Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 2nd May 2017

Electric bikes are the future, right? But they are also here today – and American company Zero is the clear market leader, selling more bikes each year than all their competitors put together.

Just as their close Californian neighbours Tesla are doing in the car world, Zero are making ‘leccy bikes mainstream and, after a brief sabbatical, the company is back on sale in the UK with its updated-for-2017 range.

Zero has a six bike range, from the off-road styled FX and supermotard FXS, to the dual sport style DS and DSR, and a pair of roadsters – the S and this, the SR.

Zero sr Motorcycles

The SR is Zero’s best seller and features the company’s most powerful motor. It makes an equivalent of 69bhp but, owing to the way in which the power is calculated, it can still be ridden on an A2 motorcycle licence. The big figure, however, is the peak torque. At 146Nm, it has as much grunt as a Ducati Superleggera superbike. Even the less powerful S version makes 110Nm, which is pretty much the same as a Yamaha R1. This thing has no shortage of performance.

Visually the SR echoes a standard middleweight streetfighter, like a Kawasaki Z800 or Yamaha MT-07, albeit without a traditional engine. Climb aboard and the ergonomics are not dissimilar to those bikes too, although you’ll soon notice that there’s no clutch lever on the left hand side.

The Zero features an automatic twist and go transmission that works a treat. Unlike previous electric bikes from Brammo, which used a clutch and gearbox, Zero have kept things simple. There’s so much instant torque that a gearbox feels unnecessary anyway, and would only add weight, cost and complexity to the whole thing.

It also allows the bike to have a dual character. In ‘Eco’ mode it restricts power, torque and top speed and is as docile and easy to ride as a scooter. Flick the switch to ‘Sport’ and all that torque is unleashed. It transforms the bike, and the top speed is just over 100mph.

Zero sr bike review

There’s also a custom mode, which can be tailored using the Zero app on a smart phone. This allows the rider to set the amount of torque they want, as well as power and top speed. It also allows the dashboard readouts to be customised and gives details on the battery condition.

Riding is simple and pleasant. In sport mode there is plenty of go but the chassis is precise and refined. Where previous efforts may have featured basic cycle parts, the latest Zeros run on good spec Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres and have fully adjustable Showa suspension. It all feels very light and neutral, with the Bosch ABS brakes working very unobtrusively.

With an electric bike there is no noise, just a stealthy whoosh, and there’s no heat emitted between the rider’s legs either. At 188kg, the Zero SR weighs the same as most naked petrol bikes, and it’s really well balanced too. The 807mm seat is fine for shorter and less experienced riders too.

The lack of moving mechanical parts in the engine gives a different type or riding experience. It is super smooth. There’s no vibration from the motor and there’s also no pitching under power from the rear suspension. All that torque comes in from, ahem, zero, and caution is advised in the wet – at least in sport mode. It’s proper quick and guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most staunch electro cynic.

Zero Motorcycles

Zero says that there are three main objections to going electric: purchase cost, range and charging time.

We found that range for the SR was a genuine 80 miles in mixed riding conditions. For city riding, you can get almost double that, and Zero do sell (for £2600) an optional ‘Power Tank’ which adds an additional 3.3kW of battery under the dummy fuel tank (which is a very useful lockable glovebox in standard specification). The Power Tank adds between 20-60 miles extra range, and weighs 20kg.

Charging comes from plugging it into a regular three-pin wall socket. A full recharge takes around eight hours from empty but electric vehicles, not just bikes, tend to work best in environments where there is routine. The Zero is no different. Riding the SR on my 75 mile daily commute, it all made perfect sense. I plugged it in at the office during the day, and overnight in the garage, and never had the battery drop below 45%. I did do the round trip without the daytime top up, just to see, and I made it home with 5% left in the tank. By that time, the bike had entered a power management mode, restricting performance to use less battery, and I had been cautious both ways anyway. What it proved though was that, in my circumstances, the electric bike can make a totally rational purchase decision. Those needing a quicker recharge can also purchase an external quickcharger, with which you can plug your bike in to two sockets and more than half the time of charge. American customers can also buy an optional ‘Charge Tank’ with which the bike can be plugged into the ‘Stage 2’ type of chargers you see at service stations. These will full charge the bike in up to three hours and should be homologated for use in Europe by 2018.

Zero Motorcycles

So yes, a Zero costs more to buy, but it costs less to run too. Prices start at £10,490 for the entry level FX model, rising to £15,690 for this SR. The good news is that the Government will give you a grant of £1500 to knock off that price too. As tested, this Zero SR will set you back £14,190 plus on the road charges.

The company reckons that you can do 100 miles for around the same cost as a litre of petrol (and it’ll be less than that if you recharge at the office) so that’s around 500mpg. You’ll also be exempt from any impending motorcycle congestion charges in London too. With season tickets on the train costing up to £500 a month for some commuters, there is an increasingly convincing case to get more two wheelers of all kinds on the road.

Zero SR Close

The motor virtually maintenance free. There are no pistons and valves in there, just one moving part. Zero say that the batteries will easily outlast the rest of the motorcycle and estimate that they will still be operating at 80% capacity after 362,000 miles. Impressive.

And it’s fun too. Really, it is a lot of fun. In my time with the Zero I took it out for a blast (or should that be a ‘whirr’) and it’s an absolute hoot. Some motorcyclists cite the lack of noise as a drawback but I disagree. There’s something really serene about cruising the countryside in silence, with only the mild hum of the motor and the rumbling of the rubber on the tarmac, but there’s also something really cheeky about winding back that throttle and silently embarrassing some super exotic vehicles away from the traffic lights.

And the Zero SR can most definitely do that. With 146Nm of torque, its got more pulling power than any 1000cc sportsbike on the market today and can post a sub-four second 0-60mph time. It handles well, is light and is a big conversation starter. Trust me, if you want to be approached by random strangers looking to find out more about your steed – buy a Zero!

Zero SR

In truth, it’s unfair to compare electric bikes to their petrol counterparts. If I’d spent my entire life riding electric and found myself on a petrol bike for the first time, I’d probably be scratching my head and asking why you’d want to ride something so raw, noisy and hot. I don’t really buy into the whole ‘loud pipes save lives’ thing either. Modern cars are so cosseted that it’s almost impossible to hear an upcoming motorcycle on aftermarket pipe anyway, never mind on standard Euro 4 silencers.

Not everyone will be rushing to their closest Zero dealership (you can find a list of them here https://www.zeromotorcycles.com/eu/locator) but they should certainly be worthy of consideration for an increasing number of consumers. Commuters doing that 40-70 mile trip each day, with facilities to charge at one or both ends, might find that their daily grind might work out cheaper, or more fun could well be advised to check one out. It’s also an interesting addition to the multi bike owner who wants something that bit different to have some fun on, and one of the great things about these electric bikes is that they appeal to a much wider audience than traditional ‘bikers’. It’s a product that brings plenty of appeal to gadget lovers, early adopters and those who like a clean, quiet and maintenance free toy.

Electric bikes are not just the future they are right here, right now.

Specifications

Engine type

Brushless electric motor

Maximum power

69bhp @3850rpm

Maximum torque

146Nm

Front suspension

Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping

Seat height

807mm

Wet weight

188kg