The electric mobility company SONDORS is at it again. Just over two years after the flashy unveiling of the SONDORS MetaCycle electric motorcycle, we’re now getting our first look at two new electric motorbikes: the SONDORS MetaBeast and MetaBeast X.
Both were just announced late last night, revealing a pair of MetaCycle-style bikes with one-piece cast aluminum frames.
While the MetaCycle was clearly a road-only electric motorcycle, SONDORS appears to be positioning the MetaBeast and MetaBeast X as dual sport bikes that will be optimized for off-road trail riding yet will still be street legal for road use.
Unlike the MetaCycle reveal, which included a single concept vehicle, the MetaBeast reveal was accompanied only by computer renders of the bikes.
The two versions of the MetaBeast differ in their size and performance. The lighter-weight 123 lb. (56 kg) MetaBeast is said to feature a 6 kW motor with 40 Nm of torque and a top speed of 50 mph (80 km/h). The 52V 30Ah and 2.16 kWh battery claims a range of 44 miles (70 km) at a constant speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). The specs put it in close competition with light electric trail bikes like the Sur Ron X.
The MetaBeast X is a heavier ride at 200 lb. (91 kg) and comes with a more powerful 18 kW motor putting out 60 Nm of torque. The max speed is listed at 75 mph (120 km/h). The larger 96V 55Ah and 5.28 kWh battery is said to offer 78 miles (125 km) of range at a speed of 31 mph (50 km/h).
All of those specs come with a disclaimer from the company indicating that the production version’s performance could differ from original quoted figures. Considering that the MetaCycle eventually rolled out with a lower speed and range (not to mention being over 50% heavier) than the original figures, it wouldn’t be surprising to see SONDORS exercise its right to change those figures.
What is a bit surprising though is the way the company appears to be marketing the two models. The MetaBeast X is obviously a motorcycle-class vehicle, which SONDORS makes clear by saying, “If you want a fully-homologated, street-legal SONDORS for city living or commuting that can double as your off-road adventure buddy — MetaBeast X is for you.” But the company appears to consider the MetaBeast to be an “e-bike,” which is widely synonymous with the classification “electric bicycle” in the US. Electric bicycles don’t require a motorcycle or driver license to operate in the US because they are regulated similarly to pedal bicycles, not motor vehicles.
Marketing language on the MetaBeast page describes the smaller of the two electric motorbikes as “Light-weight, shift-free and clutch-free so you can simply focus on the fun and thrill of the ride, off-road or most anywhere e-bikes are permitted,” though farther down the page there is a suggestion that riders “always check and follow all local e-bike riding laws and regulations for your area.”
The only problem here is that there are a ton of problems with that statement. Electric bicycles are defined differently in many states in the country, but most adhere to the three-class system. The highest level, Class 3, are permitted to travel at up to 28 mph (45 km/h) and to have motors with continuous power ratings up to 750W. Oh yeah, and they require bicycle pedals.
The SONDORS MetaBeast is much too powerful, much too fast, and much too pedaless to meet those criteria. There are several electric bicycles in the US that can exceed those restrictions but require the bicycle to be unlocked to do so, and/or that can be re-locked to street-legal performance specs. But even if SONDORS were to include a “neuter” button to significantly cut the performance of the MetaBeast, the lack of pedals will prevent it from being considered a street-legal electric bicycle anywhere in the US.
We’ve reached out to SONDORS for comment about the MetaBeast’s legal classification and will update as soon as we hear back.
[Update: Shortly after this article was published, I was able to speak with the company’s CEO and founder Storm Sondors, who explained that the language is meant to indicate that “the user experience is closer to an e-bike than a motorcycle. It feels more like an e-bike without a pedals than a motorcycle. So there’s an easier threshold to learn and use for people who have no experience with motorcycles but are avid e-bike riders.”]
For now, both models are available for pre-order ahead of an estimated October 2023 shipping date.
While the MetaBeast and MetaBeast X carry MSRPs of $4,500 and $8,000, they are currently at a reduced promotional price of US $3,000 and US $6,500 until April 11. Those prices do not include additional charges for shipping/delivery. There doesn’t seem to be a deposit option, so reservations must be paid in full.
Both models are available in silver, gold, and black colorways.
Wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.
First of all, the bikes look GREAT. In my opinion, these are slick. But of course they’re only renders at the moment, and any intern worth their non-paid college credit salary can make some nice renderings. I want to see a physical bike soon.
Next, let’s talk classification. There’s no issue with the MetaBeast X. That’s a motorcycle, just like the Metacycle. DMV, NHTSA, the whole nine yards. SONDORS has done that dance before, even if they’re still actively dancing in some states to get MetaCycles recognized for registration. Obviously the MetaBeast is missing important components like mirrors, turn signals, reflectors, and other bits that will make it street legal, but those parts rarely go on the concept renders anyway. I’m sure they’ll be included on the final vehicle (and will surely kill the beautiful lines too). But the lighter MetaBeast as an “e-bike”? I want to see how that is going to work, because it doesn’t seem like it will. That’s not an electric bicycle and it has no business being in a bicycle lane. As an off-road bike similar to a Sur Ron? Yeah, that’s awesome. Go for it! But calling it an e-bike doesn’t make it an e-bike.
Moving on, let’s talk pricing. $3,000 sounds great for the MetaBeast, and even the $4,500 price after the promotion ends is fair when you compare it to the cost of a Sur Ron or Talaria bike. But hopefully those prices don’t walk up over time. For the larger MetaBeast X, the $6,500 certainly undercuts models like the Zero FX and FXE, as does the $8,000 MSRP. But again, let’s see if the prices hold fast.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the question of whether or not SONDORS can deliver. There is significant chatter about SONDORS’ financial position right now, especially after significant layoffs and a paused IPO attempt. The company recently launched a fire sale on MetaCycles that it said put 1,000 more orders on its books. So some might see this latest launch as a cash grab to shore up more funding for production of the current backlog of MetaCycles. Or it could just be the next step in SONDORS’ relentless march forward, evidenced by the company’s steady unveiling of e-bikes just about every year since the mid-2010s.
But if history is any indication, then SONDORS will likely follow the same game plan it’s always used: unveil something awesome, run behind schedule, eventually ship it out, the specs aren’t quite what were originally promised, but it’s still a pretty fun ride. That’s been the SONDORS M.O. for years, and it’s been working for them so far.
Now the only question is, will you hop in and gamble on a new MetaBeast?
Personally, I’m actually considering it. I know there’s a chance I may never see it, but then again, I gamble a lot already by buying weird and wild electric vehicles from China all the time. Why should this be any different?
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