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Buckeye Current team to get hands, wheels dirty

The Buckeye Current Motorsports team is in the middle of a big transition. Traditionally, the team has designed, manufactured and raced an electric motorcycle on Pike’s Peak or on the Isle of Man, two of the most dangerous racing events in the world. Pike’s Peak’s events are facing indefinite cancellation after several rider deaths, so Buckeye Current is shifting to electric dirt bikes instead of motorcycles.

Team Lead Matt Wise said that the team has always built an electric dirt bike as well as an electric motorcycle, but the dirt bike was meant to be a teaching tool for new members. “We’ve decided to focus on finishing the model we're building now and trying to be competitive,” he explained.

Buckeye Current team member with dirt bikeBuckeye Current team member Tyler Martin worksing on the new dirt bikeWhile there are few electric motorcycle races, there are even fewer electric dirt bike races. The team has reached out to local dirt bike tracks to learn about the specs of the possible competition. “There are no competitions for electric dirt bikes,” Wise said. “The tracks we have talked to are very excited and open to us competing against gas bikes—it'd be more of us competing against gas bikes to show what we can build.”

Operations Manager Hayden Clark expanded upon the difficulty of designing vehicles for competition. “The thing about designing electric bikes for competition in racing environments is that takes time,” he said. “We'd have to know, at the very least like maybe a year in advance, the competition and its guidelines and restrictions.”

There are other advantages to the switch to electric dirt bikes. Competing closer to home means that more team members would be able to attend the races, and racing on less dangerous courses could allow team members to ride the bike they build, instead of a professional rider.

This summer, Buckeye Current has halted the building process and is taking the opportunity to standardize their organizational matrix, ensure that a plan is in place for next year, and streamline the teaching process so that new members can quickly get up to speed.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for new members to join,” said Clark. “Especially because we don't know if we'll be able to meet all the new people by going to classrooms in autumn.”

Nearly half of Buckeye Current’s members graduated in 2020, so the team is on the lookout for new talent. “I think all of our members are engineering students, but that's not by restriction,” said Clark. “We are definitely open to anyone and everyone who wants to work on the bike and get to know what we do.”

Wise thinks that shifting to electric dirt bikes will be a lot of fun for a younger team and great learning opportunity. “That's what the dirt bike was originally," he said. "Before you start a project on the street bike, we will build this pit bike with the new members, so they can learn and incorporate this knowledge onto the street bike,” he said. “I think in a few years, we probably will go back to street bike racing. We are very serious about dirt bike racing, but I think our roots are in street bikes.”

by Georgia Drost, CAR Writing Intern