2017 Zero SR | Long-Term Ride Report

2017 Zero SR
For blasting (silently) around town or on short sport rides, the Zero SR is a great choice, with capable suspension and a comfortably upright riding position. (Action photography by Kevin Wing, other photography by the author)

MSRP: $18,690 (as tested)
Mileage: 2,190

Living with an electric bike at this relatively early stage in their development requires a willingness to accept certain limitations. Range and charging time are the most obvious, but also there’s the high initial cost (offset somewhat by state and federal tax credits—although the latter are set to be killed off in the tax bill that Congress passed earlier this year) and limited dealer network.

2017 Zero SR
The LCD dash includes battery level (left) and real-time battery usage and regen levels (right).

The first question a Zero buyer needs to ask him-/herself is: longer range or faster charging? As we pointed out in our first installment (which includes a riding impression and specs), you can’t have both. Although we live and work in an area of California replete with Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, which the Zero Charge Tank option requires, we opted for the Power Tank instead, which expands the battery capacity for extended range. There are still a lot of areas in the country that don’t have many Level 2 stations yet, so we figured we’d go all-in with maximum range, charging the bike off a standard 110v wall outlet. Every Zero comes with a power cord that folds up and tucks away into a compartment in the swingarm, so all you need is an outlet close enough to your parking spot…or an extension cord. At lunch, plug it in and over the course of an hour you could expect about a 10-percent increase in charge. Ride to work, plug it in and even if it’s near zero when you get there, you’ll ride home at the end of an 8-hour day with at least an 80-percent charge in the 13.0 kWh main battery and 2.9 kWh Power Tank. Zero also offers an accessory quick charger for home or office use that can cut charging time.

2017 Zero SR
The single front brake disc is best utilized in conjunction with dialed-up regen (engine braking).

So how far will a full “tank” get you? We put our Zero SR in battery-sipping Eco mode, which maximizes range by limiting torque output and top speed, to find out. With a 200-pound rider aboard, riding in the blood sport that is Southern California traffic—go fast or get out of the way—we maxed out at 114.4 miles of mixed city and highway riding. We also played with the Custom mode, dialing up the torque to 100 percent, top speed to 108 mph and “regen”—engine braking that charges the battery—to 76 percent. With a smaller rider aboard, we achieved about 130 miles in the city and barely 100 on the freeway.

2017 Zero SR
Fully adjustable Showa suspension units include a rear shock with a generous 6.35-inch travel and a cartridge fork with 6.25 inches of travel.

Our verdict: if you live in a city or have a short commute, the Zero would be a great choice. If you rely heavily on highways or like to take long rides, it might be best to wait for battery/charging technology to catch up. Regardless, we’re happy to see this American company pushing the limits and supporting progress.

2017 Zero SR

9 COMMENTS

  1. An electric bike will be practical when battery and motor technology allow it to be used the way many people use bikes now — as weekend recreational transport for 200- to 300-mile day rides with weather protection, storage, and two-up capability. Few bikes are used as day-to-day commuters (I did this for years, and my bike was the only one on the employee parking lot). Few people live right next door to a track or in the middle of twisty back-country roads. If I go on a short ride of 100 miles, half of that is just getting out of the city to the roads I want to ride.

  2. In the San Francisco Bay Area MANY folks commute on bikes to try to beat the horrible congestion. I’m 5 miles from work and couldn’t think of a better bike to commute on than this Zero. I currently own 5 bikes and would love to add a Zero to the collection. The cost is the only thing holding me back.

  3. I too hope Zero (and well heeled first adopters) make it possible for me to own an electric motor-cycle. However, at sixty five years old and almost 50 years of riding, the clock’s-a-tickin’. Just hope it will be possible “to wait for battery/charging technology to catch up” with my wallet! Unless that happens, I’m happily stuck with suck, squeeze, bang and blow . . .

  4. As someone who owns a 2017 Zero DSR I have to say it’s been an excellent choice. I live in the East Bay and commute daily into San Francisco (for just over 20 yrs) on two wheels and this is simply the best riding bike I have owned. Along with the prospect of “Zero” maintenance, just tires/brakes, it’s excellent. My ride is 70 miles round trip in mixed riding and I do the ride on a single charge. When I’m asked how long it take to charge the bike, my answer is about a minute (the length of time it takes me to plug it in). When I get on it the next day I’m back to 100% For anyone that commutes (within the range) this makes an excellent choice!

  5. I have a 2015 Zero FX with 3226 miles on it. It has had 1 battery failure that was replaced under warranty, but took 6 weeks to accomplish. And spent 6 months idle while trying to resolve issues with my DC-DC converter. It was finally fixed to the tune of $800.00 for part and labor, including diagnostic. Even though I told them the possible issue was the DC-DC converter, or the Main Bike Board signal to the converter. The sad part is I could have installed an after market DC-DC converter for $200.00, but was under the impression Zero was going to cover at least part of the costs. Zero customer service blamed the fault on my adding 2 LED lighted hand guards, and 2 strip LEDs to the rear rack. If that is the fault they have WAY to delicate a system.

  6. All the performance of a Ninja 300 for only three or four times the price.
    Maybe if other manufacturers produce electric bikes in large numbers and the prices come down, I’ll get one. Until that happens, no.

    • Nothing like any 300. Away from a stop the Zero will out accelerate a liter bike if the liter bike does not do a drag strip like launch. The liter bike is pulling even and away at 70 yards or so but the liter bike has done so with a lot of noise and drama. If you ride the Zero in the city nothing out accelerates you and you are using the acceleration everywhere because it does not draw attention. You are just silently somewhere else before other traffic knows what happened. Just saying it is apples vs oranges to compare the performance to a 300 or even a liter bike for that matter.

  7. A bit simplistic and lacking the depth I’d expect for an article titled “Long-term riding report”. There are a lot more considerations that play into the choice of bike — electric vs. gas — as well as attributes of the Zero S/SR/DS/DSR worth pointing out. With just over 2,000mi you haven’t started to scratch the surface of “long-term”. As an owner of a 2016 DSR with now over 17,000 in about 18 months I have looked very closely into the overall cost and performance compered to my prior commute bike (BMW F650GS, rode her for over 60,000 mi in 5 years). I like the Zero DSR as a commuter bike, but there are a lot of details Zero needs to work on to have a bike that is up to par with established motorcycles. And let’s be honest, you cannot tour on a DSR regardless of extra battery or fast charge option. When we tour we ride between 300-600mi/day and look for other comfort and performance features (heated grips, bags, passenger comfort, 3rd party add-ons etc.). Wouldn’t want to miss my bigger BMWs for adventure riding. The Zero S/SR/DS/DSR is a commuter bike, and she’s a good one. But quite pricy

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