[Features]

PROJECT E, BY 74 WORKS

2 years ago | Words: Mitch Smith | Photos: Charlie Brown

Earlier this year, we showcased a Chad Reed tribute YZ250 that was built by Mitch Smith who, among many other things, is a bike nut and the owner of a Victorian-based business called 74 Works – experts in specialty coatings and vapor blasting. Such was the quality of that #22 bike build, it attracted rave reviews across Transmoto’s channels.

So, when Mitch got in touch with us shortly after that to say he’d built “a very serious toy that goes like buggery, weighs 50kg and is about the size of your average 85cc; a SurRon e-bike that I’ve added a significant amount of fruit to and is, to my knowledge, one of the best SurRons out there globally,” we were all ears.

What follows is the intriguing story of Mitch Smith’s journey from e-bike ignoramus to advocate, thanks to his experience with the SurRon – his Project E. Take it away, Mitch…

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH E

My wife, Sum, and I are avid mountain bikers, and I love all things motorbike. About 12 months ago, we went to some local trails in Porepunkah, northeast Victoria. When we pulled into the carpark, there were three guys on these little electric bikes I’d never seen.

After a quick walk around the bikes – which were bone stock – I was impressed with the build quality, size and stature of this little jigger. SurRon wasn’t a brand I was familiar with. The guys told me the price – around $6K at the time, which will buy you an average mountain bike. I assumed that, being electric and having some fairly impressive fruit on it, it would have been well north of that.

Anyway, the guys kindly offered Sum and I a spin. A first, I was hesitant to accept as I don’t usually like riding someone else’s bike, but I had to know. Off we went down some singletrail out of the carpark. I’d say within about 50 metres, I knew we must get our hands on a couple of these things. Jumping little trails jumps, riding ruts, berms and hopping obstacles all came straight away on the SurRon, and these were trails I had never ridden. The bike gave me enough confidence in seconds to zip around these trails like I had built them myself. Sum was the same, and I could hear her laughing!

The stock power, suspension and brakes all seemed good, the balance of the bike was great, they were just super-easy to ride and, power to weight, felt good. It’s so different to ride a silent moto; you can hear the suspension working, brakes, tyres – which, personally, I find interesting, informative and sensory.

We had been looking at TT-Rs and so on for around our farm and to get Sum onto a motorbike. But after riding the SurRon, I quickly realised that, as well as being a super-fun toy, this bike was a great introduction to moto for my wife – no noise, gears or clutch, and the brakes are MTB configuration so they were familiar already. She took to it immediately.

We also have a farm with goats. Any time they hear a motor, they come running to the nearest gate, where they are challenging to control if there is food or sex on the other side of the fence. On the SurRon, they don’t know you’re there until you get within about 20 metres!

DOING THE RESEARCH & DIVING IN

After a bit of Googling, I could see the bike had been around for a year or two and was globally very popular (outselling their nearest competitor by about 30 to one). Parts seemed to be readily available, reviews were great, and I could see there was already a good aftermarket offering for trick bits. Needless to say, there were enough boxes ticked to order two before nightfall. There was a local distributor who was able to sell us a couple, and we were off!

It didn’t take me long to really appreciate the silence, weight, turning circle and jump-on-and-go factors of the SurRon on our farm. Snotty traverses, climbs, trails, creek crossings – not a problem. And if you had to turn around on the side of a hill or something, it weighs just 50kg so you can literally pick it up and turn around or pop a static wheelie-type thing. You can actually bunny-hop this thing.

THE MOD MISSION BEGINS

In true male fashion, I was so impressed that I needed to improve everything and go on an Apocalypse Now-type mission in search of mods. I had seen plenty of people in the US fitting huge batteries and controllers, 21/19-inch wheels, double rear brake calipers, seat extensions and all sorts of crazy, and doing hard enduro, motocross, motard and more on this little bike. Personally, I thought that strayed from the qualities of the bike I enjoyed. I think it’s a great little unique bike that is fun as, but in my opinion it’s not a motocrosser/enduro/trial bike. You aren’t going to fly up a snotty firetrail clearing water bars and pumping 60km/h wheelstands at the same time on a SurRon.

To my mind, I thought I’d like to embrace the fact this bike is small, light, short wheelbase, electric and largely compatible with downhill mountain-bike gear, and hone its potential with higher-spec components.

So … we ripped her down.

I was really impressed with the build quality, tolerances and so on, which was evident on both tear-down and reassembly – a far cry from the fortune cookie pit-bikes of 10 years ago. The pressed forged aluminium frame and swingarm were stripped, prepped and coated with Cerakote – Flat Dark Earth was the colour I chose. I powder-coated the subframe with Prismatic Powders. The leather seat was hand-made by Ben at Eightpastfive Upholstery in Porepunkah, complete with embroidered 74 logo.

The suspension was sourced by Shane at TOR bikes in Beechworth and supplied by Tom at Beechworth Cyclery. Both these guys know a lot more than I with regard to things that go ‘boing’ and I am fortunate to have their help. The fork is a Fox 40 27.5-inch downhill fork and the shock is a Fox DHX2 9.5 with a shock adapter and a 550lb SLS spring.

We opted for a BAC 4000 controller upgrade, which is compatible with the standard battery. EBMX sold us the controller, which came with detailed installation instructions and three pre-programmed tunes that offer a really good spread across the power range from mild to wild. EBMX are at the pointy end of E-bike mods and really breaking ground on what’s possible with these bikes. We coated the BAC 4000 controller with Cerakote in a thermal dispersant ceramic coating for increased cooling, and aesthetics.

AE Bikes helped us out with the SM Pro wheels in 16-inch rear and 19-inch front. I opted for this wheel size as the bike’s geometry is designed around a 19-inch front and rear wheel, the rear with a moto tyre is very close to the rolling diameter of the 19-inch front. With a 30mm billet riser linkage in the rear, it’s spot on. AE also supplied some other parts – such as ProTaper bars, longer rear fender and off-the-shelf minor upgrades and spares. Adam and Vanessa have been involved with the bikes and industry in Australia from the start and have all the knowledge, gear, spares and resources to provide top-shelf service.

Brakes, I upgraded to Hope Tech 4 V4. They’re billet, have all the adjustment a human could want and are a proven performer. And Hope has a 225mm rotor. This combo gives this bike all the stopping power it needs, and then some.

Headlight is from Fisher Fab House in the US. It’s beautifully made, bright AF and is plug-and-play for this bike. This light has three brightness settings, spot and flood beams, and is a massive improvement over the stocker in every way.

Dunlop MX33 tyres, supplied and fitted by Clint at Morrison Moto Garage. With the suspension set-up, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of help from your World Cup downhill MTB mate, Dean Lucas. Dean can rule on anything with two wheels, has intimate knowledge of Fox suspension, and tuned it in on the stand to be near on perfect.

Other small changes are the rear sprocket adapter from Luna Cycles in the US (it’s compatible with CR80-150 sprockets), 58-tooth Pro-X rear sprocket, ENVE Composites direct-mount carbon DH stem, ProTaper grips, billet pegs, billet peg mounts, billet peg brace and some custom 74 Works graphics from Grimshaw Designs in Wangaratta.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

The Fox suspension, Dunlops, BAC 4000 controller and Hope brakes combine to do what I set out to do with this bike, and that was to harness its OEM qualities and give them a linear and real improvement without straying too far from the bike’s original design ethos.

While there are larger batteries and controllers on the market, my thoughts were that I’d be over-killing what this little motor and chassis was designed for. The larger battery may be something I’d consider in the future if there is a proven unit out there. EBMX are making great ground here. They can also provide you with a larger controller – the BAC 8000. I opted for the stock battery and BAC 4000 controller and feel it is a really good fit for the riding I do.

After the 74 treatment, Project E goes like stink, stops on a dime and is predictable, planted and well balanced. Shortly, we’ll have some beautiful, high-end billet parts to upgrade to from @pricklymotorsports in the US. Check them out, as their gear is insane.

WHERE IT ‘FITS’

Singletrail, MTB-type trails, mini-moto, ag-moto and general forest trails are a blast on this bike. To me, it fits perfectly between a full-size moto and a mountain bike. When the time comes to go electric full size, I’ll be looking at a Stark Varg. This bike to me is in the ‘serious toy’ category, whereas the Varg is solidly in the moto category and deserves to be.

For kids and beginners, these little electric bikes are magic. There’s no intimidating sound, vibration, clutch, gears and so on; you just jump on, put it in eco mode and modulate that undeniably smooth electric throttle. For anyone with some bike experience, you’ll not get the smile off your dial. Plus, they’re very low maintenance – you lube your chain and roll.

Even with the upgraded power controller, I’ve found that in general riding (where you’re on and off the throttle, up and down a few hills, etc) the battery is still at 95% after 20-25 mins of singletrail riding. They also re-generate when rolling, which is cool. Re-charging even when down towards half battery takes about an hour.

The SurRon is able to get rec rego in Vic basically straight out of the box and I believe you can now buy them ADR compliant, so they can be fully road rego’d (I think the brakelines need to be braided steel, as the standard lines are nylon MTB).

The SurRon, Segway and Talaria bikes are all very similar and have basically full parts compatibility. Adam and Vanessa at AE Bikes and Talaria Australia have info, parts and thorough knowledge on all bikes and an established dealer network.

I’m excited about electric bikes. I think they’ll save a lot of tracks and will improve the sport’s accessibility and longevity. I’ve heard the haters, but if it takes that much jam out of your donut to ride something quiet, get a set of earbuds as I’m sure they’ll come out with some sort of moto-audio app you can listen to while you ride to make it sound like whatever you want!

More ace bikes coming soon from 74 Works. Thanks to everyone involved. And massive thanks to Transmoto for their love of all things moto.

Be the first to comment...

You might also like...

2 months ago

BAJA 1000: ‘BEYOND THE LINE’

‘Beyond the Line’: a cool, bite-sized insight to the iconic annual Baja 1000 race.

2 months ago

HOW-TO: REPLACE YOUR GRAPHICS – PROPERLY!

The six key steps involved in replacing your bike’s old, worn graphics.

2 months ago

GIFT A MATE – AMA SUPERMOTOCROSS VIDEO PASS

Buy your mate an exclusive ticket to watching AMA SX outside of the USA.

2 months ago

HOW-TO: CHAIN & SPROCKET REPLACEMENT

We walk you through the 10 key steps that’ll ensure your bike’s chain and sprocket are doing their job properly.

Royal Enfield

2 months ago

ROYAL ENFIELD’S HIMALAYAN 450 – FAQS ANSWERED

We answer your most FAQs about Royal Enfield’s landmark new Himalayan 450 adventure tourer.

2 months ago

HOW-TO: HANDLEBAR CONTROLS SET-UP

Eight simple steps to help you declutter, service and update your bike’s handlebar-mounted controls.

2 months ago

HOW-TO: FOOT-CONTROL SET-UP

Five simple steps to help you get your footpegs, rear brake pedal and gear-shift lever properly adjusted.

3 months ago

Harry Norton Takes the Helm at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Aussie Harry Norton has taken the step into the role as Team Manager of the Red Bull KTM race team.