For the first time in over a decade of testing motorcycles, I’ve finally found the bike that has started making me feel like a bit of a jaded old hack. The Zero SR. On paper it makes as much sense as it sounds silently ridiculous in real life. An £18k price tag (if you go for the range extending battery pack), a 208kg ready to ride weight but with dimensions more in keeping with a 300cc naked bike. You can charge the all-electric bike up in your garage, or if you’re clever, in the car park at the office. A fast charge take a couple of hours, a full charge takes eight hours. Showa suspension front and back, Pirelli tyres and unheard of brakes all look perfectly up to the job of whooshing bike and pilot up the road in surreal, whirring semi silence.
It looks good, if not a little Chinesey. Up close the build quality is well up to scratch, panels line up and switchgear feels solid. I’m not going to write too much as the video below can do the talking, but I wanted to expand on the chat we had with the three guys at Boxhill that you’ll see in the video below. I got chatting to an R1 owner, he was about as stereotypical as they come. He pushed the peak on his TT cap back and sucked through his teeth like a plumber looking at a leak when he came over to look at the Zero. While his mates asked questions, he rolled a smoke, eyeing the bike and me with Cold War spy levels of suspicion. Silently inspecting the welds around the headstock and tapping the tyres with a 15-year-old squeaky Sidi, he looked me clean in the eye…
“How fast does it go, then?”, he said. I expected this one and parried with a 105mph retort. The guy puffed his chest out and moved in for an early kill. “Pfft, my R1 (which was behind him) will do that in first gear”. I rode the Zero to Ryka’s café at Boxhill hoping I’d meet a couple of old school bikers, knowing that the Californian Kid would come under exactly the kind of scrutiny it was currently receiving. I’d kept the torque figure up my sleeve and this chap had just stepped right into the open space I’d created, so I let him have it. “This electric bike makes more torque than your R1, it’s easier to launch than your R1 and I reckon it’d drop you and that bike like a toilet seat from 0-60mph. Grab your helmet and we’ll have it on the dual carriageway”. I called him out in front if his mates, at his favourite biker café. In biker terms, I’d poured a pint over his head and stolen his number one girl.
Matey’s eyes bulged, he looked at his mates for a bit of back up, they were all staring at their shoes and silently fishing Rizla papers out of pockets. If this were a forum conversation, they’d all be holding up pictures of Michael Jackson eating a bucket of popcorn…
He circled the SR another time, weighing it up and looking for an angle of attack. He couldn’t find one and, basically, melted. He didn’t even say no. He just turned his back on me and the bike and squeaked back to the comfort of his table, scooping a sip on a Styrofoam coffee cup and muttering to his mates about how he should have taken the race because his bike is proper, and really fast. He didn’t, though.
I’d only ridden the Zero SR for about 12 miles by this stage but felt like it needed some defending. I got on it with the same levels of suspicion as these guys had but within minutes, I realised that it does pretty much everything that a ‘normal’ bike does. Yes, it weighs more than it looks like it weighs. No, it doesn’t have a clutch or gears, or a chain, or an exhaust, or a service schedule like anything you’ve seen before. No, I wouldn’t choose one over an R1M, or even an MT-10, or anything else for that matter. But, it is a cool thing. There’s something about riding through a village and not seeing dogs going mad at me that I quite like. Pedestrians weren’t turning and tutting at us as we buzzed along and I could genuinely hear crickets and birds doing their thing up to about 45/50mph. I was still riding a bike, though. The majority of what I was feeling was completely normal. The lack of theatre that internal combustion provides was missing, there’s no denying that. After a full day on the Zero, I felt like I’d been on a brilliant date with my wife. We’d held hands, been somewhere that we both love and had a jolly nice time. But she hadn’t said a single word to me all day and as most men know, that signals that something definitely isn’t right, regardless of how much fun you look like you’re having. Watch the review below.
I’m not ready for EV bikes in the same way my dad wasn’t ready for an IPod ten years ago. Today his playlist is bulging and he’s always looking for Wifi to steal, I like that. I know they’re coming, I know I can’t put them off and I know they’ll be very good. I know all that. But I do like the sound of rev limiters and I love the smell of unleaded in the morning.
Words: Johnatsuperbike Images and video: Bike World and Double Red.