[REVIEW] 2017 Zero DSR – 600 Miles of Electric Fun – webBikeWorld
I’m the guy who can often be found eating dessert before the meal or breakfast at dinner time. So I’m going to start off by saying the Zero DSR is an incredible experience. There, saved everyone loads of time. Haters can start bitching right away and fanboys can say I told you so. Simple – no need to read further since you can get into arguing right away.
Since most guys have the patience of an adolescent erect penis you can be instantly satisfied knowing that ‘you were right’ which we all know is so damn important. Just read forum posts for validation!
First off, I want to make it clear that this review is of my recently purchased used 2017 Zero DSR which I purchased in March of 2021. When I took ownership the bike had 9023 miles on the clock by one previous owner. The VIN searched revealed a clear title, no reported severe damage or accidents. At the time of this article, I have only owned the bike for five weeks, putting 600 miles on the clock, a combination of riding 70% on road 30% off-road.
By no means is it my final thoughts, simply my initial new owner observations. I am building a website that will be more extensive and cover items I’m not placing into this article. If you want to know my ongoing thoughts, my site is www.zerodsr.com.
This is the SF Moto dealer’s photo of the bike I bought, a 2017 Zero DSR with Charge Tank, Touring Wind Screen with 9000 miles for $10,495.00. Why would I include this in my post? Well, the bike sat on their website for 132 days before I purchased it. So, if you’re thinking I lucked out by jumping on a used DSR the day it was listed, think again. Quite a few people bitch about the price of Zeros and yes, they are expensive. But saving $7,500.00 not to mention the 9.25% California sales tax on that additional seven and a half grand is not insignificant….at least not to me.
The manager allowed me to test ride this bike even though they normally do not allow test rides of previously owned motorcycles, which I completely understand and agree with. This was the VERY FIRST TIME I have ever been allowed to test ride a motorcycle at any dealership, smoker bike or electric. Zero Motorcycle dealers allow test rides on Zero demo bikes which they supply to their dealers. And I have (meaning had) personal rules. Buy motorcycles new, cars used. So that first rule went into the toilet.
My experience coming to this point is what I refer to as “in the middle” of the ICE(smoker)/EV world. First, I only rode ICE purpose built bikes, Penton (now KTM), Bultaco, Maico and Yamaha – and only two strokes when 6” of front end travel and 4” was trick. Oh and no water cooled dirt bikes, only air cooled. I loved the look of a sunburst head – so cool looking! Then four-stroke street bikes, Kawasaki 500, Honda F4s, VTRs and finally my RC51.
I have owned a Sur Ron Light Bee since 2018 which is what got me into the electric motorcycle world. In 2020 I purchased a Cake Kalk& and due to several problems the final straw being a bad battery and the company not being able to fix/loan me a battery for 40 days, I came to a deal with Cake and returned the bike. I’m so happy I did.
Like most everyone, I scoured YouTube videos and Google about the Zero line of bikes. 99.9% of them mentioned the following topics:
Uh no sh!t! LOL And almost all of the information I see/read are from demo rides use moving selfies, AKA GoPro videos which for me is akin to the days we’d get invited over to friends’ homes to watch 8mm home movies of their recent vacations. I understand that those movies are interesting to THEM because it’s about THEM, but my god let me outta there!
The same goes for FPV ride videos, they are all the same give or take the audio editorials. (yet they ALL talk about no clutch/shifting, over and over…) Can we PLEASE talk about something else? I am wise enough to know that demo rides or being loaned any bike is way different than actually owning a bike. So, to be clear, I’m talking about a bike I own, bought with my own after-tax money during COVID-19.
After discovering the sheer joy of an electric motor through riding my Sur Ron for three years and 6.5k miles (all recreational, no commuting) I fell in love with its lack of maintenance, instant torque and quiet nature. It was then I (mistakenly –ah hindsight) decided to spend 14k on a Cake Kalk& since it is fully homologated in the USA meant (or so I thought) I could ride to off-road areas and do some – duh off-road riding.
The problem? Riding to an off-road area where I live meant travelling about 14 miles each way at an average speed of between 40-50 MPH. At sustained high-speed, electric engines suck down juice like there’s no tomorrow. Much of that juice is wasted on overcoming the non-aerodynamic nature of us – our non-aerodynamic human forms. In addition in part to a very limited range (32 miles) I no longer own a CAKE Kalk primarily due to a battery failure the company could not resolve after 40 days where the bike was a brick (Read the CAKE Kalk review here).
So between those two lightweight ‘motorcycles’, I learned a ton about what is important to me and what I truly want in a 21st century electric motorcycle:
My wish list
Ok, so I can wish! Hell even new smoker bikes don’t meet 95% of my wishes.
As I searched for Zero motorcycles, I was struck by the fact that they are sold through dealers. You know the kind that formerly existed in the world. Brick and mortar locations which meant I’d be supporting local businesses instead of buying a bike via the Web. Wow! So SF Moto in San Francisco had the exact bike I was looking for – a Zero DSR with a Charge Tank.
I took delivery of my bike from SF Moto in San Francisco. And I’m talking about old-school dealer memories. There are loads of bikes on the floor, salespeople that are not on commission, racks of helmets, jackets and boots, a parts and service area from days past. Heck, the only thing missing from back in the day is the massive tire ashtray filled with cig butts on the parts counter!
I had them install new tires, a Givi top box, a Tidy Tail and the Zero 12v accessory socket. These were all things I was going to change myself, but since I had to wait for the tires to arrive I just went ahead and had SF Moto install the items. Felt good to support a local business too since EV bikes don’t take nearly the amount of maintenance of a smoker bike. I’ve affectionately named my bike Zeus.
And three weeks after I picked up my bike I get this in the mail:
Yep, the old-school kind of gesture I so appreciate. Eric is the owner of SF Moto.
The very first time I charged the bike at an EVSE station is after I picked it up and rode it home. The distance from SF Moto to the Charge Point EVSE station which is 1.5 miles from my home is 22.5 miles. I left the shop with 100% battery and arrived at the EVSE with 71% remaining having used 29%. My average rate of speed was between 70-85 MPH on the freeway which comprised 90% of the trip. I was in Sport Mode the entire time.
After having owned two electric bikes that could only be charged at home, I know firsthand the importance of having the ability to charge away from home. Imagine a smoker car/bike that you can only fill up with gas at home. That is how it was not being able to charge my bike anywhere but at home. Sure you might ‘think’ you can find 110v outlets anywhere to use.
Ever tried to find those? Starbucks? If you want to take out your 28+ pound battery, lug it into the store, plug it in with the loud ass fan and charge it. The reality is 110v outlets are not that convenient when you need them. And it’s not like charging your damn cell phone at a coffee shop. At least not a Cake or Sur Ron Light Bee battery.
Need is the motherhood of invention so I figured out a way to charge both my Cake and my Sur Ron at level 2 EVSE charge stations using a J1772 to a 5-15R cable. The 5-15R is the type of cable that plugs into the wall outlet for things like your computer, your printer, hairdryer (if you have hair) your normal household stuff. So as long as the charger I carry for either bike can handle a 220v input I’m golden. And it works well.
I was limited to the amount of juice the charger would accept at 110v even though I’d be hooked up to a 220v EVSE line. It does not double the charge input; it simply means that the charger can accept dual voltage, either 110 or 220. So the same amount of time it takes to charge at home would be the same at an EVSE station.
With the Zero Charge Tank option, it meant that I could charge at 6.2kW! This means with the 13.0kW battery on the 2017 model the bike could in theory charge from dead to full in 2.01 hours (13/6.2=2.096) I’m also able to use the ‘normal’ onboard 110v (1.3kW) charger at the same time to bring the total charge input to 7.5kWs! (1.3+6.2=7.5) That brings my charge time down from dead to full charge to 1 hour 42 minutes at an EVSE station. I just use two of the J plugs at the same time. And most of the time there are two available. If not then I just use one.
My J1772 plug to C-13 connector which is the connector I plug into the Zero’s normal household charging port located in the leftt side of the frame to add 1.3kW when charging at EVSE stations. For those who chose not to have a charge tank, this would work stand alone but only charge at the same rate as you’d get at home. As an example, my bike would take around 8 hours to charge from dead only using a 110/220v outlet connection. If you don’t have a charge tank it’s great in a pinch though.
This is the response I received from the Zero engineer about using the 110/220v onboard charger in tandem with the Charge Tank.
Keep in mind, I rarely charge to 100% while I’m out and about. EV batteries charge the quickest from 0-80% and then slow down from 81-100%. I can see the kW charge rate drop on EVSE charging stations once the bike reaches 80%. Most of the time I end up charging when the bike hits 15-17% of charge and it takes just under one hour for me to get to 80-85%. Enough time to grab some chow, hit the head, and look around.
When I get home, I simply park the bike and plug it into my 110v household outlet in the garage. Zeus charges at the normal 110v rate and at night before I hit the rack he’s at 100%. I unplug the bike, say goodnight, and the next day I’m ready to ride. If I ever want a Charge Tank capable home charger I’d just purchase a 220v J1772 plug and use the empty 240v socket meant for an electric dryer in my garage. My dryer uses gas. Easy.
Here I am using two Charge Point EVSE plugs at the same time to charge my bike. One is charging my Charge Tank at 6.2kW, the other at 1.3kW for a combined input of 7.5kW. And inevitably some weenie will ask why the difference in times between the 1.3 and 6.2 meters. Well, I had forgotten that I had my second J plug with me…until I remembered!
I carry an extra 110v charging cord in my swingarm. I call it ‘my spare tire’ because I only have it there for emergencies. One day I decided to try it away from home. I asked a local business if I could plug my bike into their outdoor outlet to get some charge.
Not only did they agree, but they came out to view the bike and ask a ton of questions, intelligent questions, not the usual “How Much, How Far, How Fast?” I find questions like that come from people who have no real interest in the bike. They just like to justify why they don’t like it.
This is by far the most difficult section for me to write. Similar to others, my enjoyment of riding a motorcycle is about the feeling of riding. We are not confined in a ‘cage’ with tons of metal around us, we are exposed which for most of us is a blessing. A single-track vehicle like a motorcycle evokes such a different feeling than all other things which whisk us along the road. For me it’s magical, it’s delicious – it brings sensations forth that is hard to describe. I experience an undeniable sense of freedom when I ride.
With the Zero DSR, it takes those feelings and sensations to a completely different level. In my crude and course way of thinking it’s similar to the difference between self-sex satisfaction and actual sex. Both feel great, but one feels completely different from the other. For me, it’s the SMOOTHNESS and immediate on-demand torque of the ride. Never being in the wrong gear, never missing a shift just a constant and immediate PUSH – but not being like a really smooth automatic car transmission.
No matter how smooth those are I can always feel a ‘shift’ when it transitions from one gear to another. Direct drive like the Zero employs is just a constant as well as the smooth thrust of power. So hard to describe, yet so addictive to experience and once my friend who is a Naval aviator squadron leader rides Zeus I will ask him if the feeling is the same albeit 1000x less thrust than his F18.
The complete lack of reciprocating mass of a smoker engine compared to electric is so hard to describe. The inertia of piston(s) moving up and down or back and forth is gone. Countershafts used to offset the vibrations are gone. The angle of cylinders to quell v configured piston vibration is gone. All that moves is a spinning band of copper wires and one that has a hum which is so unlike an ICE pulse. The only scents that emanate around me are those of the road and vegetation or sea around me. And make no mistake my favorite perfumes to smell were Bel-Ray two-stroke mix and 100 octane race fuel!
I’ve never owned a motorcycle with a belt drive. It produces a smoothness and quiet hum unlike anything I’ve owned before. Sure, the Sur Ron and Cake are electric, but in my experience, they are not what I consider now to be ‘real motorcycles.’ The power of the DSR eclipses both of those bikes as does the weight. I’ve heard many YouTubers describe riding a Zero as if it feels like you’re riding ‘on a magic carpet.’ OK, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ridden on one of those. I have photographed a Magic Carpet for Disney Theatrical’s publicity imagery but never got to ride on one. 😉
I’ve flown in a Bonanza V Wing private prop piloted by my uncle who was a highly decorated Korean War US Naval aviator. And then I was able to fly in a fixed-wing glider plane as well as snorkel diving. For those who have never flown in a fixed-wing glider, this is a great example. I have watched people scuba dive while using an underwater propulsion vehicle.
So first hand, I feel the glider experience once the tether line was released from the tow plane is the closest feeling I can convey to how riding my Zero feels. If only the glider had the ability to be powered by a gush of air whenever I wanted would it be exactly the same as the Zero DSR. And witnessing scuba divers being propelled by their underwater vehicles seems to be a similar feeling to riding a Zero. There is a gliding feeling to my bike that is completely different than my past smoker bikes. I think of swinging on a kid’s swing versus running. Like I said, tough for me to describe.
I can recall studying Keith Code’s “A Twist of the Wrist” book where he talks about humans only having $10.00 worth of attention to spend. In his example when we all first start riding we are using around $9.90 worth just figuring out shifting, balancing, braking and turning. This only leaves us with $0.10 for emergency maneuvers! Of course, as we become more skilled that ratio flips since so much of what we do becomes second nature as well as muscle memory.
I never owned a vehicle that wasn’t a manual shifter. As a matter of fact, I still drive a six-speed manual Infiniti G35, which enthusiasts refer to as the 6MT. I have always loved shifting and of course, that includes motorcycles. Learning how to heal/toe in a car, blipping the throttle to double-clutch while applying the front brake with my right hand ensuring not to squeeze the lever while I blip to downshift was an art that took some time to master until it became muscle memory on the track. Or when slipper clutches were invented and replaced that skill!
Clutchless upshifts and downshifts by matching the revs. So much of what is trained got burned into our brains just as a matter of course for road racing. The famous motto from my coach, “Wanna go fast, go smooth.”
Imagine my surprise when I first got on the DSR and didn’t have to think about those long engrained actions, even if they were second nature. No feelings about what the right rev range is to keep the bike in the optimum powerband. No short-shifting to ensure traction around an off-camber corner. A direct drive power delivery meant that the $8.34 of my $10.00 was back in my pocket after 20 years of not operating a real motorcycle. Not only is the bike smoother than I could manage in all of my years of shifting, but the optimum power band is literally always there!
I cannot accurately describe the combination of silky smoothness in a normal smoker motorcycle way. So I won’t try, but instead describe it in the way I know how. It is delicious, intoxicating and addictive. The lack of expending the subconscious energy I used to commit to tasks that had become second nature after 50 years of riding is indescribable. It’s a feeling of freedom much like the very first time I got on a smoker bike.
The freedom to just RIDE and spend my attention on the things around me, the smells, the speed, my corner line, the seamless power just to name a few of the visceral elements that were there during my smoker bike days, but now new elements are in the front of my consciousness, something that I’m acutely aware of as I ride. And it’s simply because I’m able to shift from what I’d known to what I didn’t know I was missing as I rode.
Do I smile? Oh fcuk yes I do when I twist the throttle. The smooth shove at the small of my back and seat of my pants feels like when I was 4 years old and my father pushed me in a swing. The pure feeling of joy at incredible acceleration is just delicious. I can remember pulling in my clutch, downshifting sometimes twice just to get my bike on the pipe to smoke a competitor to the corner.
Prior to Zeus, the most exhilarating sense of acceleration was when my dad put me on a thoroughbred in a starting gate. I was effing nervous at 13 years old. He told me to hold the reins along with a handful of mane in my right hand, be on the balls of my feet in the stirrups and lean forward. When that blistering bell RANG and the iron gates SLAMMED OPEN my stomach and colon were left behind me. That horse was 16 hands high and not nearly as smooth as Zeus. But you get my point.
In a way, it’s like that saying “I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know.” Is it a magic carpet? Hell, I don’t know, but I will say the feeling is magical and I never want it to end.
I’ve only had a few limited opportunities to ride my DSR off-road. Some fire roads some ‘secret’ off-road areas that are just gorgeous. And these are just the types of areas I hoped to find and be able to explore with the bike. Because it’s so quiet when I have encountered people, they have only smiled when I rode by. In those areas where I can get up to speed, meaning 35-40 MPH the bike handles so well.
Ruts are well dampened and the bike tracks as well as one can hope in rutted terrain; soft surfaces are no problem with the tires I have chosen. In deep soft sand or soft dirt, the weight of the bike becomes apparent. Nothing dramatic, but it’s not like when I’m on hard-packed dirt. I disable my ABS when I’m off-road and use Eco or change my custom settings to 65% torque 100% regen.
I use the rear brake much more than the front but still find I use the front out of habit. I just don’t grab a whole handful, I feather the brakes downhill. I certainly never expect any bike to compensate for a lack of skill. After all, skill is a big part of the fun of riding for me. Don’t get better? Then go down and learn a lesson!
I find that this bike is the dual sport in the sense of how I define dual sport. It’s damn powerful, but unlike smoker bikes where throttle control is an art form, this bike makes throttle control effortless. In some ways I get irritated in how much easier it is to ride the bike than a smoker. In the same way, so many things have been made accessible to more people; auto spell checks, autocorrect, ABS, Lane deviation sensors, self-parking cars, backup cameras, etc. Zero has taken some of the skills I felt were necessary to operate a motorcycle out of the equation.
The smoothness, the throttle response, the instant torque, the ability to adjust the bike to your riding needs are all things that just a decade ago would have been science fiction. Yet here I am in Spring of 2021 totally enjoying these new experiences. Like all things, some will resist and even resent the changes and I’m amazed that as an old fart, I’m excited about living in a time equivalent to when gas engines were introduced during the steam engine era. Exciting times.
The DSR is no sportbike, no road race bike, and no motocross bike. It’s just what I’ve always wanted. A dual sport bike that I can ride to and from dirt roads while exploring areas I could not ride before. Like life, it’s a compromise being much heavier than a dirt bike and isn’t nearly as razor sharp in corners as a track bike. Yet for what it’s intended it’s just right for me.
The DSR is very well balanced and the Showa suspension is excellent and the seating and standing positions accommodate my 5-8 frame and 30” inseam well. My primary focus on my bikes has always been brakes, suspension, and tires. Sure I love power, but experience showed me that power without the ability to use/control it doesn’t mean crap. Ohlins was my preferred suspenders of choice, Brembo calipers and master cylinders my kings, HRC racing brake pads a must-have and Dunlop slicks my shoes of choice.
The very first thing I did before picking up my DSR from SF Moto was to have them install new tires on my bike. Even though the tires had plenty of tread left, checking the date stamps revealed the tires were 6 years old which is understandable for a four-year-old bike. I opted for a more aggressive style of dual sport knobbies but those that handle well on pavement too. When I took the bike home I set the static sag, sag, rebound and compression to my riding style based on Showa’s guidance.
For my riding right now, I have my suspension set up for a plusher feel. But I prefer my sag to be a bit less than normal about 10% less at least on the road. Once I get more time off-road then I will adjust them again.
I have no clue why Showa does not install a stanchion measuring band on their forks! I’ve depended on those many times. Formerly I just used a zip tie, but after Dan told me that they cause stiction I stopped using them and went to bands when none were installed by a manufacturer which is almost never.
I found that two clicks either way on rebound tend to affect the damping more than one click on compression. I noticed that the high speed compression over sharp edges or pot holes is very good even though there is no separate adjustment for high speed compression. During street cornering, the forks provide excellent feedback from the tires. This in combination with the lack of sound and vibration sends a completely unique and tactile feedback through the bars.
Because the handlebars block the adjustment of sag with a socket I use a ratcheting box end wrench to adjust the fork sag. And I have marked those adjusters with a paint pen so that I can count the number of revolutions accurately. My memory is not what it used to be.
The rear Showa remote reservoir shock is also high quality with a remote reservoir that dissipates heat well by separating the oil from the main shock body. Rebound, compression and preload are all adjustable. Unlike the forks, I found that a single click on either the compression or rebound results in a difference that can be felt when riding. So play with it and adjust those to the settings that suit your riding and body weight. The one thing I don’t like about the rear shock is the stepped spring adjustment. I prefer a threaded shock collar rather than steps.
It just makes for finer adjustment levels. And on the DSR the finned controller is very close to the shock spring ramp making it difficult to grab. I purchased an 8mm 8” punch to adjust the spring tension using the punch and a rubber mallet. I could only do so when the bike’s rear wheel was unweighted. It becomes a hassle when I want to take my girlfriend for a ride and have to jack the bike up to add two ramps of preload on the shock; and then adjust them back for when I’m riding solo. I may decide to install an Ohlins shock with a remote preload adjuster to make things easier….but later.
When I have read/watched ‘reviews’ of any bike and someone complains about the forks bottoming out or being too stiff/soft/take your pick I often ask myself “I wonder if they adjusted the suspension for their weight, riding style and where they’re riding.” I’ll bet my next paycheck is the answer is “No” Why bitch or nick pick about something you don’t adjust when there are adjustments! Like a person who complains there isn’t enough leg room or their feet can’t reach the pedals in the driver’s seat of a car without ever adjusting the seat’s fore/aft position. I chalk up those comments to user error. If something is adjustable adjust the damn thing and don’t bitch until you do. Just doesn’t make sense!
My experience adjusting the suspension on my bikes can be attributed to learning from the largest Ohlins dealer in the world who also happens to be the former Crew Chief for Erion Racing. Dan has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about suspension. And I could not be more grateful for his help.
I ran across a very good post for those interested in learning more about suspension settings for their own bikes. It’s a great start to begin to understand static sag and sag along with why adjusting your bike for those settings is important.
I was not familiar with J Juan brakes before buying my DSR. I’m a Brembo guy so I was a bit worried that the brakes would not live up to my past experience. I was really pleased when I noticed that all Zeros come with steel braided lines. Since I’m an old timer who has not kept up on smoker bikes in 20 years maybe all bikes now come with steel lines.
Back in the day, it was normal to have to replace the rubber OEM lines on most bikes. Once I got the bike home I took out the pads and cleaned them with Brake Kleen as well as the rotors. I then bedded in the brakes using my normal process. I was pleasantly surprised with the feel, modulation and power.
Since my most recent experience was on tarmac, I tend to be a front braker and found the front single non floating 320mm brake rotor is great. The rear seems a little weak for a 419 pound bike on the road, but fine on the dirt. The front lever is adjustable for reach which I appreciate. My only wish would be for an adjustment for the bite point on the brakes. But now I’m just nit-picking since it’s what I use to have.
The regen braking even set to its highest level is much weaker than I have on my Sur Ron and was stronger on the Cake at level 3. For casual riding it is fine, but I would like more regen or perhaps it is because I am accustomed to stronger engine braking since my last smoker bike was a 1000cc V-twin. Imagine driving/riding your car/bike and when you want to slow down you push in your clutch (although everything is automatic now for cars) and the vehicle coasts with little to no resistance. Yep, it almost feels as if you are freewheeling when in max regen on the DSR. I can certainly feel ‘something’ slowing me a tad, but not enough for my tastes.
Since my left hand is free I’d like to suggest that Zero offer a left-hand lever that could control the amount of regen the motor offers the rider. The more one pulls the lever toward the bar the stronger the regen. And if I don’t want to use it I don’t have to do so.
Because the amount of regen is so low I find myself getting off the throttle much sooner when I’m on city streets to gently slow the bike. I have no idea how much energy is being returned into the battery other than the graph on the lower right portion of the dash.
Much of my riding to date has been at speeds between 50-70 MPH. Not bursts of speed, but sustained speed. I have set up my custom settings specifically for city street riding. Why? Well, I have found in the first month of ownership that Sport mode which uses little to no regen off throttle allows me to coast, meaning I slow down less which means the motor expends less energy for me to get back up to speed.
This is my ride setup for city riding.
And let me cite a real-world example of my experience. On my Cake, I switched from the 72t rear sprocket to their off-road 80t sprocket. That is about a 10% difference in gearing. With a smoker bike that means you lose top end and reduce your gas mileage because the engine is in a higher rev range. I found that the opposite is true for electric motors in terms of range.
I lost 6% top end moving from a 72 to 80t sprocket, but I GAINED 10% IN RANGE. And this was the same result with my Sur Ron when I increased the rear sprocket size. My range increased proportional to my sprocket percentage increase. The bike is not expending as much torque with lower gearing, meaning less torque allows the motor to conserve energy. And a spinning electric motor not under load is not consuming ‘fuel’ in the same way a smoker bike does.
So, back to my point about not using regen braking on the freeway. The less my motor has to work, the more energy I will save. So for me, I have found ‘coasting’ rather than regenerating energy gets me more mileage. It sounds counterintuitive, but like I’ve stated, I’ve only been riding the bike for a short amount of time.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so there are loads of EVSE stations around my area. I’d estimate 10:1 versus gas stations. Unless you’ve actually looked for them, you never really notice how many exist. They are certainly in places I’d never have expected prior to owning any EV.
Most folks just charge at home, except for Tesla owners who use Tesla SuperChargers. I did a small poll of non-Tesla EV car owners I know and almost all of them have never charged at an EVSE station. And EVSE stations are not a panacea of wonder. There are times when the station’s chargers are out of order or broken.
I’ve encountered ChargePoint J plugs that have broken engagement clips so they can’t signal that something is plugged into the EVSE. And there are tons of different EVSE stations that require their own card or app. Yes, we are in EV infancy and these are all of the things that take getting used to right now.
So my thing about the range is this: if I want to do long trips, meaning those over 170 miles I’ll buy a Gold Wing. Seriously. When I was able to ride my teammate’s Wing on our camping trip to Oroville on highway 70, Feather River Canyon I was in heaven. To me, long-haul biking means the right tool for the right job.
My RC51 felt like a torture rack with a 2×4 pine wood seat after giving him back his Wing. I will say that my DSR with the optional Black Forest Seat I purchased is damn comfortable. And if the bike got 200 miles of range I could easily do that even with my skinny ass.
To date, I’ve been getting around 80 miles running at 70 MPH on Coast Highway or the freeway. Combined 50-60 miles high speed 30-40 miles lower speeds in the city for a combined around 110-120. And for me, that’s fine since I don’t take the bike down to zero percent.
I laugh when the uninformed ask me about range taking the bike down to zero. So I ask “How often do you drive your car until your gas warning light comes on and then until your car completely runs out of gas?” Don’t get me wrong, range and time to charge is still an issue with all EVs, four or two wheels. But I like to put things into perspective especially for those who just want to tell me they are right by not choosing things I enjoy.
Because I chose the Charge Tank I stop, plug in one or two of my plugs meaning I charge at either 6.2 or 7.5kW and eat and walk around. I don’t wait until I have ‘enough charge’ I just leave when I’m ready. Usually 40-70 minutes. And I have never charged below 80% even in 40 minutes.
I can fully understand many being nervous about range. Just like performance anxiety, range anxiety can prevent one from fully enjoying their ride. Yet the reality is only focusing on how long you can go means you miss so much of what you can do. Like I mentioned before – for long range riding, I’d get a Wing. For track racing, I’ll get a Duck 4 banger. But to ride a good part of the day in mixed terrain I’m going to stick with my DSR and let those who worry and fret about how long they can last to their own ways. To each their own is my motto.
REALLY?! SOFTWARE?! FOR A MOTORCYCLE!!!?? Times sure have changed. My dad and I porting our two strokes not with a Dremel which didn’t exist, but with a drill and grinding stone. Rejetting the Mikuni carburetors with physical brass jets. Now to change the performance of my bike I just use ‘an app’ on my damn phone! Holy Sh!t man.
If you’re looking for a manual, here is the Unofficial Zero Manual.
I did have one hell of a time trying to figure out how to pair my Bluetooth to the bike. I figured out the best way for me to do so was to turn on the bike first and then launch the app. So here’s what I’ve learned so far:
I’d like to see Zero offer an email or text alert letting owners know that a new firmware update is available for the bike. Right now unless I pair the app to the bike I won’t know if there is a new update. I don’t always use the app with the bike when I ride. And there are screens I don’t understand….yet.
I’d also love to have two Custom modes. When I hit the dirt I’d love to be able to switch to Custom Mode 2 where I’d have the bike set up for my dirt riding preferences. Things like disabling the ABS in addition to adjusting torque/speed values and regen.
The message that accompanies this screen lets the user know that it could take up to 20 minutes to complete this report. But I’ve never seen something that goes over 100% so what gives?
And the summary report never appeared. Legends say I am still waiting for the logs, to this day.
So I’ve covered as much as I can with ownership for a little over a month and outlined some areas I’d like to see Zero expand on the bike, better regen, and proactive firmware update notification and two custom modes. I’ve cited some items on my wish list too.
I was very impressed to buy my bike from a dealership since my prior EV two-wheel purchases have been over the internet with no face-to-face contact. I do understand that some people have not had the stellar service I have experienced with SF Moto. If Zero did open the option to sell their bikes to any dealership that wanted to do so, I have no knowledge of the reasons.
I can guess that they wanted to enter the realm of brick and mortar sales without going through an entire brand/retail/real estate/leasing exercise. But just like my smoker bike experience in the past, dealerships can vary greatly in their level of service and knowledge. We use to look for “Honda/Yamaha Authorized Service” before even considering a motorsports dealer.
This is a whole new emerging world and even though I don’t think of myself as an early adopter of two wheel EV bikes I guess I am. There are teething pains in any new technology especially one that is poised to replace something that has been around for a hundred years.
For the most part, people resist change and I can think of many examples just in my lifetime. ATM Cards, Glock plastic hand guns, VHS video tapes, Walkman portable tape decks, compact disks, microwave ovens, personal computers, heck even cell phones. Moving forward is inevitable even if it takes some of us kicking and screaming along the way.
Are Zeros or any EVs completely there yet? Oh hell no. Batteries and the infrastructure to support them are just in their infancy. Are Zero’s too expensive? $17,990.00 for a 2021 DSR with a Charge Tank is beyond my threshold of financial pain especially for a non-essential luxury item, but not for some. Then again a $15,349.00 Freeride snowmobile or a $16,000.00 Jet Ski causes me too much pain to buy. And then I’d have to buy a truck or trailer to haul those things too. And just how often would I ACTUALLY use those?
At the beginning of this piece, I gave you my conclusion. And if you’re one of those haters or fanboys I mentioned at the beginning I’m trying to figure out why you are this far down reading my summary. Perhaps like me, you prefer to eat dessert before your meal. If so, enjoy!
Mark has a lifelong motorcycle history. Growing up in Southern California he raced motocross at Saddleback Park and Carlsbad as well as the Barstow to Vegas desert race twice. After raising two kids he decided to take up road racing on a RC51 and is no stranger to track crashes. A helicopter ride to the Enloe Trauma center after high siding at 140 MPH convinced him that he’d never contend in MotoGP. So he focused his efforts on teaching track skills for Keigwin’s At The Track and was one of their original instructors. He is an early adopter and EV enthusiast.
Great article, and great bike (I hear).
Many people would be surprised how short a distance they cover per day, and how fun electric is.
Hey Duffy thanks! Like all humans we all like to ‘think’ we do more than we actually do. Of course EVs are not a total panacea of travel. But man I’m having a total blast. And after seeing the whole Colonia Pipeline Russian hack and the lines for gas I’m damn happy to have a vehicle that I can use if that happened here in California.
Very thorough, well written report. I have read lots about electric bikes but this article changed my way of thinking. Thanks.
Hey Rick thanks! Makes all the typing that went into this worth it. Go test ride one. Then be pissed at me that you did. LOL
Great, thoughtful, and ‘effin’ funny piece Mark. Thanks for the detail and insight, learned a lot.
LOL Thanks Michael. A crude mind never strays far from basic bodily functions.
Great article, thanks for the write up! Basically reaffirms that a Zero will be my next motorcycle purchase!
Thank you Adrian. Go test ride one and see if it’s for you. Man I’m loving mine though. Best!
so 80 miles of real world fun then charge for 45 minutes. Let us know when you find an ev motorcycle that goes 200 miles like advertised. Till then I’ll be on my “Smoker” But thanks for doing this study for us.
80 miles of fun, then find a charger for 45 minuts. These ev bikes still need alot of work.
Excellent and enjoyable article. Love to read reviews of used bikes as that’s the only kind I’ve ever purchased!
Enjoyed your article. Can’t help but think the numbers you give would go out the window on winding, hilly, narrow (to you guys) lanes in Devon (England). Going to be a long time before EVs are practical everywhere.
I have written an article about my own findings for real world EVSE Level 2 charging.
I have just tested the Tesla Tap which allows me to charge at Tesla Destination Stations.
I have a zero fx and a Yamaha v max. Both sat neglected in garage for a year until i found time to play with them. VMAX…. dead battery, bad fuel, clogged carburetor…. still won’t run right. ZERO FX… still had 74% charge…. hopped on and rode after wiping the dust off the seat. Im looking for a DSR and your review was exactly what I needed!
P.S. if you like riding for hours on end then definitely don’t buy electric because charging can be a pain. However, if you only like riding until your butt starts hurting then electric is the no-brainer way to go.
Also agree! Just as an FYI I recently discovered the Tesla Tap which allows me to charge at Tesla Destination Chargers using that device. So what that opens up for me is 30% more chargers AND unlike EVGo, ChargePoint, Electrify America chargers, Tesla chargers are always working. Plus the type of riding I want to do at times is to ride, spend the night at a hotel, charge up and carry on the next day. Many hotels and restaurants here in CA have Tesla Destination chargers so it make my short distance overnight rides great.
Hey Charles, I get that about a bike ‘sitting’ for so long. I had not started my RC51 for two years and when I decided to sell it for the Zero. The guy who bought it from me was a nice fella. He had to replace the fuel pump, the gas tank, the fuel lines, etc. I have not let my Zero sit that long but am confident that like you I’d just have dust and tire pressure to check.
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