At the dawn of the new millennium, sport bikes were incredibly popular in the US. Sales were booming and steadily on the rise, though there was a noticeable lack of sport bikes from American marques. Sure, Buell was around (as was Brammo, if that counts), but sales were aplenty and there was more than enough money to go around. So Daniel Fischer, a former Aprilia Cup competitor and AMA Superbike racer, started toying around with the idea of creating an American sport bike company. In the early 2000’s, Fischer set up shop in Pocomoke City, Maryland and got to work producing a prototype dubbed the “MR” (or “MR1000”) in honor of his son, Mercer. Production was scheduled to begin in 2004, but unexpected changes would delay the company’s plans.
A wise man knows his own limitations, and Daniel Fischer is a wise man. Because his resources were limited, he opted to outsource the majority of component engineering and design work to reputable, established outfits instead of starting from scratch. Originally, Fischer had been in talks with Rotax, sorting out a deal to have the Austrian outfit supply its 60-degree V-twins which were previously seen on the Tuono and Mille models. Vehicle prototyping specialist Gemini Technology Systems, Inc. (who designed the frame on the Harley-Davidson VR1000) was reportedly brought on board the Fischer project to engineer the MRX’s frame. Famed British designer Glynn Kerr — the design force behind a substantial number of models from Yamaha, BMW, Lightning, and Voxan — was tasked with rendering the MRX’s bodywork, headlight assembly, tank, and tail. Last but certainly not least were the brake and suspension hardware, which came from Brembo and Ohlins…sort of.
Up until the MRX came along, the only machines using the Rotax V990 were Aprilia’s Tuono and Mille and the Can Am Spyder. Fischer was getting ready to close the deal when word got back to Italy that Rotax was going to license its big-bore four-stroke twin to an American sport bike startup, and Aprilia was reportedly none too happy about this. Can Am’s Spyder wasn’t really in the same segment as any of Aprilia’s offerings, so it wasn’t much of a threat to the Italian marque, however the same couldn’t be said for the MRX. So a call was made and Aprilia’s people made it abundantly clear to Rotax that they wanted to put the kibosh on the Fischer deal. Daniel received the bad news that his debut model now needed a new engine, but with all the other elements and components already coming down the pipe, Fischer had no choice but to trudge onward and figure out another a last-minute arrangement.
This is what spurred talks between Fischer and Hyosung. The South Korean manufacturer had traditionally been in the small displacement game, churning out scooters and little bikes before releasing its first “full-size” models in 2004 with the Comet and GT650. Hyosung’s liquid-cooled, 650cc, 90-degree V-twin was seen by Fischer as a viable option to power the company’s debut model, and Hyosung was capable of filling the order essentially right away.
The switch from a Rotax mill to a Hyosung engine had a number of dramatic effects on the bike. With the Korean engines being quite a bit cheaper than the Austrian twins, Fischer could sell its first model at a more affordable price. After all, it already had the trick frame and sleek, Glynn Kerr-designed bodywork which made the MRX a decently attractive bike, however the change in engine took the MRX from the category of competitive liter-bike to budget sport bike. A major downside to this was that the entire MRX was designed around an approximately liter-sized engine, so when the 650 was dropped into the single-piece frame, it made the bike a tad sluggish due to the excessive weight and size it carried in anticipating of accommodating a near 1,000cc mill.
The MRX’s carbureted, Hyosung-made, liquid-cooled, 647cc, DOHC, 90-degree, V-twin inhaled through dual 39mm Mikuni carbs, was married to a six-speed transmission, and featured a computer-controlled digital ignition with variable mapping. Though the V-twin wasn’t massaged in any way after leaving the Hyosung factory, it did get a functional ram-air intake and a dual-chamber, shielded, under-tail, stainless steel exhaust system courtesy of Micron which reportedly bolstered peak power figures by a couple ponies. Wrapped around the engine was what Fischer’s website touts as “the world’s first single-piece Grand Prix chassis”, an aluminum perimeter frame which was reportedly inspired by 1990’s monocoque GP frames. Daniel Fischer even credits the MRX’s proprietary chassis for taming the Hyosung twin’s unruly vibration and clunky feel.
On top of the last minute engine swap, another major change the MRX would see between its proto and production phases would be the downgrading of its top-shelf components, pushing the model even further in the “budget bike” direction. The prototype sported Ohlins suspenders fore and aft, though the Swedish suspension was jettisoned in favor of cheaper, inverted, 43mm Daesung units — the same forks found on Hyosung’s GT650R, though Fischer says it played with the internals to improve performance. The Daesung front-end still offered adjustable preload, compression, and rebound, but it was a far cry from the trick Ohlins hardware. Fortunately, the production MRX did retain the Ohlins monoshock in back, granted it was one of the company’s cheaper shocks.
The complete Brembo brake hardware on the prototype was changed to the same dual discs found on the Hyosung GT650 Comet, however the lines were upgraded to stainless units from Goodridge, and the master cylinder was changed to a Brembo unit. Brembo calipers were offered as optional add-ons, though they would become standard on later models along with dual, semi-floating 310mm Brembo discs. Later models also came with the option of a couple noteworthy factory add-ons such as full carbon fiber bodywork, forged alloy rims, and Brembo quad-pad brakes.
Though it would be another couple years before the MRX 650 would actually go on sale to the general public, in 2006 Fischer put together a press fleet of MRX’s to introduce the world to the supersport. The December 2006 issue of Motorcyclist had the MRX as its cover story as an extensive writeup and review by Alan Cathcart. The bike’s general reception from the media was positive – including Cathcart’s piece – though this wasn’t enough to ensure satisfactory sales figures, especially when the model was finally released right on the heels of a global recession.
Right out of the gate, selling the MRX proved to be an uphill battle for Fischer. The majority of resources went into development and production, with very little left over for marketing and a dealer network, which in Fischer’s case, was nonexistent. Dan Fischer himself literally fielded the phone calls, if you wanted to buy an MRX, you spoke directly to Dan himself. By the end of 2006, full-scale production had yet to commence in Fischer’s boutique, Maryland factory, though roughly 20 units were delivered to the first buyers who had forked over early deposits.
The Fischer Motor Company was aspiring to manufacture approximately 1,000 examples per year as soon as production, distribution, and a dealer network was firmly established, though the company wouldn’t survive long enough to see that plan come to fruition. With the sale of only 50 units projected for 2007, there just wasn’t enough runway for the company to stay alive. There were talks of countering the 650cc displacement by introducing a supercharged version of the MRX, but that too never came to fruition, nor did the “MRX650L” which was little more than the original model with lower seat height. An R-spec MRX was offered for a bit, but I probably don’t need to explain why a high-spec version of a budget bike doesn’t really make any sense. You can’t say Fischer didn’t try though.
By the end of its production run the MRX came equipped with a plethora of cool odds and ends. The aggressive-looking headlight setup consisted of Hella high intensity xenon lamps while the tail section was lit up with V-shaped LED lighting. Though it’s a bit dated by today’s standards, the MRX’s instrumentation was pretty solid when it was released, featuring an analog tach paired with a fully electronic dash that included a speedo, fuel gauge, temp gauge, clock, and built-in performance timers. The 4.5-gallon fuel-tanks were roto-molded crosslink poly units, and the machine came from the factory atop a pair of standard lightweight allow wheels that came in gold (so you know they’re high-end). There was also a surprising amount of billet parts, including adjustable clip-ons machined from solid 7075 aircraft aluminum.
With a major lack of marketing and fairly abysmal sales numbers, the writing was on the wall for Fischer. The MRX had some cool stuff going for it but it just wasn’t enough. By 2010 Fischer was still building bikes, but only on a made-to-order basis, and there weren’t that many orders. The whole patriotic angle that Fischer had probably relied on, at least to a small extent, was undone by the abundance of Korean hardware, and the MRX failed to pull off the award balancing act of branding itself as both an exotic sport bike, and a budget offering. Then in 2012 the company’s website – which had always looked embarrassingly dated – posted a statement reading, “”The MRX is sold out and no longer in production. Stay tuned for something new”. That “something new” has yet to come. I reached out to the Fischer Motor Company a few months ago to inquire about the company’s current and future plans, as well as to clarify a few tech specs but I have yet to receive a response.
It’s almost tragic to think about what could have been. By all accounts Fischer had delivered on a highly competent frame with decent components to back it up, all in a stylish and affordable package. But without a quality engine at the heart of the Fischer, the machine’s potential went mostly untapped. A couple years ago there were murmurs of Fischer reentering the emerging markets, in particular India, with a 150cc version of the MRX, but that too appears to have fizzled out. Personally I love the MRX, granted I’d probably love it more had it been powered by the Rotax mill Fischer had initially planned on using. That said, the MRX is a solid bike, it boasts decently high-end components, it was made in the US of A and was sold at a more-than-reasonable price. The design, in my option at least, had a sleek and aggressive aesthetic with sharp lines and an under-the-seat exhaust that was wildly popular around the time of the MRX’s release.
It’s also worth pointing out that Fischer set out to compete with Japanese sport bikes of day which were born out of R&D programs with obnoxious amounts of funding, relative to Fischer’s operation. Developing a sport bike with performance comparable to other modern offerings is a massively tall order and all things considered, Fischer did a pretty outstanding job. The MRX’s greatest flaw appears to have been its underwhelming Hyosung mill-an element that seems to have been somewhat out of Daniel’s hands, and could (and probably should) be blamed on Rotax.
Obviously a 600cc inline-four would blow the Fischer’s specs away, but the Hyosung twin appears to be a well performing power plant when compared to other budget twin 650’s (especially with the boost from the ram air intake). The Suzuki SV650 – which unlike the MRX was fuel-injected from the same year the MRX debuted – made 73 hp and 47 ft-lbs of torque, had a dry weight of 376 lbs, and carried an affordable MSRP of just $6,000. The Kawasaki Ninja 650R from the same year produced approximately 70 hp and 48.5 ft-lbs of torque, had a dry weight of 393 lbs, and sold for $7,099. The MRX put down a claimed 80 hp and 52 ft-lbs of torque (though some sources say actual dyno figures are closer to 77 hp and 38 ft-lbs), had a claimed dry weight of 382 lbs, and an MSRP of $7,995.
Despite having an $8K price tag, the MRX is now an incredibly rare specimen, with only a handful of examples in existence, making it more valuable than you’d think. You have to commend Daniel Fischer for his work on the MRX. It was fairly clever to introduce a model that filled in the gap in the largely nonexistent mid-size, twin sport bike market (Ducati’s 848 doesn’t really count) instead of directly competing with the inline-fours of the big four from Japan, plus twins are easier to use and more forgiving, making them much friendlier for novice riders. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions and some genuinely good ideas, the Fischer Motor Company became the American sport bike marque that never quite was.
This particular Fischer example — which the seller refers to as an “MCX” for whatever reason, despite seemingly having been personally involved with the company — bares the serial number “#002”. The current owner also states in the ad that they “helped build this machine on the eastern shore of Maryland”, and that it has less than 2,000 miles on the odo. This Fischer reportedly still has all of its stock equipment (brakes, tires, etc). You can find this 2009 Fischer MRX 650 for sale here on Craigslist in Lakeland, Florida with a price of $25,000.