First Ride On A Zero FXS Electric Motorcycle

Nick Ienatsch rides his brand-new Zero FXS Z7.2 for the first time

Tomorrow Came

Okay, we got dirty. This first ride covered 46 miles and they were evenly split between dirt and pavement. I ran in Eco mode in the dirt and tried Sport mode in the dirt and pavement, and there was quite a difference. Both are quick but Eco shuts down the party at 70 mph while Sport allows the bike to rev to 85 mph.

The bike is quick and exciting, but it’s not fast. The top speed is 85 mph in the current Sport mode tuning, and that comes pretty easily where I live. I mistakenly started to pass a car at highway speed in Eco mode and the 70-mph limit made it a bit clumsy. Note to self: Thumb Sport mode before passing, as you can change modes on the fly. And for all you speed freaks, taller gearing is available for the belt-driven final drive.

Zero FXS ZF7.2
Some say "dirt road," some say "test course," but I have never enjoyed this road more than on the Zero. The Pirellis are made for the pavement but that makes this gravel road even more exciting. This FXS in the dirt reminds me of what Warren Willing told me before I rode KR Junior's RGV500: "Don't think you're not doing a good job just because you're not using a lot of throttle." Small movements deliver big results; this power and delivery are on par with, or ahead of, my KX500 Supermoto here at 5,000 feet of elevation. Serious.Nick Ienatsch

There were no dull moments on the FXS. A rooster tail on dirt roads is just a small wrist movement away as the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II street tire gives up grip pretty quickly in the face of all this torque. The bike weighs just under 300 pounds and feels even lighter, whether you’re rolling it around the driveway or playing with rear grip. The FXS feels very dirt bike-ish because it’s light and thin with upright ergos and a 32.9-inch seat height. Note that the seat is wider than most dirt bike seats and significantly more comfortable.

Passenger seat removed
I removed the passenger pegs as the passenger seat is “less than comfortable” according to Judy, filling the holes with plugs and saving a few pounds on the way.Nick ienatsch

When in the dirt, one must remember that every small increase in throttle is a significant increase in acceleration, and I found myself riding it with the same throttle care that I give non-TC literbikes. Spinning the FXS’s rear tire all the way through 60 mph is pretty amazing; there is no break in the power because you aren’t shifting. Pretty cool and pure fun.

There’s a hooligan’s secret on the FXS: It’s quiet. Sliding a gas-powered bike around these county roads is doable, I’ve heard, but you’re making enough noise to possibly annoy the residents. Not the Zero. It’s spinning and sliding and hooliganing with just a little chatter from the rear axle and a whir from the motor. I’ve written before about keeping my exhaust stock because I ride a quiet bike faster, and this Zero is the pinnacle of that idea. Going quick is fun, especially when you’re not upsetting everyone in the area. After all, if nobody hears you, are you really speeding?

FXS
Some say “paved rural road,” some say “test track.” The FXS might feel a bit lost on open, fast roads like the Angeles Crest Highway, but at speeds below 85 mph it is a hoot. The J.Juan brakes (two-piston sliding caliper front and rear) offer excellent feel and plenty of power, plus Bosch 9 ABS which you can turn off if you like. I haven’t yet adjusted the Showa suspension, liking the factory settings so far.Nick Ienatsch

Just Barely Got Home!

Full disclosure: I’ve run motorcycles out of gas many times! Not recently (due to a bike-pushing experience), but too often to mention. And I barely made it home today on my new Zero.

When the dash told me I had 20-percent battery left, my phone’s Zero app told me I could go another 8 miles. Gulp. I was farther than 8 miles from my house because I got completely carried away on a dirt road that took me much further up the mountain than I expected.

Oh, and by the way… The thinner air of increasing altitude does nothing to affect the FXS’s performance. It was strong all the way up the hill. The higher you go, the stronger your Zero will be in comparison to the gas-burners with you. But, wait, there’s more: The Zero won’t lose power on a hot day and run stronger on a cold day, like we’re used to with normally aspirated internal combustion engines.

But back to my barely getting home. I thumbed the bike into Eco mode and began cruising home on the asphalt, staying at or near the 50-mph speed limit with a feeling of dread because all computations were against me. Guess where the charging cord was? Yep, safe on the bench in the garage at home. I couldn’t even pull over and plug in to gain a few extra percentages of charge! Talk about an electric-bike rookie mistake… It was like forgetting your wallet when your bike is low on fuel.

About 4 miles from home, the dash went 00 percent. At this point I was on the shoulder cruising along at about 25 mph. The last 3 miles were on a lightly traveled dirt road so I dropped my speed to between 10 and 14 mph and started playing with “regen,” which is short for regeneration of the battery when the bike is decelerating.

Dash
See the blurry road and the 00 percent battery remaining? That’s because I’m not home yet and I forgot the charging cord! The addicting nature of the Zero’s acceleration put me surprisingly far from home and using electricity at a prodigious rate. I crept along for 4 miles on 00 percent and still had tire-spinning power as I approached my garage. No pushing…00 percent wasn’t quite “empty.” (Notice that I haven’t pulled the protective covers off the dash yet… Trying to preserve the first new bike I’ve had in years.)Nick Ienatsch

I would accelerate very lightly (one bar of torque and power showing on the dash) up to 14 mph and then abruptly close the throttle and see three bars of regen appear. Not sure if that’s a worthwhile approach, but I traveled approximately 4 miles with 00 percent showing on my dash and still had power when I arrived home from my 46-mile maiden jaunt.

I left my garage with 86-percent battery power showing; that charge carried me 46 miles, with the last 10 miles quite easy but the first 36 basically flat out. After a particularly long full-throttle flog I saw a motor temperature of 278 degrees that prompted a glowing temp light on the dash and curbed the power a bit until things cooled down. As the temps came down, power came back and the fun continued. I got 19 miles out of the last 20 percent of battery, and while it showed 00 percent, it still had tire-spinning power as I approached my garage.

One good tip that I completely ignored was to ride the bike until 50 percent of your battery is gone, then turn for home if you plan to take the same route. I should have retraced my steps at 43 percent because my planned shortcut home was on the ragged edge of 20-percent battery power. Or remembered my charging cable.

When the bike was delivered, the charging cable was folded and tucked inside the swingarm tube. I plan to carry it there with an additional fastener to make sure it stays put.

Nothing Stupid

I include this range information because that’s what most people think about when they hear “electric bike,” but you also need to hear that this Zero FXS doesn’t have any silly issues like a spring-loaded sidestand, goofy turn-signal actuation, nonadjustable suspension, or quirky front suspension system that adds weight and complexity. This Zero is straightforward and correct with proven components like Showa and J.Juan. The Zero guys didn’t try to redesign every part of a motorcycle; they produced a very rideable bike that feels immediately familiar and right, with the exception of the massive off-idle silent acceleration.

With the bike finally dirty and in use you can expect to get an occasional Zero update here on Ienatsch Tuesday because I plan to take it to the Supermoto track and ride the hell out of it around Colorado. I’m going to make it my own as it checks a lot of boxes for me, especially in the performance categories. I could like a slow bike and have a few, but I could never love one.

2018 Zero FXS
This 2018 Zero FXS had an out-the-door price of just over $11,000 from Filipacchi Motors in Nolita (New York City), New York. Torque is an arm-stretching 78 pound-feet with 46 hp. Seat height is 32.9 inches and Zero tells us the 7.2-kWh battery will deliver 100 city miles or 50 highway miles between charges. A full charge takes nine hours, and Enrico at Filipacchi told me the last 5 percent of the charge is most important due to “cell balancing.” Curb weight is 293 pounds.Nick Ienatsch

I leave the last word to my friend Bim, also an FXS fan. He told me, “You race the stinkiest, smokiest bike on the planet (TZ750) and we all love it. Now you can offset it with this Zero because I know you’ll love it.” You are right, my friend, thank you.