Dylan Brown was falling down the rabbit hole of electric bicycles. He’d always been into mountain biking, and, in fact, during college, he’d raced downhill bikes. He’d never really looked into throttle assist e-bikes before, but when he did, he liked what he was seeing — for the most part. Brands like Super 73, GS Bikes, and Onyx Motorbikes were making some cool products.
Except for one thing.
“I started really getting into it,” he said. “And I realized, ‘Well, these are mostly just kind of city cruisers.'”
Brown lives in Carbondale, Colo., full-time (when he isn’t hanging at his parents’ home in Escalante, Utah). So he needed a bike that was going to be able to handle commuting around mountain towns. And more than that, he wanted a bike that was both capable of off-road singletrack riding and highway travel.
So, he started building one. He bought a Stealth Bomber bike frame from China, individually ordered all of the components, and began tinkering with the custom build.
“I wanted to educate myself on the electronics and figure out like what I liked, what I didn’t like, and things like that,” Brown said. “It took me about three or four months of ordering all the parts, those coming in, and educating myself.”
At the end of that three months, Brown had finished his first Stealth Bomber build. There were parts of it he liked, and other parts he knew he could do better. So he kept building and he kept tinkering, he built a frame, battery box and faux glove box from scratch.
And a year later had a prototype of something new — a rugged, off-road-capable e-moto with a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 55 mph: the very first Terra Prime bike.
Terra Prime: Built by a Garage Kid, for Garage Kids
Brown said his dad’s garage was always full of motorcycles when he was growing up. His old man would buy a classic model, flip it, sell it, and buy another one to start over with.
Naturally, Brown developed his own affection for motorcycles — undoubtedly influenced by his dad’s taste.
“I love the classic, scrambler-style motorcycles my dad was building in his shop,” he said.
That aesthetic was what he aimed for when designing the Terra Prime. He wanted the bikes to have that just-come-off-the-desert, rambling man, diesel-style cool that brands like Dues Ex Machina have mastered.
Brown also wanted the Terra Prime to be a functional piece of gear, though — something people could do maintenance on or fix themselves. He wanted his customers to have the ability to customize, alter, and generally tinker with their bikes if that’s what they wanted to do.
“I tried to design this bike to be the garage kids’ bike,” Brown explained. “Meaning, I didn’t want to play the game of every component being fully proprietary … I tried to make sure that everything that I built the bike around was commonplace.”
The fork on the Terra Prime is a downhill mountain bike fork, the brakes are mountain bike disc brakes, the rear shocks are motorcycle specific, and so on. Most of the parts are universal, Brown said, so you can go to a motorcycle shop, bike store, or online and find replacements you can install yourself.
Even the battery is modular. The Terra Prime comes with a 42Ah 72V LG LiPo battery pack, with a peak output of 8 kW. A 65Ah battery is also available for those who want a little more juice. But Brown designed this bike so that if a new type of battery technology comes out — whether it’s mercury-ion, sulfur-ion, or a new type of lithium-ion battery — Terra Prime owners will be able to swap the battery out.
“There’s no limit for what people can do with [these bikes] aftermarket,” Brown said. “The sky is the limit, really. That’s what’s really exciting for me is just giving people a platform that they can have freedom with.”
Obviously, one of the most eye-catching features of the Terra Prime is its top speed. Most electric bikes max out at around 25-30 mph. Some of the faster ones can get up to 35 mph. But the Terra Prime boasts a top speed of 55 mph — fast enough for highway travel.
In order to do that, it utilizes a brushless mid-drive 3kW motor pushing a 420 drive chain to a 58T rear cog. It was designed to generate more torque and increase acceleration with less power. Brown said many e-bikes are probably capable of reaching speeds higher than 25-30 mph — he just took off all the speed governance controls for the Terra Prime.
However, he is quick to distinguish his products from classic e-bikes.
“It’s not really an e-bike,” he said. “It’s like a low-powered electric motorcycle, so it falls under the class of a moped.”
In Colorado, it’s technically a Class C vehicle. So, as per regulations, Terra Prime bikes come equipped with Department of Transportation-approved headlights, indicator lights, brake lights, and a horn. Out of the box, Brown said it’s ready to go to highway patrol and be assigned a VIN. Then all you’ve got to do is go to the DMV and get a plate for it, and the bike will be fully street legal.
“Part of the reason behind building a bike that’s capable of highway travel is to be able to shuttle yourself for 10, 15, 20 miles safely and quickly,” he said. “To be able to go 50 miles an hour, it’s actually like having a car.”
Going Where Roads Don’t
Of course, going fast isn’t all Brown wanted the Terra Prime to do. He also wanted the bikes to be able to rip around in the dirt. That’s why the Terra Prime has several different modes. Mode 1 is for neighborhood cruising, mode 2 is for city commutes, and mode 3 is for tearing around on rugged terrain.
“I don’t expect people to spend $12,000 and be relegated only to pavement,” Brown said. “I want somebody to spend that money and have a multisport bike.”
That’s why the suspension of Terra Bikes has 200 mm (8 inches) of travel in the front and 150 mm (6 inches) in the back. And a 3:1 spring ratio in the rear provides a smooth and controlled ride. The center of gravity is low, and the bike is squat, so it isn’t top-heavy at all, Brown said.
The Terra Prime is also durable. Even if you find the bottom of that suspension on a rocky trail, the frame components are all made from solid one-inch Chromoly steel tubing.
“It’s overbuilt,” Brown said. “It’s not like you’re gonna break it.”
And, because the Terra Prime only weighs 160 pounds, it easily mounts on most mountain bike racks. So you can drive your Prime out to remote areas and ride all the doubletrack dirt roads and OHV singletrack trails your heart desires.
Terra Prime: When Can You Get One?
Right now, you can preorder your Terra Prime on the Terra Bikes website for $12,000. Put a (fully refundable) $250 deposit down to hold your spot in the build queue.
Then, by the fall of 2023, around November, Brown said the brand will start making its first deliveries.