Fast Ride Quick Take: 2020 Zero Motorcycles SR/F

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!

Special thanks to ClevelandMoto and Zero Motorcycles for use of their motorbike!

Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and rolling safe.  See you on the road!

-mike

Gasp- a day with no rain in NEOhio! Perfect Friday ride through Rocky River Reservation. #ClevelandMetroparks

Fast Ride, Quick Take: 2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide

New in 2018, the “convertible” Sport Glide is one of the more intriguing Harley-Davidsons. Based on the reimagined softail (formerly Dyna), the Sport Glide is intended to straddle the gap between cruiser and touring bike, a bit like the sadly ignored Switchback. Difference is, the improvements to the new chassis take the low, nimble Glide from the compromised utility of the Switchback to a terrific multi-purpose bike when only one fits the garage (or budget).    2019 HD Sport Glide 1.jpg

 

The Sport Glide looks great with fat back tire, hard bags, mildly stretched front end, and micro batwing fairing. The bags and fairing remove quickly for a straight-up naked cruiser, snap back on for the daily commute in a jiffy. While your full-face helmet won’t fit the locking bags, a brief case and laptop will, or a light weekend worth of gear. The seat is comfortable, and the reach to the wide bars and forward controls is just about perfect. The bike sits low to the ground and feels light off the stand. Standard cruise control is a nice touring touch, and H-D’s remarkable LED headlights are always appreciated when night falls.

Firing up the Milwaukee Eight 107 is still a moment unto itself. The sound with stock pipes is rich and throaty, and the fuel-injection is spot on. Ease out the light action clutch, and the bike pulls hard, snicking into 6 gears with precision. The ABS brakes, single disc front and rear, stop much better than expected and are perfectly capable on this bike. Plus, the single disc properly shows off the absolutely wicked “Mantis” front wheel!

The new softail chassis tracks smoothly over most bumps, with easily adjustable preload available for different loading. Cornering clearance is decent, with no hard parts sparking at any time- though my size-13 heels did touch down more than I’d like. Riding the sporty Glide feels natural and connected, almost a hardwired connection. While no sportbike, it’s a bike one gets comfortable pushing a bit almost instantly. As the speeds come up, the fairing makes some difference from naked – but it’s more like the bikini fairings of old than actual touring protection. Rumor has it Harley offers a taller windscreen, but I don’t think that will make much difference.

I really like the Sport Glide. Not perfect, but one of a few H-D’s through the years I’d consider buying new. If you’re looking for a decent commuter/ light tourer with attitude for cruise nights, the Sport Glide is a great choice. I love the look but I’d like a more substantial batwing. The quick-change fairing is nice, but weather protection beats appearance in my case. Next, the pillion seat slopes backward which will not do for PrettyWife – so that’s a MUST change. Finally, I’d like a chopped or slim tour pack to give her a backrest, and me a bit more storage. Then I’d have my perfect, light(er)weight, stripped-down, Ultra alternative to cover a bunch of miles. Hmnnn, might be time to hit the internet, then call my local dealer!

Special thanks to Western Reserve H-D and Harley-Davidson USA for use of the motorbike!

Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and rolling safe.  See you on the road!

-mike

 

Had a chance to spend time on a #Harley-Davidson Sport Glide. Really liked it, one of handful of H-Ds over years I’d consider new! I’d like more fairing, sport trunk/ pillion back, and a salesman NOT trying to talk me out of it, though. Review to come!

New Gear! Bell SRT Modular Helmet

In my early days of riding, MTBiking, and Autocrossing (early 80s), I used Bell helmets almost exclusively. Somewhere along the way, the low to mid-priced helmet market exploded, and brands like HJC, Joe Rocket, Icon, Scorpion and more joined the fray. With new competition, came lower pricing, inventive features, and much more variety in fit- all while meeting tightening safety standards. As a firm believer in helmet use, I’ve gone through many in years of riding. Recently I came back to Bell with the purchase of a Hi-Viz Revolver Evo that became my go-to helmet over the past season. Unfortunately, a warranty issue and current lack of my color scheme put an end to my favorite helmet. Bell came through, however, and made me a deal I could not refuse on a new SRT Modular.

The Revolver Evo is still available, but there is no longer a Hi-Viz option. As a RiderCoach preaching the need to be seen, I’m always surprised by the number of dark colored helmets, especially in light-absorbing matte colors. Then again, if dark’s your style and you’re armoring your noggin, who am I to complain? My only Hi-Viz modular option was stepping up to one of Bell’s multi-colored SRT Modulars . I usually go for something a bit more subtle than the Predator scheme, but it’s much better looking in person than onscreen and the finish is outstanding. Easy opening vents on each side of the chin-bar and one wide top vent flow into screened exhaust vents in the rear of the smooth shell.  Just one complaint about the appearance, and it’s a big one: what’s with three obnoxious clear-coated BELL stickers when one subtle logo is all that’s needed, and why the red-on-white logo for a yellow/ silver/ black scheme? Blech…

Moving beyond superfluous, permanent stickers, the rest of the helmet is really nice. Like most riders, I’m picky about helmets. Since the Revolver was my first Bell in years, I had concerns the SRT might not fit or feel the same. It doesn’t, but I needn’t have worried- it was all toward the better. The SRT is a reasonably light (for a mid-price modular) fiberglass composite and noticeably lighter than the polycarb Revolver. The chin-bar on the SRT is also significantly roomier than the Revolver, a luxury for my eagle beak, but it’s also the only time weight seems to come into play. The upper “hold” position for the flip seems quite high due to the length of the chin-bar, and often requires both hands to open fully. Bell obviously knew this, as there’s a slide lock inside the helmet to lock the chin bar open. As with most modulars, Bell’s SRT is NOT to be used riding with the chin-bar open!

The washable, anti-bacterial liner is quite cushy and comfortable, including space for eyeglasses in the padding. A chin skirt helps control wind noise and airflow from beneath the helmet. Beneath the liner, EPS crush material has recessed ear pockets for coms, and huge cooling grooves front to back. Bell’s “Panovision Screen with Class 1 Optics” is noticeably larger than the Revolver, providing the rider an expanded field of view and positive detentes for venting or full open. Bell’s push-button shield removal system on the SRT is the easiest I’ve used, making changes and cleaning a snap. All helmets seem to include the ubiquitous inner sun shield, but Bell made the SRT shield cover nearly the entire opening. This minimizes light leaks and makes it an effective hot weather shield with helmet open – a nice, appreciated surprise!

On the bike, the Bell SRT Modular feels light and well balanced. The shape of the helmet seems to effectively minimize buffeting, and the venting, especially the top vent, flows prodigious amounts of cool air through the lid. The visor and chin-bar seem to seal well, but helmet noise is about mid-pack among modulars. I’m slightly annoyed by the unwieldiness of the chin-bar but loving the extra space behind it- a trade-off I gladly accept. The Panovision shield does provide a bit more useful field of view, and I dig the over-sized inner shield in place of sunglasses. The Bell Revolver Evo (MSRP $199.95) is a very nice helmet, and I loved the Hi-Viz solid with matte chin-bar. I would not hesitate to recommend the Revolver, but the SRT Modular (MSRP $349.95) is a better helmet in every way and worth the difference in price IMO. Of course, all Bell helmets include Bell’s terrific customer service and warranty, which is reason enough to check out their product line. I’d definitely go for a color scheme that does a better job of blending those garish stickers, though!

Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and riding safe.  See you on the road!

-mike

Decided to try trunkless, now understand the appeal. much less space, but 35lbs gone from above CG makes a completely different bike (and Bagger Vision looks so good!)!