One ride on the 2020 Zero SR/F stood out as the crucible, the moment in our three-week test that would help to determine whether now is the time to own an electric motorcycle. That moment came when I set off on the SR/F for an evening of American Flat Track (AFT) racing.
The national series was visiting Perris Auto Speedway about 50 miles from my home near Palm Springs, Calif. AFT had hosted Robb Report earlier this year at Daytona Beach and imparted the sport’s unique riding style. But would the SR/F have enough battery capacity to make the round trip, or might I spend the night with the coyotes?
Available in Standard ($18,995) and Premium ($20,995) variants that differ mainly in charging rate and capacity, the SR/F represents the highest achievement in Zero Motorcycles’ 13-year history. Looking trim and nicely detailed, this streetfighter—which is now arriving in the approximately 100 Zero dealerships nationwide—offers superbike performance with output of 110 hp and 140 ft lbs of torque. The latter measure is phenomenal for a motorcycle and results in pyrotechnic acceleration.
Before going to the racetrack, the debonair SR/F had already established its prowess around town, thanks in part to being fitted with an unsightly but useful top case for errands. And there were repeated 50-mile sport rides over Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon and Old Woman Springs Roads in San Bernardino County. The semi-tucked riding position was ideal for these short blasts and enhanced my confidence in the 484-pound bike’s fine handling and braking.
The SR/F has five ride modes—Eco, Street, Sport, Rain and Custom—and they can be changed on the fly. We chose Eco for urban and some highway riding and enjoyed adequate throttle response. Strong regenerative deceleration helped to stop the bike at intersections, with just light braking required, and sent current back to the battery to extend range. As the choice for the rural loop through Pipes Canyon, Sport delivered the grunt but contributed little regeneration; without this equivalent of engine braking, I had to use the binders more heavily than usual and found myself entering a couple of corners too hot. Luckily, they weren’t places where sand had blown onto the road. Meanwhile, around town, Street mode delivered plenty of rip but also added a bit of regen.
Besides the lack of a booming exhaust note, riding an electric motorcycle is different in subtle ways. There is no searing hot exhaust pipe and no engine vibration. Direct drive to the rear wheel by a carbon-fiber-reinforced belt dispenses with clutching and shifting. And of course, who needs gasoline? Zero says the typical cost of recharging is $1.61. The “tank” has a lockable internal storage compartment large enough to admit a few items and another door for accessing the charge port.
The stealth of the SR/F provided amusement when launching from stoplights. To other drivers, this Boardwalk Red wonder must have been a great mystery, like a silent volley from a cannon. Generally, though, I proceeded conservatively. Riders depend in part on the engine note to make drivers aware of their presence, but the SR/F sneaks up on everybody. Riders also depend on engine sound to confirm the throttle’s opening or closing. Instead, my fingers encased in thick leather gloves sometimes failed to roll completely out of the throttle, so the bike wanted to creep when I wanted to stop. Could there be an audible confirmation, perhaps a discreet clicking, to indicate full closure?
Range for local sorties was always sufficient. Zero states city range at 161 miles, which would be in Eco mode’s good graces. Highway range is as low as 82 miles at 70 mph. Recharging can be accomplished in as little as 80 minutes (to 95 percent) with the SR/F Premium’s 6.0-kilowatt rapid charger. Or the bike can connect to a standard 110-volt outlet and recharge overnight.
After my 49.7-mile Eco-mode outbound leg to the speedway, the instrument display showed 46 percent state of charge and 52 miles remaining. Imagining the coyotes howling at midnight, I plugged in at AFT’s broadcast trailer and enjoyed the racing. Their generosity allowed me to head home 92-percent charged. Sport mode suited this freeway gallop, and the SR/F delivered me with 37 percent remaining. It should be noted that gas motorcycles have a single-tank range of at least 150 miles and could complete the round trip with one-third tank to spare.
Despite limitations, the SR/F is a pleasing motorcycle. Note: Zero’s Power Tank, available in the fall, will extend range to as much as 200 miles. So, is it time to own an electric? The SR/F is handsome, strong and quiet. But it’s incapable of a full day’s ride with friends. If you already own an all-purpose bike, the SR/F could be the next logical addition to the stable.