I might have been riding bikes since 1976, but I’ve never ridden anything quite like Zero’s new SR. The stylish, electrically-powered roadster really does offer a very sort of different biking experience. And one I very much approve of.
Quite naturally, I’m going to compare the Zero to bikes propelled by internal combustion engines. But that’s simply because I’ve been riding literally hundreds of ICE bikes for the last four decades. Yet in many ways, the SR has such a different character to them, that sort of reference isn’t applicable. It’s pretty obvious you’re going to have an alternative sort of day from the very beginning. OK, you still need a key to bring the Zero to life, but as it makes zero noise and vibration when the motor is armed and ready to drive forward, you’re reminded to start thinking differently. I selected the Sport mode, of the five there are to choose from, which alters the power, and consequently the traction control and ABS intrusion levels. You can also set your own ‘map’ using the Zero app, when you connect your phone to the bike by Bluetooth.
Setting off couldn’t be much simpler. With no clutch or gears, heading off from a standstill requires nothing more a twist of the throttle. And from then on things feel very different. There may be a low volume whine from the electric motor and drive belt, but with such little noise and total smoothness, you begin to wonder where the power’s coming from. It’s a bit weird to say the least, and very novel. Controlling low pace is dead easy, the ‘lecky’ motor providing the very best manners imaginable. For the less experienced this is a real benefit, again largely because there’s no clutch of gears to consider. Sending more power to the rear tyre is directly proportional to the amount you twist the grip, making the ride all the more manageable.
However, make sure you’re sitting comfortably when you demand more pace. The massive torque the SR’s motor delivers (much more than a Suzuki Hayabusa, for example) gives the Zero a thrilling level of immediate response. It’s not at all unfriendly, but as there’s absolutely zero hesitation to the request for extra speed, you need lots of respect and a little time to recalibrate the twist/thrust ratio. Making only as much peak power as something like a 650 twin, the Zero might give you the impression it’s only going to offer quite sedate acceleration but the reality is much different, and much stronger. Adjustment to the new-found response level doesn’t take as long as you might think, but it’s essential to bear in mind.
I absolutely loved the electric motor’s performance, and though my riding experience obviously helps my decision-making, being able to rely on it so readily very much helped me instantly execute my plans. Once out on the open road, the pleasant surprises continue. The Zero boasts hi-spec chassis components and it shows. Despite the 222kg kerb weight suggesting otherwise, the SR doesn’t need much effort to shove around and make it go where you want. Front end geometry gives the bike light and accurate steering, and together with very compliant, fully adjustable suspension you’ve no alternative but to describe the Zero’s handling as excellent. This was particularly evident when we started taking some action pictures, when repeated runs through the same corner allow you to push on as hard as you can. Super levels of grip from the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III rubber, and equally impressively powerful brakes make managing speed feel very safe. There’s no doubting the Zero has lots of speedy sporting potential, and the ability to stimulate. Connotations with electric bikes only being fit for old timers happy to cruise along at leisurely speeds, very much need to be forgotten. The SR is a thriller whenever you want it to be.
After around two hours riding I’d really fallen for this bike, thoroughly enjoying its rapid speed generation, impressive ability to contain it, and all-round innovative value. Not polluting the atmosphere, and keeping the peace certainly assisted the riding satisfaction too. Just as pleasing was the rough calculation that for the same 220-mile journey I’d made to get to ride the Zero would’ve only cost just 20% of the £32 I’d be spending on petrol for my own bike. In short, the Zero does the equivalent of 200-400mpg, which in these days of shocking fuel prices, offers a significant advantage.
Of course, it’s going to take time for the famously conservative biking community to come to terms with this new way of propelling motorcycles. Many think the lack of noise, absence of a speedy recharging infrastructure, and high initial cost, rule out the idea of owning an electric bike. All I’d say is, after my half day on the SR, I’d urge anyone to at least try one. Even the shortest ride will impress, and you might well just like me, want to ride a lot further than the 80 miles I covered. That way, you get the chance to appreciate the Zero SR all the more.
2022 ZERO SR
Type: Air-cooled, AC, electric motor
Maximum power: 74bhp (claimed)
Maximum torque: 166Nm (claimed)
Chassis: tubular steel trellis
Suspension: (F) Showa inverted telescopic forks, fully adjustable (R) single shock, fully adjustable
Brakes: (F) twin 320mm discs, four-piston radial calipers, ABS
(R) single 240mm, single-piston radial caliper, ABS
Wheels/Tyres: Aluminium/Pirelli (F) 120/70 17 (R) 180/55 17
Seat height: 787mm
Battery capacity: 14.4kWh
Kerb weight: 222kg
Range: 75-155 miles
Charge time 0-95%: 4 hours
Upgrading the SR
One of the new innovations of the Zero SR is its ability to be upgraded ‘over the air’. Being built on the same platform as the more powerful SR/F, owners are able to unlock up to 20% more battery capacity, 10% faster charging, upgraded Bosch electronics and the same 190Nm/110bhp performance as the SR/F. It’s a business model that’s served Tesla well in the four wheeled world and means that Zero owners will be able to pick and choose the spec of their bike, unlocking extras when they need, or can afford them.
Pictures: Too Fast Media