As the cycle world goes aquiver over Harley’s long-awaited Livewire (and collectively gasps at the price), Zero Motorcycles has quietly improved and expanded its line of electric bikes. For over a decade, US-made Zero has led the global charge with street, off-road, and dual-sport electric bikes. Having ridden Zeros in the past I thought I knew what to expect with the all-new 2020 SR/F, but I was WRONG. The new SR/F ups the electron-powered motorbike ante considerably- and it’s a shocker!
Zero gives the SR/F “normal” sized wheels and tires, and it’s a dramatic upgrade to looks and handling. Moderately high and rearset pegs lean the rider comfortably toward wide, upright bars. The bike feels a bit like Buell’s “streetfighter” XB-S, in all the best ways. Showa provides fully adjustable suspension and J. Juan excellent triple-disc brakes. A finned aluminum battery box occupies space where we expect an engine, and the compact motor, rated at a solid 110hp and 140lb-ft of torque sits low behind the batteries. Final drive is by belt connected directly to the motor. An interesting detail is locating the motor in the center of the swing-arm pivot point, keeping belt tension high and constant through the travel and eliminating driveline lash.
Various ride modes are available on-the-fly by handlebar switch, modifying torque, re-gen braking, ABS, and Traction Control. Smartphone linking can provides additional engine, charge and troubleshooting info. The optimized SR/F can fully charge in 4.5 hours, with faster charging on the way as infrastructure develops. Much more seriously cool tech on the SR/F, but I’m no expert- so on to the ride instead.
Eco Mode should cover about 160 city miles (200 miles with optional Power Tank), cut by about 30% on the highway. While that mileage may be possible, it ain’t happening the way I’m riding this Zero! Eco on the SR/F is comparable to full custom on earlier Zeros, and it’s a blast. I could have ridden in Eco all day, but Sport Mode is just a few thumb clicks- time to find out what the new Zero is all about. HolyFlyingFrackinSpitBalls! Hitting 100 nearly as fast as the wrist-twist is an adrenaline rush: hitting 100 hearing little more than whine and wind noise is mind-warping. There is nothing like instant torque! Street Mode kicks mileage down a bit, so I’ve got to believe Sport Mode is a major hit to the mileage factor, however.
The SR/F instantly feels connected in any situation and handles wonderfully. With electro-nannies engaged, I tried to torque a slide in a bit of fine gravel, but the bike just rocked forward. Score for invisible danger-controls! While my experience was somewhat reserved under ClevelandMoto’s adult supervision, I could not get this Zero to step out of line.
The new Zero SR/F is a terrific bike by any comparison, and the best electric bike I’ve ridden. Would I own one? That gets tricky. While it undercuts the Livewire by $10 large or so, it’s still a pricey commuter at $15-20k. Until fast recharging stations become commonplace, it’s kind of stuck in that realm. Even a quick ride to kids in Columbus requires a lengthy mid-trip charge, so they haven’t fit my “just one bike” needs yet. But as a nearly maintenance-free, overnight charged means of making the commute a hooligan adventure without dinofuel, there is nothing that comes close. Electric bikes are definitely the future, and Zero just brought that future much, much closer!
Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and rolling safe. See you on the road!