Zero Rides Into the Adventure Sport Category with the New DSR/X

Zero Rides Into the Adventure Sport Category with the New DSR/X

  • Electric motorcycle maker Zero rides into the Adventure Bike segment with the all-electric DSR/X, the top of its line of bikes.
  • The Zero DSR/X will go up to 180 miles in city riding, which is where this dual sport scooter is at home.
  • Drawbacks are a more realistic range of around 100 miles and a $24,495 price.

    Everybody wants adventure, or at least they want to look like they’re going on an adventure. Witness the takeover of what used to be called the “car” market: It is now the SUV and crossover market. Two-box designs of striking similarity parade through strip mall parking lots with roof racks, snow shovels, and gas cans bolted all over the outside. It makes no sense but then, we’re all poseurs in one way or another—why not be ready to dig yourself out of a sand trap if necessary? The same thing, to a lesser extent, is happening in the motorcycle world.

    The sales data shows that we Americans still prefer our motorcycles big and heavy—we like cruisers of the Harley-Davidson/Indian variety. Those are still way out in front in terms of what people are actually buying in the US motorcycle market. Sport bikes are next after that, then something called Standard bikes—your generic, two-wheeled, powered conveyance, like my Suzuki SV650.

    Within that Standard class is where statisticians have put Adventure Bikes. It’s a small piece of the pie, but it’s growing all the time, with fun, comfortable, capable entries like the new Harley Panamerica, the mighty Ducati Multistrada, Honda Africa Twin, Suzuki V-Strom, and the class-leading BMW R 1250 GS Adventure.

    Zero DSR/X is ready for anything, and will take you anywhere—within 100 miles—in comfort.

    Into this expanding universe of ADVs rides Zero, the most successful electric motorcycle maker. Zero was founded in 2006 by a NASA scientist in Santa Cruz, California. Remarkably, it’s still there. Zero makes its motos not only right here in the USA but in regulation- and tax-happy California.

    In 2010 Zero sold the DS—for Dual Sport, street and dirt—as one of its first motorcycles. The DS was based on the S, or street, model. Thirteen years later it’s still offering bikes for the road and the street.

    The DSR/X shares some componentry with the SR/S and SR/F road bikes. The DSR/X has a slightly revised frame, with a higher ride height to accommodate an extra 2.5 inches of suspension travel, for a total of 7.5 inches. In front is a Showa inverted fork and in the back is a single Showa shock mounted to a single-sided swing arm.

    Both suspensions are fully adjustable. The front wheel is 19 inches, the rear 17—a size pairing that seems to work well with dual sport/adventure bikes that spend most of their time on the pavement. Tires are street-leaning Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs but you can get more dirt-competent rubber if you like.

    The question everyone wants to know is range. How far can it go on a charge? Well, the stock battery is 17.3 kWh (bigger than in a Mitsubishi iMiEV!). That’ll get you 180 miles in stop-and-go city driving, according to Zero. That’s the battery I had in my test bike. The highest range I saw was 116 miles, the lowest 71 miles. Zero lists 107 miles of range at a steady 55 mph, 85 miles at 70 mph. Your mileage will vary—wildly.

    For an extra $3200 you can get another 3.6-kWh battery that fits in the space now dedicated to storage where a gas tank normally sits. That should add 37.5 miles of range, for a grand total of 217.5 city. That may be optimistic. Figure on around 100 miles of range with the stock 17.3-kWh battery if you ride like you usually ride.

    “With the Zero, you are all too tempted to twist the throttle and eat your range.”

    But that’s hard to do. With the Zero you are all too tempted to twist the right hand grip and zap off over the horizon. The bike’s 166 lb-ft of torque is instantaneous and remains available all across the tach. And yes, that’s a lot of torque, more than anything else with two wheels, including your beloved Hayabusa, Harley CVO, BMW K1600GT, Honda Goldwing, and even the big, bad 2.3-liter Triumph Rocket III.

    The Zero DSR/X has 100 hp, which is beaten by a lot of sport and superbikes. But for tree-haulin’ torque the Zero is king.

    How does it ride? I put a few hundred miles on the DSR/X and found it to be one of the most comfortable bikes I’ve ever been on. For all-around usability running around town, zipping across LA, or even riding in the dirt, it’s almost unmatched. The lack of a clutch, clutch handle, any gears to shift, and even a chain to power the rear wheels (it’s belt-driven) makes this the easiest-to-ride bike made.

    In the very limited off-road riding I tried, I found it was made for standing on the pegs. The center of gravity felt lower than on full-scale ADV bikes. And the lack of any required shifting means if you get into steep terrain there will be one less thing to think about as you negotiate between tree roots and trail ruts.

    Back in the city, the upright seating posture is made all the more comfy by the adjustable windscreen. Optional panniers—saddlebags if you insist—add to its versatility.

    So what’s the drawback? Range for one. Consider that it’s a little over 100 miles from LA to the charging stations on I-15 at the Barstow Outlet Center Mall, which sits surrounded by tumbleweeds and excellent desert dirt.

    Zero Rides Into the Adventure Sport Category with the New DSR/X

    Add the optional hard cases and you can go camping.

    If you were able to restrain yourself from launching hard, and you rode an even 55 mph drafting semis, you could make it to Barstow. But then you’d have to plug in and wait four hours to go riding. Then plug in again for another four hours to ride back. Range hurts—at least at this point in the development of our electric future.

    Then there’s the curb weight: 544 pounds, which is actually lighter than the BMW ADV bikes, a little heavier than a Ducati Multistrada or Harley Panamerica. But those are Adventure Bikes. If you go down to dual sport bikes like the Honda CRF300L, Yamaha WR250R and Kawasaki KLX250, those weigh darn near half as much as an adventure bike and are far more capable in the dirt, if less comfortable on the pavement. Plus, they cost almost one fifth as much as an ADV motorcycle.

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    Yes, cost is the final drawback. Zero lists the DSR/X at $24,495 before destination charges, which it doesn’t list. Among ADV bikes, only the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak is more (at $28,995). Blame the cost of the battery. As an early adapter you will pay a bit more. But some people are less concerned with nickels and dimes and want to ride electric, for all its many advantages.

    For an urban explorer, or even a desert dueler willing to either truck the bike out to Adventureland or plan for and wait at charging stations, escaping the city for the quiet of nature is worth it. And if you tally up the cost of gas versus the cost of electricity, you could even pay off your Zero in several-to-many years, depending on how much you ride and how many solar panels are on the roof of your house. So do the math and see if your exploration urges match your monthly bike payment calculation. You may find that the quiet torque of a Zero adds up.

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