The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0
The Freeride E-SM is strange and hard to evaluate, even by electric bike standards. It’s light, sweet-handling, stylish and quicker than other A1-legal bikes. But it’s far more expensive, and has such limited range that it’s more of a toy than a practical form of transport.
Reasons to buy
- Smooth, 22bhp motor gives outstanding A1 class performance
- Fine handling thanks to excellent suspension and light weight
- Minimal running costs and quick recharge time
At a glance
Like many supermoto streetbikes the E-SM is closely related to off-road models, in this case the recently launched Freeride E-SX enduro and dual-purpose Freeride E-XC. It’s a stylish machine, with a long, narrow seat that hinges to reveal the quickly removable battery pack. This format is ideal for a trail park, where the battery can be replaced with a fresh one. But it works much less well on the road where the Freeride’s basic design, which centres on performance and light weight, severely limits range.
There’s nothing unusual about the riding position itself, which combines a typical supermoto’s wide, slightly raised one-piece handlebar with a seat that is tall, at 870mm. The off-road style seat is very narrow, which is useful in making it easier for medium height riders to get feet on the ground (the rear suspension also compresses a fair bit once you’re on board), but managed to become uncomfortable even before the Freeride ran out of juice. On the plus side, the serrated footrests are adjustable by rotating them in their mounts.
The E-SM simply wasn’t designed with roadgoing practicality as a serious consideration. In normal use you’d be worrying about being stranded with a flat battery before you’d covered 20 miles, though at least the pain in your rear end from that razor-like seat might give you something else to think about. For most motorcyclists a lightweight electric roadster like this is a non-starter. But if you live in a city, do lots of short journeys and have somewhere handy to charge it up, the E-SM could be fine.
Performance & braking
Straight-line performance is superb for an A1-class bike, and the single speed means the Freeride is easy to ride. Electric machines produce maximum torque from zero revs, and are rated on power they can deliver continuously – so the E-SM’s max of 22bhp is usefully higher than its rated 15bhp. Acceleration is very lively to a top speed of over 60mph. Braking from the front and rear single discs is normally fine, if not especially powerful. But after heavy slowing into a string of downhill hairpins the front stopper overheated, letting the lever come back to the bar with no effect. Most riders won’t have this problem but it’s a surprising and deeply unsettling flaw.
Ride & handling
This is where the E-SM’s shared design with those E-SX and E-XC off-roaders comes into its own. At 108kg it’s extremely light, its tubular steel and aluminium frame (with plastic rear subframe) is rigid, and its adjustable suspension, from KTM subsidiary WP, is outstanding. On twisty roads in the hills it steered very accurately and was very stable, despite the generous travel (250mm front, 260mm rear) that effortlessly soaked up most bumps. There was plenty of grip too, from 17-inch Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres that come in in respectably wide sizes (110/80 front 130/70 rear) to help make use of the generous ground clearance.
In one respect the E-SM gets a near-perfect score for running costs, because its lithium-ion battery can be recharged for well under £1.00 so the KTM is much less expensive to run even than a frugal small-capacity petrol-engined bike. But the picture isn’t quite as clear as that, even if you disregard the contrastingly high purchase price. Resale values have to be part of the picture, and the Freeride’s value in a few years’ time is very uncertain. The fact that its batteries won’t hold their life as well as they did when new probably won’t help, though on the plus side it might be possible to boost its performance with newer-generation batteries.
It’s rarely possible to speculate on the reliability of an all-new model with much authority, and that’s even more true of one that uses relatively untried technology. That said, the Freeride’s chassis is conventional so should give very little trouble, and electric motors have been around for many years so there’s no reason to think the E-SM won’t continue to work as intended. Range will however inevitably decline as the batteries get old: KTM say that 80 per cent of capacity will remain after 700 charge cycles. A new battery pack costs £1,699.
Warranty & servicing
All three Freeride E models are classed by KTM as off-roaders, so the supermoto comes with just a 30-day warranty rather than the firm’s normal two-year, unlimited mileage deal, although you do get two years on the batteries. The motor doesn’t require regular servicing so KTM list some regular maintenance (including changing a small amount of transmission oil) that is required after 20 hours of “sporting” use or 50 hours of normal use, which would cover road riding. Only eight of the firm’s 37 dealers are signed-up to sell or work on the E-bikes.
The E-SM is designed to be a light and simple as possible so has little equipment, and no ABS brakes. The price does include a charger, which takes 80 minutes for a full charge, or 50 minutes for the first 80 per cent. It’s quite bulky and doesn’t fit on the bike so would need to be carried around unless you’re coming straight home (or have a spare, which costs £699). Alternatively a fresh battery (costing £1,699) can be fitted in just a few seconds, though this is more of an advantage at somewhere like a trail park. Below the small digital instrument panel there’s a series of lights near the steering head to show remaining battery life.
Few bikes are anywhere near as narrowly focused as the Freeride E-SM. It simply lacks the range or comfort to be worth considering by most riders, even if it wasn’t so expensive. But for very short trips in town, or on a twisty road, it makes a highly entertaining, A1-legal two-wheeled toy.