Zero has been described occasionally as the "Tesla of motorcycles" and the model DS ZF6.5 of last year as the "Model 3 of motorcycles". When you are one of the only manufacturers of electric motorcycles in the game, it is frankly difficult to avoid it. these comparisons. But after getting on board a DS ZF6.5 at the end of last year, I had the feeling that not everything was just hot air.
It was a short trip, so the scope of these impressions is limited. Also, the proverbial "M" ink on my license was still so fresh that the excitement of showing it to people had not disappeared. Truly, everything I wanted out of my first test trip of the DS ZF6.5 was a feeling of what it feels like to glide through the city on an elegant and futuristic bike.
Of course, the day I rode was marred by drizzle and fallen autumn leaves, two things that increase the danger of driving a motorcycle more than any other variable that is not related to traffic. The rain came and went as it traveled south of Brooklyn, down to the Verrazano Bridge and back to Union Garage in Red Hook. So we take things slowly.
Even in difficult conditions, the DS ZF6.5 offers a smooth and bright ride. The suspension was capable enough to handle the neglected third avenue of Brooklyn, which these days is more like a long swath of asphalt-colored Swiss cheese than like a highway.
Slight pulls on the accelerator kicked the engine and the bicycle moved forward from a stop with little disturbance. Once it moved, the electric motor dragged the bicycle gently. There was enough torque to avoid any danger hitting the streets of the city, and at around 320 pounds the bicycle is agile enough for the movements to feel safe and secure.
The moderate acceleration in the DS ZF6.5 was fun, but the real thrill came from the moments when I lowered my wrist more to the ground. That is, going from 0 to 30 mph is a delight, but from 30 to a bit higher it is likely to be true joy.
The DS ZF6.5 is very fun in the city setting, which is good, since it only has a range of 60 miles
The speed limit of New York City is 25 miles per hour, so I can not say much more about those higher parts of the Zero power band. But if I ever had a Zero DS ZF6.5 in the city, or any bike for that matter, I would probably spend most of my time at or near the speed limit. One afternoon of cruising left me impressed and optimistic about what it would be like to use a bicycle like this every day here.
The DS ZF6.5 is light enough to remind me of the small 250cc Suzuki I learned to use, but it's powerful and designed in a way that makes the Model 3 comparisons appropriate. It is also one of the most affordable bicycles manufactured by Zero, with the balance between power and range. The DS ZF6.5 has a small battery pack with capacity for approximately 60 miles with a full charge, and that's if you go easy with the 34 horsepower that the bike puts at your fingertips.
Like Model 3, "affordable" is a relative term. Zero's decade of experience in making these bikes means that they feel well done and not at all like a type of electric prototype. And at $ 11,000, it's one of the cheapest electric motorcycles. But the options to buy a traditional motorcycle at that price are plentiful. You really must want a Zero bicycle if you are going to buy one.
Also like the Model 3, there is only one screen in the DS ZF6.5. (I know, it's a motorcycle.) But unlike Model 3, it's a very austere and useful LCD screen. All necessary and relevant information is there, such as battery level, estimated range, battery temperature and speed. But it is not a particularly beautiful display to delight your eyes.
It's okay. You really do not want a screen that distracts you from the road ahead when you're on a motorcycle, a form of transportation that really requires more concentration (and knowledge) of your environment. However, Zero could spice up a bit; Something like Gogoro's colorful scooter screen would be nice.
Another way that the Zero bike is really like a Tesla is that it has the power to take out smiling conversations from New Yorkers who would not otherwise have registered your presence. Half a dozen times on the short trip to Brooklyn, someone in the driver's seat of a nearby car asked or commented about the electric bicycle. Everyone seemed delighted with the idea, but surprisingly familiar with it, a testament to the increased awareness of electrical technology.
No one was surprised at why these bicycles were silently lurking next to their cars instead of rumbling through their skulls. Most were happy to know what the name of the company was, or to steal some other small information before the lights went green. But one of them offered a word of warning: "Be careful, it's going to be hard for people to hear you arrive."
Silence is a blessing and a curse
He is right. The strangest thing about the DS ZF6.5 was how silent it is. The videos I had seen before my bike ran at a faster speed gave me the impression that it emitted a characteristic moan. But at less than 40 miles per hour, this motorcycle was essentially silent, except for a few scuffy noises coming from the engine as it spun at full speed, and a low, upward tone that resembled the wind that howled outside a house.
Silence is really wonderful if you want to be aware of the world around you. I could hear almost as much as I could if I were on a bicycle: car tires that touched the greasy, wet ground, people talking at the crosswalk, the sound of the brakes applied in front of me. I could hear all this and more, even through my helmet.
This person did not hear me coming.
Where it felt dangerous is that, without the roar of a combustion engine, the world can not hear you. More than once, a pedestrian went out into the street thinking that they had crossed before, luckily, they saw that I was attacking them. Other times, I was cut by drivers who probably would have listened to me if I were on a combustion motorcycle. As pleasant as my trip, the silence made me feel more uncomfortable than the incomplete weather conditions.
This could change everything. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote a set of rules in 2016 that will soon force manufacturers to add artificial noise to electric vehicles when operating at low speeds. In response, some automakers have been inventing some crazy ideas about what those sounds should be.
But the NHTSA rule is only for electric vehicles and four-wheel trucks. There is still no mandate for motorcycles, although I hope one arrives. I'm not sure I know how I think an electric bicycle should sound, but I'd be willing to give it a try. Giving other people on the road as much information as possible about the arrival of a motorcycle can only be a good thing.
Meanwhile, the DS ZF6.5 still felt it would be a total joy for short-range trips. It is fast, lively and, most importantly, mounts as if it were built by a motorcycle manufacturer that has existed for more than a decade. Better yet, this (and his brother, the ZF6.5 standard) have already been replaced with the 2018 models that go a little further too. A short-range electric motorcycle could be a niche within a niche within a niche. But it is one that I surely want to explore again.