Reviewed: Zero SR/S
It’s all over! The end of the world is nigh! We’re boiling the planet and when it’s not busy getting its own back on us by throwing pandemic viruses or way it’s reacting to our irresponsible overheating of the only place that we can call home by spontaneously starting continent wide fires, which it then alternates with floods of biblical proportions. Say what you like about Mother Nature, when she gives out the slaps it’s nothing less than stylish! If we could get the hint then maybe we’d try not to pump so much carbon into the air…
One of the things we could do would be to stop burning fossil fuels in the bikes we ride. A few of us have been bravely trying to adapt to the new world of alternative power by using electric vehicles. We’ve ridden dozens of non brand machines and found them all to be lacking in both power delivery and very challenging on the charging time metric when it comes to testing our, very limited, patience. There have been a couple of notable exceptions of course. Harley-Davidson’s Livewire is excellent, a great ride and delivers the power in a way that none of their own range could ever manage. The only issue is that it costs a shade under thirty grand. There’s also the BMW C Evolution, it’s an excellent commuter but it’s still a scooter and doesn’t lend itself to longer trips of a touring nature.
Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular and practical, and the bikes that have worked and done so quite well are small capacity machines such as the new Vespa, which work really well in an urban situation where the mileage is low and the time the bike spends parked up allows for it to be recharged in a stress free manner. The rest of the offerings that we’ve ridden have all been pretty awful. Then Zero motorcycles arrived…
The company was formed a little over 15 years in sunny California. Since then the company has grown to have a stable of no fewer than nine machines in their range. When hiring, the company has brought a substantial amount of people from the traditional world of motorcycles into the organization, as much as they have from the tech business. Keeping what our American cousins call the ‘Gear Heads’, that’s a petrol head to you and me, on board has resulted in the team making a motorbike that is happens to be powered by an electric battery. This is what sets them apart from their competitors who seem, for the most part, to be trying to reinvent the wheel. The end result is an excellent product that even an old Fireblade pilot can enjoy and derive an involved riding experience from.
Last year we rode the Zero SR/F for the first time. For comparison purposes this bike has a similar profile to something like Honda’s CB1000R or a BMW S1000R from BMW. The bike is powered by a battery that’s big enough to not need charging on a daily basis when used as commuter, with over 160 miles of range in stop start traffic and as much as 200 miles with the optional power tank added on. If that’s not enough then you can always top it up with a quick charge on one of the many, many charging points that are scattered about the country. We found that charging it overnight from a standard three-prong plug in the shed gave us more than enough range to meet our needs. What we really wanted was the company to drop something a bit more sports orientated into the range.
Now they have. This month, Zero added to the range again with an all new SR/S. This bike is their sports tourer and earlier this month we took a break from enduring the who’s who of winter storms to take a day out in Nice on the oh so sunny Mediterranean coast and take the new bike and put it through its paces. It didn’t disappoint.
There are a number of features that become obvious at first glance on the SR/S when compared to the SR/F. The pegs on the new machine are lowered slightly in comparison to the /F model and the handlebars are just that bit slightly higher. The suspension settings are different too, with the SR/S featuring a slightly less aggressive setup than the naked streetfighter. Both the rider and pillion seats are deep and wide. This offers all day touring comfort while the screen is tall enough to offer substantial weather protection. Interestingly, if you drop in behind it rather than sitting prone then the battery range increases by up to 13%, thanks to the improved aerodynamics. The company has learned a lot about what works in their decade and a half in business and it shows. Meanwhile there are a choice of optional extras which include a full three piece suite of luggage, made by Spanish pannier experts Shad. This is no commuter; more a fully electric sports tourer.
This isn’t a hybrid, there is no petrol back up or secondary power. After a morning of disregarding the posted speed limit the charge in the bikes battery dropped to just below 20% after around 70 miles. Then it dropped into ECO mode, which is still capable of delivering 70 miles per hour speeds, to ensure that we got home or to the next charging point. A full recharge takes around four and a half hours from a domestic socket, although our test bike was equipped with the optional fast charging set-up, which dropped that figure down to less than an hour when using one of those motorway service station style units.
Because the bike has direct drive, there is no gearbox or clutch, it is a treat to ride in the ‘twisties’. Using the associated smartphone App the rider can ‘dial in’ the amount of engine braking, as well as a number of other features. This goes someway to negating the lack of a ‘box to downshift through when entering a corner at a pace. What is quite remarkable is the power of the direct acceleration both from a stand still and roll on. This is one very fast bike with 190Nm of instant torque. We may have seen 125 mph on the way out of the city on the morning of the test, with genuine superbike levels of power delivery in the machines sport mode.
There are a number of other power modes. In addition to Sport and Eco ones, there’s a day to day ‘Street’ setting, as well as a rain mode the option to set up to six custom settings, which can be configured using the aforementioned app. This isn’t the future, it’s here now.
The bike is available from Zero dealers nationwide where prices start at £18,050, after the UK Government’s £1500 electric vehicle grant. Recognising that it’s very much a product people want to try before they buy, Zero’s increasing network of dealers all have several demo bikes available – while the company itself runs a number of pop-up ‘try out’ events at biking hotspots throughout the summer months.
Zero SR/S specifications
Top Speed 124mph
Peak Torque 190Nm
Optimum charge time 80 minutes
Range (With power tank) 161 miles
City range 199 miles
Stability Control Bosch
Powertrain 100% electric
Seat Height 787mm
Operating System Cypher III
Weight 229 kg
Battery Warranty Five years