At the end of 2020 I purchased a Zero DSR to use as my main transport for commuting. These are my experiences after approximately the first year.
Why commute by (electric) motorcycle
First of all, I like motorcycling. So this is combining the necessary with the enjoyable. Motorcycles (especially electric ones) can be more energy efficient than cars. They are also (IMHO) much more fun to drive. Riding a motorcycle enables me to do lane splitting so I make better time through traffic jams.
Commuting is a excellent application for an electric motorcycle, because it can be charged overnight from a normal electrical outlet.
Here I should probably talk about the road network here in the Netherlands first. Even though the Netherlands is pretty small, it has a dense network of highways. Traffic is basically guided onto those highways for inter-city travel. You can avoid the highways to some extent, but you might incur much longer routes. And a lot of the rural roads around here are limited to 60 km/h. All this means that you’ll probably be spending time significant time on the highway here in the Netherlands. So you want your motorcycle to be highway capable; it should be able to maintain 90−100 km/h.
My commute is about 25% city traffic, 25% B-roads (80 km/h) and 50% highway. A one-day commute (50 km total) takes between 30% and 40% of battery charge. So after two days of commuting I plug my bike in to a normal electrical outlet (240V) when I put it into the garage, and it easily charges overnight.
Typically (keeping a maximum speed of 100 km/h on the highways) I get around 120 km to 150 km of range on a full charge when driving mostly highways. It depends on the temperature and how heavy your throttle hand is.
If one could recharge at work, a 200 km total commute would be technically feasible. However, at such a distance you’d spend two hours commuting on top of your regular workday. So personally I would move closer to work or find another job closer to home.
My bike isn’t completely stock. To make it comfortable as a commuter I’ve had some creature comforts from the zero accessories list installed by the dealer:
- zero top box by givi
- touring screen
- hand guards
- heated grips
This choice was influenced by previous experience. Before the Zero, I had a BMW C650GT motor scooter. This has excellent storage, a windscreen and heated grips. So I wanted to keep that as much as possible.
For commuting, storage is essential. The top box comfortably holds my bag, lock and power cord. It can also store a full face helmet and gloves when I’ve parked the bike somewhere.
For my height (185 cm), the screen not quite tall enough to push the turbulence over my helmet. But properly adjusted, the touring screen keeps the wind blast off my torso.
For someone who likes to commutes by motorbike whenever it is not freezing or snowing, heated grips are a must in my neck of the woods. My previous motorbike also had heated grips, and I honestly never want to be without them again. :-) That being said, the hand guards help significantly to protect your hands from the cold. As far as I can tell, the heated grips themselves don’t affect the range much directly. But this is somewhat hard to quantify, because they’re only used when it’s cold, and lower temperatures does decrease the range somewhat.
What do I like about this bike?
First and foremost, the off-the-line acceleration that this bike provides is epic! The Zero will beat almost everything from a standing start. Although literbikes and powerful sportsbikes will beat me to 100 km/h. Acceleration from 0−100 km/h takes approximately 4 seconds on the DSR. And if you need to do a quick overtake on the highway, there is always enough torque available.
The handling strikes a excellent balance between stability and nimbleness.
The direct drive between the motor and rear wheel is very convenient. With no clutch or gearbox to attend to, you can concentrate on traffic more.
The seating position is nice and upright. Unlike a sportsbike or the SR/S, you’re not leaning on the handlebars.
Like most Zeroes, the DSR is a relatively compact bike.
The ride is smooth and vibration free. While riding a big single or twin thumper has its own charms, vibrations at highway speed get old pretty fast.
It’s very quiet. You won’t annoy the neighbours when you get home late at night.
Low maintenance. Except from normal wear items like tires, brake pads and the drive belt there is little that needs maintenance.
The angle between left and right lock on the Zero frame is limited. Something to keep in mind when doing U-turns.
The stock tires are not bad, but I will definitely replace them with road tires when they’re worn out.
Mounting and dismounting is a little bit cramped because of the top box.
The “eco” mode is too tame, IMO.
The DSR has no traction control, but at lower speed the torque is electronically limited somewhat. This is a good thing, I think.
But in sport mode on a wet road, you can spin the back tire from a standing start if you give it too much throttle. So this needs somewhat of a delicate touch.
The same goes for accelerating out of corners. Cranking open the throttle in sport mode is best done in a straight line.
Be mindful about pedestrians and cyclists; they’ll probably not hear you coming. (IMO, car drivers will almost never hear a motorcycle coming; modern cars are too well insulated against sound.)
Overall, I would rate my experience as good to excellent.
Earlier this year, the battery management system failed. This was replaced under warranty.
The dealer where I bought my DSR came to pick up my broken DSR at work and even provided a loan bike while mine was being repaired. Heartily recommended.
For comments, please send me an e-mail.