Zero DSR (2018) electric motorcycle | Long-term reliability / practicality review

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

 

Graham Mudd – a member of Bennetts Rewards – commutes 50 miles every day. And he’s just bought an electric motorcycle. Over to you, Graham…

Zero Motorcycles has come a long way since its founding in 2006 by former NASA Engineer Neal Saiki. Starting with small electric motocross bikes with spindly frames and mountain bike suspension, the range has evolved into a full compliment of EV bikes with looks, performance and components you would expect of conventional machines. Now one of the big players in the emerging electric motorcycle market (the UK alone has 18 dealers) there’s growing awareness, and interest, in the products of the small California-based company.

The DSR (Dual Sport Racing) is the adventure bike in Zero’s line-up, with great claims toward it’s true on/off-road potential. As an owner of a Kawasaki Versys 650, one of the more road-oriented middleweight adventure bikes on the market, I’m interested to see how true Zero’s claims are.

I like adventure bikes for their pothole smoothing suspension, commanding road presence, playful nature and luggage-carrying capability. Will the DSR match the Versys’ ability or be a compromise too far? I’ll be honest and admit most of the DSR’s use will be for commuting rather than carving up Staffordshire’s countryside, but it will be good to find out where the balance lies.

Over the coming months I’ll be looking into all aspects of Zero ownership; build quality and running costs, commuting, (gentle) greenlaning, quick blasts, how it fares as a stock bike with a slow charger on longer trips and how easy it is to find somewhere to top up. I’ll also cover maintenance and what it’s like from a pillion perspective, but if there’s anything you’d like to know, feel free to ask in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer…

 

Quick links to Graham’s ownership experiences

“This is a big feature, but it’s honestly been eye-opening to read it all. I’d recommend settling down with a cuppa to enjoy it if you have the slightest curiosity about electric bike ownership, but if you want to skip to the sections your most interested in, you’ll find them here.” John, Consumer editor.

First impressions
Charge time
Commuting
Pleasure riding
Touring
Maintenance / running costs
Electric bike insurance cost
Do loud pipes save lives?
Owner’s verdict

 

For and against
  • The brutal torque delivery
  • Top notch suspension
  • Draws attention for being different
  • Sounding like a milk float in town
  • Range anxiety
  • Limited steering lock
Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

 

Zero DSR (2018) electric motorcycle: First impressions

My first ride on an electric bike was back in 2012 when my then-new Versys 650 was being serviced. The dealer lent me a Zero DS for the day; I didn’t really know what to expect but was very impressed with what then a novelty machine.

Fast forward eight years and I’m on the hunt for a practical new bike. Work is nearly 50 miles from where I live, so commuting almost 100 miles a day, all year, in all weather – often carrying a fair amount of kit – demands a lot from my bikes.

My Suzuki Burgman 650, in many ways the perfect long commuter with its heated sofa-like seat and weather-beating fairing, fell to a broken transmission and needed parts that cost more than the bike was worth. The Versys took the load for quite a while but needed servicing every six weeks, and as it passed the 45,000 mile mark the list of work it required doing was growing fast.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

There’s space in the tank for a lock, the charging cable and a few other bits and bobs

 

In the end my shortlist came down to a Royal Enfield Himalayan and Zero DS. As economical as the Enfield is, it was too underpowered for what I needed, which left the EV. I gave Streetbike in Halesowen a ring and as luck would have it they had a low-mileage 2018 DSR for the same price as a new, lower-spec DS. A couple of hours in the saddle cemented my decision and two weeks later I picked “Dizzy” up with a few practical bolt-ons, having a short wait for some parts to come from the States.

Writing this I’m three weeks in, and so far not regretting shelling out £11,000 one bit. Not even as a Yorkshireman.

Us bikers can be quite conservative, but with the semi-knobbly Pirelli MT60 tyres, high mudguard, decent ground clearance, tall seat and knurled footpegs with no rubber, this looks just like a ‘proper’ bike, with the reassuringly rugged appearance of any BMW or Honda equivalent. The main plastics aren’t flimsy (though the lowers are less rigid), the chassis is solid and the paint good.

Compared to the likes of Harley and Indian, which are mechanical Bruce Springsteen album covers, you’ll find it hard to find ‘Born in the USA’ anywhere, besides a tiny flag sticker on the tail and a subtle “Crafted in California” on the battery cover.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

The DSR's dash is old-school LCD, but it works

 

When Jason at Streetbike warned me, handing over the keys for the test ride, to be cautious opening the taps in Sport mode, I was dubious. I’d heard about instant power from standstill, some Facebook forum members joking about ‘getting one torque crash for free’ so I started in Eco mode to get used to the bike. A gentle Burgman 400-esque introduction to EV riding. The power is restricted, top speed is restricted to 70mph, regenerative braking (putting charge back in the battery when you close the throttle and apply the brakes) is maximised. Eco mode is still fun once it gets going, but it’s pretty sedate, purely for conserving battery and maximising range.

Then I found some empty dual carriageway and prodded the mode button to Sport. I was ill prepared for sport mode. I can’t think of any other bike I’ve ridden that has caught me so off guard. My friend Justin describes it well: “Its like being hit with a shovel. A big shovel. By Anthony Joshua.”

The DSR puts down more torque than a Kawasaki H2 or Ducati Superlegerra (116lb-ft vs 115 and 87.7 respectively). With no traction control. It’s hard to put into words how grin-inducingly addictive it is, but it drains your battery power like a bath plug hole. And get to 80 and it’s all over, the 70bhp leaving it feeling a bit breathless towards the (limited) 110mph top speed.

Electric bikes aren’t silent. Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly quieter than a Triumph Tiger with Arrow exhausts, but silent they are not. I’ll be frank, pulling away from lights, there is a whine that is distinctly milk floatish. Enough to draw surprised looks from pedestrians expecting something else. But you can still hear the rumble of the knobbly tyres on tarmac, the whir of the belt on the sprockets, the birds singing. But up the pace and the windblast is underpinned by a turbine-like screech. So not silent, and although I quite like the sound I imagine it isn’t to everyone’s taste.

 

What does the Zero DSR sound like?

Graham’s son grabs a quick clip of Dad’s new bike

 

The suspension front and back is fully adjustable Showa. On stock settings it performs well, which is apparently down to Zero catering for the average-sized American, which is closer to the average-sized Brit than the average-sized Japanese rider that many bikes are factory-set for. Both ends deal well with fast and bumpy road surfaces, which inspires confidence in the DSR’s solid handling. It also deals well with the abrupt power of Sport mode with little feeling of squat or the front going light. Nor do the forks dive excessively under hard braking.

On the one byway I’ve been down so far, the DSR felt sure-footed and controllable.

What does let the Zero down is the steering lock. An adventure bike needs a wide lock for nipping in and out of stationary traffic, between potholes and getting out of tight spots. With lock akin to a Fireblade, turning the Zero in a narrow space is reminiscent of Austin Powers.

The braking is taken on by J.Juan floating calipers. J.Juan is a top of the range Spanish outfit that makes components for Brembo and supplies Johnny Rea's Kawasaki World Superbike team. There’s only a single 320mm disc up front bitten by a twin piston caliper, but there’s plenty of power and feel.

The rear brake is a bit of a let-down though, the single piston caliper and 240mm disc lacking feel and needing a fair old stomp to generate any real stopping force. Braided hoses are standard all round and the Bosch Gen 9 ABS has two modes – on and off. It isn’t intrusive and I've yet to trigger the front, only getting the buzz from the rear when attempting to get it to step out off-road.

 

 

How far will the Zero DSR go and how long does it take to charge?

More than an internal combustion engine (ICE) bike, range is affected by weather, luggage, riding style and terrain. My 50-mile commute is mostly long stretches of fast, single carriageway and dual carriageway. On Eco mode (with some bursts of Sport for overtakes) I get to work with around 45% charge left, so at that rate would give a 90ish mile range. Riding super economically I reckon I can get it to 110 miles.

Riding only in Sport on the scenic (still 50-mile) route left me with 25%, so maybe 65 miles? Zero quotes 163 miles for urban range, which with all the regenerative braking is likely fairly accurate.

I stick the DSR on charge when I get to work at 08:30 and she’ll be fully charged just after lunch. I get home at 18:00 and she’ll be fully charged by bed time. Quoted flat to full  charge time is nine hours, but it doesn’t do the battery any good to run it completely flat. I’ve worked it out to be around 15% an hour.

That’s using the standard built-in charger, which has a kettle lead running from the left side of the frame to a regular electric socket. There are options to extend range or bring down charge times, but I'll explore these in a later instalment…

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

‘Free’ electricity from work juices Dizzy up for the ride home…

 

Can I commute on a Zero electric motorcycle?

Commuting is the bread and butter of all my bikes, and I spent the first few weeks getting to grips with how much range I could get out of each mode riding in different styles.

Once I realised that you can ride like a lunatic in sports mode the whole way and still have juice in the tank, range anxiety was gone. Of course, riding like a saint in Eco mode gets me the 50 miles or so to work with far more charge left.

I tend to use ‘Custom’ mode the most, and have set it up to give me a similar feeling to my Versys 650, which strikes a good balance between the frankly dull (but frugal) Eco mode and grin inducing yet battery-draining Sport mode.

Switching modes is the only thing I hate about the DSR; you have to be below 60mph and shut the throttle. So if you’re in Eco (because you need a bit more range) and want to overtake Doris doing 45 in a 60, you switch to Sport and zoom silently past. But then to switch back to Eco and stop draining your battery like a bath plug, you need to slow to 60 again.

Anyway, Dizzy is comfy enough for the hour jaunt to-and-fro as the ergonomics and seat are perfect for me; tall enough to see over traffic, but still able to get both feet down at the front of a queue, while the storage cubby can carry most of your daily commute tat, and the Givi panniers lug anything else I need for work.

The instant burst of speed available at the twist of the throttle, with no faffing about with gears or clutch, is a massive advantage filtering or bopping around town; you can dive for gaps or get away from the lights with minimum fuss, and it’s highly satisfying leaving the traffic behind with Zero (ha!) effort.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

The Zero SR/S that Graham borrowed from Streetbike has a flashier TFT dash

Where Dizzy can fall a bit flat is if you need to leave work early, which has only occurred a couple of times over the covid-19 lockdown period. If you’ve had a spirited ride in and arrived with 25%, and riding like a saint will need 60% to get home, if work says they don’t need you, you’re going to have to wait to get that charge up before you go. A bit frustrating, and not a problem you’d have with an ICE bike. Still, that 2.5 hour wait meant I could write this!

The DSR makes perfect sense as a commuter. Fairly comfy, more than enough legs to get you where you need to be, great visibility and road presence, buckets of readily-available oomph to get you through traffic, and simple to charge since you just plug it into a normal socket. An electric bike will also save you a small fortune in running-costs but I’ll come onto that later…

 

Can you have fun on an electric bike for pleasure riding?

It depends on where you go and how you ride. If your idea of a pleasure ride is going from Nottingham to Whitby for fish and chips via the Peak District (and to be fair that is my idea too), with only a standard/slow charger you can’t.

If you want to stay relatively local and hoon around roads you know, then a DSR can do that well. Helped by the trick suspension and low weight distribution, for a tall bike with a big front wheel the Zero handles really well when you want to up the pace. Some adventure bikes have a tendency to wallow in corners, but there’s none of that here.

Fast enough to keep up with pretty darn quick ICE bikes, with handling to match, Dizzy has never embarrassed herself riding in a group. Until you have to turn for home early to charge, rather than staying out late with the dinosaur-juice boys. But out my own, she’s never failed to entertain, and after every lap of my 36 mile test loop I come home grinning like an idiot.

One word of warning though. Be very careful how you unleash that instant torque delivery in the wet. The DSR has no traction control, no electronic safety net. While there are braver folk than me who would relish the opportunity to drift lazily out of every corner, you certainly wouldn’t be the first hapless EV bike owner to launch themselves into space or stuff themselves through a hedge. I’m still here, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Where the DSR comes into its own is in ADV territory. Smaller than a R1200GS, but with more poke and almost 50Kg lighter, I’m lucky to live in an area with tons of great single-track roads in the middle of nowhere with lovely views. Often they come with mud, gravel and grass growing up the middle. Sometimes the road runs out and becomes a track. This is where I like to roam and also where the Zero feels at home.

No more arrow exhaust annoying ramblers or scattering sheep for the hills. Horse riders stop to chat as you silently drift up to them. The horse doesn’t even bat an eyelid. Enid carries on pruning her hydrangeas without sparing you a glance as you glide past her front lawn.

It’s a surreal experience bimbling around the countryside on a bike and still being able to hear birdsong, but a thoroughly rewarding one. Doing this without having to feather a clutch or constantly bang up and down a gearbox (which is awkward if you’re stood up) means you have more ability to look around at the scenery and it feels a purer riding experience.

More akin to pony trekking on a bike than an enduro race.

I love it, the silence (bar the slight whirr of the belt and crunch of semi knobblies on gravel), ease of use and surefooted bad-surface handling are remarkable and something that needs to be tried!

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

If you do drop it off the beaten track (which you will), those crash bars do a brilliant job of protecting the bits that matter! 

 

Can you tour on the Zero DSR electric motorcycle?

Well, in my DSR’s guise, you can’t; it’s not so much about range as it is about charge time. Charging from flat to full with the 1.3kW Level 1 Slow AC onboard charger would take around 10 hours. Put there are options…

Option one: The most common upgrade is to fit a ‘charge tank’, which is a £2,300 dealer-fitted option that goes where the petrol tank would be (you lose the storage compartment) and gives Level 2 Fast AC charging.

At 6kW, you can fully charge in just over two hours using a ‘Mennekes’ lead of the type you see most commonly at service stations and increasingly at supermarkets. Service stations tend to be tethered, meaning they have a lead you plug straight into your bike. The rest tend to be ‘untethered,’ so you have to have your own lead going between the bike and the charge point.

Annoyingly, this cable doesn’t come with the charge tank and is an extra £140.

Option two: Zero also sells a £700 factory-approved accessory fast charger – the DeltaQ QuiQ – which significantly reduces charge time. These are ‘stackable,’ which means you can buy up to four and link them together to reduce the charge time even more. Each unit gives you an extra 1kW of charging on top of the bike’s standard 1.3kW, so one charger gives you a total of 2.3kW, which will fill the 13kW battery in 5.5 hours. Four chargers (£2,800) give you a total of 5.3kW, which will brim it in 2.5 hours.

Each charger needs its own separate mains outlet, so no four-way extension reels or you’ll blow a fuse.

While being bulky and weighing 5kg, most owners keep them mounted on the wall in the garage or at work, but some are fitted into panniers or strapped to the back seat!

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

The DeltaQ QuiQ plugs in via a port mounted in the most stupidly awkward place – in front and to the left of the back tyre. Why they couldn’t fit the plug in a logical place like, oh I don’t know, next to the existing charge port, I have no idea.

 

John Chivers was the first person to do Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) on an EV motorcycle, and the first to do Bottom to Top (Land’s End to Skaw on the Isle of Uist in the Shetlands – the UK’s most northerly point).

Streetbike in Halesowen lent him two DeltaQ chargers, which he fitted side-by-side into a large top box. The bike’s charger and the two quick chargers linked into a 32A multi socket that terminated in a Mennekes head. This meant he could charge flat to full in three and a bit hours. The “LEJOG” section took him four days, though he is keen to point out that it wasn’t a speed attempt, just to prove it could be done. I did “LEJOG” in 20 hours on my TDM850 in 2012, though to be fair my route was mostly motorway and John’s (staying on battery-preserving slower twistier roads) was much more pleasant and scenic!

 

Lands End to John o’Groats on an electric bike

Watch John Chivers show what can be done with an EV

 

Option three: This is best left to electrical engineers; remove the standard charger and install aftermarket AC units, the most popular being three 3.3kW Diginow chargers into the belly pan, giving you a total of 10kW and being able to charge flat to full in a little over an hour.

Now that is knocking on the door of viable touring; a chill out, maybe a power snooze, a wee, something to eat and drink.

That being said, it isn’t an easy job and you have to know what you’re doing. Getting it wrong could fry the chargers, the battery management system and the battery – none of which are cheap. Or worse fry your house or you!

None of these options are cheap. A charge tank is over two grand. A couple of DeltaQs with associated kit is approaching two grand. Three Diginows and linking bits is closer to three grand. Of the three, the charge tank is the most cost-effective and reliable option with the least amount of faff.

But fit one and the SR can tour. The stock seat, while fine for commuting, may be a bit hard for some. The optional touring seat is lovely but a bit pricy. Corbin makes a seat for the DSR that you can customise to your tastes and is even lovelier. But even pricier!

I think I’d want the touring screen rather than the dual sport screen, which causes buffeting, but apart from that the Zero is good to go.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

The pillion seat, although it looks fairly small and thin, (according to my wife) is actually very comfortable, with a good reach to the pegs and hand grips built into the seat unit. Just bear in mind that having a second person on the back will impact on your range.

 

The way you approach a tour has to be different. There is no bum in the air, chin on the tank dash down the autoroutes and autobahns to Italy. It just doesn’t work like that. Approach it more like touring on BSA A10s in the 1960s. Slow it down, enjoy the ride and the scenery. Stop frequently to have a look around (and charge).

You get to see more of places that way, rather than just as blurred flashes as you screech past on the motorway.

Where you stop is dependent on where you can charge; an overnight charge at a hotel is possible anywhere – it’s what you do in between. And for that I use an app. Actually lots of apps. The two main ones are Charge Map and Zap Map; basically a live list of where EV charge points are, what types, how many, if they’re in use and if they’re working. Some are even at people’s houses and the app puts you in touch with them for permission (and for a tiny fee) to use their domestic Level 2 charger to top up! I’ve got to admit, I’m not keen on the thought of rocking up at someone’s front door and announcing I’m there to steal their electrons!

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

Planning a route should be simple…

 

I’ve done some longer trips both on the Harley Livewire and on a Zero SRS that Streetbike kindly lent me so I could get a feel for electric touring. A back of a fag packet route, punch that into Zap Maps, see what’s en-route and set off. Easy as that. Or so you’d think. You quickly realise that Zap Maps is only as good as the companies or people feeding them the information.

Charge stations not working or occupied when it says they’re free (Nissan Leafs), or EV cars parked in charge bays all day while their owners are at work and are clearly on 100% (Nissan Leafs). On the Harley I even had a Nissan Leaf owner unplug me while I was on a break and plug into their car! So it’s not perfect.

You need to always have options – which basically means staying close to towns and cities. The problem as it stands isn’t the bikes, the charge times (well a bit) or the apps – it’s the current lack of reliable charging infrastructure. And Nissan Leafs.

Oh, the apps. Whereas with petrol, you turn up, fill up, pay and drive off; EV charging isn’t like that. Oh no. That is far too simple. So typically you park up, read the instructions because each provider is completely different, fire up the app for this given charge point (Ecotricity, Polar, Pod Point, Genie Point, Shell – the list is endless, but NOT Tesla) to which you’ll have already entered your personal and bank details at home and not stood in the rain, input the charge station number, wait for it to activate the station, plug in, confirm you’re charging and off you pop.

In theory.

Sometimes the Ecotricity app doesn’t work or doesn’t recognise the charge station (doubly frustrating as it knows where you are), the Polar app wont power up the charge station but will say it’s working or you’ll plug the bike in and the charge station doesn’t recognise the bike is plugged in. For Shell you need an RFID card.

Why, oh why, does it need to be so complicated? Why not just turn up, plug in, flash your contactless bank card and walk away like with petrol?

At least you get time to calm down while sipping your chai latte.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

Charging on the go isn’t as easy as it should be, even on this borrowed SR/S

 

What are the maintenance and running costs of an electric motorbike?

This, for me, is the main area that the DSR, and all EV bikes, have ICE bikes bent over a barrel. I’ll use my own case as a practical example…

  • 100 miles a day
  • 5 days a week
  • 46 weeks a year in all weather
  • Give or take 20,000 miles a year.

Here are my yearly internal combustion engine bike costs:

  • My Versys 650 does 150 miles to a tank at £20 a tank. So roughly £60 a week in fuel.
  • I need to do a minor service (oil and filter) every six weeks (3,000 miles) at £27.
  • Major service (oil and filter, Aair filter, spark plugs, check valve clearances, change coolant) twice a year at £61.
  • Chain and sprockets once a year – £150.
  • Road tax – £93.

So, doing all the work myself, that’s an annual total of £3,341. Nearer £5,000 if you get a garage to do it. I’ve not included tyres, brakes or MOT as these apply equally to the DSR so cancel each other out.

And here’s what it costs me to run my Zero DSR:

  • My Zero DSR costs £1 to charge at home and I charge for free at work. So £5 a week in electric.
  • No minor service.
  • No major service.
  • Belt lasts 40,000 miles.
  • No road tax.

An annual total of £230. Meaning I’m saving £3,111 (or £4,770 if you get a garage to do it) a year in running costs. This is offset by the initial cost of the machine, but after three years the bike is effectively paying for itself.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

Charging at work keeps my costs down, and it’s quicker with the optional DeltaQ QuiQ

 

It’s not just about the money, its time saved too. With no oil or grease or fuel I can adjust something on the DSR and not have black hands.

There are no nooks and crannies behind the engine for all the crap to accumulate and take an age to clean out (with shredded hands).

There are no down pipes or radiator to get covered with road crud that then bakes on and needs time-consuming cleaning – just a plastic cover that looks as good as new with a wipe over.

No exhaust that makes accessing the rear calliper or removing the rear wheel awkward.

It’s literally wash and walk away. And I like that as I much prefer riding my bikes to cleaning them!

There is also much less to go wrong with the powertrain of an EV like the Zero. An ICE engine and transmission has hundreds of precisely-engineered moving parts. Parts that wear over time.

The Zero Z-Force motor has one.

One single moving part. And no transmission; the motor directly drives the back wheel.

At its basic level an EV is delightfully simple. Electrons stored in the battery power the magnet and make the motor spin. Twist the throttle, more electrons give the magnet more power and the motor spins faster. With simplicity comes reliability – there is very little to go wrong. The battery is warrantied for five years, and if your range drops by 10% in that time, Zero will replace it. But there are quite a few Zero owners (of all models, not just the DSR) who have done well over 100,000 miles and haven’t noticed any real drop in range.

Imagine doing 40,000 miles (about as far as many ICE bikes seem to get used for) and all you needed to do was change tyres, brake pads and a belt. It’s a no brainer!

 

What does it cost to insure an electric motorcycle?

Both my bikes are insured with Bennetts. Fully comp, my 2012 Versys 650 is £94, while the Zero (bearing in mind it's £11,000 and only 2 years old) is £250 fully comp. I don't think that’s too bad looking at what some of my friends pay for their bikes. Bennetts weren't the cheapest, but managed to get near the cheapest quote and they made it a multibike policy. I quite like convenience [We genuinely didn’t ask Graham to say that].

That being said, you have to be careful with some insurers, especially when dealing with them over the phone; a few Zero owners have had entertaining conversations trying to explain how it’s an electric bike and it doesn't have and cubic capacity – you can get some outlandishly high, and low, quotes; one fairly well-known insurer quoted me £2,300!

As EVs become more well-known, I'm sure this knowledge will be incorporated, but for the time being… tread carefully.

 

Another fly-past

The Zero won’t offend anyone, but it’s not silent

 

Do loud pipes save lives?

Some riders get pretty passionate about the idea that electric motorcycles are dangerous because drivers won’t hear you coming.

But that’s not the case.

I've commuted on a lot of motorbikes over the years, including a race-tuned Bonneville with open pipes. Hand on heart, it makes no noticeable difference being relatively quiet – no more cars have pulled out on me or changed lanes than on any other bike I've commuted on.

I was part of a study with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and Department of Transport where a driver in a number of different cars with taped-up windows drove along a line on a closed runway.

They also had variations of silence, radio, music and phone conversations at differing volumes.

Us riders then had to approach on a variety of bikes at varying engine speeds with different exhausts; the driver had a button on the steering wheel that he pressed when he heard the motorcycle.

Even machines with apocalyptically loud exhausts were drowned out by AC/DC at moderate volume with the rider just ten feet behind the car when the driver heard him.

There have been dozens of similar studies over decades and every single one points to the same conclusion: loud pipes do not save lives. They annoy your neighbours when you set off for work at 5:30am and annoy folk enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.

It's better to rely on your own skill and make yourself more visible than rely on emission volume if you want to be safe.

 

Just how practical is a Zero DSR for someone who commutes 100 miles a day? Full long-term owner review of this electric motorcycle… does it have the range?

 

Owner’s verdict: Zero DSR electric motorcycle review

“If you’ve skipped the rest of this big article, please remember that it was written by a member of Bennetts Rewards who bought his own Zero, and we asked him to share his experience. There are many nay-sayers around electric motorcycles, but Graham makes a very compelling argument for them. Except that bit about charging.” John, Consumer Editor.

A bike of many talents, the DSR does most things exceptionally well. As a commuter it simply cannot be matched by ICE bikes; with its 90 mile mixed-mileage and 150 mile urban range it’ll get you to work (and back, a few times, unless you’re like me) with minimum fuss.

There’s no worrying about stalling at the lights or being in the wrong gear. It has the power to escape traffic in a heartbeat and instantly deliver you into spaces – while putting a grin on your face – while saving you time and money with zero maintenance while you’re doing it.

As a fun day bike it also takes a lot of beating. That instant surge whenever you open the throttle combines with top-notch suspension and brakes to make for an involving ride that always feels solid, stable and grin-inducing.

As an adventure bike, it has genuine off-road ability and is so ridiculously easy to ride on dirt a novice like me can go off-piste with little worry. Other countryside users (and urban dwellers, it has to be said) appreciate the lack of noise as you fly around the back roads.

Where it all goes a bit awry, in common with all EV bikes, is the charging time. There are options to significantly reduce this, but none of them are cheap. If you can afford the upgrade, the DSR is a viable long-distance machine, though you will have to approach touring with a different mindset.

With time, battery and charging technology will improve alongside an ever-expanding charging infrastructure, and EV touring will become the norm.

Still not convinced? Drop into a Zero dealer and try one. I guarantee it will surprise you how good they are! I bought my DSR purely as a practical choice. Now, after three months and 5,000 miles, I wouldn’t buy anything else.

 

 

2018 Zero DSR electric motorcycle spec

New price

From £15,490 (£11,300, used, as tested)

Capacity

0cc (13kW)

Bore x Stroke

N/A

Engine layout

Z Force 75-7R, Brushless, Air Cooled

Engine details

Radial flux, Interior Permanent Hi-Temp Magnet

Power

70bhp (52kW) @ 3,500rpm

Torque

116 lb-ft (157Nm) @ 0rpm

Top speed

105mph

Transmission

Clutchless direct drive, carbon belt

Average fuel consumption

435mpg equivalent claimed

Tank size

9.8 hours to charge 0-100%

Max range to empty (theoretical)

Urban 163 miles, mixed 105 miles

Reserve capacity

10%

Rider aids

Bosch Gen 9 ABS

Frame

Twin-spar aluminium

Front suspension

Showa 41mm USD

Front suspension adjustment

Preload, compression, rebound

Rear suspension

Showa 40mm with piggy-back reservoir

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload, Compression, Rebound

Front brake

320mm single disc, J.Juan twin piston floating

Rear brake

240mm disc, J.Juan Single piston floating

Front tyre

100/90 19 Pirelli MT60

Rear tyre

130/80 17 Pirelli MT60

Rake/Trail

26.5°/117mm

Dimensions

2110mm x 910mm 1300mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1427mm

Ground clearance

260mm

Seat height

840mm

Kerb weight

190kg

Warranty

2 Years unlimited mileage, 5 Years battery.

MCIA Secured Rating Not yet included

Website

www.zeromotorcycles.com/en-gb

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

Looking for bike insurance? Get a quote for this motorcycle with Bennetts motorbike insurance

 

Latest News from Bike Social

Latest News

  • 2021 r ninet thumb
    BMW R NineT range revamped for 2021
  • r18 classic thumb
    Official: 2021 BMW R18 Classic
  • tiger 850 sport thumb
    Triumph Tiger 850 Sport for 2021
  • mt09 teaser thumb
    All-new Yamaha MT-09 for 2021