2019 Zero DSR

Editor Score: 86.75%
Engine 18.75/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 10/10
Brakes 7.75/10
Instruments/Controls3.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 8.25/10
Value 7.75/10
Overall Score86.75/100

Funny thing about electric motorcycles: if you’re already an early adopter of the technology, the name Zero Motorcycles is all too familiar. If you still think electrics are as evil to the motorcycling landscape as Jar Jar Binks was to Star Wars… well, you might as well stop reading here. No matter where you stand, the staying power of Zero Motorcycles is hard to ignore. For over 13 years, Zero has been leading the way in electric motorcycle technology, and its staying power has seen it outlast all its competitors. For 2019, Zero is further staking its claim as the leader in electric motorcycle technology, perhaps bracing itself for the arrival of the Harley-Davidson Livewire in 2020.

For starters, the entire 2019 lineup sees some changes. There are bold new graphics, of course, with the street line getting darker colors and the dirt line covered in shades resembling sand, differentiating the two lines for their intended purpose. Improvements in battery chemistry and firmware technology have resulted in 35% more power and 8% higher top speed for the base model Zero S and DS with the ZF7.2 battery. For the up-spec S and DS with the ZF14.4 battery, the improved battery chemistry (same as the chemistry seen on the R models) means the 2019 gets 10% more capacity than last year.

It’s evolution over revolution when it comes to Zero’s 2019 lineup, with the DSR getting elevated to flagship status.

With the advancement in battery technology comes the advancement (and hopefully standardization) of charging options. In 2018, Zero introduced the Charge Tank option, which fits a 6kW charging module to S/DS models, and accepts J1772 plugs typically seen at Level 2 charging stations. For 2019, this accessory is now backwards compatible to 2015 models and can be installed at the dealer level. With this option, owners of the ZF7.2 S or DS models can then refill their bikes to 95% within one hour.

The R&D team at Zero spends a lot of time studying customer feedback on real world usage of their motorcycles. It’s through this feedback they learned many customers leave their motorcycles plugged to the wall as they store them away for the winter. The logic seems sound, especially if you come from an internal combustion background: leave the battery on the trickle charger while in storage so it’ll be ready to go once the riding season is back.

Here’s the thing, according to Brian Wismann, VP of Product Development at Zero – Lithium-Ion batteries don’t like being at full states of charge for extended periods of time. Over the long-term this can degrade the batteries. Hence, the software team developed new patent pending firmware for the entire 2019 range called Long Term Storage Mode. If, after 30 days, the motorcycle has not gone through an ignition cycle (turning the key on), it will automatically discharge some of the battery to place it at roughly 60% full. There’s nothing the owner needs to do, and the bike will automatically wake up and revert to normal once they key is turned back on.

Maybe the best news for 2019 is a zero dollar increase in price for the new models over last year.

The new flagship

With experience also comes sales numbers, which show the on/off-road-capable Zero DSR slightly outselling its more street-biased SR sibling. As such, Zero has appointed the DSR the flagship of the lineup. From a mechanical standpoint, the DSR doesn’t change from the 2018 model Ryan reviewed earlier this year – and why should it change? The ZF14.4 battery is still mated to the Z-Force 75-7R, 775-amp motor, cranking out 116 lb-ft of torque. Showa long-travel suspension, Pirelli MT-60 tires, and J.Juan braking components all return for 2019 to try and harness all that torque.

Aesthetically, however, the DSR does get a few key things. First, it’s hard to ignore the Caldera Metallic paint job. The metallic-brown really pops in the sunlight, and when partnered with the gold wheels, the DSR really looks good. Further, Zero noticed its customers typically add the windscreen, tank grips, hand guards, and 12v power socket from the accessories catalog to their DSRs, so for 2019 all those accessories are now standard on the bike.

A hardcore ADV bike the DSR is not, but if exploring backroads is more your speed, the DSR can handle more than you think.

Much of our time with the DSR in the past has largely been focused on road riding. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn the 2019 model behaves much the same way on the road. The massive amount of torque, available instantly, is still a rush to the senses. However, having the windscreen as standard equipment is a nice touch to divert some of the wind away from the rider’s chest and head. The handguards, too, are another nicety, as broken levers in a tipover is never fun and the little added wind protection over the hands on cold rides is also welcome.

We’ve mentioned before how, as a commuter, the S/DS platform is more than ready to tackle the daily grind. There’s more than enough juice in the ZF14.4 battery to handle most commutes, and whether you charge with the standard on-board charger or the 6kW Charge Tank accessory, you should be able to make it back home, too. Of course, being definitive is difficult with electrics, as riding habits and riding distances vary greatly. If you don’t get the Charge Tank accessory, having a cavernous, lockable storage space is especially convenient. The fact still remains, however, that long-distance touring is not what a Zero – or any electric, at least so far – is meant for.

Since we’ve already covered the DSR on the road, Zero gave us a small taste of what the DSR could do once the pavement ends. As part of a 53-mile ride on its recent introduction of the 2019 DSR, approximately 80% of it was through trails and dirt roads. None of the sections were particularly challenging (other than getting used to instant wheelspin in the dirt if you get greedy with the throttle), but that was the point; Zero’s new tagline is “Effortless Adventure,” with electric motorcycles opening up a new world of exploration for those who may not necessarily be interested in motorcycles otherwise.

If you simply want to get lost on two wheels and don’t want to be confined to paved roads, the DSR comes into its element. Without a clutch or gears, more of your attention goes towards the ride. And with the near silent operation of an electric motorcycle, there’s a serene quality that comes with exploring nature without disrupting it; animals hardly notice you’re there, and you can actually hear the birds chirping as you move along. To be clear, the DSR is completely out of its element if attacking Hard Enduro is the plan (the lack of a clutch makes it near impossible to pop the front wheel over obstacles), but a moderate dual sport ride certainly isn’t out of the question – that is what the D and S stand for, after all.

A skilled adventure rider I am not, but that is exactly why the DSR was a great companion during our ride. Nerves gave way to enjoyment as the motorcycle underneath me was so easy to ride. After 53 mixed miles, hooning it as often as I felt comfortable, the battery was still showing 44% charge. However, others on our ride – more accomplished ADV riders – had their battery levels down to the teens. If ever the phrase “Your mileage may vary” applies, this is it. At $16,495 before incentives and/or rebates, the Zero DSR is a great bike – for a specific kind of rider. It’ll still take a while before electrics truly become mainstream, but early adopters and technophiles fear not; Zero’s constant refinement of its products is a benefit to you.

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