If you didn’t have the time to read my 3,700 word tome on what it is like to ride the Mission R electric superbike through San Francisco’s motorcycling playground, I will break it down for you: it was awesome. Of course, riding an entirely custom-built motorcycle with the absolute best components, design, and engineering available should be an awesome experience, especially when you add in one of the most sophisticated electric powertrains on the market. The Mission R isn’t some exercise in hugging trees and saving humpback whales though, it is an exercise in building a better motorcycle than what we have today.
We have known the downside to this discourse for some time though: Mission Motors is no longer in the business of selling motorcycles, and the Mission R is not, and will not, be available for sale (just ask Ryan Reynolds, who was turned down by Mission when he tried to get a Mission R of his very own) — sad trombone. If you too feel a might blue because of that news, I have some information that will pick you up this Monday afternoon. The guys at Mission Motors have been floating the idea of licensing the Mission R to a manufacturer, creating the possibility that if the right OEM was interested, the Mission R could become a publicly available motorcycle for your two-wheeling pleasure.
Tight-lipped on specifics, the only formal comment that Mission Motors will make about the subject is that conversations of this nature have taken place with OEMs, and that the company is open to the idea of either licensing the entire Mission R, or just its powertrain, to a well-qualified motorcycle manufacturer. While the Mission R in its current trim is easily a six-figure machine, using more obtainable components, and producing a run of some volume could bring the electric superbike’s price down into the $40,000 to $50,000 price range. Still a pricey endeavor to be sure, but not entirely unheard of when it comes to limited edition sport bikes.
When you take a step back for a minute, it is with great irony that Mission Motors made the Mission R electric superbike when it did. Known as Hum Cycles when it first set out to build an electric motorcycle, the company would later change its name as it came out of stealth mode and debuted the avant garde Mission One PLE. Despite the favorable press at the time, the Mission One by most accounts is now considered an epic failure.
Beautiful in its own right, the Mission One’s design however was entirely too edgy for the conservative tastes of the motorcycling community, which was already struggling to wrap its collective heads around the idea that the motorcycles of the future would that run off electricity rather than fossil fuels.
To complicate matters, the company’s first racing effort would end with a disappointing fourth place finish at the 2009 Isle of Man TT, and while the electric powertrain components on the Mission One were quite good (they were after all Mission’s core competency), the chassis was considerably under-developed, as was the bike as a whole. The $70,000 price tag didn’t help things much either.
Around the same time as Forrest North’s departure from the company in February 2010, Mission Motors went under a drastic change regarding its corporate direction. Focusing instead on supplying electric drive components to automotive OEMs, the company left its formal two-wheeled pursuits behind. However by the end of the year, Mission Motors debuted its second-generation electric motorcycle, the Mission R.
Learning from the mistakes of the Mission One, the Mission R features a well-sorted chassis, courtesy of James Parker of GSX-RADD fame, as well as a modern, but approachable, style that was tastefully done by Tim Prentice at Motonium. The best part about the Mission R though is that the bike has some serious racing chops — obliterating the competitive 2011 TTXGP field at Laguna Seca in with lap times that would have qualified it fifth on the AMA Supersport grid. The company then saw the departure of its last remaining founder, Edward West.
A looker and a runner, Mission Motors has broken many hearts, both in the electric & internal combustion realms, with the news that it would not be producing the Mission R for public consumption. The irony then, if you haven’t already caught onto yet, is that when Mission Motors was in the business of making electric motorcycles, it failed in that endeavor.
But when the San Franciscan upstart focused its efforts in other directions, its “rolling showcase” became a very competent motorcycle — something I got to witness first-hand not too long ago, and bringing us full-circle in this diatribe.
While today’s news isn’t a resounding confirmation that the Mission R is coming to fruition, it at least cracks the door open to the possibility that one of the best street-legal electric motorcycles in existence could come to some sort of purchasable realization.
Our next question is whom, if anyone, will pick-up the project from Mission, and if they do, will the Mission R have been in the public space too long for its unique design and characteristics to be relevant to a motorcycle buyer. Only time can tell.
Photos: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved