Zero Motorcycles has been at it for a whole decade now, designing, building and indeed inventing its own distinct brand of electric two wheelers for the burgeoning “green” market. Over the years, that market has grown in proportion to a number of things such as awareness, the ever-increasing number of public charging stations, technological leaps in battery chemistry and electric-bike manufacturer’s willingness to give buyers what they are looking for.

The updated 2016 DS model, and its altogether new-for-2016 sibling, the DSR, benefits from all of the above. Not only does the base DS come with a more efficient motor, but advances in lithium-ion batteries give it more power-storage capacity so it’s even better than last year.

On top of all that, the DS family is built to take advantage of increasing interest in dual-sport bikes meant to serve as an all-in-one ride for folks who enjoy on-and off-road riding, but don’t necessarily want to have a separate, specialized bike for each purpose. I expect this confluence of factors to further Zero’s success as we move forward, but it will take some time before we know if I am being prophetic, or merely hopeful.

Continue reading for my review of the 2016 Zero DS and DSR.

  • 2016 Zero DS / DSR
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Z-Force® 75-7
  • Top Speed:
    98 mph
  • Price:
    10995
  • Price:

Design

2016 Zero DS / DSR
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At a glance, there isn’t much to choose between the DS and DSR and Zero’s purely street-centric machines, the S and SR models. Zero seems to eschew the distinctive, and peculiar-looking, function-driven design favored by most dual-sport manufacturers, and simply took their existing street bike design and tweaked it for a different role. Granted, there are some differences “under the hood,” but I am strictly speaking aesthetics here. The DS models carry a dirtbike-style front fender mounted high up under the tripletree, and this is the main visual clue as to the bike’s purpose, at least until you notice the hybrid street-knobbies and asymmetrical rims. (Zero’s pure-street machines run 17 inchers, front and rear.)

As with all Zeros, the overall look is very clean, although the turn signals aren’t molded in, they run on short standoffs that keep them tucked in somewhat, and the taillight is tucked up under the subframe a bit to keep it out of the way. I have to say that I think recessed or faired-in lights might be more appropriate on a bike that has a better chance than most of encountering brush and branches that will try to wipe those standoff signals off. Oh well, there’s always next year. (Wink nudge, Zero, wink nudge.)

10th Anniversary Edition

2016 Zero DS / DSR
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New for 2016, Zero released a 10th anniversary limited edition DSR, and I do mean limited. Only 50 of the model are handcrafted at their California headquarters. The Anniversary edition features signature touches of metallic black paint and includes custom graphics. Part of the package is a factory-installed Charge Tank — the first on any of the Zero bikes. The Charge Tank allows riders to use the increasing network of Level 2 charge stations — a welcome boost in the infrastructure needed to support these bikes.

Chassis

2016 Zero DS / DSR
- image 652168

The twin-spar bone structure made up of aircraft-grade aluminum has a rectangular cross section for strength and rigidity, and the frame is laid out to keep the center of gravity low. Now, I’ve been through this before on other adventure bikes, and I will say it again here: a steel frame will be tougher and more likely to stand up to the abuses of, say, riding across Africa or tackling the Rockies, but since there are no charging stations in said locations, this ride will likely never see such trials and tribulations. Therefore, the aluminum frame is strong enough for what it is likely to encounter – as long as you don’t try and act like a supercross star on it.

The steering head is set at 26.5 degrees for a nimble, 4.6-inch rake, and a compact 56.2-inch wheelbase. This geometry should provide a turn radius that trends toward the tight end of the spectrum, with quick flicks and reversals in the corners. A tapered I-beam swingarm completes the skeleton with a linkage for the central-mounted monoshock. The 40 mm Showa, coil-over shock comes with a piggyback reservoir, and adjustments for preload as well as compression and rebound damping. Beefy, 41 mm usd Showa forks buoy the front with the same adjustments, so you can dial in for your load, conditions and riding style. While the outside dimensions look much like the S and SR streetbikes, wheel travel got boosted to an even 7 inches in the front, and 7.03 inches in back – not exactly what you would call true off-road range, but certainly better than a pure-street machine, to be sure.

Cast, offset Y-spoke rims mount the 17-inch rear, and 19-inch front, Pirelli MT-60 tires. These road-rubbers come with deeply grooved knobbies that have generous flats cut on them, so you get good traction in the dirt but retain a decent amount of grippage on the road. As with any dual-purpose tire, it’s a tradeoff between the two surfaces, but tire technology has come along nicely, and these seem to cross over quite well with little in the way of sacrifice either way.

J-Juan calipers bind the wheels with a dual-pot caliper on the 320 mm front disc, and a single-pot caliper on the 240 mm rear. Bosch supplies the ABS with its Gen 9 system for that extra little bit of security on either surface.

Drivetrain

2016 Zero DS / DSR
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Now for some fun stuff, and the main difference between the DS and the DSR; the brushless, permanent-magnet Z-Force electric motors. The DS runs with the 75-7 motor that cranks out 54 ponies at 4,300 rpm and 68 pound-feet of torque as soon as you crack the throttle. A 420-amp controller meters the power, and provides a “regenerative deceleration” feature that not only mimics the feel of traditional compression braking, but also turns part of your kinetic energy back into electrical energy and stores it in the power pack rather than wasting it as thermal energy at the brakes.

The DSR shows us where the “R” comes from at this point with its 75-7R motor. This little gem produces 67 horsepower at four grand, and an impressive 106 pound-feet of torque, again, as soon as you roll on. While this is a lot of torque, without any kind of traction-control system I fear most of it will be unusable on soft surfaces, at least, not all at once. Still, it’s better to have more than you need and not use it than the alternative, right?

Performance on the DS is somewhat mild with a max burst speed of 98 mph, and sustained top speed of 80 mph. At 5.2 seconds from 0 to 60, I’d say it’s about equal to my 15-year old, Stage-one Sporty in this department, so while it’s adequate to me, some people may find it lacking a bit. Those folks should look instead to the DSR. While it also tops out at 98 mph on the sprint, it will sustain 90 mph, so you could call it a “faster” ride than the DS in this respect. Quickness is another story. The DSR gets from 0 to 60 in a mere 3.9 seconds, so it comes out of the hole like a scalded dog, and should be sufficient for even the most testosterone-poisoned riders among us.

Power pack capacity, range, charge time and lifespan changes according to which pack model you pick and which accessories you choose, so you can tailor the capacity to your needs and still have at least one option to increase the capacity if you underestimate your range needs as well as several options to reduce charge times, as well. The DS can be had with the 9.8 kWh pack or the 13.0 kWh pack, both with a 1.3 kW, on-board charger, while the DSR comes only with the 13.0 kWh pack and same integral charger.

You can add 2.9 kWh to the capacity on either model with the Power Tank accessory, which necessarily increases range as well as charge times, or you can opt instead for the Charge Tank accessory that reduces charge times by roughly 60 percent. You can’t run both “tanks” on the same bike, but Power Tank buyers have the option of using the accessory Quick Chargers to reduce charge times considerably, and even charge up faster than the Charge Tank. The difference is, of course, the Charge Tank is part of the bike, while the accessory chargers are auxiliary equipment that you would have to carry with you if you plan on a quick charge away from the house. It all comes down to your needs and charging options, so consider this before deciding either way.

A clutchless, direct-drive system sends power to the rear wheel via a Poly-Chain GT Carbon belt. At first glance, I thought the drive belt was a bit skinny, and wondered if it will really hold up, since it looks half as wide as the belts Harley runs. Then I remembered that the most common cause of belt failure is damage caused by a rock riding between belt and pulley. It punches a hole, and if it’s near or in the edge, the belt rips half in two. This belt and pulley presents a much smaller target, and therefore is that much less likely to catch a rock to start the failure process. Still, I wonder if chain drive wouldn’t be better for a bike meant to go off-road.

Price

2016 Zero DS / DSR
- image 652169

Prices vary as widely as charge times and ranges, and along the same lines. A base DS with the 9.8 kWh capacity will run you $10,995, while the 13.0 kWh power pack bumps that up to $13,995, and the 13.0 with Power Tank goes for $16,669. The DSR is limited to the 13.0 kWh pack at $15,995, and the Power Tank bumps that right up to $18, 669. Accessories such as the Charge Tank and Quick Chargers will pad that even more, but at least you have the option and flexibility of mixing and matching exactly what you need.

Competitor

2016 Zero DS / DSR
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2016 - 2018 Yamaha Super Ténéré / Super Ténéré ES
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With the burgeoning power levels among electric bikes, I thought it would be fair to compare the DS/DSR against a ride with an internal-combustion engine, so I picked the Super Ténéré from Yamaha. Right off the bat, the Yamaha carries the “usual” look for a dual-sport adventure bike, and is fairly typical, unlike Zero’s more street-centric look.

Now we get to what’s really important, and what will show how well electrics stack up against dinojuice: the performance numbers. The Super Ténéré falls in the middle of the torque range established by the two Zeros at 86 pound-feet, but unlike the electric drives, you have to wind it up to six grand to wring that power out of it. The Zeros bracket that torque figure at 68 pound-feet and 106 pound-feet, leaving you with a choice as to how much you need, or more likely, how much you are willing to pay for.

These numbers, more than anything else, show just how competitive Zero can be as long as you aren’t considering a long trip requiring multiple fillups/chargeups. However, as long as you are driving less than around 200 miles at a stretch (whose butt can take that much at a time, anyway?!), an electric ride such as the DS/DSR can be every bit as capable as a smoker bike. Plus, the Zero is cheaper to operate, at under two dollars for a “fillup”, so I imagine that riders in places with high gas prices would be able to pay for the Zero on gas savings alone in just a handful of years.

The drive-off prices fall along much the same breaks, with the Super Ténéré falling roughly in the middle at $15,090, bracketed by the Zeros at around 11 to 19k. Therefore, at the end of the day, we find that the electric Zero adventure bikes are very competitive with a comparable gas-powered model, and I look to see that sector really take off as the public infrastructure fills in.

He Said

“Wow. Did I mention wow yet? It seems that the only thing holding electrics such as the Zero back are charging stations, or lack thereof, and the need to spend time charging. They have a way to go before long-distance travel is as convenient, but at least it is now feasible, and as a commuter, electrics are just as good, maybe even better once you consider fuel costs and, of course, environmental concerns. Now, just give me a Zero with a hydrogen cell instead of a battery, with the 106 pound-foot motor of course, and I will be set!”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "Two things I really like: electric bikes and adventure bikes. Both of these come together in the DS and now-for-2016, the DSR with the meaner motor. With advances in battery technology, the charging times and ranges are coming into the realm of practicality."

Specifications

Model: Zero DS Zero DSR
Performance:
Motor: ZF9.8 - Z-Force® 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, permanent magnet, brushless motor, ZF13.0 and ZF13.0+PT - Z-Force® 75-7 passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent magnet, brushless motor Z-Force® 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent hi-temp magnet, brushless motor
Controller: High efficiency, 420 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration High efficiency, 660 amp, 3-phase brushless controller with regenerative deceleration
Maximum Torque: 68 Pound-Feet 106 Pound-Feet
Maximum Power: 54 Horsepower at 4,300 rpm 67 Horsepower at 4,000 rpm
Maximum Top Speed: 98 mph 98 mph
Sustained Top Speed: ZF9.8 - 80 mph, ZF13.0 and ZF13.0+PT - 85 mph 90 mph
0 to 60 mph: ZF9.8 - 5.2 seconds, ZF 13.0 - 5.7 seconds, ZF13.0+PT - 6.4 seconds ZF13.0 - 3.9 seconds, ZF13.0+PT - 4.5 seconds
Drivetrain:
Transmission: Clutchless Direct Drive Clutchless Direct Drive
Final Drive: 130T / 28T, Poly Chain® GT® Carbon™ belt 130T / 28T, Poly Chain® GT® Carbon™ belt
Chassis:
Suspension, Front: Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 41 mm inverted cartridge forks, with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Suspension, Rear: Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping Showa 40 mm piston, piggy-back reservoir shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Suspension Travel, Front: 7.0 inches 7.0 inches
Suspension Travel, Rear: 7.03 inches 7.03 inches
Brake, Front: Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan asymmetric dual piston floating caliper, 320 x 5 mm disc
Brake, Rear: Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc Bosch Gen 9 ABS, J-Juan single piston floating caliper, 240 x 4.5 mm disc
Wheel, Front: 2.50 x 19 3.00 x 17
Wheel Rear: 3.50 x 17 3.50 x 17
Tire, Front: Pirelli MT-60 100/90-19 Pirelli MT-60 100/90-19
Tire, Rear: Pirelli MT-60 130/80-17 Pirelli MT-60 130/80-17
Power System:
Power Pack: Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent Z-Force® Li-Ion intelligent
Input: Standard 110 V or 220 V Standard 110 V or 220 V
Charger Type: 1.3 kW, integrated 1.3 kW, integrated
Charge Time, Standard:
100 Percent: ZF9.8 - 6.8 hours , ZF13.0 - 8.9 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.8 hours ZF13.0 - 8.9 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.8 hours
95 percent: ZF9.8 - 6.3 hours , ZF13.0 - 8.4 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.3 hours ZF13.0 - 8.4 hours, ZF13.0+PT - 10.3 hours
Range:
City: ZF9.8 - 110 miles , ZF13.0 - 147 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 179 miles ZF13.0 - 147 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 179 miles
Highway at 55 mph: ZF9.8 - 66 miles, ZF13.0 - 88 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 107 miles ZF13.0 - 88 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 107 miles
Highway at 70 mph: ZF9.8 - 53 miles, ZF13.0 - 70 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 86 miles ZF13.0 - 70 miles, ZF13.0+PT - 86 miles
Dimensions:
Wheelbase: 56.2 inches 56.2 inches
Seat height: 33.2 inches 33.2 inches
Rake: 26.5 degrees 26.5 degrees
Trail: 4.6 inches 4.6 inches
Weight:
Frame : 23 Pounds 23 Pounds
Curb weight: ZF9.8 - 381 Pounds, ZF13.0 - 413 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 457 Pounds ZF13.0 - 419 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 463 Pounds
Carrying capacity: ZF9.8 - 394 Pounds, ZF13.0 - 362 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 318 Pounds ZF13.0 - 356 Pounds, ZF13.0+PT - 312 Pounds
Typical Cost to Recharge: ZF9.8 - $1.10, ZF13.0 - $1.46, ZF13.0+PT - $1.78 ZF13.0 - $1.46, ZF13.0+PT - $1.78
Warranty: Two-year unlimited mileage warranty and Five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack Two-year unlimited mileage warranty and Five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the power pack
Color: Orange Black
Price: ZF9.8 - $10,995, ZF13.0 - $13,995, ZF13.0+PT - $16,669 ZF13.0 - $15,995, ZF13.0+PT - $18,669
What do you think?
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