Hands-On With The Stark Varg Electric Motocross Bike – Fullnoise
Let’s set something straight. There is no way I can accurately describe the events that occurred at the Stark Varg Worldwide Media Launch test, besides maybe Shock!
In an instance, my view of what a motorcycle is, was, can be, and should be were smashed. Set on fire. Then wiped from existence. What happened in those first few intimate moments with the Varg may have changed this Motorcycle enthusiast’s life forever.
Stark Varg is in the process of changing the face of the Motorcycle industry. If you are here to understand why a Stark Varg is worth your time and money. You will not leave dissatisfied and most likely your next stop will be to order a Varg.
If you are here for a Fuel versus Electric comparison. Understand this. There is no comparison between the two. They are extremely different. But in no uncertain terms. The Stark Varg is quite simply in another dimension of performance that Fuel power will probably never accomplish.
For many of you out there this may sound absurd. You may never understand what I am trying to convey until you have the opportunity to ride one of these complete works of art. You may be skeptical of this. But understand that I had my reservations about an electric dirtbike when I headed to Barcelona for this opportunity to test the Stark Varg too.
Mainly around the battery life and recharging it. This is because I’m more of an off-road guy where our events are far from a power outlet and last longer than a thirty-minute moto. On those two aspects, I’m not 100% convinced as replicating that situation and riding duration wasn’t possible during the test. But on all other aspects. Consider me a soon-to-be converted electric dirt bike advocate and a skeptic no more.
At this point, if you are one of the early deposit down people. Of which there are 10,000+ already making it the most successful motorcycle launch ever. Know that you will be extremely impressed with your purchase when it arrives and feel free to just browse the pictures. For those wanting more info before laying out your cash. Strap in. It’s about to get shocking.
The Worldwide media launch test day was set at the now repurposed golf course. Yes, it was a golf course that is now an MX track. MXGolf with clubhouse and all hosted around 60 media outlets from around the world.
After introductions and presentations on the company and bike. It was time to swing a leg over and get down to what was at the end of the 40hrs of traveling to be there.
Meet The Stark Varg
In what I now know was the Stark team’s idea of a practical joke. Our first cruise around the flat car park to get an idea of the bike and throttle response as directed by the head engineer and co-founder Paul Soucy. Turned out to be a stitch-up as the bike was programmed at a level my 5 yr old could handle. Thanks guys! But with a few swipes on the Stark Varg phone that is the dashboard (Yes this bike has its own smartphone).
The bike was loaded with the 60hp it was intended. (Note the advertised 80hp option wasn’t available on the pre-production version for the test. But know that the 60hp was more than enough for this test rider). With the bike set up to what it was capable of, sag and lever heights were set to my preference. I was let loose of the freshly prepared Golf course track.
Immediately as you roll onto the track, you’re overcome by a strange sensation of motion without noise. But a softer unusual grabbing noise from the back of the bike. It’s the rear tyre biting the earth that you just can’t hear normally over the exhaust. As I rolled onto the track cautiously it became apparent that the connection from the throttle to the rear wheel was instant and smooth.
The lack of a clutch and gears became very clear as I exited the first corner. In a moment where you normally need to work the bike by shifting or fanning the clutch to maintain rpm in the meat of the power. The Varg just had power everywhere. Without effort or thought from me the rider.
By halfway around the first lap I was pretty much sold. No lag in power anywhere. I’m not talking about the improvement noticed from carby to fuel injection. I’m talking about instant power from any point of progress. Along with an extremely balanced frame and motor with no inertia made for a very planted bike in all areas when cornering.
As I got more familiar with the track and bike. The corner speed I had found was scary. Oh, the corner speed. I could carry so much entry speed into the corner with the stock setting of minimal engine brake this is applied electronically (adjustable via the app).
Now because the bike had no fight around motor inertia. I felt more connected to the ground in my mid-corner. Probably in part to the improved body position I could maintain easier as I didn’t have to worry about changing down gears or clutch position to prevent stalling entering the corner. As soon as I wanted drive to exit the corner. The throttle gave it to me.
There was no hesitation. No need to downshift to find the right rpm range or fan the clutch. No need to clutch in and double rev the bike like I’m known for and many two-stroke riders are to get the bike “on the pipe”. The bike just drove out of the corner.
Again with all those traditional bike things removed (clutch and gears) you are able to exit much faster and in a better body position. Not to mention the bike is so much faster than anything I had previously ridden anyways.
Handling – A New Sensation!
Now, the bike not only is fast. But it handled beautifully also. The bike is equipped with KYB suspension. But also a frame, swing arm, and linkage design unlike any other. From corners to jumps, off-camber and flat corners, ruts and hill climbs.
The Stark Varg did not feel heavy to ride. Mostly in my opinion because of the instant power delivery and connection of the rear wheel. At no point was the bike ever in a lag that lead you to notice the weight take over or have the motors inertia take over. During flight, the ease at which an adjustment in the nose up or down could be made was quite staggering. But jumping will take a minute to get used to on the Stark Varg.
Like many of the test riders or others lucky enough to have ridden other electric bikes, I learned that I judge jumps by what gear I’m in and the sound of the exhaust/motor on the run-up to and on the face of the jump. Both of these aspects are gone on the Varg, making your normal moto senses fail initially. What I learned to do was judge my speed by the sound of the rear wheel and the associated zip noise of the chain.
By the second stint on the bike. Jumping had quickly become second nature and the odd sounds from the first stint that I didn’t understand and couldn’t use to my advantage were now in tune. Things like the sound of the air going past on your helmet or that feeling in your gut when speed increases all became reference points to ensure you down sided the jump.
Electric V Fuel
By the second stint on the Stark Varg, I pretty much didn’t want to get off the bike. I was blown away by its performance and my ability to corner, the speed at which I was cornering and just the enjoyment I was getting riding the bike. But the Stark Crew had planned this day to ensure we had a full understanding of what they have accomplished with the electric power.
So a back-to-back comparison with a 2022 450 of my choice was put to the media outlets in attendance. I jumped aboard the KTM450SX as I’m a KTM rider at home and thought it would be most familiar to give me a good comparison. Although I ride two strokes mostly. I know how powerful a 450 can be in any condition and the sound of the bike when I started it just gave me a familiar soothing feeling.
But once I kicked the 450 into gear, that’s about where the soothing feeling ended. Unlike the Varg. I quickly had to work the bike to corner. Clutch in, rev’s up, tap dance the gear shift, and fan the Clutch on the way out. Noise, noise noise. But oddly. Without seeming to get anywhere fast.
This was extremely surprising as I usually notice the 450 bump in speed and just the presence of the bike on track when I first jump on one from my 300 two-stroke. But at this point after riding the Varg. The 450 seemed very tame and one might even say slow. Not a term many people would use when describing a 450 but it feels necessary to do justice to the Stark Varg.
Unfortunately the more laps I did on the 450. The more disappointed in it I became. It did have that familiar Braap sound. That typical standard KTM understeer. The feeling of a fuel tank between my legs. A clutch that gave my left-hand purpose. Something I thought I was missing on the Varg but turns out I wasn’t at all.
What have the Stark crew done to my perfect Moto world?
Turns out. Fuel is dead people. I don’t want my Fuel-powered bike back. I offered to bribe my Stark mechanic to turn a blind eye while I wheeled one-off to pack in my suitcase but he wasn’t having any of it. How has this happened? In the matter of an hour. The Moto world had changed forever and I wanted to own an electric dirtbike.
From The Track To The Trails
Wait. Maybe I’m blinded bike the Varg because I was on an MX track and not on a bush loop.? That’s where the fuel-powered bike with a clutch will shine over the electric surely?
So out we went with CEO Anton Wass and Head Engineer Paul Soucy on a four-man trail ride to find a few logs to jump and hills to climb. Quite the experience to ride with the two guys that started this project and are the face of the company.
In some tighter sections and grass track sections at slower speed that we zipped through I expected to feel the weight of the bike come into play. But much like the MX track. The Stark Varg with the instant power delivery never slowed and always felt light to turn. As we found a log to jump I did get a bit nervous without a clutch. Even second-guessing the log hopping skill I’ve done thousands of times without issue.
At this moment I felt the bike was maybe lacking feel for the “pop” needed to hop the log. Without a clutch to help you wind up the motor and essentially help you time your launch. I felt very uncoordinated. But I did manage the log hops. But alot more time is needed to get that skill down without a clutch.
On some short, but steep and technical hill climbs I really put the drive and the weight of the Stark Varg to the test. From a standing start at the base of a pinch. The Stark Varg ate up the climb. On one occasion I got sketchy on a tree root and almost dropped the bike.
The one time I noticed the weight was when I had to catch the bike with my weight going down the hill onto an outstretched leg. But from that awkward catch to restarting my climb. The lack of a clutch and the ability to lug the bike in low torque made the climb restart much easier than with a clutch when you are hanging off the low side of the bike on a hill.
So am I sold on the no clutch thing for off-road? Hard to tell. The log hops I really missed having a clutch. But I think that’s purely down to relearning a well-embedded skill that will take a bit of time and practice. But the hill climb was a lot simpler without a clutch.
Would I be able to adapt to the lop hops without a clutch? Probably. Like many things in life you can learn to adapt a technique to the environment, it needs to be completed in. So I think with time it would not be an issue but as for right now I just couldn’t quite work it out to feel right.
Back To Reality
In the few weeks since the test ride. I have really tried to reconsider this electric bike and how impressed I was on the day. Even trying to put it down to being just over excited to try something new in a far away country. But the reality of the bike’s power really struck me when I got on my own bike on my own track a few days after returning home.
I hate to say it but the bike that I have worked hard on to set up with a good motor. Precise suspension and small parts to fit my riding style. They still didn’t come close to the experience, the speed, the rideability and the fun I had for that one day on the Stark Varg. It’s not too often that you ride a brand new stock bike and think how quickly can I get one of these in the garage.
So after all the fun of testing this absolute game-changing dirtbike. What’s the verdict? Should you be rushing out to order one? The short answer is Yes. The long answer is a bit more complex. I don’t know your finances. Or your intended use. I’d say as a play bike, this Stark Varg will be out of this world and forever put a smile on your face. As a racer at heart, I still have a slight reservation about how I personally would manage my day at the track to ensure I avoid a dead battery.
A fear that might be unfounded based on my efforts to use the battery during the test. It might just be that like every adaption and change in your life. It only takes one or two goes to work out how things can be done for it to become the new norm. Meaning take the plunge and work it out.
So would I buy one for Moto? Yeah, I definitely would. Would I buy one to race Hattah on? Probably not just yet. Not until I could test it out a bit first for that longer cross country style riding in heavy terrain (Sand). But from talking to the Stark Crew it won’t be long before this battery life and battery charging drastically improve.
So maybe it’s time to wait until next year’s model and just try your mates when you have a chance. For those looking to ride in our off-road setting and state forests. Registration is a must. Something this initial Stark Varg does not have. But I’m assured that subsequent models will have this ability. Currently, that’s where I fall on the matter. I predominately ride in a setting requiring rego. So this would not work for me just yet. But the moment an enduro model is released with rego possible in Australia. Watch out, I will be looking for that buy now button!
Some of the Specs for the Stark Varg
Power – 80hp or 60hp models available. The 80hp version is designed with the idea that the higher horsepower will allow the motor to work more effectively and therefore not drain the battery as quickly. Ideally increasing ride time one the battery without a recharge. Yes, you could probably also holeshot any Pro national with the 80hp too if that’s what you need it for.
Weight – 110kg / 242 lbs fully charged
Wheel Torque – 938 Nm
Range – Up to 6 hours for off-road trail type riding. 40mins of MX track at MXGP pace. For an hour of play riding on a bush loop and sections of the MX track, I was only able to use 30% of the battery life. In a 15min MX section, I used about 35-40% of the battery.
Charging time – 1 to 2 hours depending on the amps at your outlet. At the MXGolf facility, the bike was able to be charged between riding stints. At most I was off the bike for 20-30mins and each time I got back on the bike was at or near fully charged.
Battery Capacity – 6kWh
The Battery is a patent-pending design featuring a lightweight honeycomb magnesium case, the state-of-the-art ‘flying V’ concept connects every cell directly to the casing, achieving efficient cooling and a unique power-to-weight ratio in the motocross world. The battery can be changed. But it is not intended to be changed between motos. The Stark Varg is designed to be recharged with its 1-2hour charging time its quite sufficient to get you through most ride days. From the time I spent on the bike, you will wear out before the battery runs out.
Suspension – 310 mm travel Front/Rear KYB
Tyres – Pirelli MX32 tyres are standard which will make many customers happy they don’t have to replace the standard tyres straight away although they aren’t on top of my list but that’s another AlwaysMoto inspection for another day.
Brakes – Brembo Brake components are just like the KTM and Husky brands and these use the same brake pads and disc sizes as the KTM450. The Stark comes standard with Galfer Discs.
At purchase the buyer has the ability to choose rear wheel size (18 or 19inch), colour (red, white or grey), rear brake location (traditional right foot or handlebar-mounted on the left hand), and a side stand to make parking in the garage easy. Even the ability to have the right spring rates fitted from the factory to ensure you don’t have to change these on arrival, The bike is set for your rider weight from standard.
Ride Modes – More than 100, changeable at the swipe of the screen on the dashboard/Stark Varg phone and app.
Adjustability – Power Curve, engine Braking, Flywheel effect and Traction Control all at the swipe of a finger on the Stark Varg phone or app.
Price – $18,200
Reserve yours now at www.starkfuture.com for $100
To listen to more about the Stark Varg Worldwide Media launch and hear from the CEO and Co-founder Anton Wass. Check out The AlwaysMoto Podcast Episode #24. Or keep in touch via (@always.moto)
Listen: Here is My Sit Down With CEO and co-founder of Stark Vark, Anton Wass