Day to day with the Zero DSR/X
Turning right onto a state road near my home, I suddenly caught a glimpse in my left periphery of a pickup truck topping the hill behind me, his headlights bearing down rapidly in my mirrors. “Oh crap,” I exclaimed, as I rolled hard on the throttle to put distance between us. The Zero DSR/X responded instantly with arm stretching torque, nearly lifting the front with eager acceleration. 0-70 mph in seconds, leaving the four wheeled interloper far behind.
“What a torque monster,” I said aloud in my helmet, as my heart rate and breathing tried to relax. No shifting, no winding up hard through five or six gears, just instant, linear acceleration pulling me out of harm’s way, with its 166 ft lbs of torque. And no roar of a howling exhaust climbing into the upper rev range (which I admit I love), but an electric whine, a scream really, as the Zero rocketed me down the road. Impressive, once I caught my breath.
Electric is growing on me.
Ah, blessed sunlight. Let’s ride.
When Phil and I first had the opportunity to sample a pair of Zeros back in 2020, their SR/S and SR/F models, we entered it somewhat skeptical, but finished our review quite impressed. I don’t believe that electric is the sole future, but it will certainly be a viable part of the world’s transportation energy solutions, and brands like Zero Motorcycles are driving the innovation and practical developments.
So now Zero has entered the wildly popular and increasingly crowded ADV-Dual Sport category with this DSR/X sport adventure motorcycle. Rolling on an upgraded frame cradle from their SR/S and F models, and with a new generation Z-Force 75-10X drive motor and 17.3 battery pack, the DSR/X is well suited and sorted for daily commuting, canyon carving, straight line dragging (as when a jacked pickup is on your license plate), and light duty dirt and gravel. More on that momentarily.
We’ve had the DSR/X for a bit over three weeks, and have ridden it in multiple scenarios- errand running around town, joy riding through the wide open countryside, diving through curves, riding through some of the over-abundant rain we’ve had this winter, and bouncing down a few dirt and gravel roads so common in the rural South. I’ve personally found the Zero DSR/X more than adequate for the kind of riding I typically enjoy and employ.
About to roll in the morning mist, which soon turned to rain. RAIN mode and good REV’IT! rain gear made the ride effortless.
First and foremost, let’s start with the bike’s Ride Modes. On several other motorcycles we’ve reviewed in recent years, there have been occasions where we couldn’t discern major differences between their various ride mode settings. Certainly not so with the DSR/X. Each of its six Ride Modes are very distinct, with characteristics immediately noticeable upon entering the mode. Here’s what I personally found with each:
ECO- measured throttle response, heavy regen braking
STANDARD- quicker throttle response, less regen braking
SPORT- jumpy throttle, very little regen braking
CANYON- throttle similar to STANDARD, but regen in between ST and ECO
RAIN- gradual, controlled roll-on, with gradual, controlled braking and regen
OFFROAD- TC & ABS disabled, with ECO style throttle and RAIN style braking
*Through Zero’s Next Gen app, any of the above modes can be customized into an offroad setting.
I found myself mostly in STANDARD and CANYON for regular riding, dry roads. Very comfortable settings for the type of riding I do. On the rainy days, the RAIN mode was confidence inspiring, as was the OFFROAD settings when on gravel and dirt. In OFFROAD, the bike is able to move more and flow beneath the rider, with minimal traction control or ABS trying to interfere and intervene. Zero has a fine package in their Ride Modes, well developed and implemented.
Some road “work” with the DSR/X. My kind of work!
If you’re not familiar with regenerative braking, to put it simply (for me), the drive motor spins in reverse upon rolling off the throttle, sending an electric charge back to the battery pack. This unique feature, exclusive to electric vehicles, actually means you get better mileage around town in stop-go conditions due to “regen braking”, as opposed to steady throttle out on open roads. The opposite of petrol powered motorcycles and automobiles, where mileage decreases in traffic conditions.
One day while running a ”honey-do” errand list around our town, my starting charge range showed 128 miles before I left the house. Upon returning, the range showed 129 miles. Blew my mind at first, until it dawned on me the effects of regen braking. I’d started and stopped so frequently, every time I closed the throttle and rolled to another stop, I kept recharging the battery. Yet when I’d just take off for a few hours of open country riding, the charge and range would tick down before my eyes.
A chai latte and a charge, please. *Rocking the Knockaround Flying Tigers III shades.
Which leads me to the two main caveats still existent with electric bikes- range and charge times. From 0% to full charge takes a good 8 hours on a standard 110 wall socket here in the U.S., about an hour/half with Zero’s Power Tank fast charge pack ($3K accessory). Standard charge yielded about 112 miles for us, and with an Extended Charge feature enabled in the menu (why not just make it standard?), you can eke out 128-130 miles on a charge. That’s a little better, but still quite inadequate compared to the 200+ range on many of today’s ADV gas powered bikes. Plus, you can be in/out of a fuel station in around 10 minutes, rather than an hour or more waiting for enough charge to ride. Of course, battery tech is improving steadily, with weight and size dropping, range increasing, and charge times shrinking. That gap will close in time. Zero asserts the DSR/X will do close to 180 miles on a charge in urban stop/go settings, and in our experience around town, that certainly seems plausible.
The rider triangle fit me very well.
As well as the Ride Modes, I personally felt the rider triangle fit me very well, at 5’8”. I could mostly flat foot at stops due to the 32.6” seat height, and while the curb weight of 544 lbs might feel a mite heavy, the Zero carries the weight quite low, so I never felt like I might lose it or tip over. To be honest, the overall dimensions and feel reminded me of Triumph’s Tiger Sport 660, which I absolutely loved. An added feature I enjoyed and employed a few times was the Reverse Mode. Accessed through the “Parking” tab in the menu, sliding the bike back with throttle inputs is better than the reverse found on the Honda Goldwing and similar bikes.
Rolling some Georgia dirt/gravel with the DSR/X.
In day-to-day riding, I appreciated the tactile manual adjuster for the windscreen. Just reach up and crank the screen up or down to your desired height. So much easier than the snaps, screws, clips or latches found on adjustable windscreens of other brands. Of course, in place of a fuel tank the DSR/X has a deep storage trunk, not big enough for a helmet, but large enough for a slew of other items. No need for a tank bag. The charging port is just forward of the trunk, with a flip-up lid granting access. I also loved the non-glare TFT dash, easily readable and not blinding when the sun is over your shoulder. Thank you for including that, Zero. It’s the little things.
Some might find a clutchless ride to be boring, while others will appreciate it. I’ve come to see the value in it, as when I came to a stop sign on an uphill incline. Rather than trying to feather a clutch while gripping a brake lever, followed by the delicate dance of releasing the brake and clutch while feeding proportionate throttle to take off, I found I could merely apply a tad bit of throttle on the incline, just enough to hold the Zero still with no brakes, then simply feed throttle to roll through and away. Zero has programmed a “hill hold” feature into the package, similar to that we found on the Triumph Rocket 3 we rode, but I found it unnecessary with simple throttle mitigation. It’s that easy.
Zero DSR/X kitted out. Photo by Zero Motorcycles.
I’ve got to admit, as much as I thoroughly love the full interaction of hands and feet with a petrol powered bike, the simplicity of operation with electrics like this could expand our sport to a much wider audience of participants. Heck, I’ve gotten somewhat spoiled by it, in the time we’ve enjoyed the DSR/X. And when a typical recharge cost might range around $1.50-$2.00, in these days of ridiculous gas prices, the appeal climbs even more. That’s balanced against the sticker price of $24,495, and if adding the Power Tank and Rapid Charger options, the cost of entry is rather steep indeed. Worth it? Let the rider decide.
The list of accessories and farkles in the Zero catalog is impressive, from luggage to lower seats and a variety of guards and mods to make the bike your own. Zero has a solid, good-looking and supremely capable motorcycle in the DSR/X, with features galore. We say they have a winner in this first-of-its-kind electric adventure bike. Here’s hoping the ADV crowd agrees.
For more on the DSR/X, click here:
*Check out our ride review below, without ever leaving this page!