The Mystery of the Zero DSR/X Adventure Bike

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Will the electric ADV be coming for 2023?

We’ve been waiting for news of a model from Zero called the DSR/X for nearly two years now. Despite trademark filings and vehicle identification filings, however, there’s been no indication from the Santa Cruz electric motorcycle brand about the mysterious model.

Regular readers know we love getting to the bottom of a good mystery here at MO. Thanks to some new VIN decoder documents from Zero, we have an idea of what to expect from the DSR/X.

What do we know about the Zero DSR/X?

Zero first filed a trademark application for “DSR/X” in August 2020 alongside another application for “FXE“. In May 2021, Zero filed a VIN decoder information with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listing the DSR/X and FXE along with a new SR.

The FXE made its debut two months later, and in November, Zero introduced the new SR, along with a Cypher III+ operating system and on-demand upgrades. There was nary a peep, however, about the DSR/X.

Before the end of the year, however, Zero submitted a new VIN decoder guide. The new decoder lists a DSR/X for “23MY+”, and adds further clues about the new model.

A VIN decoder submitted late last year suggests Zero will launch a DSR/X adventure model for 2023.

Starting at the top, we see Zero added a new “FSTX/Adventure Motorcycle” entry to its “make/type” list. Until now, Zero’s lineup consisted of three different model platforms. The SDS platform consists of the S, DS, and DSR, essentially Zero’s mid-tier models. The XMX platform is made up of Zero’s lighter models, the FX, FXE, and FXS. The FST platform represents Zero’s top-tier models, the SR, SR/F, and SR/S.

From its name, we can assume a connection between the FST and FSTX platforms, with the X signifying a platform developed for an adventure bike.

Until now, the closest thing Zero has had to an adventure bike was the DSR Black Forest, a DSR variant equipped with aluminum cases, an adjustable windscreen and crash bars. The Black Forest used the same ZF14.4 power pack and motor as the DSR, but also the same suspension and cast wheels.

The DSR Black Forest is the closest we’ve seen to an adventure bike from Zero.

We can assume, therefore, that FSTX platform is a modified version of the FST platform set up for off-road use that will be used with the DSR/X. Further in the VIN decoder, we learn the DSR/X will be offered in 14.4 and 15.3 configurations. In Zero’s nomenclature, ZF14.4 indicates a 14.4 kWh power pack, so we can assume the DSR/X will have a choice between that and a new 15.3 kWh power pack that isn’t offered on other Zero models. The larger battery capacity suggests a longer range than the DSR’s claimed 163 miles.

Interestingly, the DSR/X isn’t listed with Zero’s ZF branding, or an optional Power Tank which would bump the DSR’s range to a claimed 204 miles.

The powertrain section of the VIN decoder also lists a new interior permanent magnet (IPM) 5T motor. According to the VIN decoder, the 5T has a claimed top speed of 120 mph. This slots the motor just below the IPM F motor that powers the SR/S and SR/F, which claims a top speed of 124 mph. Like the IPM F motor, the IPM 5T has an integrated 3.0 kW charger and can be fitted with an optional 12.0 kW rapid charger.

With the DSR/X being the only new model listed on the VIN decoder, we can deduce that it will be a new adventure model powered by the Type IPM 5T motor. Standard luggage and crash bars like the discontinued Black Forest should be expected and, if Zero genuinely wants to position the DSR/X as an adventure model, long travel suspension and wire-spoke wheels.

When can we expect Zero to launch the DSR/X?

Here’s where things get a bit dicey. Based on VIN decoder submissions, we know that Zero originally expected the DSR/X for the 2022 model year. The second decoder tells us that Zero had to push the DSR/X back for 2023 instead.

A new wrinkle emerged, however, in the form of yet another VIN decoder, filed on March 15, 2022. The updated VIN decoder removes any references to the DSR/X, the IPM 5T motor, and the FSTX platform. It also adds updated model codes for the 2022 and newer SR, SR/F and SR/S models that were left off the previous decoder.

Updated Zero VIN decoder for MY2023, dated March 15, 2022.

Does this latest VIN decoder prove DSR/X is no more? While we can’t know for sure, we’d say that’s unlikely. In fact, there is evidence that Zero may have revised the VIN decoder in an attempt to keep the DSR/X secret for a little longer.

The first clue is in the make/type codes that make up the fourth digit of a VIN. Instead of saying “FST Platform / Street Motorcycle”, the updated document now reads: “FST Street Platform / Street Motorcycle”. It’s a small, but telling change, as calling it the FST Street platform implies the existence of a non-street FST platform.

While it’s possible, this is unlikely the result of a typo; if Zero were trying to remove references to the DSR/X, there’s no need to make any changes to the FST platform’s listing.

The second clue is a change to the VIN position reserved for model years. As per North American VIN standards, the 10th digit is used to represent the model year, starting with A for 1980, and proceeding through the alphabet and the numbers 1 to 9 before starting over at A. To avoid confusion from mis-stamped letters, the letters “I”, “O” and “Q” are not allowed to be used in VINs because they can be easily confused for the numbers “1” or “0”.

Following North American industry standards, Zero’s December decoder listed the letter “M” for 2021 models and “N” for 2022 models. For 2023, however, Zero listed the letter “O”, which is an invalid character.

Based on this evidence, here’s what we believe happened:

Zero originally intended to launch the DSR/X for the 2022 model year. For whatever reason (probably a combination of supply chain issues and the pandemic), Zero decided to push the DSR/X to 2023. Near the end of last year, Zero submitted a VIN decoder for 2023 models including information for a new DSR/X adventure model. While reviewing the submission, NHTSA noticed the invalid character for the 2023 model year and asked Zero to make a revision. Zero complied and, with the DSR/X not yet ready to launch, took the opportunity to hide references to the adventure model.

Unfortunately for Zero, a paper trail remains for its previous VIN decoders, including the information on the DSR/X and what we expect for its IPM 5T motor.

We still expect Zero to launch the DSR/X later this year. While manufacturers have already started announcing 2023 models, they are for the most part carry-over models and not brand new motorcycles. That will start to change as we enter the summer, but we expect a 2023 Zero DSR/X announcement to come closer to the fall and the big motorcycle show season.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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2 of 13 comments
  • Imtoomuch Imtoomuch on May 19, 2022

    It's rare to see this level of investigative work at all let alone any motorcycle magazines. Great work even if Zeros aren't my thing - at least not yet.

  • Disqus_SWe1pH5gM2 Disqus_SWe1pH5gM2 on May 23, 2022

    I go 200 miles plus on a GS. Most of my ADV trips are well beyond that for our rider group or even my solo rides. It'll be a cool bike for slow speed adv'ing but the range is going to kill it for many like myself.