Pic: Strong Wolf
Let’s unravel a few things first.
Stark Futures is a new manufacturer of electric motorcycles founded in 2019 in Sweden and headquartered out of Barcelona. The company was founded by Anton Wass, who sold his share in a highly successful online motorcycle parts business some years ago and is allegedly the largest investor. Wass brought in CTO Paul Soucy and additional Swedish investors (Kichi Invest) and by all accounts are well funded and almost ready to launch their first bike, the Varg.
Stark is Swedish for strong, and their first bike is called the Varg which translates as wolf in Swedish.
I’ve been following the launch of this bike and company for some time most notably because their performance, price and specification claims were so incredible I frankly doubted that this unicorn could rise – it was that impressive.
However, I happened to meet a fellow electric motorcyclist recently who personally knew a highly respected Australian journalists and motocross rider who attended a recent Press Launch in Spain. “The claims are all true, the bike is not only real, it’s mind blowingly good” my new friend enthused, citing feedback from his friend and explaining he has one on order.
At it's launch a while back no less than fifty journalists and world class motocross riders spent two weeks flogging this unicorn for all it’s worth. They were universally impressed and full of adulation for the wolf.
Digging around, I can also see public claims that Stark Futures recently stated they had presold more than 5,000 bikes by the beginning of February 2022– which equates to roughly AUD $95 million of final sales value and AUD $0.5 million of deposits. I also note that Australia is in its top five, as far as interest goes and the first bikes have landed here in August 2023!.
Whilst launch hype and deposits are very different to successfully taking on the global dirt bike industry with an all-new bike, it certainly looks like the Strong Wolf is off to a good start.
Designed for a purpose
Now let’s be clear, although in my head I still feel like a 19 year old who could jump a dirt bike meters into the air, or even handle flogging an 80Hp dirt bike senseless and flat out over a bumpy off road circuit, I am in reality, no longer that young man on the outside. Let’s just say the memories and injuries from a 12 hour enduro race I once did linger; this bike would be wasted on me.
But I still fantasise about owning one.
You can read and configure all the specifications here but in summary the Varg is a quite astonishing 110kg, 80Hp (59kW) and 938Nm of rear wheel torque electric motocross bike. As an (inappropriate but relevant to me) comparison, my much beloved Harley Livewire is 250kg, 100hp (78kW) and 1125Nm of rear wheel torque and a more suitable comparison the 2021 KTM 450 is 111kg and 63Hp.
This is where the Varg is precision focused as a dirt bike with an outstanding power to weight ratio of 0.536 kW/kg (0.326 hp/lb). On paper this means the Varg has a power to weight ratio of 1.88 – meaning it has 1 kW of power for every 1.88kg of weight versus for example the 2021 KTM 450 at 2.33:1. For its intended design brief (super snappy, hard hitting launches off big jumps) it’s extremely impressive.
Battery and motor specifications
The all-important battery is a 6kWh pack housed in an extremely cool, form functional magnesium case rated at IP69, so rounding up your cattle through raging torrents should not be a problem. It has a really intelligent looking design that embeds the cylindrical cells into each side of the cases for mechanical robustness and good heat dissipation – critical on the passively cooled pack.
It also has a unique V shaped housing which allows for a really low weight distribution but also uses as much chassis space as possible to jam our all-important little lithium buddies into.
Varg claim this provides enough range for riders to “complete a full MXGP heat or up to 6 hours of trail riding”. Now of course, range claims are all important in the word of electric vehicles but in fairness the Varg’s mileage doesn’t matter as much – I think their claims fit the design brief just fine. With a 6kWh battery in a 110kg bike you could probably expect around 50-75kms at speed but of course you are sitting very high up on energy sapping knobby tyres so it’s not really the point.
This bike is about big air, point and squirt, wheelie inducing good times that will exhaust the fittest of humans in no time, not hyper-miling efficiency tests.
Varg also claim to have developed an all-new high power and super compact inverter/controller, “the world's smallest inverter for 50-100kW power range” which in their images at least looks incredibly small. They talk a lot about their original dream of overcoming all the inherent limitations of existing ev equipment and this is a big one which I hope flows into the rest of the electric motorcycling world soon.
The inverter controller is integrated into the motor drive housing and shares the same cooling system. This also enabled them to work on the critical challenge of reducing component count for simplicity and is further enhanced by the motor, controller and gear reduction system forming an integral part of the chassis, further reducing weight. The motor features a carbon wrap for higher performance via increased rpm capability, less inertial weight and better thermal performance and weighs a mere 9kg.
This is clearly a trend that we will see more and more in electric motorcycles and follows the outstanding work by Energica, MotoE and a handful of other high performance manufacturers that we are seeing.
The spelet förändras Varg
Game changing is the only way to describe the promise of the Varg, quite simply because it is the very latest, highest specification all electric dirt bike the world has seen yet.
However, I am equally impressed by their stunning attention to innovating the way the bikes are designed, with efficiency, performance and optimisation in liberal doses, as their very detailed video library will show you.
Anyone who knows motorcycles and has played with dirt bikes particularly will appreciate their attention to detail on solving small but important issues, which is insanely good. Here are just a few examples:
· Chain “click adjuster” – Anyone who has grappled with motorcycle wheel alignment will love this feature and it completely removes the need for time consuming and fiddly manual alignment. They also reinvented the axle & nut so it is protected from damage.
· The lightest, strongest foot pegs on the planet – In the performance world grams count so hell yes I need these made of an exotic stainless blend. Even better, they can be quickly replaced without tools.
· Shock absorbing bash plate – How about we completely eliminate your lower sub frame and protect your valuable battery with an intelligent shock absorbing, floating foam/plastic bash plate?. Bring me that log jump!
· Dash-be-gone – In yet another elegant step, Stark eliminated the dashboard and replaced it with a shock and waterproof housing for a digital phone, accompanied by an extremely detailed looking app allowing up to 100 ride modes (!) and provides OTA connectivity all in one. Oh, and it’s removable with a single button push.
· Carbon fibre cooling tunnel – The bike features a carbon fibre front support which doubles as the air duct to direct cooling air to the under seat mounted radiator and battery housing. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want carbon fibre bling and to be able to say they have a “cooling tunnel”.
· Super light everything – Everything from the wheel hubs to the chassis uses the best light weight but super strong materials in a combination of chrome moly steel and forged aluminium helping them deliver the lightest motocross chassis in the world at just 6kg. When you drop it on yourself being a motocross action hero, your buddies can lift it off you using the forged and machined integrated grab handles.
· 30 second tear down – The bodywork features a 15% weight reduction through internal hexagonal patterning and can be removed with 5 screws in 30 seconds. Handy.
Stark have already received tens of thousands of pre-orders and although you can place an order now, at this stage it appears that you’ll be waiting until late 2023 to see your bike. The web page currently lists them starting at AUD$18,200 and I got to around AUD$19,500 with all the add on’s.
I note that Stark list no less than twelve Dealers in Australia already, testament to the interest and the first bikes started landing in August 2023. Orders and configuration can all be done online, with a decent selection of customisation available (eg wheel size, shock spring weight, 60Hp or 80Hp motor, hand or foot brake, colours etc).
Time will tell whether Stark can overcome the global supply chain challenges that most manufacturers are suffering and, whether the bike can reliably deliver on its promises when wannabebutnot19yearoldplumpoldguys put the Varg through the ultimate test, but if their attention to detail is anything to go by we could be in for some very exciting & very dirty times ahead.
Now, where’s my Golden Breed Mr Motocross T shirt ….