It’s been a busy month for me and our Zero S electric bike.
Last month, I wrote about our first 1000 miles together. Thirty days on and it has cracked through the 2500 barrier.
From my home in Peterborough I’ve ridden electric to London a few times and Silverstone for the MotoGP, as well as on my daily commute. The so-called range anxiety has all but disappeared for me, as I’ve come to trust the various apps pointing me in the direction of public charging points. As long as I spend a few minutes planning my journey and recharging points, I’ve become really chilled about going out and about on the Zero – and quite enjoy the thrill of getting free electricity!
I’ve also added to the usability of my Zero by adding a screen and top box, both of which have completely transformed the practicality of the bike.
Windscreens are a hot topic on the various electric bike forums and I really wanted to fit one and see what effect it can have on the bike’s range. I’ve seen reports of a 20% improvement in mileage from some contributors and, after reading various reviews, I decided to go for a GIVI universal screen.
The Italian company has pretty much been my brand of choice over the years and they make a variety of universal fit screens that can fit unfaired bikes like the Zero.
I chose the not-so-snappily titled A660 model, which is the tallest screen they make. Fitting was easy, once I’d got my head around it. The instructions are visual, in the IKEA style, and once you work out which parts are which (some of them do look similar) it was a 15 minute job to fit. I took an Allen key out with me and run up and down the A1, stopping to adjust it every few miles.
With a universal product, there is a degree of adjustability in the screen which is no bad thing. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have access to a wind tunnel or the like so setting up involved riding at speed for a bit and twiddling around with the assistance of my good friends Mr. Trial and Mr. Error. Overall I am not totally convinced that I’ve made the right screen choice, as there is some annoying turbulence at speed. As much as anything else, it’s about my choice of screen versus my diminutive height. Tucking forward slightly (which probably looks somewhat ridiculous) does enter me into an oasis of calm though, and I think for taller riders this screen would be spot on. When I raise my butt a few centimetres off the saddle the turbulence disappears, so maybe a shorter screen would have been a better choice for me though. I will continue to adjust and test over the next month though.
What is not in doubt though is the massive improvement in efficiency that the screen brings. It’s too early to give definitive answers on the extra range it gives, but that 20% claim is not unreasonable. Where 100 miles was possible from a full charge (albeit at steady speeds) without the screen, that’s been extended to 115 miles with it. My daily, 40 mile, ride to work used to use around 40% charge, but is now averaging 35% with the windscreen. As a cheap (sub £100) way to increase range, it’s hard to imagine anything better.
The top box is also made by GIVI but is an official Zero branded accessory. Anyone who knows me knows that I like a good top box, and I like my new top box. Fitting was also easy. The Zero rack came without instruction but simply required the removal of the seat to reveal two fixing points on the subframe. In theory it was a two minute job, if I hadn’t had to go out and purchase a T40 Torx driver to remove the bolts.
From there on, GIVI’s mounting kit fits straight on. The top box isn’t the biggest, but the narrow profile means that it doesn’t interfere with the aerodynamics, which is particularly important on an electric bike.
The top box transforms the practicality of the Zero. The bike does have a useful glove box where the petrol would go in a petrol powered bike, but once my lock and chain are in there, there’s barely any space left for even a mobile phone.
My top box allows me to carry my gym stuff around with me, and is big enough to store my helmet and a light riding jacket on those days when I take the bike to the train station.
Personally I think the luggage and screen transform the bike from looking like a purposeful mini streetfighter to a bigger but rather utilitarian commuter, although being universal products the top box and screen can be whipped off in a flash.
Highlight of the month had to be a bad ass biker pulling up next to me at the lights on his Harley, giving a nod of approval before blasting off in a rumble of thunder. They might be at completely different ends of the scale, but ‘Made in ‘merica’ nonetheless.
Indeed, when I last blogged about the Zero, several readers commented on the lack of noise as a negative. To me, the silence is one of the best things about riding electric. Along with the lack of vibration and engine heat, the absence of an exhaust note creates such a smooth and relaxing experience. Having pulled up alongside some rude boys on race piped Ducatis and Kawasakis, I couldn’t fathom why you’d want to ride anything so brainshakingly noisy. I love the silence, but I guess that it’s just one of those things you have to try for yourself.
And you should try one because, I guarantee, it will put a smile on the face of even the most anti-electric critic. I know that some will cling to the concept that ‘loud pipes save lives’ but I’m not with you on that. As the former owner of the loudest Ducatis known to mankind, I’m pretty sure that many drivers would struggle to hear a nuclear war erupting from outside their nicely cossetted cars. Trust me, no noise is no problem. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.