Electric Bike Action Bike Test: Zero SR/S Premium Motorcycle

Zero SR/S Premium Motorcycle

For as much hype and hope that has surrounded the world of electric transportation, it has not been a particularly easy business model to pursue. It’s all the more aggravating when you consider how much sense electric vehicles are as a means of a modern solution to anything with an internal combustion engine. 

In the days since Zero Motorcycles essentially pioneered the electric motorcycle revolution in America back in 2006, there have been a variety of contenders vying to take hold of the brass ring. And, by and large, they have all failed. Fast-forward to today, and while a plethora of European e-moto brands (and Harley Davidson) have shown potential, none of their high-end, exotic offerings are capable of playing in the range of price points that Zero has focused on. 

The head start Zero has had has pushed their technology far ahead of most. This new generation of bikes from Zero incorporates all of that knowledge into making bikes with better control, better ride quality, more power and more range.

THE BIKE

Zero first debuted the SR/F Streetfighter in 2019, and it was easily their most motorcycle-looking bike yet. A stunning machine with a naked bike look and performance to rival a lot of ICE bikes on the market. 

For 2020 they’ve introduced a fully faired version of that bike with even more refinements. Available in either a standard or premium model, it’s similar to a trellis frame with a subframe extending out a little farther. The footpegs are lower, and handlebars are slightly higher and 15mm wider, improving on ergonomics and, as Zero says, “To emphasize rider comfort.”

The 14.4-kWh battery takes up the entire inside of the frame.

 

This is the first Zero bike with a fairing, and it completely changes the look of the bike. The mirrors are placed below the handlebars in a position that works well, whether sitting up or tucked, but it takes some getting used to. 

THE PARTS

Right away you have three choices of seats for the bike. They’re similar, but each one changes seat height by an inch from the medium’s 31.0 inches. The “gas tank” is used for storage, but also comes with two USB ports inside to charge phones and such. There’s a side connector for heated riding suits.

The SR/S uses a J1772 connector, aka the J-plug, to recharge from either a Level 2 charge station or with an optional household cable.

 

In addition to the Bosch stability controls and ABS, the Pirelli Diablo tires on 17-inch wheels provide grip for days. Showa suspension offers 120mm of travel on the beefy 43mm fork and 140mm of travel on the rear coil shock. Both have adjustable spring-preload, compression and rebound damping.

 

“Acceleration in Sport mode is like riding in a video game!” 

 

The powerful J Juan discs with quad-piston brakes on the front end and a dual-piston brake on the rear. Big, bright LED lights are new on this bike. You can see it coming from a long ways away, even in daylight.

THE MOTOR 

Power comes from the Z-Force 75-10 electric motor mounted on the pivot of the swingarm, which directly drives the rear wheel via a carbon drive belt. There’s no gearbox and no clutch, which can certainly make it an easier ride for beginners. It also has a mind-bending 140 foot-pounds of torque, is electronically limited to 124 mph, and has a 0–60 time that would make a Ferrari turn redder. 

The huge 14.4-kWh battery takes up most of the inside of the frame, has just shy of 13 kWh of usable capacity. The standard version has a battery with a single 3-kW charger, while the premium model we tested has a second 3-kW charger, allowing a full charge to take only two hours on a Level 2 charger. There are other options, including an optional extra battery called a Power Tank ($2,895) that takes up all the space inside the faux gas tank, but offers a mere extra 11 miles of range. You can also opt for an extra 6 kW of charging for $2,300. With the Premium model, it has heated grips as well.

The standard seating that comes with the SR/S. There are other options for the main seat, one thicker and one thinner, each being about an inch higher or lower respectively.

 

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

They whole system is controlled either by the controls on the handlebars or via Zero’s app. There are four modes; Eco, which has the highest regeneration and least aggressive acceleration and tops out at 75 mph; Street, which has far less regen and a top speed of 110; Sport, which has virtually no regen and the most aggressive acceleration (and a top speed of 124 mph); and Rain, which calms everything down for going over wet pavement.

Riders can customize this with their own modes based on personal preference. Only one of these can be live at a time, but there’s a bunch of memory for this, so if you want the acceleration of Sport with the regen of Eco and traction control is off, it’s there for the making. 

With the app, you can also record your rides. More advanced than, say, Strava, it doesn’t just track route, speed, and elevation, but it uses your phone’s accelerometers and other telemetry to track lean angle through turns, acceleration and more. This could actually help you learn to be a better rider.

The bike is always connected through a cellular connection, so you can opt to share information with the engineers to help them make improvements (some of which can come over the air), and can even help let you know if someone moves your bike and find it if they do.

WHO IT’S MADE FOR

Though the SR/S is easy for a beginner to ride, it’s a lot of bike for that. In Eco mode, it’s very controllable. In Sport, it’s a handful. This is a good commuter bike for riders who want a thrilling ride to work and something to play in the hills. The silence makes it great for city riding. 

THE RIDE

First things first, the acceleration is intoxicating. Even in Eco mode, the torque shoots you off the line pretty quick. Carving the canyon twisties, with nothing but a tiny whine from the motor and wind in the face shield, is unreal on this machine. Putting it in Eco mode is great for this. When you roll off the throttle, the regen kicks in aggressively and slows you down without tapping the brakes. It makes it very easy to control speed, and using it on the long descent we were able to put 2-percent charge back into the battery without ever touching the brakes.

Acceleration in Sport mode is like riding in a video game! You can get to any speed you want in an instant. Between the bike’s traction control and 516-pound weight (with that battery weight making up a most of that), the front wheel doesn’t come up easily.

A wider view of the motor shows its position on the swingarm pivot, the integration of the battery into the frame and the adjustable rear shock.

 

The fairing is claimed to add up to 13-percent more range to the bike. We didn’t notice that much of an increase when tucked in, but since the only thing you hear when you’re at highway speeds is the wind in your helmet, there’s a noticeable drop in wind noise. 

When used as a work commuter, the bike consumed 33 percent of the juice in the battery, which was not bad for 39 miles over two mountain passes. 

While I was at the office, I got to try the wall charger for the first time. It was when we first charged the bike at the office that we discovered that the thick charge cable takes up most of the storage space under the “gas tank.”

When it came time to test the upper reaches of the speedometer on the way home, we quickly realized that the personal mode we had created limited the bike to 75 mph, so we exited the freeway to change modes. What we found out later was that you can shift modes on the fly, but you have to close the throttle first. Punching in the stock Sport mode made all the difference when we re-entered the freeway. Zero claims the bike has a 160-mile range (city only), but our best guess is that on average the SR/S gets closer to a 100-mile range for city and freeway use.

THE VERDICT

The SR/S is the pinnacle of what Zero has long been working towards. In both performance, finish quality and price, the SR/S marks a dramatic step away from the now-dated (but still available) FXS model that sells for $8,995.

 Although it may cost a bit up front, but you’ll amortize that quickly with the lower cost of electricity versus gas and lower maintenance costs. In terms of amortizing the price, we also think the time savings (roughly 6–8 hours per week) found with the Premium model versus the Standard bike (and yes, the heated grips!) are worth the added $2,000. However, for us, the nearly $3,000 tab for the Power Tank that delivers an extra 11 miles is laughable.

You may want to consider putting in a charge station at home to make life easier, but your mileage may vary and you might be able to live with an overnight charge from a 110-volt outlet. Zero offers a two-year warranty on the bike and five-year warranty on the power pack. Also, check your state, because they may have a rebate to make ownership a little cheaper. There’s a $750 rebate in California.

SPECS

ZERO MOTORCYCLES SR/S PREMIUM

Price: $19,995 ($21,995 as tested)

Motor: ZF75-10, interior
permanent magnet

Battery:  Z-Force Li-Ion intelligent integrated, 14.4 kWh

Charge time: 2 hours (level 2), 8-10 hours (110V)

Top speed: 124 mph (electronically limited)

Range: 80–150 miles

Drive: HTD Carbon belt

Brakes: Bosch Advanced MSC, dual J-Juan radial 4-piston calipers with radial master cylinder, 320 x 5mm discs (front), Bosch Advanced MSC, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5mm disc

Controls: Zero

Fork: 43mm Showa with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping, 120mm travel

Rear shock: Showa piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping. 140mm travel

Frame: Zero steel trellis  

Tires: Pirelli Diablo Rosso III, 120/
70-17 (front), 180/55-17

Weight: 503 lb. (516 lb. as tested)

Color choice: Cerulean Blue or Skyline Silver

www.zeromotorcycles.com

THE CITY BIKE COMPARO

Choosing between two bikes that are a breed apart for the same task at hand 

  

In this issue we’ve reviewed the Trek Allant+ 9.9S and the Zero SR/S. Both great bikes to commute to work on. Both fun to ride. But, could they be any more different? With the EBA office equally filled with cyclists and motorcyclists, there was actually a big debate on which bike would rate as the optimum commuter.  

Though they both have a motor, the Trek requires pushing the pedals, while the Zero asks only that you twist your wrist. The Trek weighs in at 51.5 pounds, and the Zero weighs almost exactly 10 times as much. The Trek gives you electric assist up to 28 mph, while the Zero has an electronic limit of 124 mph. Like zebras to giraffes and apples to oranges, any comparison between the Trek and Zero seems nonsensical. But, in a way, it isn’t. 

THE TASK AT HAND

If you’re looking for a bike to get you to work, both are a great option. Both have limited carrying capacity so it’s likely you’ll need to carry a backpack.  Both can get you to work without a sweat. Both enjoy a modern, eye-pleasing aesthetic. Both can park in places that cars can’t. Both are fun to ride and get you out in fresh air. Both can split lanes between congested cars, which makes them more efficient in traffic. Both have connected features that you can use to improve your performance.

 

“Any comparison between the Trek and Zero seems nonsensical. But, in a way, it isn’t.”

 

Well, then, we have to look at where they’re not the same. How about the recreation side of things? Let’s face it, you’re not buying one of these bikes just to get to work. You’re going to ride it for fun, to get out, to explore. Both of these bikes can do that quite well yet very differently. You’ll be cruising the bike path on the Trek, where on the Zero you’ll forever be chasing the perfect ribbon of pavement.

The Zero SR/S costs an order of magnitude more than the Trek Allant+—more than three times as expensive. But, does it have three times the potential? The Zero has to have some level of charge to move, and the Trek, with a range of roughly 50 miles, can still be ridden with the motor off. With the Trek, you can also carry an extra battery with you for more range. The SR/S has to be charged every 100 miles or so.

THE VERDICT

Unless you have the money to buy both, how do you choose? If you’re in it purely for a non-ICE mode of transportation, we think the ultimate decision is harder to make than initially appears obvious.

Obviously, if you don’t want to spend $20 grand on an electric motorcycle, the Trek is an easy answer. It will cost less to operate, and no special license or registration is required to ride it. But, really, the Zero’s usage is much more expansive. Both should be dependable, reliable transportation for years if taken care of. Neither will need a ton of maintenance, likely just small things, like tires and brake pads.

However, if you’d rather ride on bike paths and in bike lanes, the Allant+ is more your speed. If you want the thrill of the wind flying past your helmet, the SR/S is the obvious option. Both can get you to work, and both can be fun
after work. You know which one we like better? Having both.


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