ROAD TEST: 2020 Zero SR/F electric motorcycle

By Koz Mraz

What if you were the fastest thing on the road, 140 lb-ft of torque and 110 horsepower, 0 to 60 in three seconds, faster than many supercars. What if even at 80 mph you could pass cars on the freeway in a blink of an eye. What if you weren’t constantly up-and-downshifting in the mountains, had immediate torque on tap and your engine generated no heat or sound.

Pondering the 2020 Zero SR/F from my Tesla Model X, I must confess that once the electric door of the future has opened, it’s hard to ignore.  The sheer fun and excitement of motorcycling the mountains on the SR/F is electric (sorry, couldn’t help myself)…

Zero has been designing electric motorcycles longer than any other manufacturer in what is now a very competitive market.  I believe that electric motorcycles may very well be the saving grace of motorcycling.  No gears, shifting or hand-cramping-clutch, simple operation, lightweight, nimble, ecological and sexy fast, it’s the perfect formula to entice young riders into the sport.

In partnership with Zero Motorcycles, the IMS Tour (International Motorcycle Show) has a program called “Discover The Ride.”  It offers a new rider course that allows non-licensed attendees to ride a motorcycle for the first time and learn riding basics from expert instructors. The indoor demo course hosts a fleet of speed-limited electric Zero Motorcycles to give participants the experience of riding a motorcycle in a safe and controlled environment.  Since Zero Motorcycles have no transmission, feature ABS as standard equipment and zero emissions, it allows new riders access to the world of motorcycling that never before existed.

Going the Distance

The range is always a topic of discussion and the SR/F’s claimed range of 161 miles in the city (adding a Power Tank bumps it up to over 200 miles). The Z-Force® Power Tank is an optional accessory, and the Power Tank can be added at any time during or after motorcycle purchase upgrading your motorcycle to 18 kWh of battery capacity for additional range.  Not a distance touring bike but that’s not its current intent.

Riding Highway 74 to Idyllwild was a total blast on the SR/F. When opportunities to pass came along, I confidently and quickly made the move. The SR/F is powered by a new ZF75-10 IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery. It achieves its new top speed of 124 mph increased power from the new motor, but also a 1,000 rpm increase in the motor’s top rpm to 7,500 rpm.

Because Zero employs regenerative braking, I added ten miles of riding distance coming down the mountain. Honestly, I found that not having to always down and upshift allowed me to focus fully on cornering, which was a more exciting riding experience. The riding position is that of a sport bike which is perfect for the twisties.

Mileage on an electric motorcycle varies just like gasoline powered engines. If you are an aggressive, heavy-handed rider or doing a lot of mountainous terrain, it will drain the battery faster.

The SR/F weighs in at 485 Lbs. with stock seat being 31 inches, low seat 30.3 inches and high seat 31.9 inches.

Battery Jamboree

The 110-volt outlets on previous generation Zeros meant any improvement in battery capacity was countered by an increase in charge time.  Zero resolved that issue with the accessory charge tank Level 2 charger that fits into the luggage area of the previous generation’s faux gas tank. Level 2 charging is that 240-volt charger found at public charging stations or can be purchased for your home. In reality, charging time for most owners is irrelevant; you plug it in after the ride and unplug the next morning.

EVBox claims to have over 75,000 Charging stations installed across the country; check out www.pluginamerica.org and you will be shocked at how prevalent they are.

For the SR/F, Zero integrated Level 2 charging into the base configuration.  While the SR/F still comes with an adapter for 110V power to the Level 2 plug, you’ll need to hook up the SR/F to a 240V Level 2 charger to reap the benefits of the charger upgrade.  The SR/F Premium model owners will have the ability to charge their motorcycle at 6kW, essentially halving the charge time again, to 2.5 hours from 0-100% capacity. Since many Level 2 charging stations offer a maximum of 7kW, the SR/F Premium will be able to take advantage of it. The Premium model also includes heated grips.

Keep Me in Suspension

The cast aluminum wheels receive Pirelli Diablo Rosso III – 120/70-17 in the front and 180/55-17 in the rear. A fully-adjustable big-piston SFF Showa fork attaches to a 3.50 x 17-inch front wheel. The fully-adjustable shock connects directly with a steel swingarm. The Bosch ABS brakes employ radial-mount, four-piston front calipers with 320mm discs on custom carriers that mimic the design of the wheels. The rear brake is a 240mm unit that mates to a single-piston floating caliper.

The Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) is a first in an electric motorcycle. The MSC hits all of the significant dynamic controls: ABS, cornering ABS, traction control, drag torque control – all of which are adjustable via the preset ride modes (Eco, Street, Sport, and Rain) and the ten user-programmable custom ride modes. Using proprietary TFT instrumentation, the ride mode parameters can be accessed via an intuitive menu system controlled by a switch on the left grip; or as Zero has done with previous models, the settings can be massaged on the newly updated smartphone app.

Turning Me On

The little red button on the right handle grip is not a starter; it’s simply on and off. It’s also a cruise control.  After a short boot-up, the green icon indicates you’re ready to ride, just twist the throttle, very slowly.

The five-inch full-color TFT display controls everything in  the combination of interrelated systems in the SR/F; Zero’s engineers created the Cypher III operating system to act as the central hub. Cypher III integrates the 12V system, charging system, battery, battery monitoring system, controller and motor, Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control, TFT dash app, Bluetooth connection and cellular connectivity module.

Something to Whine About

For a motorcycle that runs virtually silently, I would expect an aggressive horn that alerts others of my presence. Unfortunately, it’s comparable to a laughable Toys-R-Us buzzer.

So what does this lifelong-fossil-fuel-V-Twin-riding-motorcycle-madman think of this bike? I am kinda blown away.  It’s the first electric I’ve ridden that actually looks and feels like a motorcycle, and although not a sport bike rider, I  was very comfortable in the saddle of this bike. I loved the power and quite honestly it brought me back to why I began riding motorcycles.  Electric motorcycles are here to stay. You all know that dozens of manufacturers are popping out of the grid vying for this market. Zero, a California company, with over seven models and a fourteen-year history, is in the lead.  As previously stated, I believe it will be a direct conduit to the rejuvenation of motorcycle riding for fun and sport.  It’s the way and wave of the future.

Price of Ownership

Factoring in that the cost of a full battery charge is around $1.60, the cost of ownership is relatively affordable.

The standard 2020 Zero SR/F comes in two colors, Boardwalk Red and Seabright Blue, and retails for $18,995.The standard also comes with a 3.0 kW Rapid Charger that Zero says will charge to 95% in four hours, and to 100% in 4.5 hours.

The premium 2020 SR/F, which also comes with heated grips, a windscreen and aluminum bar ends, is equipped with a 6.0 kW Rapid Charger that charges to 95% in two hours, and to 100% in 2.5 hours. It retails for $20,995. Both models can also be upgraded with another 6.0 kW Rapid Charger that drops charge time (to 95%) to as little as one hour.

Special thanks to Lee, owner of Palm Springs Motorsports, a Zero dealer right off the I-10 Freeway for their generous bike loan and Jeff Jolin at Zero for fact checking.

Rider gear credits:

Scorpion EXO helmet

Alpinestars Mesh vented jacket

Alpinestars Duple denim pants with Kevlar

Alpinestars Ridge-2 Air boots

Scorpion Covert Tactical gloves

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