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Quantya Strada, First Drive: The Street-Legal Electric Performance Vehicle You Can Buy Now

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It wasn't until I crashed into a pile of boxes and luggage that I realized riding a motorcycle - even a completely silent electric one with no emissions - around my Brooklyn apartment was a bad idea. I'd been attempting to do a burnout, but the painted concrete floor didn't have enough grip for the Quantya Strada's front tire and plenty for the rear, resulting in a wheelie. Compounding matters was the bar-mounted back brake that sits where the clutch lever normally does. When I went slip the clutch to bring the bike back in line, the brake just tossed me into the boxes. The nice thing about riding a bike in your apartment is that, while you might do irreparable damage to all of your and your friend's worldly belongings, you probably won't hurt yourself too badly.
Never mind the Chevy Volt, never mind the Tesla Roadster, never mind the Dodge ev revealed in concept yesterday. None of them are here now. No, if you want an all-electric performance vehicle right now, get this. It's the Strada, and it's a road-legal dual sport (it can be driven both on- and off-road) from Swiss firm Quantya. As you've probably gathered by now, it's electric; recharging from a standard wall outlet. It makes about 16 HP, weighs 195 LBS, tops out around 50 MPH (depending on gearing) and can be ridden for up to three and a half hours or 25 miles before it needs recharging. A full charge takes less than 2 hours. With 23 lb-ft of torque available from 0 RPM, it wheelies pretty good too. There's two things about the Strada that make it special. The first is that it makes no performance sacrifices in the drive for zero emissions. The battery pack and electric motor sit in a competition-worthy steel cradle frame that looks incredibly strong, the front forks (40mm Marzocchi Shivers), rear shock (Sachs monoshock with linkage) and other components are all extremely capable. The whole thing has been engineered to perform. Take the chain final drive for instance; the sprocket is mounted on the swingarm pivot and driven by a belt that runs from the driveshaft. This means there's no chain growth when the rear suspension is compressed or extended and no stress on the driveshaft when landing huge jumps. The second is that the Strada is available for sale now in all 50 states as a road-legal vehicle. It costs $10,700 for the version you see here, or $9,975 minus the license plate and with knobbier tires. Insurance is cheap (hey, it's got zero capacity); it costs pennies to run and comes with a 2-year warranty. If the forums are to be believed, customer service and after-sales support are also some of the best in the industry, with one happy customer reporting that the CEO of the company flew out from Switzerland to personally tune his Strada for increased performance. Back in my apartment, after picking up all the boxes and doing a couple celebratory donuts we carried the Quantya up a flight of steps and onto the roof. It's hard to think of another bike on which we could have gotten away with this degree of hoonage on without attracting significant attention from crazy neighbors and the local constabulary. The owner of the boxes and luggage? After driving up from Texas the night before, she was asleep on the couch 10 feet away, in the same room, the entire time. Aside from the noise of the chain passing over the sprocket teeth and the tires running across the floor, the Quantya makes virtually no sound. Facing ever-increasing limits on where and when they can be ridden, dirt bikes are under threat by people and groups lobbying to get them removed from public land and forced into enclosed, built-for-purpose parks. Electric dirt bikes like the Quantya are the future, eliminating most of the complaints people have about motorcycles, or at least allowing riders to go undetected. Ever snuck up on an animal on a noisy thumper? You'll be able to on the Quantya. Ever wheelied around your suburban back yard (or done donuts on your urban roof) without attracting ire from neighbors? You'll be able to on the Quantya. There are drawbacks of course. 25 miles or a couple of hours simply isn't enough riding time for people looking to explore vast swaths of the great outdoors. 50mph isn't fast enough to ride on a highway. The 48v Lithium Polymer battery is the Quantya's greatest strength and its worst flaw. But for some, people looking for the greenest traffic-free commute around, or access to tight trails and other riding areas that are normally off-limits, the Quantya could be the perfect vehicle. It's those niches that the company is trying to exploit. It won't be your first vehicle, but it could be your second. But you forget about how long the battery lasts and the limited top speed when you're riding it. Faster than an equivalent 125cc two-stroke or 250 four-stroke dirt bike up to about 35 MPH, the experience of accelerating rapidly free of noise is addictive. The motor is punchy enough to push the rear out in corners; the brakes sharp enough to skid on pavement and the suspension all firm enough to make doing all that fun. It's at low speeds that the Strada's unique character really reveals itself. Normally the bane of peaky off-road engines, the electric motor is ideal for picking your way, feet up, between parked cars, over curbs or through that tight gap between your refrigerator and kitchen counter. The acceleration correlates precisely with the throttle, needing no gears, no clutch and leaving you free to concentrate on avoiding couches, sleeping friends or picking yourself up from a pile of spilled boxes. Maybe riding it around an apartment isn't such a good idea, but anywhere else it'll work just fine.
Photography credit: Grant Ray