Alta Motors’ Blake Nicholas
Hometown: Elbert, CO
Years Wrenching: 1
Rider: Ty Tremaine
Growing up in the beautiful state of Colorado, it's no surprise that Alta Motors' Blake Nicholas took a liking to being outside enjoying what the vast landscape had to offer. Specifically into riding dirt bikes in the summer months, he spent all the time he could at the motocross tracks and trails during the summer months when the weather permitted. Making it to the B Class level racing local motocross, his love of wrenching and tinkering on his bikes grew at the same rate as his love for riding did. A unique and organic path is eventually what led him right into the very industry he admired, and his current role at Alta Motors is what he describes as a "dream gig" that he landed directly after receiving a bachelor's degree in college. How did he get there? Read on…
His path begun with enrollment to Golden, Colorado's School of Mines for mechanical engineering out of High School to follow in his father's footsteps. "My dad went to the School of Mines and got his degree in mechanical engineering and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I really wanted to be an engineer at a motorcycle manufacturer, and during my last summer I reached out to Alta and got an engineering internship with them." Why Alta? Blake quickly answered, "Honestly, back in high school I was always dreaming of electric motorcycles. So when I heard about Alta I thought, 'Wow, they're doing it!' and knew I wanted to be a part of it. During that internship I worked my ass off to prove myself and knew leaving that I wanted to work there." After finishing the internship he returned to wrap up his final year at college, and immediately after graduating reached out to the rapidly growing brand to touch base on any openings. Lucky for him, an opening as "Marketing Technician" was offered and he accepted knowing the potential that was there. Flash forward to today, his skills range from helping engineering with future products, maintaining their test/PR fleet, performing test riding when needed, and he also became their first factory rider Ty Tremaine's race wrench at the events he races. He's all smiles, and was happy to give some insight on their very first Red Bull Erzberg Rodeo race entrant Redshift EXR.
Very Stock, With a Twist: We basically brought a stock Redshift EXR, and installed a few things to make Ty comfortable. The pegs were stock, the wheels were stock, the controls were stock, the seat was stock, and the battery pack and motor are all exactly what the consumer will get if they purchase the new EXR model. The information display sits in front of the handlebars on the EXR, so we added a bar pad to protect Ty in the event of a crash. The handlebars were stock, and Ty only had us change the grips to Renthal's Kevlar grips for added comfort. We added an SXS skid plate to protect the frame and battery from all of the rocky terrain at Erzberg. The suspension was the biggest aftermarket addition that we installed, and we chose to run WP's Cone Valve spring fork, and Trax rear shock. AEO Powersports out of Peoria, Arizona tuned it to his liking and got him comfortable throughout the testing process on the various terrains that Ty had in the mountains near his house.
Drive System and Software Options: The Redshift's drive system is made up of a battery, a motor, a single gear reduction, and it's a one-speed motorcycle with no clutch –you just turn it on and off you go. You can change the power delivery through gearing in the front and rear sprockets, and also through the optional power maps. There are four different map options stock, and the only thing we changed for Erzberg were maps two and four. Map four in stock trim is a little conservative on the power output, so we dialed it up to from 50 to around 52 horsepower for the race. In map two we created a climbing map that lowered the "flywheel speed" which is the rate of acceleration at the rear wheel, so it's basically traction control for climbing. We also added a "hill hold" feature, which was a button he could press that prevented the motor from allowing the rear wheel from turning backwards. All of these maps can be changed through programming in less than ten minutes through our computer software.
Brakes and Rollers: We ran stock Brembo brakes that come on the EXR, both front and rear, and we added Bullet Proof Designs disc guards just to protect the brake rotors. Ty decided he wanted to add a clutch master cylinder and lever that was connected into the rear brake master cylinder that gave him the option of a dual hand brake/foot brake setup. This helped him when he went up the steep, technical rocky sections because he could take off his right foot to keep balance without rolling backwards. The wheels were the stock 18" rear, and 21" front that are made by Warp 9. The tires we ran were Kenda, with the rear being a prototype gummy compound and the front being a Washougal II. Because it's such a grueling course, we ran Mousse foam inserts so there was no chance he could get a flat tire.
R-Pack Technology: The new R-Pack battery is made up of different cell chemistry from last year's pack, and it allows for less thermal resistance. That means it doesn't heat up as fast and we are able to pull more power from the battery without it thermal limiting, which means we're preventing it from overheating under extended maximum loads. This is the biggest challenge to electric bikes –dealing with weight and heat. We try and optimize the weight for our motocross and enduro bikes. With that amount of battery you can only draw so much power before it gets to hot, so we program temperature limits that will ensure everything stays within a safe range and allow it to cool it down while riding it. We are always developing the technology, and continue to make huge strides in our batteries.
Gearing: During the "Prolog" qualifying, we ran 13/48 ratio Vortex sprockets, because the qualifying course was so high speed and we were more worried about top speed than anything else. That gearing allowed him to go up to around 80 or 90mph, but in turn overheated our motor a little faster than we expected going up that massive mountain. Still, Ty managed a 46th qualifying position for Sunday's race. We changed the gearing to 12/48 for the second day of qualifying and Sunday's final and that worked a lot better for him through the hard enduro stuff and kept things cooler longer during the race.