Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

The garage-built EMX – electric motocross soul in a mountain bike's body


April 24, 2013

The EMX bike is offered in Street and Cross (off-road) versions

The EMX bike is offered in Street and Cross (off-road) versions

Image Gallery (15 images)

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.

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: EMX

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

I'm really pleased to see this because I had a similar thought some years ago and the idea of developing it was too daunting. The thing I am most pleased about is the weight. I identified that as a key failing of other motorized bikes, both electric and petrol powered. I sketched out some downhill MTB-based petrol and electric ones and at the time, it seemed like only petrol power could meet my criteria of a bike that one person could lift off a ute or over a fence.

The one question mark I have is over a major trade off - putting a motor in the rear axle vs putting it at the centre of gravity and using a chain. One is much simpler and lighter but makes the ride rougher and the bike less nimble by raising the unsprung mass and decentralising the mass. The other will ride better but has more weight and more stuff to maintain and more points of failure. I bet these guys mulled over that one.

We all have ideas that we never do anything about - it's great when you learn that someone went and did it!

A final thought - I'm sure the range drops massively with every few klicks of extra top speed but after they've sold a few of these, I'd like to see a model that can be registered as a normal motor bike, has a higher top speed and the option of removable batteries of different sizes and weights. That way, you could use one of these things to commute on public roads and have extra batteries always charged up at work or ready for extra riding on the weekend.


Love the idea. So sorry to see the high price.

Mac McDougal

the location of the key will insure at least one bloody knee and the key broken off in the lock...

Le Ducktor
In my area we can ride almost every day of the year. The conflict between bikes, scooters, and the needs of auto drivers will become heated. As the majority shifts to alternative transportation one would assume that the roads and traffic laws will slant towards the new majority. I have already heard people who want extra taxes applied to hybrid cars and bicycles as they feel that paying little or no gas taxes is cheating the system. Jim Sadler

To Jim Conflicts between road users have been around for centuries. Before cars joined the roads occupied by wheelman. Before horseman joined those walking. Whenever required space and relative speeds fail to match up, there's conflict. Still, I don't get your point. The oil industry isn't really a "system". It's just private companies trying to sell their products. If you decide not to buy, this isn't "cheating," it's a choice.

On the other hand, calling any pedal-less transportation device a bicycle, or "e-bike" sounds like it might be cheating expectations.


To duh300:

The comment about gas taxes had little or nothing to do with the oil companies and everything to do with how roads are financed. One of the significant "problems" of transitioning from petroleum fueled vehicles to electrics is developing an equitable way to support the road/street infrastructure.


To Mac McDougal:

It's possible to take off the key when the motor is still running!

Emx Bike

Those of us who build these bikes now understand the benefit that comes from having cranks - the ability to shift weight left and right. I'm not sure that people will want to pay the premium for what is a rather easy format to build now on DIY. Looks like an X54 motor up back - will it be shipped with the new crown motor?

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles