This is an article that has been bouncing around in the back of my brain for almost a year now. When I first got my Sur-Ron Light Bee (Firefly) Electric Motocross bike I expected that I was going to use it for single-track riding on trails and in the snow. After trying it out in the snow and on the trails I decided that I preferred my quiver of electric fat bikes for a number of different reasons that I’ll explain later in the article. What I didn’t expect was that I was going to use the Sur-Ron several times a week to create my new tree farm on my 45 acres of mostly open field in Upstate NY. The last year I have gotten pretty much obsessed with Chestnut and Hazelnut trees and have planted over 500 trees on my property this year alone (and another 500 at my wife’s house) with the help of this electric motocross bike. It certainly was not the application I expected to use it for, but for rapidly getting around 45 acres of land without any roads on it, the Sur-Ron is hard to beat. Over the next several years I expect to plant thousands of nut trees every year until I either get sick of planting trees or I just run out of room.
Yes, it’s true I’m going to live on a nut farm. The potential for bad jokes is nearly endless. Conservatively speaking every chestnut tree you plant produces about $10,000 worth of nuts in 50 years. The trees can survive for thousands of years which means over the long-term, it’s pretty much crazy to NOT plant blight-resistant hybrid Chestnut trees. If you lose sleep at night about global warming like I do, planting hundreds of trees is one very real thing you can do to be part of the solution. The way our current agricultural system is set up, in another 60 harvests there is not going to be any topsoil left to grow anything in anymore anywhere in the US. This is a very real problem that no one is even talking about, we must start learning to grow food on trees NOW if we are going to have any topsoil left in this country. To see four short videos that completely changed my life for the better, check out my friend Akiva at Twisted Tree talking about propagating and harvesting Chestnut trees here.
There are several UTV’s on the market, some of them are electric like the $11,300 Polaris Ranger EV. These vehicles carry two people side by side and are rated for 1000lbs of payload. The Sur-Ron, by contrast, costs $3890 for the base version or $4450 for the upgraded X controller (currently on Cyber Monday sale for $3950). As a side note, I’ve tested the X Controller and I really love it, if you pair a Sur-Ron with the X controller and a 60T chainring then you have yourself a real wheelie machine. The downside to this setup is your top speed will be around 35mph not 45mph like stock (depending on rider weight). I loved the X controller with the 60T chainring and it made my ho-hum electric moto into something that felt a lot more like a Zero bike that was speed limited to 35mph (but faster down hills). When driving around my fields through 3-foot tall goldenrod, I never want to go faster than 35mph, so it’s really a non-issue for me.
As a side note you should know that the X controller does not work properly with the very first set of Sur-Ron emotos (they came with a different motor) so if you bought one when they first came out you should check with Lunacycle before you order an upgraded X controller ($525 here). I ordered the Sur Ron the first day it was on sale and as far as I can tell I haven’t heard of anyone else having this problem. The problem with my bike and the X controller is that you get extra power, but it briefly cuts out the motor power for a few seconds when you go very fast. If you must have the X controller and own a very early Sur-Ron and money is no object you can always upgrade the Sur Ron motor with this one for $650 which is totally compatible with the X controller. I bought an X controller to test and tried it for several weeks but eventually had to send it back because I was just too cheap to upgrade the motor. It was fun while it lasted, but being the first kid on the block with new toys sometimes has a price.
What strikes me about the Sur Ron is several things.
- I rarely charge it: I only charge the Sur-Ron about once a month. The battery is always good to go, unlike a gas-powered vehicle, there is essentially zero maintenance. Make sure the tires have air in them and you’re good to go.
- It’s insanely fun to ride: Tooling around my property is mad fun and completely silent. I usually get up before dawn and I can take off and ride around my property without waking up my tenants. The X Controller is noticeably quieter than the stock controller and faster, and more powerful (about 10%ish). I find myself taking a lot more trips with the Sur-Ron to go check on trees or grab a bedroll and sleep on the top of my hill in the open on the hunting tower than I would without the Sur-Ron.
- The bike is solid: I don’t even wear a helmet for tooling around the property anymore, the bike is reliable, predictable and I have yet to take a serious fall on it (although my wife has). I put a tennis ball on the kickstand to keep it from sinking into the ground and falling over, but the shocks and overall design of this bike are solid.
- Just grab it and go: With my ebikes, it’s always a process, I have to find a battery, make sure it’s charged, mount it, find my helmet and then I can ride. With the Sur-Ron I keep it in my garage facing out and I can just get on it and take off any time I want in a few seconds. I can get anywhere on my 45-acre property in less than two minutes and I can put the bike away and hook it up to the charger in no time at all.
- Stuff doesn’t break: I ride the Sur-Ron pretty hard and nothing has had any issues yet. I haven’t even put any air in either fork or in either tire in a year. This is so different from my ebikes which break on average about every other ride. They are a constant maintenance nightmare. I have to say that as a company, Sur-Ron is not your typical CCC ‘cheap Chinese crap’.
- It can carry a lot of stuff: After installing a large milk crate behind the seat I find that most of what I need to carry around the property I can throw in or on the crate and transport. Moving around with shovels and weed whackers is easy, I just use 1″ Velcro ONE tape and wrap tools to two large metal hooks on the side of the crate. I can go pretty fast over really rough terrain and stuff usually doesn’t fall off. When I strap my bedroll mattress and throw in a pillow and sleeping bag to go sleep outside the bike looks absolutely ridiculous with more volume of bedding and mattresses than the space I take up.
- More power with the 60T chainring: If you want more wheelie-popping power and torque and are willing to lose about 5-8 mph of top speed, the 60T chainring ($65 steel ring review here) is a must-have option. It makes riding on trails and in deep snow a whole lot more fun.
- Small bike, but not too small: At 6’10” and 200lbs soaking wet I’m still able to ride comfortably on this tiny eMoto. With the crate, it pushes my riding position further forward than I’d like, but if I’m going really fast over rough ground I just stand up on the pegs.
The process for mounting the crate involved about an hour of time where I pulled the rear brake light and seat off and then got 2 pieces of aluminum U channel that slightly overlapped the aluminum square framing of the bike under the seat. I had to cut small notches out of the U channel to get it to fit and then I just ziptied the U channel to the bike using 200lb large black zipties. I didn’t want to drill into my nice Sur-Ron frame unless I was sure that the crate was going to work. On the crate I just got two pieces of aluminum box tubing that was just big enough to fit over the extended U pieces that extended about a foot from behind the Sur-Ron. The crate easily slides onto the bike when I want it and then slides off again. There is enough friction to keep the crate on, so I don’t even have to use Velcro or zip ties to hold it together. Sometimes it feels like my whole world is held together with zipties and duct tape.
Upgrading the crappy stock headlight
The stock headlight on the Sur-Ron sucks so I burned up $30 on Amazon for two LED off-road bars to mount on the front of the Sur Ron (you only need one) along with a whopping $9.35 for two mini mounting brackets available here. It took me 15 minutes to install it and wire them into the bike. If you want to install a headlight switch it will take a little longer than that. The end result was a headlight that was about 5 times brighter and didn’t shake up and down when the bike goes over bumps. Thanks to Matt Richards for figuring this out and posting it to the Facebook Sur-Ron Owners group which is a great group of people and a nice place to slum it on the weekends. Ebike and Motocross guys peacefully coexisting in cyberspace, can you believe it?
Although initially, I had some buyers remorse once I discovered that the Sur-Ron was not going to come close to outperforming my 5.05″ tired efat bikes like the Phatter Phukker in the snow, after a year of usage I can say that the money I spent on the Sur-Ron Light Bee was well spent. I expect the bike to last for many more years and provide a lot of fun and utility in this new ‘Electric Tree Farming Reality’ that I am trying to create with my wife. We just finished working all fall on a 750 Sq ft unheated greenhouse that we are going to grow food in all winter, and I have to say that it has worked out better than I ever thought it could. Just because no one is doing these kinds of things in the cold and snowy climates of Upstate NY doesn’t mean that they can’t be done. In these dark times, there is nothing more important than staying positive and being part of the solution, not the problem. We love to do the undoable and with crazy projects like my 3000W Cyclone powered wheelbarrow and 5000W electric lawn tractor are continuing to move into completely uncharted territory.
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.