MXA RACE TEST: 2022 GASGAS MC-E 5 ELECTRIC PEE-WEE
THE GEAR: Jersey: Thor MX Pulse, Pants: Thor MX Pulse, Helmet: 6D ATR-2Y, Goggles: FMF Powerbomb Youth, Boots: Alpinestars Tech 3S.
Q: IS THE 2022 GASGAS MC-E 5 BETTER THAN THE 2021 MODEL?
A: The 2022 model is identical to the 2021 model. What is also identical are the 2022 KTM SX-E 5 and the Husky EE 5. The only difference between the KTM and GasGas is the color, while the Husky has different bodywork. MXA tested the Husky and the lowered version of the KTM electric Pee-Wees back when they were first released in 2020. With a few years of experience with these electric bikes under our belt, we have more to share.
Q: HOW ARE KIDS ADAPTING TO THE ELECTRIC PLATFORM?
A: Almost too well. When kids have a choice between riding their gas-powered Cobra, KTM, Husky or GasGas, more times than not the kids prefer riding the electric bike. Why? That is the hard question. You know how kids’ answers can be. The most common answers we got from our 4- to 7-year-old test riders were, “I just do,” or “I have more fun on it.”
We expected that! MXA has a lot of experience with Pee-Wee, Junior Cycle and minicycle test riders who can’t articulate what they feel on a bike—or can’t feel what they articulate. But even without putting an experienced, 175-pound former AMA pro on the MC-E 5, we could see for ourselves why the kids gravitated to the electric bike over the two-stroke bike. For starters, little Johnny doesn’t have to wait for his dad to start the bike. Much like his dad, little Johnny would rather push a button than kick his bike to life. Additionally, electric power is smooth as silk, whereas a gas-powered 50cc is finicky due to its jetting and throttle input. The other aspect is the sheer quietness of the bike. We fully understand that the sound of an engine going braaap is a part of what makes motocross, motocross; however, we could all live without hearing another deafening Cobra 50 riding through the pits. We are sure the kids don’t like it, either.
The GasGas MC-E 5 is the first of its kind. This electric minibike will get more kids on bikes due to its safety and quietness.
Q: HOW ARE THE PARENTS ADAPTING TO THE ELECTRIC PLATFORM?
A: Change can be difficult. It took some living with electric power for parents to adapt to the MC-E 5. With that, there are more positives than negatives when going green. Here are some of the parents’ thoughts.
(1) Maintenance. No more oil changes, air filter changes or pre-mixing gasoline. Parents are busy people. Giving them some time back in their lives is a huge plus. Every parent loved how little they had to work on little Johnny’s bike. After the first few rides, once the spokes and bolts took a set, the parents didn’t have much to do.
(2) Generator. We admit that it felt uncomfortable to have to bring a gas-powered generator out to the track to charge our electric dirt bike. From an environmental perspective, it is a double standard. But, once you get a kid a motorcycle, all he wants to do is ride. Our younger and less-skilled riders could ride for an hour on a full charge. In this case, maybe the generator could stay home; however, more skilled and more aggressive riders would be lucky to get 30 minutes out of a charge. Any time we didn’t bring the generator to the track with us, we seemed to need it. Just like forgetting a gas can, if little Johnny’s dad forgot to charge the bike the night before, there is going to be trouble. Not only does dad have to go all the way home to get the charger, but little Johnny has to be patient enough to wait 45 minutes for the battery to charge.
(3) Battery. Why didn’t we just swap batteries? Most of the kids that tested our MC-E 5 have Stacycs at home. Many of their parents bought an extra Stacyc battery to swap out when Johnny runs the first battery out of juice. It’s quick, easy and relatively cheap to swap out a Stacyc battery. With the MC-E 5, GasGas doesn’t want you swapping out batteries. Plus, it isn’t cost-effective. A replacement MC-E 5 Power Pack costs 800 bucks. When GasGas figures out a way to make a less expensive battery pack, e-bike Pee-Wees will go to the next level.
Attach the magnetic wrist kill switch on little Johnny’s arm in case of a crash to kill the motor.
(4) Power levels. Between the seat and the triple clamps, where the gas tank would normally sit, the MC-E 5 has what GasGas calls its “control center.” This control center allows parents to choose from six different power levels. Level one is a true beginner level. Parents can power-walk next to their kids on this level to ensure they are right there to catch them if they fall. Every level after that progresses as little Johnny’s skill improves. Levels three through six have more degenerative braking, as these levels have a recuperation function that helps charge the battery when the rider is off the gas. It was hard to measure just how much this function helps battery life. As Pee-Wee parents ourselves, we love the ability to be in control of our kids’ speed and power.
The other functional ability of the control center is to display the battery level. Fully charged, the control panel displays three green bars. Once each one of these bars disappears, there are three more indicators to tell you how much battery charge is left. The parents liked knowing how much juice was left in the tank, although less experienced riders tended to look down to check the battery life in the middle of the moto, taking their attention away from the track.
Is it fast? It is fast and quick with a top speed of over 45 mph. It is competitive with any 50cc engine on the market.
(5) Adjustments. This bike is truly adjustable. The bodywork and shock offer two mounting positions that give 50mm (1.97 inches) of seat-height adjustment. This meant that the MC-E 5 could fit small kids and tall kids—and could be handed down to younger brother once little Johnny became big Johnny and outgrew it. Plus, if you want to get little Johnny started younger or he is on the smaller side, you can buy a Suspension Lowering Kit from KTM’s Powerparts catalog. It lowers the seat height down to 560mm from 665mm. That is 95mm (3.74 inches) lower.
Another feature parents like is the adjustable levers. We could adjust the levers in for smaller hands. Great feature.
(6) Not small enough. If you are looking to get little Johnny started riding earlier than 4 years old, we would suggest a different bike—the Yamaha PW50. The over-50-year-old PW50 is still the best bike for young riders to start on. Sure, it has its two-stroke peccadilloes, but its low center of gravity and ease of riding give young riders the best learning experience and most confidence. We wish Yamaha would make an updated electric version of the PW50.
(7) Safety. The hardest part of getting used to an electric bike is knowing when it is on. There is no sound. So, if the bike is on and someone twists the throttle, guess what happens. Yep! The bike takes off. Kudoes to GasGas for thinking this flaw through. On the MC-E 5, it takes more than turning it on to get this mini bike in motion. After you turn on the power button, you have to hold the throttle forward for a few seconds until you hear a beep, which lets you know the motor is now engaged. If the throttle isn’t touched for a few minutes, then the motor will automatically disengage. The MC-E 5 also has a roll-over sensor that automatically turns the bike off after 5 seconds when it falls over.
Another safety feature that some parents appreciate are the two magnetic lanyards. The one on the bars wraps around little Johnny’s wrist. If it gets disconnected, it shuts the electric motor off. The other lanyard is located under the seat. It doesn’t turn the motor off, but it stops little Johnny from switching the power levels on the control panel by himself. This enables the parents to be in control of how fast the MC-E 5 goes.
Q: IS IT AS FAST OR FASTER THAN THE MOST POWERFUL 50cc TWO-STROKE ENGINES?
A: Yes and no. The top speed of the MC-E 5 is upwards of 45 miles per hour. Sounds blazing fast for a 5- to 7-year-old, doesn’t it? The top Cobra and KTM 50cc machines have around the same top speed, but once they get moving, they seem to out power the electric bikes. Although from the crack of the throttle and out of turns the e-bike pulls the top 50cc bikes, our faster test riders were faster on their gas-powered machines. Conversely, slower and newer riders were faster on the e-bikes.
Little Johnny’s dad has six levels to choose from to go with his son’s pace of growth.
Q: IS THE GASGAS 5kW MOTOR AS POWERFUL AS A GASGAS 50cc ENGINE ON THE DYNO?
A: This is a tricky question. The numbers don’t make much sense when you hit the track. The 5kW electric motor produces 6 to 7 horsepower in comparison to the 50cc GasGas engine, which comes in at close to double that. Big difference on paper, but on the track, what the electric motor lacks in horsepower it makes up in torque. Since the MC-E 5 doesn’t have a transmission, you can manipulate the power by changing the gearing from the stock 46-tooth rear sprocket up to something as big as 50 teeth, but you have to modify the chain guide to make it fit.
Q: IS THE CHASSIS ON THE MC-E 5 BUILT TOUGH?
A: The chassis and suspension are almost identical to KTM’s top 50cc race machines. The components are built for the highest and lowest of skill levels from head to toe. The biggest difference between the gasoline and electric mini models is the MC-E 5’s adjustability. The MC-E 5 is raceable with its 205mm WP air fork travel and a tough chromoly steel frame. In fact, all KTM, we mean GasGas, models are made to race.
Q: DOES THE LITHIUM-ION 21 aH BATTERY STAND THE TEST OF TIME?
A: That question was hard to answer the first time we tested an Austrian electric Pee-Wee in 2020, but we know more after two years of experience. There is no doubt that the power output does fade with use. According to battery experts, the battery should produce full power for 50-plus charges. But, even after 50 charges, the kids didn’t feel the difference. It was such a small difference over time that we didn’t notice it until we rode with a brand-new battery.
You can’t expect the MC-E 5 to be the Energizer bunny. When we noticed the battery starting to lose some power after about six months of hardcore riding, we looked into replacing the battery. We think of a battery replacement on an electric bike as the equivalent of a top-end job on a two-stroke, but easier and more expensive.
A bigger rear sprocket will bump up the pony power, as the MC-E 5 doesn’t have a transmission. However, you will need to modify the chain guide.
Q: CAN THE MC-E 5 BE RACED IN THE 50cc CLASS?
A: That is a grey area. At first, local races allowed the e-bikes to race in the regular 50cc class. Then, questions started to arise about the advantage of an e-bike over the gas-powered machine. We have seen firsthand that some riders are faster on the e-bike than on their 50cc machine. The real answer to stop the controversy is for race promoters, at the Pee-Wee, National and Grand Prix levels, to create classes specifically for electric motorcycles.
The Loretta Lynn Amateur National hosted its first-ever e-bike class in 2021, calling it Mini-E (4-6) Jr. The race went smoothly, although they cut the race one lap shorter (from 5 to 4 laps) than the regular 50cc classes due to the potential of the batteries dying or overheating. We talked to a few parents whose kids race at Loretta Lynn’s, and they said that by the final lap of the race they could see lights flashing on the control panel.
You can be sure that KTM will be pushing to open e-bike classes wherever possible. Why? Because they switched from racing their KTM 50SX two-stroke to racing the SX-E 5 at the KTM Supercross Challenge. KTM doesn’t do something for nothing. They are always looking into the future, and we guess that they are getting fans and racers used to having e-bikes at the races. Nothing better than using cute kids as their hook.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
A: The GasGas MC-E 5 is $300 cheaper than the same KTM model. If you are comparing the MC 50 two-stroke ($4499) and MC-E 5 ($5099), the e-bike is $500 more expensive.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Generator. We would much rather have affordable replacement batteries than have to haul a generator with us to the races.
(2) Electronics. We didn’t have any electronic issues ourselves, but we had parents tell us that they had issues with getting water in the battery compartment (whether by washing the bike or at a muddy race). Nihilo Concepts makes a battery vent wash plug (much like an exhaust plug) that prevents most of these issues when washing the bike.
(3) Magnetic lanyard. Some parents like the wrist lanyard for safety but dislike it when the magnet falls in the dirt. The metal in the dirt sticks to the magnet like glue. Many parents stopped using it and began relying on the roll-over sensor to shut the motor off 5 seconds after a fall.
(4) Dongle. Under the seat is a magnetic dongle to keep the power levels in place. The issue was that if you rode the bike hard, the dongle could pop off. On our test bike, it happened once, so we tied the dongle to the bike so it couldn’t happen again.
(5) Rear brake. The rear brake is too powerful and too touchy. Four- to 7-year-olds are not good at modulating brake pedal pressure. They locked the rear brake up all the time. Our backyard solution was to bleed air into the hydraulic line to make it less aggressive. We don’t recommend this for less mechanical parents.
(6) Battery life. The battery life won’t be a big issue for the less experienced riders, but for hardcore mini racers, 20 minutes goes by way too fast.
The WP shock means business.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Handlebars. The tapered Neken handlebars with smaller diameter grips fit little Johnny’s hands perfectly.
(2) Adjustability. It is easier to justify the high price tag when you know little Johnny can grow with the bike.
(3) Maintenance. What maintenance? There is no air filter or oil to change. Buy some chain lube and call it a day.
(4) Suspension. The WP AER forks and shock work great. We had everyone from beginners to the fastest mini guys on the planet ride this bike, and we were able to get the suspension working for them thanks to the air forks. You can run the standard air pressure at 29 psi all the way down to 5 psi.
(5) Quietness. Will it be weird only hearing the hissing sound of e-bikes going around a track? Sure, but so was the sound of four-strokes when they ruled over two-strokes. Parents, kids and neighbors love the quietness of the e-bike. You can ride from your home, in the backyard and pretty much wherever you want without anyone complaining about noise. It is awesome!
(6) Levels. Parents loved the ability to tailor the power to their kid’s ability.
(7) Power. The power of the MC-E 5 is impressive, to say the least.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: We think electric bikes will bring more kids (and their parents) to the sport. They can be ridden more places and they keep the environmentalists happy. The MC-E 5 is a great all-around bike. Every parent and kid had more good things to say and fewer bad things in comparison to their gas-powered bikes. It’s hard to say it, but electric dirt bikes are the future of the Pee-Wee class.
It will take some time for kids to get used to an electric bike after only riding gas-powered bikes. The problem is, after their first ride, they may not want to go back to their old steed.
MXA’S 2022 GASGAS MC-E5 SETUP SPECS:
This is how we set up our 2022 GasGas MC-E 5 for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.
35MM XACT FORK SETTINGS
In stock trim with the fork pressure set at 29 psi, the forks were in the ball park for most riders. Our newbie riders went really low on the air pressure and turned the compression all the way out. Once little Johnny gets more comfortable, you can start adding more air pressure; use 1–2-psi increments. For our faster and heavier riders, the stock setting was right in the ballpark. When little Johnny gets bigger, you can also push the forks down into the clamps to the designated lines on the fork tubes. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setup for an average rider on the 2022 GasGas MC-E 5 (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 29 psi (beginner and light riders 5–10 psi)
Compression: 12 clicks out (beginners and light riders all the way out)
Rebound: 12 clicks out
Fork-leg height: 20mm
Notes: If the bike is still too tall, you can install the fork lowering kit that lowers the forks by 68mm. The part number is 45412955044S. Also, make sure to bleed air out of the fork bleeders on the fork cap every ride.
WP SHOCK SETTINGS
The WP shock is softer than the forks. We went in a few clicks on compression to match the two. The standard 30 N/mm shock spring is rated for 55- to 77-pound riders, but we have had 45-pound kids be perfectly fine with it. If little Johnny is lighter than 45 pounds, we suggest the 25 N/mm shock spring that is rated for 33- to 55-pound riders. For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2022 GasGas MC-E 5 (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 30 N/mm
Race sag: 80mm
Hi-compression: 2 turns out
Lo-compression: 15 clicks out
Rebound: 15 clicks out