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Strong but Silent – Stark Varg Electric MX Bike Review

Wheelies… It can literally do them anytime, anywhere at any throttle position.

Wheelies… It can literally do them anytime, anywhere at any throttle position. (Stark/)

Whatever your thoughts on the electric future of off-road motorcycling, they now have to contend with reality. The two-wheeled electric motorcycle segment has been growing over the last decade, but most of the options come with compromises. Now the Stark Varg electric motocross bike has arrived, and the game, supposedly, has changed. As I boarded my flight to Barcelona, Spain, for the Varg’s official introduction, my thoughts were equal parts high expectations and reservations.

My thoughts aren’t normally worth mentioning, necessarily. But for now, my job is to offer the perspective of a mid-level off-road rider. I ride MX and off-road monthly, but I’m not a ranked pro; twisting throttle with the gang and trading stories truckside with the other weekend warriors is where I find myself. I’m also an Alta owner, and a fan of where an EV can take you when a combustion option is not suited. I’m also aware of the EV’s many weaknesses. I’ve kept a close eye on Stark, and suffice it to say, if the Varg delivers the numbers it’s promised, it’d settle a lot of my qualms.

A couple of those qualms were settled right away. From the moment we arrived at the MX Golf facility outside Barcelona and saw the bikes for the first time, it was clear that the design team had not been assembled at random. Attention to detail was obvious in every aspect of the Varg, and the fit and finish of the machines was a cut above anything I’d seen yet in the motocross industry.

Riding the bike was equally striking. After a hundred feet it was obvious that the Varg is a different animal. The throttle is crisp and direct, as electrics are, but also comfortably linear. This, the most immediate sensation, is where most riders will start to feel connected. And the Varg is connected, quite literally. Riders can hear as well as feel the earth break under power, the knobbies finding their groove and turning in on the front tire. It’s truly a different and extremely visceral experience to hear all the sounds of each and every move the motorcycle makes while moving through its environment. Without the roar of a gas engine, the rider feels at one with nature and the motorcycle at the same time.

The track layout was ideal for familiarization with a new platform, sandy at the base but just about perfect after two days of rain. The first few laps around the track were perhaps a little hesitant and Bambi-like over the jumps and rhythm sections; this was not because of the Varg’s performance. Gauging speed on a traditional MX bike is largely based on gear selection and throttle position; naturally the Varg is different. On corner entry and exit the Varg was like a knife, taking any line its rider chose to put it on. At times it felt like it could turnaround backward if necessary. I have never experienced something this responsive in the dirt.

For the suspension components, a KYB fork and shock with more than 12 inches of travel and NiCr-coated legs and shafts were developed in collaboration with Technical Touch. Right away this was a relief: Stark wasn’t wasting its time with any of the available air fork products that have continued to disappoint riders and racers alike.

The integration of the air fork was to reduce the production cost of the unit, which may seem at odds with Stark’s goal of not cutting any corners on the Varg platform. As funny as this sounds, the Stark “cases,” or comes up short, and overjumps like a dream. This is crucially important for most motocross riders; when you are fresh to your session, this is not an issue, but toward the end of a moto it becomes a very important handling characteristic. Stark was able to develop a rear linkage that kept the ship afloat and ready for competition without a lengthy linkage hanging below the skid plate, meaning there’s one less item to catch on the dirt. This will be an amazing design for enduro usage, as the linkage is often the lowest catch point on many large obstacles.

The Stark team was so confident their product would deliver that they brought every current 450, so riders could test them back to back with the Varg in a direct comparison. Of course, all of the new 450s rip. And so did the Varg; this was really the most convincing part of the day. Take, for instance, the excellent GasGas 450, which is a bit more rideable than some of the other high-powered 450s. Excellence notwithstanding, the GasGas instantly felt much heavier to maneuver than the Varg. Any advantages the traditional 450s had over the Varg were due mostly, if not completely, to familiarity, not quality or performance. This is surprising; ordinarily, riding 450s feel like trying to tame a rocket ship, but after two sessions on the Stark the 450s felt quite docile and sluggish in comparison.

Swapping back to the Varg for solo laps was an awakening. Coming from the 450s, it was another proper test of how the new linkage design handled harsh impact. This was the point when it all clicked; the gauge of speed was coming without a thought of gear-based rpm and the laps started clicking along. It took about a day on the platform for it all to begin to feel normal—the new normal, that is.

The Varg felt right at home on tight trails, grass turn sections, canyon step-ups, step-downs, and places to practice wheelies. When eventually the 20-minute call for the end of the session came, there were semi-serious thoughts of ignoring it. I truly could have ridden the Stark until my hands bled through; it’s the most excited I’ve been on a bike in years. So yes. From the perspective of a mid-level casual rider, it’s possible to match, or perhaps even exceed, the potential of current gasoline-powered dirt bikes.

If that’s enough to interest you, then you’ll be happy to hear that ordering a Stark online is a seamless process. Place a down payment; specify power output of 60 or 80 hp; choose a hand- or foot-operated rear brake; size your rear wheel at 18 or 19 inches;  enter rider weight for the suspension setup; and finally, choose your color. If all goes to plan, your bike will be delivered to your door in a few months. If it works, it’s a long-overdue update to the antiquated dealer network.

So: Will I forever have a home in my heart for the combustion motorcycle? Absolutely. That’s what I built my career on and how I developed my intense passion for life on two wheels. But the Stark Varg is a welcome, hopeful glimpse of what’s truly possible with electric motorcycles.

Stark Varg Technical Specifications and Price

MSRP: $13,900 (as tested)
Motor: Carbon fiber housing 360V
Battery Capacity: 6kWh
Charger: 3.3kW, 16 amp, 120/240V
Claimed Charge Time: 151 min. @ 120V; 82 min. @ 240V
Final Drive: Chain
Claimed Horsepower: 80 hp
Claimed Torque: 64.5 lb.-ft. @ 14,200 rpm
Frame: Chromoly steel
Front Suspension: 48mm KYB USD fork, fully adjustable; 12.2 in. travel
Rear Suspension: KYB monoshock w/ linkage, fully adjustable; 12.2 in. travel
Front Brake: Brembo 2-piston caliper, 260mm Galfer disc
Rear Brake: Brembo 1-piston caliper, 220mm Galfer disc
Tires, Front/Rear: Pirelli Scorpion MX32; 80/100-21 / 110/90-19
Rake/Trail: 26.5°/ N/A
Wheelbase: 58.5 in.
Ground Clearance: 14.8 in.
Seat Height: 37.3 in.
Claimed Weight: 242 lb.
Contact: starkfuture.com

The centerstand has an integrated charger into the base, eliminating the number of items needed in transit for riding.

The centerstand has an integrated charger into the base, eliminating the number of items needed in transit for riding. (Stark/)

The cockpit is streamlined with near perfect ergonomics and premium components.

The cockpit is streamlined with near perfect ergonomics and premium components. (Stark/)

The Flying V battery design was the first asthenic to draw my attention. Pound for pound and outstanding leader in its class. The Stark Varg 6kWh battery packs enough capacity to match a full tank of gas on a 450cc with full charge in 1–2 hours depending on the charger and power outlet.

The Flying V battery design was the first asthenic to draw my attention. Pound for pound and outstanding leader in its class. The Stark Varg 6kWh battery packs enough capacity to match a full tank of gas on a 450cc with full charge in 1–2 hours depending on the charger and power outlet. (Stark/)

A removable waterproof Android device allows more than 100 personalized bike configurations adjusting power curve, engine-brake, and traction control and virtual flywheel effect at your fingertips.

A removable waterproof Android device allows more than 100 personalized bike configurations adjusting power curve, engine-brake, and traction control and virtual flywheel effect at your fingertips. (Stark/)

Wheelies. The Stark Varg is capable anytime, anywhere, at any throttle position.

Wheelies. The Stark Varg is capable anytime, anywhere, at any throttle position. (Stark/)

Flashy aesthetics is not always what is best for the rider's ergonomics. In the case of the Varg, it was able to accomplish both design goals.

Flashy aesthetics is not always what is best for the rider’s ergonomics. In the case of the Varg, it was able to accomplish both design goals. (Stark/)

After a quick overview, I learned there are many settings to adjust for the rider. By the end of the second session, I turned down power to 80 percent. For my pace and skill level it was perfect.

After a quick overview, I learned there are many settings to adjust for the rider. By the end of the second session, I turned down power to 80 percent. For my pace and skill level it was perfect. (Stark/)

Moto developed, trail ready. In the next stage of the Stark development there will be more lighting options for enduro-minded riders. Until then you can order the current model with an 18-inch wheel and a kickstand.

Moto developed, trail ready. In the next stage of the Stark development there will be more lighting options for enduro-minded riders. Until then you can order the current model with an 18-inch wheel and a kickstand. (Stark/)

The sweeping left-hander at MX Golf has me thinking about the look of the Varg on 19s as a DTX-style flat-track bike.

The sweeping left-hander at MX Golf has me thinking about the look of the Varg on 19s as a DTX-style flat-track bike. (Stark/)

Throttle response is very linear and predictable. It took a few sessions to get used to not having gear selection and rpm as reference for approach speed over jumps. By the third session out, wind noise and visual perception became my markers and the jumps were easier to tackle.

Throttle response is very linear and predictable. It took a few sessions to get used to not having gear selection and rpm as reference for approach speed over jumps. By the third session out, wind noise and visual perception became my markers and the jumps were easier to tackle. (Stark/)

We’re big fans of the Stark Varg’s design and general aesthetic.

We’re big fans of the Stark Varg’s design and general aesthetic. (Stark/)

Captive adjustment axle slider blocks make for easier and accurate chain adjustment.

Captive adjustment axle slider blocks make for easier and accurate chain adjustment. (Stark/)

Brake power was phenomenal in both power and feel. Brembo braking components front and rear paired with stainless lines and wave rotors (260mm/220mm).

Brake power was phenomenal in both power and feel. Brembo braking components front and rear paired with stainless lines and wave rotors (260mm/220mm). (Stark/)

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