Gizmodo Test Drives Stealth Bikes: Australian Technology Meets Electric Dirt Bike Speed

The word "genius" gets thrown around a lot these days, but very rarely is it as deserved as it is for John Karambalis who, after eight years of work with a few school mates, has become the Sir James Dyson of the bike world. Meet Stealth Bikes: the world's best electric bike, made right here in Australia. Watch us take it for a spin!

This week, thanks to AHM Insurance, Gizmodo Australia is travelling around the country to find the best adventure rides invented and influenced by Aussies. From foldable boats to water jetpacks: we’ve got it all.


The Stealth Bike (stealthelectricbikes.com.au) is more than just a bicycle with a fancy name. It's a custom featherweight frame onto which a bespoke, Australian-made brushless motor is added to the rear wheel.

The crossbar then becomes the home for unique battery technology and an LCD screen to tell you just how fast you're going and to regulate your ride.

Finally, the handlebars are outfitted with your front and rear disc brakes like on a real motorbike, and a throttle collar designed to give you more power than pedalling could ever give.

The weather in Melbourne is freezing today. We're here because Stealth Bikes' secret engineering facility is based somewhere around here. We'll find it eventually. In the meantime I keep reading my notes and hoping today turns out with me looking cool on a bike and not with my face in the gravel.

What makes the Stealth Bike special, other than the fact that it's an electric bike that can do 80km/h, is the motor and battery technology that get it there. The brushless motor is attached to the rear wheel, and it's the secret sauce of Stealth Bikes. It's so secret that we're not allowed to know what's inside.


The other side of the ingenious Stealth Bikes coin is the battery technology. The batteries themselves are made up of lithium-iron phosphate, unlike other electric bikes on the market which use other materials like cadmium and nickel in their power sources. These innovative batteries mean that the Stealth Bikes can recharge from flat in around 2 hours and belt along at 80km/h for a full hour before running dry again.

The awesome batteries paired with the clever motors mean that the Stealth Electric bike is the best e-bike in the country, perhaps even the world.

Like most brilliant Aussie inventions, the Stealth Bike was first invented in an backyard. John Karambalis is the man with the plan when it comes to Stealth Bikes, and together with his school friends — also bike enthusiasts — they went on and founded the company we know today.

We finally pull up at the backlot where the Stealth Bikes workshop is cleverly concealed. It's on an industrial estate in suburban Melbourne, hidden behind an unassuming roller door inside a building that is probably older than anyone who works here.

As I keep reading my notes, however, I find out that this cluster of 1980's buildings mean more to the company than just office space. John actually started out as a mechanical and aerospace engineer working for the motorbike company next door to where the Stealth Bike offices are situated today.

He was working full time on various projects, but still wanted to go riding with his dirt bike mates after work. Push came to shove and the biking fell off his schedule in favour of work commitments, and John started falling out of his peak physical condition. He needed a way to keep pace with his mates. They rode everyday, but he had been relegated to a weekend rider. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Stealth Electric bike was born.

Now a new pace had been set, both for John's friends and for innovation: nobody could keep up with the Stealth Bike.

John kept taking the design back to the drawing board and improving upon it, experimenting with different items in the market to perfect the bike. Different motors, metals and components are thrown around his backyard shed for years, until this workshop in Melbourne was brought to life.

Now, there are three Stealth Bikes on the market: the Fighter, the Bomber and the Hurricane.


The roller door ascends into the roof as we step in and inspect the fruits of John's labour. Workers with familiar faces buzz around the floor; dirt bike champs of new and old. One of the guys working on assembly, for example, goes by the name of Josh Callan. He's currently ranked number-six in the world for BMX and he spends his day job working at Stealth Bikes.

After exchanging pleasantries with some of the Stealth Bikes crew, we finally straddle one of the models and start pedalling.

"Now, be careful," says Theresa. She's their sales manager. "These things have a kick," she warns with a slight smirk on her face. Not really sure what to expect from that, but I start pedalling out in the car park of the factory before mustering up the courage to pull the throttle collar back and see what makes this bike so special.

Theresa wasn't joking.

The bike kicks into life with a silent jolt, lifting the front wheel off the ground a few centimetres before the speed of the back wheel throws the bike back onto the solid asphalt. Suddenly I'm no longer pedalling: I'm just watching the world fly by as my speed increases.

25km/h.

The brushless motor starts to whir behind me as I change up the pedal gears and keep pushing forward.

40km/h.

I'm one of the least fit guys I know, and I'm currently going this fast on a bike?! The motor now works to propel me forward even faster as I twist the collar back hard for another dose of speed.

60km/h.

The motor now sounds like a swarm of bees chasing my back wheel. The roar is incredible and the speed is intoxicating.

Braaaaaaaake!

I release the throttle and begin to slow before I hit the wall. It came up so fast I had no idea it was even there to start with. My pupils are wide and my hands are clenched still as I remove them from the handlebars.

That was just on a road, imagine what it's like on a downhill stretch?!

Half an hour later, my fears from earlier in the day are staring me in the face: kilometres worth of downhill track ripe for the Stealth Bike, and it's here where the two-wheeled speed gadget shines.

On the uphill sections, you learn to moderate your pedalling by using the throttle in short bursts. On the approach to a jump, you fire off the throttle for a dose of extra speed to get you an exhilarating amount of air-time. On the corners, the disc brakes lock just enough to give you a great looking slide, and the whole time, you have the biggest smile on your face you'll ever have.

And to think: this was invented because John wanted to keep up with his friends. Now, the world will have to keep up with him.


Comments

    Wow are these even legal to ride that fast? Looks like great fun.

      I'm assuming as long as you stick to the speed limit then yes.

      No, its illegal to ride them on roads or public areas, see replies further down.

      Last edited 19/09/13 1:39 pm

        They have a street legal mode, in which you can drive them legally. Just remove one connector and it turns into a monster!

    Luke, I'm pretty sure it isn't Lithium Ion Phosphate, I think its LiFePO4 Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, those I'm aware of, I didn't think there was a Lithium-ion Phosphate battery.

    Just sayin'.

    So want.
    How much!? :o

    Fkn awesome, but I didn't think something that could go this fast is legal to have unregistered in Aus?

      The law doesn't stop most people riding unregistered bikes on public land... lol

        For the most part the feds around here are better riders with faster dirt bikes lol.

      they have a switch to limit the power to the legal limit. Then when off roads/public areas you can switch it back to AWESOME

        I've had a bomber for 3mths. Best thing I have ever purchased. I haven't found the restricter switch yet though!

    http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/registration/unregisteredvehicles/scootersminibikes.html

    maximum 250 watt for pedal assist and must cut off after 25km/h

    or 200 watt maximum

    For riding legal on any public road or place. That means these could only be used on private land or a place designed or designated for such a purpose.

    Note :

    "Motorised foot scooters, miniature motorbikes (also known as mini bikes, pocket bikes or monkey bikes) and other motorised recreational devices do not meet minimum Australian design standards for safety and cannot be registered.

    This means they must not be used on roads or in any public areas such as footpaths, car parks and parks."

    Last edited 19/09/13 1:10 pm

      I use one to commute daily in Melbourne, I have had nil attention from pol pol, I just keep my head down and try not to show off. Has worked so far. Hopefully the bombers 10k price tag will prevent too many being bought by multiple mullet bearing dads for their sprogs (unlike pocket mini bikes)

    Totally illegal on any public road or MTB park, they can only be used on Private property ie. a farm.
    Even riding it with the motor off is illegal on public areas.

      In that case it's making a motorbike a pretty good option for the price.

    I'd risk riding one of these to work everyday if they were 1/5th of the price.

    Too bad it will require a drivers licence in Australia

      Unless it meets ADR requirements it can't be ridden even with a drivers licence and if you are in Tassie you would need a full motor bike licence IF you could get it to comply with ADR.

    That's too bad that these are illegal, I'd consider riding to work otherwise.

    It wouldnt make as much noise as one of those petrol powered 2 stroke things though so if you didnt hoon around at full speed all the time you could probably get away with it

    not that I condone such an activity

    Two questions that have yet to be answered in these replies:
    1. How much do they cost?
    2. Can they be registered on Australian roads and ridden with a motorbike license?

    Just buy a motorbike for Christ's sake.

      No need for petrol, rego and ease of portability (inside of a car)
      EDIT: Sound too, quiet = awesome

      Last edited 19/09/13 6:17 pm

        Then get an electric motorbike. That's basically what this is, but it's got pedals, so get rid of the pedals and just make it a motorbike.

    Wont be a contender at those prices !
    One of these zoomed past me on a moderate trail, very impressive, but the price - NO.

    9 THOUSAND BUCKS!!!!! WHAT!?!?!?!!? Screw you rich man bike maker!!!

    9,900 bucks what a joke. They wouldn't even give me a $100 discount. I'll go and buy two motorbikes that I can legally ride on the road thanks. Who in their right mind would pay ten thousand dollars for a mid-range mountain bike with a battery strapped to it. lol, stealth bikes.

    Uhhh.. there are far cheaper import electric motorbikes that are entirely legal to ride on the road.. And offroad..

    Seems silly.

      These are not "Motorbikes" in the sense that they are not intended for the same purposes.

      They are intended as down hill bikes and mountain bikes with a kicker of not killing yourself getting up the top of a hill just to ride down it. From the design you can see they are shaped and designed like a mountain bike/downhill bike not like a motorbike. Although, one of their designs is very "MotoX" it's also designed for that downhill style of riding rather than using it as a road going daily commuter.

      I would say these are perfect forms of transport for those who live in the inner city and work between 10km and 15km from their place of work. Or someone out in the Suburbs that works close to home as well.

    9 Grand They are taking the piss! good exercise in design ect. but that is far too overpriced, I dont care what tech is in it. I can get a scooter for 3K brand new that does the claimed speed, and has better range, convenience.

    they should have gone into carbon fibre for that price range . and titanium.
    I mean 8 pot brakes ROFL . it doesnt even re gen on decel! you have to hit a button LOL

    Good to see Gizmodo throw a leg over. There's nothing quite like a seat of the pants impression of the bikes to build an informed impression of what they're about. For the knockers, yes, I'm sure you can build cheaper in a backyard project, but layer into that the obligations and overheads of supporting an international customer base, factory, staffing, insurances, small business obligations, R&D/warranty/supply chain managemnet costs and then let's chat.

    John and his team do a great job, have a highly rated service orientation with their customers and work hard - the growth in their international dealership listing is impressive. Overseas markets don't all share the EU eBike limitations, with higher power ratings permitted in other countries - there are moves in the EU for higher speed ratings as well (see 'speed pedelec'). As an Australian manufacturer impressing customers across the world, they deserve a bunch of kudos and credit. The materials they use, as far as I'm concerned, are an ideal blend of price, performance, serviceability and performance, whilst still having a bit margin to build a viable supplier ecosystem.

    Bear in mind as well that the bikes are helping to shape entirely new action sports. I raced my Fighter in the recent HunterEV Prize on a GoKart track and had a blast, on a closed circuit, making zero noise other than my own 'WooHoos!' around each corner - see http://store.quietrush.com.au/1/post/2013/09/adrenaline-and-biostream-data.html. Try pedalling a Zero motorcycle home when its run out of charge. The pedals can act as primary, supplementary or recovery systems, all whilst letting the rider get a great workout- see http://store.quietrush.com.au/1/post/2012/11/can-i-get-a-decent-workout-on-an-ebike.html

    Sure, you can buy a cheap korean import motorcycle for less. Just consider how much it costs you with each engine top end rebuild or service, or gearbox fix, by taking a whole-of-product-lifecycle view. I've been there, done that, with years of dirtbike ownership and know that the costs over the life of the bike add up fast. The Stealth bikes require negligible levels of maintenance, can be powered from renewable sources and keep their rider active, providing an upgradeable rolling chassis for years of fun. What's not to like about that? There are plenty of obese motorcyclists and workers out there that would do well to have something like these as an option, as we grapple with the disease cost and climate change burden in the years to come.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now