Test Ride – Zero DSR electric motorcycle

Triumph of Seattle hooked me up with a demo ride of the 2018 Zero DSR electric motorcycle today. Thanks to Matt for filling me in on the product details and giving me the key 🙂  Here are my thoughts.

I sat on the bike in the showroom to get familiar with the controls and get an overall sense of how difficult managing this bike might be.

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The controls for the headlights, flashers, turn signals, horn and kill switch are all in the same place as my RT, so that was immediately familiar. The bike doesn’t have a clutch or gear shift lever, so my left hand and foot were just along for the ride today.

The saddle was a little firm, but not uncomfortable. The mirrors had better placement than those on my RT. The long travel suspension felt compliant but perhaps a bit stiff.

The seat height of the DSR is just over 33″, almost exactly the same as my RT. With a narrower seat, flat-footing the DSR is a breeze. With almost no weight up high, and only 419 pounds in all, managing the bike would be easy.

Matt rolled the bike out of the showroom for me after we filled out the obligatory one-page agreement and he photocopied my license.

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Matt explained there are two safety switches on the bike, the kill switch and the side stand. Turn the key to the ‘ON’ position, kick up the side stand, and place the kill switch into the ‘ON’ position, activating the lights. That’s it – you’re ready to go, he says.

There are three riding modes, typical of fly-by-wire motorcycles. The ECO (or economical) mode optimizes for distance by reducing the power output available,  The SPORT mode optimizes for performance by allowing maximum torque available to be applied. Finally, a user-defined custom mode is available to tune the bike to the owner’s preferences. Matt started me off in ECO mode.

I hopped on and with a twist of the throttle and a quiet hum from the motor, I began my test ride.

The throttle provides a smooth, linear feel and control at slow speeds. On the surface streets, this stealthy little machine provides a sense of confidence in its abilities to brake, navigate, soak up potholes and accelerate to the front of the pack.

Switching to SPORT mode didn’t change any of the above. The extra torque, much more in total than my bike generates, is immediately available but the controller makes it easy to manage.

I’ve ridden two motorcycles with (slightly) more torque, the six-cylinder BMW K1600GT and the four-cylinder MOTUS MSR. Both were managed through a traditional clutch and manual transmission. With no clutch and no transmission, the Zero DSR connects the rear wheel with the motor directly through a maintenance-free carbon fiber belt.

The riding experience of the DSR was simpler but no less thrilling. Launching from a stop light can be quite fun. And, since there is almost no noise, you will offend no one when you crack open the throttle. The burden the Zero creates is on us as riders to be extra vigilant around pedestrians and other vehicles. They really won’t hear you, AT ALL.

I could see myself ‘cruising around town’ for no particular reason with one of the Zero motorcycles. For example, a quick trip to the beach at Golden Gardens.

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Overall, the Zero DSR feels like a real motorcycle in every meaningful way. Good suspension, a stable chassis and solid performing anti-lock braking. It is quite capable of freeway speeds and then some.

The base price of the DSR is $16,495. Some might say the price points are too high, but considering my motorcycle has had three services this year so far, the expected maintenance cost going forward would be negligible in comparison.

If you have a commute that is shorter than 100 miles, you should consider one of these motorcycles. Looking for your first motorcycle and you’re not on a budget, do consider one but keep it in ECO mode, please. If you have an inner-hooligan, you should definitely consider one of these crazy powerful but crazy quiet motorcycles. However, if you are already bumping up against your points limit – do not ride this motorcycle. 🙂

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