a VE start-up Texas-based beat the major bicycle manufacturers to the American market with a electric motorcycle that uses replaceable batteries. Volcon’s all-terrain electric bike, the growl, is not vaporware; it is not a concept. It’s an electric vehicle that’s being delivered to buyers right now, and it’s a good first step.
That said, the growl is not street legal; it is a mountain bike only. Volcon called it a utility vehicle when I visited. It’s a work bike, like a short Suzuki Trojan which runs on electricity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on this work bike, which rides like a Honda grom with tons of torque and big studded tires.
(Full disclosure: Volcon invited me to Austin to test the Grunt on a farm outside of the city limits. The company took me out, paid for my hotel and fed me. I was given permission to ride for as long as I could handle the heavy morning. My commute lasted all afternoon, when it was time to recharge. Not the bike but the biker, who runs barbecue and Topo-Chico.)
The Grunt I rode had Kenda UTV tires, but Volcon says they developed a custom tire for production models. These tires will be six-ply rubber and will measure 26x8x12 inches. The size means that the tires act as a passive suspension on the track. Combined with the rear coil spring and inverted front forks, the studs help the Grunt float over rough terrain.
The Grunt’s traction is also the product of its 25 kW electric motor, tuned to deliver up to 75 lb-ft of torque, and its top speed is 40 miles per hour. Torque delivery depends on the mode you choose, with the ability to switch between Stroll, Explore, and Sport. When you start the bike, you need to press and hold a mode button before setting off. A digital gauge tells you which mode you are in and how fast you are going. It looked like an OLED display combined with a rotary controller in one housing.
Volcon added failsafe mode because when idle the Grunt is silent, making crashes too easy. It’s one more step to getting the bike to work, yes, but the learning curve is gentle. The Grunt is as easy to ride as a mountain bike, and since there is no clutch or gear to go, the handlebar levers operate the front and rear brakes.
It took me a second to get used to it, but the Grunt is so friendly the adjustment only takes a short turn. The saddle of the bike is narrow but comfortable, and it measures 32 inches, which is fine even for a short rider like me. Ease of use is also due to the Grunt’s 330-pound weight. Volcon claims the mass is lowered, and that seems fair when riding on the Grunt, which seems unstable but stuck.
The Grunt has a payload capacity of 400 pounds and it can tow up to 750 pounds. Again, this is a work bike, and it can be outfitted for different tasks with a trailer hitch and luggage rack. Towing and heavier payloads will affect the range, however, which reaches a maximum of 75 miles. It sounds generous, but it’s also based on two battery packs, while the Grunt comes standard with one. So reduce this range to about half, unless you plan to add a second battery to your bike.
This highlights my only frustration with the replaceable batteries. Manufacturers will quote maximum ranges based on modular batteries which will always cost more than the base price. The Grunt range already takes regenerative braking into account, which comes from the two-piston front disc brakes and single-piston rear disc brakes. There is no ABS on the Grunt.
Volcon calls the Grunt’s frame an âExo-Arch,â like in an arched exoskeleton for stiffness, and initially I wasn’t a big fan of the look. The Grunt seemed lost between wanting to look like a Honda Grom and a Ducati Monster, without capturing the charm of either. I wasn’t a fan at first, and probably wouldn’t be if I hadn’t attempted to bomb the trail.
Shortly after my test, the muddy ruts got the better of me. Of course it was my first time there, I gave up and tried to brake instead of slowing down. The Grunt pushed me back and we descended at a decent pace. I may have been injured beyond the scrapes and bruises, but the Grunt cushioned my fall. I thought, âAh, well! The journey is over! “
I was convinced that I had damaged the bike. Maybe I twisted a bar, bent an ankle, or damaged the batteries under me. Nope. Nothing. The Grunt suffered no damage. The only evidence of my fall was a dirty frame, where mud accumulated under the bike. This ugly framework works! It absorbed the impact, just as the designers intended. I picked up the Grunt, smiling stupidly.
Not just because I hadn’t damaged it, but because I could continue to ride. I jumped on it and started it. I held the button down to set the mode to Explorer and caught up with my fellow rider, forcing me to get closer to top speed.
I know 40 MPH doesn’t sound a lot, but riding off-road on the Grunt feels like you’re flying. You ring as if you were flying! The Grunt zoomed low and steadily which took on a higher height as it picked up speed. It almost looks like Kirk crossing Iowa.
We explored the rest of the farm trails, running on dirt roads that went far enough that we could go WOT. On these stretches, I could change modes on the fly. Switching from walking to sport is shocking. The bike is lively when set in Explorer mode, but it pops up in Sport. I switched to Explorer during the difficult sections because I was worried that if he was left in sport, the Grunt would gush out from under me.
The deep farm trails we hiked were more or less cut out for two-stroke off-road motorcycles. There were sections of ruts and drops, with curves cutting through them. There were a lot of slopes to accelerate us. It’s a decent mix of terrain, and I didn’t expect that kind of ride. I thought we would stick to the flat, wider dirt roads. Easy roads. Typical roads you see on a farm, but the Grunt was happy on most trails. When you combine the low saddle, light weight, and beefy tires of the Grunt with its torque, you have a fun and capable bike.
My criticisms are minor. There is chatter from the plastic front fender, which was initially annoying on the track. I stopped worrying about the noise as I entered the race and gradually picked up speed. I could hear it all day, but I stopped thinking about it. I hope Volcon can eliminate the chatter altogether.
The finish of the materials is not premium either. Bike plastics are durable, but don’t look or feel nice. The digital gauge is the exception; controls and screen feel and look great. The frame looks OK, even if it’s boring. But the fit of the bike is better than the one I’ve seen on those from companies like Hyosung or CSG.
When we first saw the growl, it surprised us with its price tag of $ 5,995. That was for the 2021 model. Volcon added a few thousand dollars to the price of the ’22 Grunt, which will now cost $ 7,995. That’s a lot more considering the fact that the Grunt’s estimated specs have dropped in key places. The range increased from 100 to 75 miles and the top speed decreased from 60 to 40 miles per hour.
These were introductory numbers, but the falling range and rising prices isn’t great! I’m not sure this bike is the good deal it seemed at first. But the Grunt’s price is the result of several factors, such as its US-based production and its use of new technology. I might not like the price, but I love the bike!
This is an electric motorcycle with what appears to be a narrow set of uses, but its appeal is wide. The Grunt would be just as fun to bomb around Big Bend or South Padre as it is useful on a Hill Country farm. Take him hunting with a spare battery and a rifle attached to the rack. Throw it in the back of a truck and go camping. As long as you are not on the public road, all is well. The fact that it is an electric motorcycle with batteries that you can carry is almost in addition to the point.