World Exclusive: 2014 Mission RS Review

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Category: Reviews

The Mission RS isn’t notable because it’s electric or because it’s designed and made in America. Or even because it’s really, really fast. Why you’re going to sit down and read every single word of this world-first review is simply because it’s a superior performance motorcycle to any yet made. Period.

Photos: Kynan Tait

What’s New
The RS is essentially the Mission R that won that race at Laguna Seca two years ago, refined and turned into a slick, consumer-ready product. Same James Parker-designed chassis, similar bodywork, same motor; upgraded batteries and an incredibly slick new dash. Very few production bikes can claim to be this close a race machine.

This $58,999 RS model is limited to just 40 units — one for each second it finished ahead of the competition at the 2011 TTXGP race at Laguna Seca. A race at which it set a 1:31.3 lap record for electric bikes that stands to this day and would have placed it 5th on the grid of the AMA Daytona SportBike race that weekend. Competitors included MotoCzysz, Lightning and Brammo.

As an interesting aside, it managed that time despite being limited to a 130mph top speed while competitors were free to hit 140mph or more on the track’s main straight.

"At the front, a machined aluminum box serves as the steering head/fork mount and spans the full width of the battery," explains Parker of his unique chassis. "At the rear, the fully stressed 'power unit' contains the motor, primary drive, and countershaft as well as the pivot for the swing arm. On each side of the battery, connecting the steering head box and the power unit, are chrome-moly steel trellis sections. The battery is thus surrounded by protective structure to insure maximum safety. An aluminum plate that is integral to the battery serves as a further chassis element, providing longitudinal and lateral bracing to the 4-sided structure." Read more here.

Distinguishing the RS from the $30,000 R are the same gas-charged Ohlins FGR forks and BST carbon wheels as the race bike. The R will be equipped with the still top-shelf Ohlins NIX30 forks, forged Marchesini wheels and Ohlins TTX36 shock. The R’s components are the same as fitted to the $30,000 Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the fastest production motorcycle ever.

“We started with a blank slate and set out to create the best motorcycle we possibly could,” explains Mission Motorcycles president Mark Seeger. Beyond components like the suspension, brakes and wheels, you’ll find nothing off-the-shelf or adapted from another machine. Even the suspension linkage is a unique design.

With 15kWh of battery on board this test bike, weight stands at 540lbs. In production, equipped with improved battery chemistry, that weight will drop by 20lbs. 12, 15 and 17kWh packs will be available, giving the bike 105, 120 and 140 miles of real world, highway speed range respectively. Stay in town, on surface streets and the largest pack is good for 230 miles.

Recharge time? Well here’s another trick unique to Mission. They built the charger into the battery controller, using the motor as a transformer. That means, so long as you can find a 220v outlet (the same as most houses have to run the dryer and washing machine), recharge time is just an hour. No special equipment, no special charging stations, just a laundry room outlet and zero to full charge in around 60 minutes.

In production spec, the AC induction motor develops 160bhp and 120lb-ft of torque. The motor itself is actually capable of 220bhp and 160lb-ft, but current battery technology isn’t sufficient to create that kind of power over a reasonable range, so, as battery technology develops over the next few years, Mission will be able to turn up the output on customer bikes. Consider it future proofing. Top speed is currently limited to 150mph (again to conserve juice) and 0-60mph should take around three seconds, depending on how big a wheelie you decide to pull. Did we mention the Mission wheelies off the throttle?

The Ride
Angeles Crest Highway, the Los Angeles area’s finest riding road. From Pro Italia (a Mission dealer, drop by for a test ride) to Newcomb’s Ranch is 28.5 miles up into the Angeles National Forest through winding mountain roads. This is where we come to put superbikes through their paces away from traffic on one of the few roads where you can actually use their performance.

The last time I was up here was on that Panigale R and, you know what? I was able to go faster on the Mission RS. That’s right, on a bike that will eventually cost the same as that Ducati, I was able to go faster using electricity than I was using old-fashioned gasoline. And it surprised me as much as you. The first time I gave the throttle a complete twist, I nearly pooped my pants.

Initially, going this fast on electric motivation does feel completely alien. You lack the reference points provided by revs and gears, which makes judging corner entry speeds difficult. Adding to that weirdness, the Mission guys had dialed up the regenerative braking before my ride, something they’d been getting good feedback on from some of the faster guys they’ve had test it so far. Those factors, combined with some innate conservatism that comes with riding someone else’s fancy motorcycle limited my corner speed through the early part of the ride. The Mission still walked away from every other bike on the road.

Once you get over the initial weirdness of it all, it becomes apparent that the character of this electric bike is empowering, not limiting. Gone is the distraction created by the need to chase gears, so too the feedback blunting vibrations created by the motor. Feel is increased to a nearly unbelievable degree simply by completely eliminating reciprocating mass. As on the Brammo Empulse, your right hand feels hard wired to the back tire.

But unlike that bike, the clairvoyant feel is backed up with a serious level of acceleration. Where the Brammo Empulse feels like a 650 twin, I’d give the nod on real world, real road acceleration to Mission, over the Panigale R.

Bold claim? I bet the Ducati would win a conventional drag race, all in a straight line. But once you out on the road (or likely a track) trying to string together a series of corners, the Mission gains one huge advantage: all of its performance — every single horsepower, every last lb-ft — is instantly available, all the time, simply by twisting the throttle. No need to chase revs, no finding yourself in the wrong gear. Just twist and rocket out of any corner, any time, using the Mission’s maximum shove. Which, with 120lb-ft — all the time — is an awful lot.

Handling too, is going to kick the ass of any current superbike. Knowing that 540lbs weight, you’re probably spitting up your coffee right now (sorry), but again, the inherent benefits of electric drive are used to their maximum possible benefit on the Mission. Back the RS out of a parking space and you do feel that weight as you paddle around. Pushing the bike around for photos took a lot of effort, too. But, because the lack of a defined mechanical layout enables the designers to package all the heavy parts (the batteries) in an ideal, centralized location, that weight has a minimal impact once you’re out on the road. They just don’t have to accommodate cylinders and exhaust pipes and radiators and gearboxes and all the stuff that goes hand-in-hand with internal combustion, mass is absolutely clustered around an ideal center of gravity.

That, plus the lack of reciprocating mass, leaves the Mission free to be both quick steering and completely stable once you’ve turned in. Nothing exists to blunt steering speed or feel. Want to tighten your line once you’re already way over? Just think about it and it happens, then it holds that line too.

So, an entirely new level of feel, more precise control than has been previously possible, backed up with incredible performance that’s always just a twist of wrist away and handling that’s equally fast and more confidence inspiring? Yeah, this thing is out of this world.

What’s Good
It sounds like a Tie Fighter on an attack run. It’s loud, aggressive and a whole new kind of hair raising. Seriously, listen to it here.

Designed from the ground up not to hit a price, but to be the ultimate performance motorcycle. That shows and it is.

Onboard charger works much faster than any other electric bike out there, finally making an electric bike real world, road trip possible.

Communication between you and the bike, its motor, the brakes and tires has never before been this immediate and intuitive.

Mission OS and the full-color, touchscreen dash it powers is as futuristic as the rest of the bike. Sitting down? It records video in image-stabilized 1080p on a 30-minute loop. Hit the record button and it saves the last 30 minutes of your ride. That way you don’t need to be prepared to capture something amazing. It’s Internet enabled, so it can upload all that to whatever service you want to share it through, complete with comprehensive data analysis of parameters like throttle position, lean angle, acceleration etc etc etc etc. Oh, and using your own or someone’s else’s data it can superimpose a “ghost rider” on a forward view, allowing you to learn or follow lines or braking points or whatever. Yeah.

Data from my ride.

“We’re allowing you to track and analyze all your ride data,” explains Mission Motorcycles co-founder Vincent Ip. “So you can pull out all your parameters, overlay them on Google Maps, and share it. Owners can analyze each other’s rides and figure out how someone else put in a 600 mile ride in a day. By sharing information, you’re helping people get more from the bikes.”

For a sportsbike, the Mission is spacious and comfortable. It’s pictured here with the lowest of the available clip-ons.

Every parameter in the motor, including the traction control, is user configurable. They might make you sign an indemnity waver before making things super crazy, but you can adjust stuff like engine braking, throttle response, TC intervention and even outright performance via your smartphone.

Obsolescence is not built in. As better batteries become available, Mission will buy back your old ones, fit the news ones, and tune the motor to suit.

Maintenance is essentially limited to brakes, tires and the occasional suspension check up. There’s only one moving part in the powertrain.

To keep dealers happy in the absence of servicing, Mission (they won’t say this, so consider it an inference) gives them plenty of margin and doesn’t charge flooring, while Just In Time inventory ensures speedy delivery. You’ll pay the same at a dealer as you will by ordering direct.

Getting one repaired is like fixing your Rolls-Royce. Send the company an SOS and they’ll come to you wherever you are, with the necessary parts and fix your bike. For free.

This is a slick, fully realized consumer product. Not a shady, one-off exotic that spits fire, will probably kill you and definitely won’t work the day after you take delivery.

The highly adjustable, extremely high quality suspension makes it easy to set up for road or track.

Read More On Page 2 >>

Gear
Helmet: Icon Airmada ($180, Highly Recommended)
Suit: Custom Icon One-Piece (N/A, but you wish you had one)
Gloves: Racer R-Safe ($260, Highly Recommended)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450, Highly Recommended)
Hydration Pack: Kriega Hydro-3 ($140, Highly Recommended)
Armor: Dainese Norsorex Vest ($120, Worth Considering) and Shorts ($100, Highly Recommended)
Back Protector: Dainese Manis ($220, Highly Recommended)

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