelec, they are designed to provide an adrenaline-filled riding experience without high running costs, noise or maintenance hassles. As we discovered when we first rode the B-52 (formerly called the "Bomber"), they deliver.
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The B-52 is an e-bike on steroids and the H-52 is essentially the same bike at its core. The two models have the same 5,200 W in-hub brushless DC motor, the same tough aircraft-grade chromoly and carbon fiber construction, the same battery and battery management system and the same German-made Magura hydraulic disc brakes. The difference is that the H-52 has pegs instead of pedals, and a motocross style seat. No pedals means that the chain, 9-speed sequential gearbox and the gear shifter are also gone.
All of this adds up to something that's much more firmly in the dirtbike camp than its stablemate. The H-52 is lighter at 48 kg (106 lb), very flickable and great through corners, where you find yourself throwing out a leg dirtbike-style more naturally than when riding with pedals. The torquey motor helps it hold on tight, so you don't tend to spin out the back wheel and cross-up the bars like you would on a dirtbike, meaning that as well as reducing noise pollution, you don't rip up trails anywhere near as much.
The ability to slide around the seat also gives it more of a moto feel, and it's easy to blip the half twist throttle and pop the front wheel over rocks or logs or stairs. Give it a little runway, and you can get the H-52 well and truly airborne.
You do miss the pedals a little on uphill grinds where that bit of extra oomph can make a big difference to your momentum, especially from a standing start. No doubt you'd also miss them if you run out of juice without the option of pedaling home – but with the battery level laid out on a screen in front of you (along with just about every other performance parameter you can think of), it's easy to avoid that ever happening. The range also suffers, though you still get a respectable 45-55 km (28-34 mi) out of a single charge unless you are really pushing it in steep terrain – put it this way, we were worn out before the battery was.
A full recharge takes around 2 hours and the battery is good for around 800 cycles. Running costs are next to nothing ... and if you happen to have an off-grid solar system handy, those costs are exactly nothing. If you fork out for an extra battery pack you can swap another in and continue riding (which will set you back about $2,000 on top of the purchase price of around $9,500).
We also missed the pedals on open flat tracks where we didn't quite hit the claimed 80 km/h (50 mph) top speed. But we came close, and on a bike this light anything in that vicinity certainly feels very fast. To conserve battery or just to keep things sensible, you can also limit the H-52 to a 25 km/h (16 mph) cruising speed by selecting "economy mode".
Point it downhill or get into the tight stuff and the H-52 really shines. It's balanced, maneuverable and can take a pounding over rough terrain, with 200 mm of travel up front and 250 mm on the swingarm. The thumb-operated regen button (positioned just below the left grip) comes in handy on the downhill where you can wash off speed without locking up the brakes, and if you do have to pull up fast, the Magura brakes do a fine job.
The H-52 is a hard one to define neatly. It's not directly comparable to conventional ICE motorcycles or heavier electric road bikes like those in the Zero range, and while it will definitely appeal to moto riders who are sick of changing air and oil filters and pouring dollars into their fuel tanks, it doesn't have exactly the same kind of punch that a 125 cc dirt bike does. That doesn't mean it isn't as much (or more) fun, it's just a different riding experience.
At the end of the day, the H-52 delivers a buzz all its own.
See more of the H-52 in action in our photo gallery, or hit play for our full video review:
More information: Stealth Electric BikesView gallery - 28 images