2016 Zero DSR ZF13.0 & FXS ZF6.5 Supermoto - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Plugging in and playing around Silicon Valley.

2016 Zero FXS on-road action

Some of the best riding in the world can be enjoyed less than an hour south of San Francisco. I know the roads around the Santa Cruz Mountains well from my former life as a bicycle magazine editor: Skyline Boulevard, Alpine Road, Hwy 84 and King's Mountain Road honed my legs and lungs hundreds of times. Imagine the thrill I felt when Editor Hoyer called and asked if I'd attend the Zero Motorcycles 2016 launch on El Pueblo Road in Scotts Valley, a mere 29 miles away.


The new 2016 Zero lineup adds new models and more improvements.

CW spent a full afternoon riding the hot-rod Zero SR electric motorcycle.

“Ride the new bikes, enjoy the scenery, and talk to CTO Abe Askenazi about battery technology,” Hoyer added. “Abe is always the smartest guy in the room. Have fun.”

And I did. I rode the FX and DS models after a factory tour a year ago, so I had a reference point for the new FXS and DSR models being prepped for five journalists. A cursory glance at the new-bike specs told me the Zero DSR features a higher output powertrain that delivers a claimed 56 percent more torque (106 lb-ft) and 25 percent more power (67 hp) than the Zero DS I rode in early 2015.

Highlights from this year’s factory tour included insight on the new Z-Force Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) brushless motor, faster charging and advanced lithium-ion cell chemistry, which Zero claims has the highest energy density in the electric vehicle industry. Yes, that includes Tesla Motors, its popular neighbor to the north by 36 miles.

“In the last handful of years there has been more money invested in battery technology than in its entire prior history,” Askenazi said. “And this investment is only continuing to grow. Our 2016 S delivers 5.8 times the range vs. our original 2009 S. And currently, there are experimental batteries in research laboratories, both private and at many universities, that have 2X, 4X or even higher multiples of the energy density of today’s batteries.”

Zero motorcycle motors on the factory line

According to Zero, the patent-pending IPM design increases efficiency at high speed, so the motor produces less heat, and places the magnets inside the rotor where they are better protected from undesirable magnetic and thermal effects of the stator. These changes result in cooler magnet temperatures, allowing for operation at higher overall temperatures without risk of damaging the motor. While the rotor design was electromagnetically optimized to maximize performance, it was also structurally optimized to minimize rotational inertia, further enhancing its responsiveness.

And before you ask, the Z-Force IPM motor can not be retrofitted to motorcycles using prior designs at this time.

Zero frames and swingarms are made in Asia, but its intellectual property—the battery—is made in Zero’s 65,000-square-foot Scotts Valley facility, which employs 110 people. Each model takes 220 minutes to assemble, and delivery from an authorized Zero dealer typically takes a week from the time the order is placed. In other words, Zero is building to order, not forcing dealers to shoulder the financial burden of placing large orders. Every battery goes through extensive testing, including time spent in water to double-check its waterproofing.

2016 Zero DSR on-road action

2016 Zero DSR ZF13.0.

With EV tech running through our heads and a stomach full of lunch, we saddled up on a 463-lb DSR ZF13.0 with Power Tank, boasting a sustained top speed of 90 mph and claimed combined city and highway range of 116 miles. We played follow the leader with another former bicycle industry veteran, Zero Product Marketing Manager Sean McLaughlin, who took us on some very narrow and twisty roads to nearby Santa Cruz.

Despite the damp roads and my new-bike jitters, the DSR galloped quickly when prodded in Sport mode. I tested the regenerative braking provided by the Bosch Gen 9 ABS, easy enough with several stop lights and hills along the route.

2016 Zero DSR By the Numbers banner

Without anything for my left hand and foot to do (no clutch or shifting on this single-speed machine), my attention was paid into getting the most out of every curve. Cornering was stable and my 6-foot-1 frame meshed well with the tallish 33.2-inch seat height and higher bars. The stock performance characteristics allowed my 180-lb body to experience the bike’s Showa suspension in its standard settings, which worked fine. Due to time constraints I did not to use the Zero App with my smartphone, which allows the rider to alter power settings, monitor battery condition, and set regen levels.

2016 Zero FXS static side view

2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Supermoto.

FXS ZF6.5 Supermoto

On my first ride aboard the FXS ZF6.5 Supermoto, I found the narrow saddle allowed me to skooch forward onto the tank for better cornering response and solid handling. Wheelbase and seat height are nearly the same as the DSR, but the real handling difference was in the steeper rake (24.4 degrees vs. 26.5) and shorter trail (2.8 in. vs 4.6 in.) of the FXS. It also doesn’t hurt that the FXS, at a claimed 293 lb., is significantly lighter thanks to its half-as-large 6.5 KWh battery pack.

“The Zero FXS has been considered for some time,” said Scot Harden, Zero’s VP Global Marketing and AMA Hall of Famer. “The original request came from our European market but there was also strong support from the U.S. team as well. Initial prototyping to first production took under two years mainly due to the already strong platform we had achieved with the FX model. Once our engineering team developed the first prototypes it quickly became their favorite Zero of the bunch. We’ve had a hunch that all the torque combined with the light weight of the Zero FX would really shine when configured specifically for the street.”

2016 Zero FXS By the Numbers banner

With a claimed “combined” city/highway range of just 52 miles, the FXS ZF6.5 is intended for urban shenanigans or hot laps, like the ones we enjoyed up and down the mountain passes near Alice’s, using the supermoto design to its full potential. Thank God for the bite given by the stock 17-inch Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires, because the roads were still greasy from the torrential downpour the night before. The 16-mile loop up and down the 2,400-foot twisty mountain roads at speed drained the battery enough to warrant a modular battery quick swap (did I mention a top speed of 82 mph?), which allowed us to do another hot lap in reverse, much to the chagrin of the local bicyclists flogging themselves up King’s Mountain, who asked with a smile what we were riding when we stopped for more pictures. This was, after all, Silicon Valley, home to green tech and a squillion Teslas.

One of the main topics of discussion among the journalists was the Star Wars-esque land speeder sound the Zero makes in flight, a rather fitting nod to the redwoods surrounding us for most of the day's journey. This is in part due to the clutchless direct drive of the Gates carbon belt. Just as George Lucas opened up a whole new frontier of moviemaking in 1977 with his radical space western, Zero has shown the world what it can do for changing the perception and reality of motorcycling in the 21st century. And its lead in the category is only getting larger, if the new DSR and FXS are any indication.

“We’re not an internal combustion engine company that has an electric program; we live by how well and how fast we can continue to create a superior riding experience, so that we can convince more and more riders to join us on this wonderful ride,” Askenazi added. “I honestly believe that we’ve created something truly special with our 2016 motorcycles.”

Forget hot, loud pipes; forget slipping gears; forget the friction zone; forget oil changes; forget broken chains and valve adjustments. Plug and play will be a big part of the future, and Zero has lengthened its stride tremendously with the DSR and FXS.

Boulanger spent 24 1/2 years in the bicycle industry, but his aging body and active mind convinced him to switch to motorcycles last year. He commutes 45 miles each way to his day job as store manager of the Dainese D-Store in San Francisco on one of three motorcycles. This is his first article for Cycle World.

2016 Zero DSR ZF13.0 2016 Zero FXS ZF6.5 Supermoto
MOTOR Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, radial flux, brushless Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) with 660 amp controller with regenerative deceleration|Z-Force 75-7 passively air-cooled, radial flux, brushless Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) with 420 amp controller with regenerative deceleration
MAX. BATTERY CAPACITY 15.9 kWh (with Power Tank)|6.5 kWh
SEAT HEIGHT 33.2 in.|32.9 in.
CHARGE TIME (STANDARD) 10.8 hours|8.9 hours
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 419 lb.|293 lb.
RANGE 95 miles (combined City and Highway); 116 (with Power Tank)|52 miles (combined City and Highway)
BASE PRICE $15,995|$10,990
Photo #1
2016 Zero FXS action.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero FXS action.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero FXS action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero FXS action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero FXS action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero FXS action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero FXS action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero FXS cruising near Santa Cruz.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero FXS static side view.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero DSR cruising near Santa Cruz.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero DSR action.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero DSR action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero DSR action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero DSR action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero DSR action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero DSR dirt riding action.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero DSR dirt riding action.Andrew Wheeler
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2016 Zero DSR static beauty.Joe Salas
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2016 Zero DSR's in Santa Cruz... which one is mine?Joe Salas
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Zero Motorcycles battery packs.Gaz Boulanger
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Zero Motorcycles frames.Gaz Boulanger
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Zero Motorcycles motors.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS details.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS instrument panel.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS rear suspension.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS triple clamp/handlebar riser.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero DSR static beauty.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS cockpit view.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS lined up in front of Alice's Restaurant.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS swapping batteries.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS with battery removed.Gaz Boulanger
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Break time.Gaz Boulanger
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2016 Zero FXS studio side view.Zero Motorcycles Photo
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2016 Zero DSR studio side view.Zero Motorcycles Photo