Initial Impressions: Kawasaki’s Elektrode Electric Balance Bike Is a Great Way of Introducing Your Kids To Motorcycling
My daughter is one determined woman.
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A while back, my daughter Gigi asked me, “When can I have my own motorcycle?” This was after one of the countless rides I’d given to her and her brothers around the house and up and down the street on one of the motorcycles I had on test. I answered her, “When you can ride a bicycle by yourself without training wheels.”
Months went by and, though we’d purchased a bicycle for her, it was left unused for the most part in our basement. Then, for some reason, about a month ago, she asked me again, “Daddy, when can I have my own motorcycle?” I told her the same thing again. But this time, a fire lit in her eyes and I knew I was doomed.
Over the course of the next three days, she had me remove the training wheels from her bicycle and proceeded to teach herself how to ride a bicycle. She got faster and faster, and then when we went over to her cousin’s, who had a larger bicycle that could go faster, she had me remove his training wheels and started trying to jump their driveway’s curbs. The question returned as she skidded to a stop in front of me. “Daddy, can I have my own motorcycle now?”
Thankfully, I’d been talking to friends and colleagues about Gigi’s want for two-wheeled freedom, who then reminded me of Kawasaki’s Elektrode, a kid-friendly electric balance bike designed to help get your kids into motorcycling. I also loved that it was from Kawasaki, as my first motorcycle was a 1986 Kawasaki Ninja 600 I purchased while my parents were on vacation when I was 17. And maybe I’m a sentimental sap, but the fact that Gigi’s first motorcycle and mine were both Kawasakis, that’s pretty freakin’ cool.
She Feels the Need, The Need, For Speed
What you get with the Elektrode is something perfect for a kid to learn the basics of motorcycling on as, at its core, it’s a 16-inch balance bike. Just one with a throttle and front brake. Speaking of power, an air-cooled, brushless, in-wheel 187.2 Wh motor produces enough power to propel the Elektrode up to 13 mph for over two and a half hours per charge.
Power levels, however, are controlled by a small interface on the handlebars, so that you don’t just throw your child onto the Elektrode and they whiskey throttle into your garage. Good thinking, Kawasaki. There are three power levels; low, medium, and high which have top speeds of 5 mph, 7.5 mph, and 13 mph respectively.
It also has rear disc brakes to halt whatever forward momentum your child builds up to. The frame of the Elektrode is aluminum with a steel fork, while the 16-inch wheels are pneumatic to soak up any bumps, as there’s no suspension. One great addition is that the footpegs fold, because Kawasaki knows they’re going to fall, and fixing a solid-mounted peg would require every parent to become a certified welder. Kawasaki also threw in a set of pink graphics as, “I like the pink stickers” was relayed to the brand when asked about colors.
The pink theme also went to her knee and elbow pads—from the movie Frozen, obviously—and her helmet, which was a whole thing at our local powersports shop. There were multiple kids' helmets, but only one she wanted: a pink HJC. A solid company which I have no issues with, but the floor model was too big for her and it caused a stir. Luckily, after searching the back inventory and offering up a matte black and pink helmet in her size to no avail, the guy behind the counter found the white and pink colorway in her size she'd set her heart on. Thank you, Karl Malone Powersports.
According to Kawasaki, the Elektrode is designed to grow with the child, as the seat and handlebars adjust to their height, and it can accommodate up to 100 pounds and riders between three and eight, which is right where Gigi is right now. But as you can see, the general idea of the Elektrode is to take wild-child children like my daughter and make introducing them to dirt bikes and motorcycles more easily achieved than just throwing them onto a 50cc or 110cc.
So how’d she get on? Well, the constant refrain in our house is “Dad, can I go ride my motorcycle right now?”
Look Out, World, Gigi's Coming to Dominate Motocross
As with my “challenge” of riding a bicycle , she took to the Elektrode with equally steely determination. And though I did the responsible thing and started her on the lowest power setting, within 10 minutes of her setting off and riding around a big oval I’ve made in our backyard, she came in and told me “This is too slow. Make it go faster.” Being a good parent, I tried to reason with her. But she’s five. There’s no reasoning with a five-year-old. You might as well be arguing with a papaya. You’ll never win. Papayas are too strong-willed. And, honestly, Gigi was right.
She had spent a good amount of time going much faster on a regular bicycle than the 3 mph setting. She had turning, braking, and getting around down at those speeds. The lower speeds actually made it harder for her. Have I mentioned she was already trying to jump curbs? So I upped it to level two, which requires a shorter Konami code of “up, up, down, down, enter” to change the power level settings. It’s fiddly, but a good addition so silly kids don’t up the power on the fly and pretend they’re Streetbike Tommy.
I’ve now left it there for a bit, as I want her to learn how to lean and, most importantly, look up and look where she’s going. Riding a motorcycle is actually pretty easy, but riding one safely isn’t. One of the most important things you learn through the MSF course or through years of riding is to look up, look ahead, and turn your head to where you want to turn. And those are the fundamentals I’m trying to teach Gigi right now on the Elektrode.
That said, she’s picking it up quickly, just like everything else she puts her mind to. She’s turning her head for turns, jumping the mini ramp I threw together, and looking ahead. And our backyard dirt track is still coming together, as she's asked for another jump and more features that'll help her progress even further. She's been trying to emulate me sliding the Ubco—initial impressions coming soon—flat-track style, but that's still a ways off. But our full backyard is still proving difficult due to the loose gravel, which can be somewhat disconcerting and she’s fallen a few times on it.
She's only had the Elektrode for a month or so now, though, so I don’t expect her to be Travis Pastrana. Yet. She's certainly doing her damndest to surpass him. Watch out, Wonder Boy. That said, the Elektrode has so far been a great tool in helping her progress, learn the basics, and will grow with her. And she seriously loves it. She tells everyone and anyone, "Did you know I have my own motorcycle?"
There’s no getting around the Elektrode’s $1,099 price. It’s expensive. However, and stay with me, it’s the cheapest way of teaching your child how to properly ride. 50s and 110s are more expensive than this, and while there are cheaper electric dirt bikes and balance bikes, none are as substantive as the Elektrode. And what I mean by that is that none are as burly or made to take a hit, which is absolutely going to happen when you’re teaching your child how to ride a motorcycle. Gigi's fallen a few times into our hard gravel, but the Kawasaki is no worse for wear. Most of those other options are plastic or combinations of plastic and aluminum. They’re going to break and you’ll be out between $600-$800. That's not going to occur here.
And, honestly, you can’t beat the smile the Elektrode puts on both your child’s face and yours. I have her manic smile seared into my memory of the first time she rode it around the backyard by herself without putting her feet down and came back to me. She’d found something she was going to love for a long time. At least, that’s how I saw it, and how she’s continued since the Elektrode showed up. Yet, there’s another question being asked now. “When can we ride together, Dad?”
“Soon, Gigi. Soon.” Stay tuned, I've got some fun things planned. And let me know what you want to know more about in the comments below.