Riding the Zero DSR quickly turned me into a child. Laughing hysterically as I sneaked through traffic and by unsuspecting pedestrians, getting a kick out of the shocked faces on these innocent bystanders was one of the first reasons I enjoyed the Zero DSR, the second involved the R part of its model designation. I came for the ninja-like stealth, but stayed for the claimed 116 lb-ft of torque. Any time there was dirt in sight, a patch of gravel, an unbordered planter in a parking lot, I would bee-line for it, lighting up that rear tire quicker than the aforementioned innocent bystander could shield themselves from the dust. I’d like to say I’m sorry to the man in that car at the Rose Bowl parking lot who endured a large cloud of dust blowing into his open car windows.
Yeah, I didn’t do anything to elevate the public’s view of motorcycling that day, but I did realize I needed to get the DSR off of the pavement and away from the throngs of pedestrians that so densely populate the LA basin. Somewhere where I could no longer be a threat to clean car interiors and honest Starbucks-going civilians. Why? Because the performance of the 2018 Zero DSR is the little red electric motorcycle on my shoulder telling me to go for it, to do it, and the little responsible white one is nowhere to be found.
The 2018 Zero DSR has a higher output 775-amp motor controller (compared to the non-R model’s 550-amp controller), paired with an upgraded Z-Force motor with higher temperature magnets (again, compared to the non-R model without the high-temp magnets) which, if you hadn’t already put it together, is fast. Real fast. The claim is 70 hp which is respectable, but the 116 lb-ft of torque is the ringer. While somewhat soft on the initial twist even in Sport mode – programmed this way to prevent loopage – once you get into the meat and potatoes of the throttle and the torque starts building, it does so quick and unapologetically, as if saying, you asked for this, now hold on.
With Sport mode giving you everything the motor has to offer, you can also tone down the performance and boost your mileage by using Eco mode, limiting top speed to 70 mph and reducing torque. Of course, if you find those two modes too far apart and are looking for your own goldilocks setting, there’s an app for that! The third and final mode is the Custom setting which allows you to set your own preferences of max torque, top speed, max regen, and max regen brake via the Zero Motorcycles app on your smartphone. Once connected to the motorcycle, the bike collects the data and changes the Custom mode to the parameters you’ve set. If you switch off the motorcycle and turn it back on and your phone doesn’t connect, the motorcycle will retain the last settings it had for the Custom mode.
The DSR only comes with one battery option, which is the 102 V, 14.4kWh (12.6kWh nominal), ZF14.4. You do have the option of adding the accessory Power Tank for a paltry $2,895 to increase capacity by 3.6 kWh. The ZF14.4’s range is claimed at 163 city miles and 78 highway miles (if you maintain a constant 70 mph). Though recently, after leaving the house with a full charge, a 16-mile round trip that included almost entirely freeway miles, saw an 82% battery level upon my return home. That mileage equates to over 80 miles of range at speeds well above 70 mph, assuming the gauge works consistently. As usual, your mileage may vary.
When it comes time to charge up, the Zero includes a charging cable tucked away into a nice round hole in the swingarm, allowing for easy charging from your typical U.S. 120 V outlets. Charge time from a household outlet is rated at 9.3 hours for a 0-95% charge and 9.8 hours for 0-100%.
Of course, why spend all that time waiting when you have the option of purchasing the accessory Charge Tank? For $2,295 this upgrade will allow you to use Level 2 (220 V) charging stations while you’re out and about or if you own an electric automobile and have had the system installed. Zero claims the charge is up to 6x faster with the Charge Tank allowing for a full charge in 2.5 hours and a 0-95% charge in 2 hours. It should be noted however, you will have to choose whether you want faster charge capability or more range since you can’t outfit both the Charge Tank and Power Tank to the same motorcycle. Of the two, we’d choose the Charge Tank option. Mainly because the Power Tank adds a nearly 50-lb battery far away from the bike’s center of mass, and also because the Charge Tank is more useful in everyday situations.
Riding the Zero is a different experience for sure, but it’s not so different from a typical ICE bike. It doesn’t take long before you’ve forgotten all about the lack of shifting and clutching, though I still find myself reaching for ghost levers now and then. The DSR offers a neutral riding position and a 31.8-inch tall wide seat that is all day (or 70-163 miles) comfortable. Since this is the “dual-sport” model, you get large footpegs that look like they should be on my adventure bike. While the footpegs offer ample grip and surface size, the DSR doesn’t have much ground clearance and could benefit from bar risers if you plan on standing for any amount of time. Keep the off-roading limited to smooth fire roads and you’re in for a treat as the Pirelli MT 60s offer pretty good grip in dusty, gravelly conditions and the torque will have you breaking the rear end loose and looking like Jared Mees around every corner.
The Zero DSR offers 7-inches of travel from its fully adjustable Showa suspension both front and rear, though with roughly 8-inches of ground clearance, you’ll want to select the curbs you jump off of carefully. Speaking of jumping, I was also told there is a specific technique to jumping the DSR because you can easily break the Poly Chain HTD Carbon belt that drives the rear wheel. As if you needed another reason to stay tame during your off-pavement excursions, those gorgeous 19-inch front/17-inch rear gold- anodized cast wheels probably won’t be up to the kind of hits high-speed off-road riding dishes out. We’ve been unable to weigh the 2018 model, but it should fall in somewhere around the 452-pound mark of the similarly equipped 2016 model we weighed a few years ago.
Braking components are provided by the Spanish company J.Juan. J.Juan components have been used and tested in Moto2, however, these units don’t quite perform to that caliber. On the front, the DSR uses a single 320mm disc with a dual-piston floating caliper with Bosch Gen 9 ABS tech. Despite having a steel-braided line, brake feel at the lever was fairly squishy, but still got the bike slowed after a firm squeeze. A single 240mm rotor is used on the rear with a single-piston floating caliper. Though they didn’t feel overly strong on the street, the Spanish braking bits were just fine off-road once we disabled the ABS.
On canyon roads, I was told the Pirelli MT 60s provided a surprising amount of grip for sport riding. Of course any tire you put on this torque-beast likely won’t last long whether you’re carving your favorite canyon roads or blasting down the trails, 116 lb-ft of oomph is serious business. But hey! Maybe you’re not as ham-fisted as some of us and you’ll be just fine.
As tested, our 2018 Zero DSR rings up for $18,790 which includes the $2,295 accessory Charge Tank. That’s a pretty penny, but considering the time and money you save on gas and maintenance, maybe it’s worth it? Many states offer incentive programs to help lessen the financial blow and the U.S. also has a federal tax credit up to $2,500, though 2018 models are not yet eligible. It took me two days with the DSR to start having visions of ownership. Get out and ride one and let us know what you think.
|2018 Zero DSR Specifications|
with Charge Tank: $18,790
|Motor Type||Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent hi-temp magnet, brushless motor|
|Controller||High efficiency, 775 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration|
|City||163 miles |
with Power Tank: 204 miles
|Highway, 55 mph||98 miles |
with Power Tank: 122 miles
|» Combined||122 miles |
with Power Tank: 153 miles
|Highway, 70 mph||78 miles |
with Power Tank: 97 miles
|» Combined||105 miles |
with Power Tank: 132 miles
|Peak torque||116 ft-lb (claimed)|
|Peak power||70 hp at 3500 rpm (claimed)|
|Top speed (max)||adjustable to 110 mph (claimed)|
|Top speed (sustained)||90 mph (claimed)|
|Power pack||Z-Force Li-Ion intelligent integrated|
|Max capacity||14.4 kWh |
with Power Tank: 18.0 kWh
|Nominal capacity||12.6 kWh |
with Power Tank:15.8 kWh
|Charger type||1.3 kW, integrated|
|Charge time (standard)||9.8 hours (100% charged) / 9.3 hours (95% charged) |
with Power Tank:12.1 hours (100% charged) / 11.6 hours (95% charged)
|» With Charge Tank option||2.5 hours (100% charged) / 2.0 hours (95% charged)|
|» With one accessory charger||5.7 hours (100% charged) / 5.2 hours (95% charged) |
with Power Tank: 7.0 hours (100% charged) / 6.5 hours (95% charged)
|» With max accessory chargers||2.8 hours (100% charged) / 2.3 hours (95% charged) |
with Power Tank: 3.3 hours (100% charged) / 2.8 hours (95% charged)
|Input||Standard 110 V or 220 V|
|Transmission||Clutchless direct drive|
|Final drive||90T / 20T, Poly Chain HTD Carbon belt|
|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 inches|
|Rear suspension travel||7.03 inches|
|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|
|Wheelbase||56.2 in (1,427 mm)|
|Seat height||33.2 in (843 mm)|
|Trail||4.6 in (117 mm)|
|Curb weight||419 lb (claimed) |
with Power Tank: 463 lb (claimed)
|Equivalent fuel economy (city)||433 MPGe|
|Equivalent fuel economy (highway)||206 MPGe|
|Standard motorcycle warranty||2 years|
|Power pack warranty||5 years/unlimited miles|