“The SR is not only a practical bike; its also an utter hooligan!”
Words and images by Kevin
I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Thetford Forest for one of the Electric Alley events held by English Electric Motor Co and as I have been raving on about Zero Motorcycles for an absolute age, I simply could not wait.
English Electric Motor Co was started by the lovely chaps behind Old Empire Motorcycles, with their HQ slap bang in the centre of East Anglia, known for its luscious green fields, stately homes, steam railways, nature reserves, a plethora of quaint towns with local food and craft shops; it’s the perfect place to ride around astride a quiet, green machine.
The Zero motorcycles SR.
Now, don’t let the word “quiet” put you off. When I originally announced that I would be test riding a Zero SR I was met with some rather crass comments: “it’ll be like having sex after having an epidural” and “watch your friends diminish in numbers”, I understand why people may feel this way. After all, motorcycles should be loud, fierce, reek of oil and petrol right? Our job as bikers is to impose ourselves on anyone’s peaceful afternoon with a roar of power and a show of impressive brutality. Obviously everyone wants to see this and with a smile on their face they feel a pang of jealousy, piercing eyes track you as you disappear off into the distance. Once out of sight they are overcome with the painful realization that their life is pitiful and incomplete without a great throbbing engine between their legs.
Another argument I’ve frequently heard is: “loud pipes save lives” and maybe they do, but I still have friends with loud pipes who’ve been smashed into by a careless driver. The fact is, that there is a whole host of things that save lives such as; being seen, defensive riding, being aware of other road users, reading the road and of course oxygen. Yep, oxygen. If you can’t breathe, you’ll die! With the ever growing focus on air pollution and the rising numbers of children now being born with chronic respiratory diseases (as a direct result of poor air quality), surely having clean air is important? Interestingly the one thing I didn’t miss when riding the Zero SR was the song of a thousand fossils exploding beneath me and being spewed out the back end as fine particles of noxious gas.
Yeah its all a bit overboard and I’m being silly, but I feel that the arguments against electric vehicles are now redundant. Gone are the days of atrociously miniscule ranges and even worse battery charging times, Zero have worked tirelessly to improved these in the last decade and improve them they have.
The Zero SR has a range of 202 miles through its ZF13.0 power pack, which is non-stop riding from Leeds to London on a single charge! Couple that with an impressive 157.2 Nm of torque, hurtling you up to it’s (limited) top speed of 102mph within a matter of seconds. The SR is not only a practical bike; its also an utter hooligan! The Z-Force motor gifts you 100% of the torque from 1mph all the way up to it’s top speed which, when you experience this is both terrifying and exhilarating in equal measures.
The set up on the SR is fantastic, the style and build quality presents itself much better in real life than in the promotional photographs. Rider comfort and ergonomics have been well thought out, sat upright with your feet slightly back, there is no tension or strain, my weight was easily shifted around the bike delivering a smooth and responsive ride. Not surprising really when the suspension was designed with Showa specifically for Zero’s motorcycles. Through the USD forks small bump compliance is excellent and when it comes to something larger (which you probably should avoid) the handling is solid and predictable. Both the front and rear suspension is completely customizable so you can adjust it to meet your particular demands. When it comes to the all important stopping power, that’s been taken care of with large diameter (320mm), carrier-less front rotor.
There are several ride modes; Eco, Custom and Sport which can be applied on the fly. Each mode changes the performance of the bike and how much the battery will recharge while riding.
Eco mode softens the throttle response, limits the torque of the motor and gives you maximum regeneration when you brake or lay off the throttle, so if you ride it right, you can increase the range on the battery as you go.
Sport mode gives you a no holds barred experience, with a quicker throttle response, full torque, better motor braking. The down side to this is that you will drain the battery much quicker (the same as a conventional motorcycle where riding enthusiastically reduces your MPG), so it’s definitely something to save for when you’re blasting out to the cafe and back to meet your mates.
Custom does what it says on the tin. You can choose how much torque you want, top speed, and how much power you want the bike to recycle and put back into the battery each time you lay off the throttle or use the brakes. This can all be done via a Bluetooth connective app, which does a whole host of other cool things, including telling you how much money you’ve saved per mile vs. using petroleum.
Full recharge is still an overnight affair taking 8 hours to juice up, however you can do a 2 hour quick charge which gives you 90% capacity. I rarely ride 200 miles in one go, so for me this bike is ideal. If you are a true mile muncher, regularly heading to Europe on extended mile tours then, as you can tell, this bike isn’t for you. Nor is it designed to be! This is a true urban warrior who occasionally heads across the country to go and visit his mates and when I think about it, the vast majority of bikes I’ve owned or would like to own are the same when it comes down to it.
A major advantage over conventional motorcycles is that the Zero SR is practically maintenance free! No chain tension, valve adjustments, carburettor tinkering, annual oil drop, filter change and the endless other things we do for the love of our bikes. You can literally just hop on and go, so for those who aren’t proficient in the twirling of spanners this one is for you.
In conclusion the Zero SR is capable of holding it’s own when it comes to traditional combustion motorcycles, yet I feel the arguments against electric motorcycles will continue. They will go on and on until you take the plunge and sling your leg over for a ride. Then and only then you’ll realize that actually, all of the arguments you thought you had against an electric motorcycle have been invalid. Why? Because a) you will feel like you are in Tron and b) at the end of the day, an electric motorcycle is….well….a motorcycle.