Is the BRD RedShift SM really faster than an ICE supermoto?

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The BRD RedShift SM is a 250lbs, 40bhp electric supermoto. Unlike Brammo or Zero electric models, the RedShift is fast, designed to compete directly with existing motocross and supermoto bikes. And unlike other electric racing prototypes, it has been developed from the ground up with consumer production as the end goal. This weekend, BRD handed over keys to the development prototype for the first time. Does it perform as promised? Well almost, until it broke.

Photos: Mike Doran

BRD is a small Bay Area startup that’s doing something different. Instead of designing in the vacuum that seems to contain other electric motorcycle companies, they took a good look at what was possible with the best battery and motor technology and figured out that they could build something close to the current crop of 250cc MX bikes (a KTM 250 XCF-W produces 39bhp and weighs 249lbs with a full tank of gas). Loud motors with no emissions controls keep hardcore MX bikes confined to the track. Zero emissions electric vehicles are perfectly legal for use on the street though, so they bolted on 17-inch wheels and made a supermoto too.

Aside from springs, damping, wheels, front brake and fender, the bikes are identical. The chassis it built in two pieces. One for the steering head, upper battery mount, radiator and computer and another that uses the motor and battery as stressed members while supporting the subframe, upper shock mount and swingarm. The two pieces bolt together near the top of the battery and you might call the design a modular twin-spar/backbone hybrid. BRD hasn’t released chassis measurements, but they say the geometry is based on existing MX/SM bikes.

5.2kWh of juice should be good for 50-ish miles of commute-style riding or 2-3 twenty-minute track sessions. The Redshift also has a unique advantage over its gas-powered competitors: 200-hour maintenance intervals are far more attractive than oil every 5 hours, valve adjustments at 20 and a piston every 40.

With a normal bike, you start the motor, pull in the clutch and click into first gear before you can even think about going somewhere. The BRD is more like a loaded gun with a broken safety. Flip the kill switch to on, push the start button, count to five and feed in some throttle. Bam.

Coming off the KTM 250 XC-F supermoto they had at the track for comparison, the BRD feels lighter and smaller even though it is neither. Nice trick.

It doesn’t feel much faster, partly due to an artificially lowered redline in its electric motor (from 12,000 to 10,000rpm), and partly because its power is so much smoother. Lap times don’t lie though and it really is faster (at least while riding at a conservative anti-crash pace). On my second lap out, I matched my best time of 1:09 around Infineon’s kart track on the KTM. From there, I got faster until I decided to try out the rear brake and almost crashed. Whoops. Crashing a priceless prototype would probably (almost certainly) get me black-listed with BRD. Still, I pushed hard until computer troubles forced me to pit early and call it a day.

The thing about prototypes is that they’re not finished. The forks, brakes, swingarm and subframe/tail will all go through changes and revisions before being finalized for the production model. The programming will also go through quite a few changes as well. First, to fix obvious issues like the intermittent stutter and surging that forced me to pit and second, to further refine power delivery and throttle response. The neat thing is that it’s all controlled by code. Think an auto-tune Power Commander is fun to play with? Imagine how cool it would be to tailor every aspect of a bike’s power to suit your riding style and taste.

BRD hopes to deliver the first bikes to customers at the end of 2012. If they’re to meet that goal, they’ll need to work on their prototype, test a lot more and put the bike into production. The parts that are already done (chassis, motor, battery, design) are very good and its 250lbs, 40bhp specs mean it will definitely be able to keep up. The only question is whether or not they can find enough early adopters that are willing to pay $15,495 for an ultra-low maintenance race or play bike. At roughly double the price of the ICE competition, you have to be a really big believer in BRD’s long-term, cost-of-ownership math.

  • Thom

    OK , we’ve now had our E/V moment for the week

    Done the ‘ Green Thing ‘ to satisfy the minions

    Now can we get back to the ‘ Real World ‘ and more Ural stories please ?

    • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

      It’s true, things in the real world only run on gasoline. My Laptop is a 2 stroke.

    • Myles

      This article had absolutely nothing to do with environmental impact.

      It was only about going fast a lot without wrenching a lot.

      Going fast is fun, right?

      • The other Joe

        Yes, but so is wrenching.

        Honestly, that is my biggest problem with electric bikes, not enough moving parts.

    • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

      It takes an anti-green outlook to complain about on article on the BRD Redshift. I love burning gas, but I also desperately want a BRD Redshift. Not that I can afford one.

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

    $15k is expensive, but for a crazy fast, exclusive electric prototype, that’s short money.

    • Sean Smith

      It’s still serious cash, but I’m sure there are a few guys who would take one look at that 200 hour service interval number and ask who to make the check out to. I just hope the racing orgs will allow the Redshift to run with 250s.

      • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

        I’m not sure on how much 40 hr ICE tear-downs cost, but amortize that cost over a couple season if you ride a lot, and I’m positive $15k is almost a steal.

        • Sean Smith

          Nah, it’s still much more expensive. Most of the less serious MX racers I know buy a new bike every 3-5 years. By that time, chassis’ have improved, engines have gotten better, and their current bike is absolutely beat to shit.

          Figure $600-1800 to do a top end on a four-stroke MX’er, 250, 450, 350, 505, whatever. They’re all expensive and they all wear out. Sometimes you can get away with just replacing rings, adjusting the valves, and buying a gasket set. Other times you need a piston, 4 valves, rings, cylinder replating, shims, timing chain, cams, waterpump, port and compustion chamber cleanup and gaskets.

          Don’t let the sub-$10,000 MSRP fool you, race bikes are fucking expensive and a royal pain in the ass to keep running. The Redshift is even more expensive, but if you have enough cash to own and maintain both a truck and a racebike, paying a few grand more every few years for a bike that doesn’t need to go to the mechanic or be torn-down in the garage all the time would be very attractive. Think about how much time that frees up and what that would be worth.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        I registered with BRD for pre-order notice when I saw the first articles about this motorcycle here. The moment I received an email saying pre-order deposits were being taken, I signed up.

        For me, all the advantages of this electric moto — quiet operation, near-zero maintenance, no worries about E10 gas — far outweigh the cost.

        My friends and I really enjoy late-night (post-midnight) bicycling in the city, and over the years, I’ve mapped out many of my favorite urban “trails” — staircases, drops, benches, outdoor escalators, sculptures, etc.

        When I get my BRD, I’m going to spend some quality time in the garage with it, adding a switch to turn off all the lighting. I hope production units come in flat black. If not, I might just have to paint it myself.

    • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

      Street legal performance though? That could make it worth it. Of course when you factor the cost of incarceration, it is much more expensive.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Tech from seventy years ago one day, tech from tomorrow the next. I do enjoy this motorcycle magazine of record.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      +1. Well said.

  • Jon B.

    So is it like a one speed that just spins from zero to 10,000 rpm? Can you break the rear end loose? Or do you end up riding road race style/knee down?

    Its rad that you could tweak it to produce power high up for longer tracks or down low for point and shoot short kart tracks.

    • Sean Smith

      I rode it more like a million dollar prototype, which is to say, very very carefully ;)

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    The only thing that has me down on electrics (aside from price of entry) is charge times/range. Any idea what kind of range this will have?

    • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

      He mentioned about 50 miles, which assumed 100wh/mile, which sounds reasonable to me.

    • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

      doc, based on testing so far, we’re expecting 50 miles of aggressive street use. In Sunday’s test, we ran four 20 min sessions at Infineon (3 with our factory fast guy and one under a journalist) before some unfortunate gremlins forced Sean to pit halfway through his ride. That used about 70% of the battery. We still have plenty of range testing to do, but right now we think the bike shouldn’t have a problem with 5 hard track day sessions (or practice, a qualifier and a finals) under a fast rider.
      Charging unfortunately is limited by the supply, not the bike. Out of a standard 110V/15A (120×15=1,650W) socket, your looking at 4 hours for a clean, topped-off charge. We’re working on ways to alleviate this, but for now that’s probably the best you can hope for at the track.

      • Devin

        Does it work like batteries of old where if you charged it before it was empty it reduced it’s life, or could I drive to work and home and then plug it in at half charge?

        • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

          I use LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries for various radio-control applications, and my rechargeable power tools also use LFP packs. They can be charged from any state, and from everything I’ve read about them (as well as from my own personal experience, they have greater life/durability than Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries.

      • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

        In france we get 240V since the 1960′s. Does that mean that (with equal amps of course) charging time would be halfed?

        • nick2ny

          Amps are the “unit” of electric charging. An amp is one coulomb per second (a coulomb is one Mole of electrons). Think of it like a gallon per second. It’s one coulomb per second. If amps are equal, well, so is charging time.

  • David Vuilleumier

    Will it carry any warranty? Or will it be like other no-warranty competition models?

    • http://www.faster-faster.com fasterfaster

      David, since all RedShift models sell as street legal, they will have at minimum a 1 year warranty, details TBD. We are also trying really hard to develop some kind of crash replacement policy on parts (inspired by Santa Cruz bikes), which would be an industry first. We want people to use these in anger, and making it cheap to crash is as important a part of that as the performance itself.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        The more I hear, the bigger the smile on my face.

        • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

          I second that! I’d better start saving, going to need to swap out my garage for an electric supermoto and sportsbike in the future…

      • FZR 1000 Got Smashed By A Car Alex

        hear hear!!

      • Sean Smith

        What? A manufacturer not only recognizing that people crash motorcycles, but offering up a solution to make it cheaper? You guys better watch it with those radical ideas.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        Awesome!

      • contender

        “We want people to use these in anger,”

        I just became a big fan.

      • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

        “We want people to use these in anger, and making it cheap to crash is as important a part of that as the performance itself.” — There’s your headline.

      • Campisi

        Wonderful.

  • http://krtong.com KR Tong

    I had a comment on a previous BRD-related article stating I thought that the future of consumer batteries looked grim. Then a while back I came across this and thought it was too cool not to share.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/mobiledia/2011/11/21/new-batteries-last-longer-charge-faster/

    Marinate on that for a minute. Mmmmmmm, yeah.

  • Richard

    I want. The only problem I see is the total lack of good power at the tracks I go to. Pacific has one power pole for the entire paddock. Its almost comical to see it on a race weekend. Seems like we are always one more extension cord away from a good electrical fire.

    Any idea when you will start bringing on more sales and marketing folks? I’ve got a resume in, just sayin….;)

    • Joe

      I also have a resume, and will work for half of what Richard would.

      • Richard

        Whats half of free?

        • Joe

          I’ll have to resort to paying them in that scenario, which I am willing to do haha

          • Richard

            Touche.

    • Mike

      How about software people? 8)

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D
  • Mike Doran

    Great article but I didn’t get credit for the photo. I’m a tad disappointed about this. If anyone wants too see more images here’s a link to my site http://www.dorancreatives.net

  • sanjuro

    Nice bike!!! Where’s mine?!?!?

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]
    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      …and wiping the boogers from his hipster mustache onto the seat of his pants.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        Gotta keep them somewhere.

  • Coreyvwc

    Aside from the Mission R race bike this really is the first no compromise ICE competitor, and you can actually buy one!

    Very cool.