Most of the time I was also fairly happy with the brakes, which are single wavy Formula discs at each end, with both levers on the handlebar in bicycle style. The rear was easily locked so I generally avoided it and relied on the four-pot front calliper, which wasn’t especially powerful but slowed the bike reasonably hard if I squeezed the lever firmly.
But doing that repeatedly into a series of downhill hairpins cooked the system, with the result that the lever suddenly came right back to the bar, leaving me with no front brake heading into a tight bend — which, thankfully, I just about got round. You’ve got to brake hard and often to trigger the problem, but the brake is simply not up to that sort of use.
That moment apart, I had a great time on the Freeride E-SM, but there’s no escaping its limited range. KTM say a full battery is good for up to an hour’s riding, though it’s less than that with hard use, when you’d be lucky to get 40 km. The lithium-ion battery pack sits under the uncomfortably narrow hinged seat, and is quickly removable for recharging after undoing four nuts. This takes only 80 minutes for a full recharge from flat, or 50 minutes for an 80 per cent charge, but that range would obviously not be enough for most road riders.
The E-SM’s price is also high — roughly comparable to KTM’s 1050 Adventure, no less — although the fact that you can recharge it for under €1.00 (Rs 70) would become more relevant with enough use. (Ideally, you’d add the price of a typical small scooter for a spare battery and charger.) So would the fact that the only engine servicing needed is a change of transmission oil after every 50 hours’ riding.
Even so, at that price and with its range limitation, the E-SM would be hard to recommend. But it does show how light and fun electric bikes can be. And for anyone with somewhere to ride off-road the E-XC could make much more sense, especially if you can afford a spare battery to keep on charge while riding.
During an afternoon’s blast on a motocross track outside Barcelona the lightweight E-XC had enough acceleration to be hugely entertaining. Its suspension, brakes and Maxxis off-road tyres worked superbly, and it was good for about half an hour’s riding, after which its slightly scuffed rider was happy to come in to recharge body and batteries. As a way of having flat-out fun without annoying the neighbours, not much even comes close. For now that looks like KTM’s best chance of success with its family of electric lightweights.