We know what you’re thinking: An electric adventure bike? No, thanks. Not interested. Before you go writing off Zero, you should know that the California-based electric motorcycle company has come a long way in its short existence, as major investments in the company have produced some impressive electric street motorcycles.
So much so that the company felt it was time to delve into the ADV market and cash in on the segment like many other traditional motorcycle companies are playing in.
With the DSR/X, Zero says you’re getting an electric ADV bike, and while it might look like some of Zero’s other models—primarily the SR/F and SR/S street bikes—Zero tells us this is an all-new model.
The frame and swingarm are new, the battery is the most energy-dense it’s made so far, and every detail on the DSR/X was designed with a seamless ADV experience in mind.
What Does That Mean?
It means a riding experience with a very easy learning curve, especially if you’ve never ridden an electric motorcycle before. This starts with an upgraded motor rated to make 166 lb-ft of torque, more than any other Zero model.
Horsepower is rated at around 100. Having so much torque on hand also means putting it to the ground effectively.
Zero’s longstanding partnership with Bosch meant the latter could implement its full expertise in vehicle management, including a six-axis IMU, into the DSR/X.
Now the DSR/X benefits from lean-sensitive ABS and traction control. But on a more fundamental level, this also meant refining the throttle mapping to deliver smooth power.
Another aspect of the Bosch partnership was also refining the five different power modes: Sport, Street, Eco, Rain, and Canyon – the newest power mode. Canyon delivers full power, but with the regenerative braking settings nearly matching Eco mode.
So you can take advantage of the power on fun paved roads while hardly needing to touch the brakes. As an added bonus, you’re putting back a little power each time you decelerate, too.
The part you care about, though, is the Offroad setting. In addition to the five modes above, each of those five modes can also be switched to Offroad mode, giving you effectively 10 ride modes to choose from.
As you can probably guess, switching to Offroad mode keeps the power levels of whatever mode you started in but relaxes the ABS and Traction Control settings to allow you to have more control over the rear wheel, whether you want to spin it up or lock it. All of the rider aids can also be disabled if you prefer to have full control over the bike.
Mechanically, the Showa suspension front and rear are fully adjustable. You even get a preload adjustment knob for the shock to make that change super easy. Suspension travel is 7.48 inches at both ends.
Not super great for a real ADV motorcycle, but capable of light work. To help with ground clearance, the motor controller is moved under the subframe (it’s under the battery on the SR/F and SR/S).
Now, hardcore ADV riders will notice a few components on the standard bike that look out of place. First, the cast wheels and tires.
These clearly aren’t meant to take you deep into gnarly terrain. The good news is that Zero offers tubeless wire-spoke wheels and knobby Pirelli Scorpion tires, should you want to venture further than what the stock stuff can handle.
The second questionable component is the belt drive. Any off-road rider will tell you a belt poses all kinds of problems, but the two main issues are belt strength and keeping clean contact between the sprocket and the belt.
To help solve the first issue, Zero’s belt partner Gates developed a new belt that’s 2.6 times stronger than anything Zero currently uses. And to keep it from slipping, holes on the underside of the sprocket help dirt and debris escape.
That might be fine for light off-road riders or people who only ride in dry, sandy conditions, but real adventure riders will still see a problem with the belt drive system. Luckily, you can get a chain conversion kit from Zero if you want.
The Real Question: How Far Will the Zero DSR/X Go?
Obviously, everyone wants to know: Will I get stuck in the middle of the woods and have nowhere to charge? This becomes a complicated question to answer. Zero claims, at its lowest, meaning Highway riding at 70 mph, you can get about 85 miles from the battery. City riding will net you as much as 180 miles.
We don’t know what it will do off-road because testing criteria doesn’t exist. But seeing as the speeds generally seen off-road is slower than on the highway, it seems plausible you can ride for a while in technical terrain on a single charge.
To make exploring a little easier, Zero has partnered with the Backcountry Discovery Routes to highlight existing routes with charging infrastructure already in existence. The aim is to encourage the expansion of ADV routes and/or infrastructure to accommodate this new sub-division of electric adventure riding.
Coming in at $24,495 in the states, the Zero DSR/X is certainly not priced to be a toy, though it’s still considered one by many. Hardcore ADV riders who were put off by an electric ADV bike likely aren’t at all swayed now, but there is a case to be made that the average commuter during the week who likes to take a small off-road jaunt on the weekends might find the DSR/X a nice compromise.
If the BDR partnership bears some real fruit, that could help expand the DSR/X’s reach into more households. For now, however, it appears the DSR/X is a niche bike in an especially crowded niche as it is.