2016 Zero DSR 10th-Anniversary Edition Review
Long on fun, short of leash.
I really like these things. Riding a Zero FX along a babbling brook and over some granite outcroppings a few years ago while hearing the water gurgle and the birds chirp was a come-to-Jesus moment that showed me the potential of silent running and instant torque. But I haven’t spent any time on electric bikes since that one.
So it was swell when TJ Aguirre dropped this brand new 10th Anniversary Zero DSR off at the manse about a month ago. The new-for-`16 DSR gets Zero’s high-po motor – rated at 106 lb-ft of torque and 67 horsepower – and the 10th Anniversary model sweetens that with special paint and graphics, new Charge Tank, red-striped wheels, tall windscreen, handguards and rear rack mount; (Troy laid out all the 2016 DSR specifics here back in January.) The regular DS remains in the line-up too, rated at 68 lb-ft and 54 hp.
I had visions of idyllic rides to the top of Saddleback Mountain, 5,687 feet above yon blue Pacific, a pleasant little ride I’ve done a bunch of times on dual-sporty ICE motorcycles.
Sadly, about 25 miles into that ride and only about 5 or 6 miles up from where the road goes from paved to gravel to dirt, the DSR was showing 60% charge remaining and it was obvious there was no way it was going to make it to Santiago Peak and then all the way home, so we turned around and settled for a cheeseburger at Cook’s Corner instead. Dangit. Um, I didn’t realize it was such long a ride out there. Seems like our back yard, almost.
This swell new 10th Anniversary DSR comes with the new Charge Tank (a $1988 option), which is supposed to allow you to get a 50% charge in an hour or so via its new J1772 plug.
Unfortunately, there are no charging stations in the places where the DSR’s looks make me want to ride it. Charging stations are springing up like wildfire everywhere, but not on dirt backroads. ( Plugshare has an app that will lead you to the nearest charging station; Chargepoint claims to be the world’s largest and most open electric-vehicle charging network, with nearly 30,000 charging stations around the world and more on the way. According to the US Department of Energy, there are 35,548 charging stations in the U.S.)
Which is a shame really, because the DSR is pretty fun to ride back in there. All-way adjustable Showa suspension units provide 7 inches of nicely damped travel at either end, you get nice wide toothy footpegs and handguards, and it’s good to pick your way through the potholes and rocks as slow as you want without a clutch, an engine, or any noise whatsoever except a slight whir. Traction control is all you, but the electric motor delivers the juice so linearly it feels like an electric motor. Wait… seriously, it’s really easy to ride, with no spikes of power to break traction unless you want to by giving the throttle a more serious twist, and you can turn the ABS off if you must. You can also adjust torque and power output, along with top speed and regen effect by linking the Zero up to your smartphone via a free app.
The DSR, however, isn’t much like the FX I last rode. The official MO scales have our 10th Anniversary bike with Charge Tank at 452 pounds (33 lbs more than Zero’s claim for the 429-lb base DSR), where the FX weighs just 289 lbs (also Zero’s weight). Basically the DSR is more “Adventure” than “Dual-sport,” and most riders aren’t going to want to tackle any truly challenging trails on it. Which is just as well, since it probably can’t get to many. Then again, it depends. If you were at a remote campsite with an RV hookup, or a remote RV with a generator, then you could go places…
Zero’s website says our bike, the DSR with Charge Tank, should do 95 miles “combined” (70 mph cruising and city driving combined), but when I rode around to throw her on the scales at MotoGP Werks the next day riding aggressively, I went from 51% charge to less than 0% in just 36 miles (thankfully the DSR keeps going for a few miles past 0). You could do better if you were easier on the “gas,” and maybe the typical Zero buyer would be. Using the bike’s ECO mode slows acceleration enough that you barely keep up with the automobiles, and I only used it long enough to learn to avoid it.
The problem with trying to hypermile the DSR is the way it slingshots away from lights; it’s crack-pipe addictive. It’s fun to silently blast away from a line of slack-jawed car drivers, taking full advantage of the bike’s progressive and powerful 106 lb-ft of torque. I never went faster than 90 on it (Zero says top whack is 98), but the way it gets there is a hoot, and so is roll-on power from 60 mph or so on the freeway: WHOOOOOOSH!! Suspension that’s calibrated a bit stiff for slow off-road riding feels really good, firm, and well-damped when giving it all the electrons you can muster on pavement, and the Zero’s standard ergonomics/ dirtbike stance and dual-sport Pirelli MT60s encourage excessive speed. Relative to other traffic.
It all adds up to a really very sporty and stealthy motorcycle. The problem is that when you ride the Zero the way it wants to, no, needs to be ridden, your (okay, my…) mileage is substantially less than Zero’s claims. According to procedures developed by the SAE and run on a dyno to give consumers a good apples-to-apples number for comparison, the DSR is supposed to be good for 147 miles in “City” driving, a test of low-speed stop-and-go riding with one brief burst up to 55 mph. Maybe the “City” is Manhattan? The full SAE testing procedure can be seen here.
Zero’s Sean McLaughlin says the “70 MPH Highway, Combined” rating in its specs is the one Zero’s own in-house numbers usually most resemble, which is a test cycle consisting of about half highway cruising and half city driving, and in which speeds never go above 70 mph. In it, the DS is supposed to go 95 miles on a charge. For me, it’s more like 80 miles `til dead battery do us park – though maybe the Zero’s charge gauge is as pessimistic as the Ducati Multistrada’s fuel gauge?
I rode it around the block a few times after the meter was reading 0% charge and it still seemed to have plenty of juice. Then I rode it up and down the street a few times and it still had juice… then I decided it was a hot day and I didn’t want to push it at all, and parked the Zero in the garage and plugged it back in, having covered 82 miles.
Plugged into your everyday 110V outlet, the battery’s fully charged again in 8 or 9 hours, having sucked up about $1.46 worth of electricity on average. Our 10th Anniversary edition also came with Zero’s optional Charge tank ($1,988), which lets you plug into the increasingly ubiquitous J1772 Level 2 charging station that can cram in a 50% charge in an hour, says Zero – that’s a pretty good bump in the time it takes to drink a non-fat soy caramel latte and catch up on Instagram. A full charge from zero requires a claimed 2.9 hours, according to Zero.
If you’re the gregarious type like Sir Alan Cathcart, who was just in the States to ride Zeros to Monterey a couple months ago, the Zero’s just the excuse you need to stop every hour, have a nice cuppa tea, and make new friends. Charging stations really are sprouting up all over.
Personally, to quote Eddie Murphy, I ain’t got that kind o’ time. I actually love the DSR riding experience, but anytime the distance of where I needed to go was the least bit in question, it stayed plugged into the garage while I hopped on the Honda NC700X instead – which you know will go 180 miles on lately about $8 of gas, though admittedly not in as amped-up a fashion as the Zero. That would likely change if I grew familiar with charging stations near the places I frequent.
And If you had an old-fashioned 9-to-5 daily commute, the Zero would be an awesome choice, particularly if you had an ICE bike in the garage for longer hauls. Plugging in your bike becomes as normal as plugging in your phone, and you do feel smug every time you pass a gas station. I’d feel even smugger plugging in at work…
For the Zero buyer, though, it’s really not about the money – and gas would have to get really expensive to change that. A lot of people just like the tech and being early adopters, a lot of people just like being green – possibly for no other reason than to tick off all the angry haters who can’t ever not point out that electricity comes from burning fuel, which would be a big incentive for me personally. Well, plenty of electricity now comes from solar, especially in places like hippy-dippy ground zero Santa Cruz, California, where we hereby offer up our official MO congratulations to Zero on its tenth anniversary and wish it many happy returns. (And California just passed SB 32 yesterday; one of its aims is to lower emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.)
If you’re a multi-motorcycle household looking for a short hopper/commuter, the Zero’s a fantastic choice. If you can only have one bike, though, the lack of range remains a dealbreaker. And if you really wanted our 10th Anniversary bike, the deal’s already broken anyway since Zero only made, and already sold, all 50 of them. Not to worry, they’ve got plenty of base-model DSRs starting at $14,395 (after your $1600 federal tax credit!).
2016 Zero DSR 10th Anniversary Edition
- Twist and go fast
- Linear, big power
- What could go wrong?
- Still range
- Great personality
- It doesn’t really need you as much as an ICE bike does
2016 Zero DSR 10th Anniversary Edition
|Motor Type||Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent hi-temp magnet, brushless electric motor|
|Controller||High efficiency, 660 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration|
|Fuel System||Electricity via 110 or 220V outlet, J1772 charge port|
|Front Suspension||Showa 41mm inverted fork; adjustable spring preload, rebound damping, compression damping; 7-in travel|
|Rear Suspension||Showa shock; adjustable spring preload, rebound damping, compression damping; 7-in travel|
|Front Brake||320mm disc, 2-piston caliper; standard ABS|
|Rear Brake||240mm disc, 1-piston caliper, ABS|
|Front Tire||100/90-19 Pirelli MT-60|
|Rear Tire||130/80-17 Pirelli MT-60|
|Rake/Trail||26.5°/ 4.6 in (117mm)|
|Seat Height||33.2 in|
|Curb Weight||452 lb|
|Fuel Capacity||No stinkin fuel|
|Colors||Metallic Black, 10th Anniversary graphics|
More by John Burns