Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to test a 2015 Zero DS (Dual-Sport) Motorcycle for a few days. What a blast we had! If you are used to riding traditional ICE motorcycles than, yes, you will miss the exhaust note, the vibrations and shifting through the gears. With the Zero, you get none of that, but as it turns out, that doesn’t detract from the riding experience at all. Actually, the fact that it is a near silent bike adds to the experience. We took the Zero DS to Bear Mountain in New York for some spirited riding and we had a great time.
Starting up the Zero DS
When you first get on a Zero bike, it feels awkward. You turn the key, flip the switch and then… nothing. No sound. No vibration. Just the dash that comes to life and a little green light, indicating that the bike is ready for action. Then you find yourself inadvertently reaching for the clutch and shifter, which of course don’t exist on the Zero. Duh! I caught myself ‘grabbing’ the clutch a bunch of times during the first few minutes riding this electric motorcycle. Eventually, you will realize that you can now focus entirely on riding the bike, because you only have the throttle and brakes to worry about.
Zen-like riding experience
Since you don’t have to think about shifting gears and there is no noise to distract you (the Zero does create some slight whirring noise as you speed up), the ride on the Zero becomes very focused, almost zen-like. So, I thought, what better place to go to than Bear Mountain State Park in NY. Bear Mountain connects to Harriman State Park and that whole area is beautiful. Winding roads and very good asphalt, for the most part at least, and an amazing scenery. Woods and lakes. Peace and quiet. Well, the Zero DS maybe quiet, but the way it devours mountain roads with its instant torque (68 ft-lb, 54hp) is anything but peaceful. It simply goes and the throttle response is instantaneous, which means you can focus on ripping up the turns and twisties. Like I said, I had a blast riding this bike. Anybody who thinks electric bikes are boring, please, try a Zero.
Riding position on the Zero
I found the overall riding position on the Zero DS to be quite good. I’m 6’4″ and had no trouble getting comfortable. Enough legroom. Pegs in the right place. No exhaust to burn your calf on, or to melt the sole of your boot. Handlebars are in the right spot. The only thing I didn’t care for much was the seat itself. It felt a little thin and I think on longer rides that may be an issue. Although with the limited range (104 miles in the city, 63 miles highway), you may never experience that anyway. With the Zero DS, I felt that you sit more on top of the bike, probably because there is no fuel tank. It felt very different for instance when compared to a Ducati Monster, where the seating position and high tank make you feel part of the bike.
Motor, brakes, and suspension
The twin spar frame is made from aluminum and is lightweight and stiff, resulting in a bike that handles well and is responsive to rider input. The Zero DS features the air-cooled Z-Force® 9.4 motor, which is very alert and powerful. The motor is almost silent and only creates a slight electrical whir as you pick up speed. The motor delivers 68 ft-lb of torque and 54 hp. The top speed is limited to 98 mph. The bike offers regenerative braking and comes standard with advanced Bosch anti-lock brakes (ABS). The Rear brake is a Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston with a 240 x 4.5 mm disc. Up front, you will find a single disc and dual piston Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan brake with a 320 x 5 mm disc. This is somewhat uncommon as most sporty naked bikes have two discs up front, especially in this price range. The Zero offers fully adjustable Showa suspension in the front and back combined with Pirelli MT-60 enduro tires. mounted to cast alloy wheels for a comfortable ride on the road and still providing plenty of grip when you go offroad.
Charging and range
The 2015 Zero DS we tested had an improved battery pack, the ZF9.4 (9.4 kWh) that can be charged with a regular 120v household outlet or with a level 2 (J1772) charger if you go for the Charge Tank option. Alternatively, you can choose the Power Pack option for an additional 3.6 kWh in battery capacity. The ZF9.4 I rode had a range of 63 miles of highway riding or 104 city riding. Of course in real life, the actual range heavily depends on your riding style.
The dashboard design is well laid out and easy to read in bright sunlight. Apart from speed, state of charge, power and torque output (or input through regenerative braking), you can select from three different riding modes: Eco, Sport and Custom. The Zero app, that you can download to your smartphone, gives you even more data, such as the time until charged, average watts per mile, total charge cycles and much more. When the bike is parked, the app allows you the change the custom mode for the bike. You can change things like top speed, maximum torque, regenerative braking. When you are out riding the app becomes an addition to your dashboard, providing you with more date.
The 2015 Zero DS ZF9.4 we rode had an original MSRP of a little over $13,000, which is still quite expensive when you take into consideration the limited range and the slow charging time that the bike offers. Of course, we tested a 2015 model and things have improved considerably since, with the just-released 2018 models offering both extended range and up to 6x faster charging times. We hope to review those soon! Still, the top Zero models max out around $18,000 when you include options such as the fast charger or additional battery. At that price point, many attractive European liter bikes come into play as well. The bottom line is that electric bikes are still a relatively new technology, with limited offerings (Tacita, Honda, Evoke, Alta Motors) and therefore they come at a premium. We expect batteries to decrease in price and to improve in performance (charge time and range), so electric bikes should become more attractive over time. For now, however, expect to pay extra for a Zero motorcycle, but rest assured that you are riding a very well-built, very fast and sporty naked bike. A motorcycle that showcases the latest technology offering you a maintenance-free powertrain and a zen-like riding experience.
Interested in a Zero Motorcycle but the MSRP for a new one is too steep? A quick search on Cycle Trader for 2015 models resulted in 6 2015 Zero S/SR motorcycles currently for sale (no DS). All of them priced below $10,000 and they all have the larger battery, the FZ12.5, which offers additional range versus the FZ9.4 we tested. This SR ZF12.5 seems particularly attractive at $8,990 and only 2,146 miles.
- Range ZERO DS zf9.4: City 104 miles (167 km), Highway, 55 mph (88 km/h) 63 miles (101 km), Combined 78 miles (126 km), Highway, 70 mph (112 km/h) 50 miles (80 km), Combined 68 miles (109 km)
- Motor: Max torque 68 ft-lb (92 Nm), Max power 54 hp (40 kW) @ 4,300 rpm, Top speed (max) 98 mph (158 km/h), Top speed (sustained) 80 mph (129 km/h), Acceleration, 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) 5.2 seconds, Type Z-Force® 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux permanent magnet, brushless motor, Controller High efficiency, 420 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration
- Power system: Est. pack life to 80% (city) 234,000 miles (377,000 km), Power pack Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent, Max capacity 9.4 kWh, Nominal capacity 8.3 kWh, Charger type 1.3 kW, integrated
- Charge time: (standard) 6.6 hours (100% charged) / 6.1 hours (95% charged), With one accessory charger 3.9 hours (100% charged) / 3.4 hours (95% charged), With max accessory chargers 1.9 hours (100% charged) / 1.4 hours (95% charged), Input Standard 110 V or 220 V
- Drivetrain: Transmission Clutchless direct drive, Final drive 130T / 28T, Poly Chain® GT® Carbon™ belt
- Chassis / Suspension / Brakes: Front suspension Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping, Rear suspension Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping, Front suspension travel 7.00 in (178 mm), Rear suspension travel 7.03 in (179 mm), Front brakes Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc, Rear brakes Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc, Front tire Pirelli MT-60 100/90-19, Rear tire Pirelli MT-60 130/80-17, Front wheel 2.50 x 19, Rear wheel 3.50 x 17
- Dimensions: Wheel base 56.2 in (1,427 mm), Seat height 33.2 in (843 mm), Rake 26.5°, Trail 4.6 in (117 mm)
- Weight: Frame 23 lb (10.4 kg), Curb weight 381 lb (173 kg), Carrying capacity 394 lb (179 kg)
- Economy: Equivalent fuel economy (city) 425 MPGe (0.55 l/100 km), Equivalent fuel economy (highway) 206 MPGe (1.14 l/100 km)
- Pricing: MSRP $13,345 (Does not include local shipping, applicable taxes, PDI, or road registration fees.)
- Warranty: Standard motorcycle warranty* 2 years, Power pack warranty* 5 years/100,000 miles
Would you consider owning a Zero? Or better yet, do you own a Zero Motorcycle already? Let us know what your experience has been like. Any surprises good or bad, we love to hear about it in the comments below?