Tag Archives: Electric Motorcycle Reviews

2020 Guide to New Street Motorcycles

This handy guide includes all new or significantly updated street-legal motorcycles for the 2020 model year. Organized in alphabetical order by manufacturer, it includes photos and links to details or, when available, first rides and road test reviews about each bike. This guide is updated regularly as more new/updated models are announced, and when we’ve had a chance to ride them and report our impressions.

Want to see all of the new/updated motorcycles for 2019?
Check out Rider’s 2019 Guide to New Street Motorcycles

2020 BMW R 1250 R

2019 BMW R 1250 R. Image courtesy BMW Motorrad.
2020 BMW R 1250 R

Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. It also gets a mild style refresh with a TFT display,
a DRL option for the halogen headlight and new color options. Although originally
announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 R didn’t make it to the U.S. in time. BMW
says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at $14,995.

Read our 2020 BMW R 1250 R First Look Review

2020 BMW R 1250 RS

2019 BMW R 1250 RS. Image courtesy BMW Motorrad.
2020 BMW R 1250 RS

Receiving updates similar to those that other models in the
R family received for 2019, the BMW R 1250 R roadster gets a larger 1,254cc
boxer twin with ShiftCam variable valve timing and valve stroke and updates to
its electronics package. The RS also gets a style refresh that drops the
asymmetrical, winking look of the S 1000 RR in favor of a sporty twin-LED
headlight assembly, and an LED DRL (daytime running light) is an option.
Although announced as a 2019 model, the R 1250 RS didn’t make it to the U.S. in
time. BMW says it will be available as a 2020 model with an MSRP starting at

Read our 2020 BMW R 1250 RS First Look Review

2020 BMW S 1000 RR

2019 BMW S 1000 RR in Motorsport livery. Images courtesy BMW Motorrad.
2020 BMW S 1000 RR

More power (205 hp), less weight (434 lbs), updated
technology and a new up-spec Motorsport version. The 2020 BMW S 1000 RR is at
the pointy end of the sportbike spear. Pricing starts at $16,995 and bikes will
be in dealerships in summer 2019.

Read our 2020 BMW S 1000 RR First Look Review

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire action
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire (Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson)

Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire electric motorcycle is seriously sporty, shockingly fast and whisper-quiet–everything a typical Harley isn’t. And that’s just the way Milwaukee wants it. It’s propelled by a liquid-cooled electric motor that makes a claimed 105 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque, drawing power from a 15.5 kWh battery that offers, according to H-D, a range of 146 miles in the city and 95 miles of combined stop-and-go and highway riding. Single-speed transmission offers twist-and-go convenience, and styling, ergonomics and components are the sportiest offered on any Harley-Davidson. MSRP starts at $29,799.

Read our 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire First Ride Review

2020 Suzuki Katana

2020 Suzuki Katana
2020 Suzuki Katana (Photo courtesy Suzuki)

The 2020 Suzuki Katana features styling cues that pay direct homage to the 1981 original, and it’s built around the potent GSX-S1000 999cc inline-four. It features ABS, traction control, Easy Start and Low RPM Assist, as well as a twin-spar aluminum frame, braced superbike-style swingarm, KYB suspension, dual front Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers, 310mm floating rotors and a model-specific LCD panel. We got a chance to ride the new Katana in Japan last March, but pricing and availability are TBD.

Read our 2020 Suzuki Katana First Ride Review

2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700

The Ténéré 700 will be coming to the U.S. in the second half of 2020. Images courtesy Yamaha Europe.
2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700

Announced in the fall of 2018, we’re still waiting to see the
new Ténéré 700 (T7, for short) in the flesh–Yamaha says it will be coming to
the U.S. in the second half of 2020 as a 2021 model. We know it will be
powered by the 689cc CP2 parallel twin used in the MT-07, housed in a new
tubular steel double-cradle frame. Other details include a 62.6-inch wheelbase,
9.5 inches of ground clearance, a fully adjustable USD 43mm fork with 8.3
inches of travel and a remote preload-adjustable rear shock with 7.9 inches of

Read our 2021 Yamaha Ténéré 700 First Look Review

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M and YZF-R1
2020 Yamaha YZF-R1M (left) and YZF-R1 (right)

Yamaha has updated its flagship sportbikes, the YZF-R1 and the track-ready YZF-R1M, for 2020, with both featuring refinements to their CP4 crossplane crankshaft engines, an augmented electronic rider aids package, enhanced suspension and redesigned bodywork. MSRP is $17,300 for the YZF-R1 and $26,099 for the YZF-R1M (the latter is available in limited quantities through Yamaha’s online reservation system).

Read our 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M First Ride Review

2020 Zero SR/F

2020 Zero SR/F
2020 Zero SR/F

The first new model from Zero Motorcycles since 2016, the 2020 SR/F’s streetfighter look and steel trellis frame blur the styling lines between gas and electric motorcycles. Powered by a new ZF75-10 IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery, it delivers a claimed 140 lb-ft of torque and 110 horsepower. It also features Bosch’s Motorcycle Stability Control System and Zero’s new Cypher III operating system. Pricing starts at $18,995.

Read our 2020 Zero SR/F First Look Review

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire | First Ride Review

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire action
Harley-Davidson’s new LiveWire electric motorcycle is seriously sporty, shockingly fast and whisper-quiet–everything a typical Harley isn’t. And that’s just the way Milwaukee wants it. (Photos courtesy Harley-Davidson)

telling the average Harley-Davidson or American V-twin enthusiast a few years
ago that not only would the Motor Company produce and sell a naked sportbike in
2020—certainly not an outrageous concept—but that it would be an all-electric

That last bit
would have not only raised an eyebrow or two among the faithful, it would have
likely burned a few clean off their respective foreheads simply from the heated
blowback of the responses. Just about any Motor Company fan will tell you: Harley-Davidsons
and electric-power EVs just weren’t meant to be talked about in the same

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire action
With 17-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, fully adjustable Showa suspension and 45 degrees of cornering clearance, the LiveWire is by far Harley-Davidson’s sportiest motorcycle.

But as we all
know, that’s exactly what’s happened. Harley-Davidson has not only built a
naked sportbike that’s sleek, futuristic and sexy, with wide wheels, sticky
tires, sporty suspension and a lean-forward riding position, but one that’s electrically
powered, with not a molecule of internal combustion waste emanating from its
non-existent exhaust system.

It’s a simple
truth: Harley-Davidson can’t continue to exist solely by selling Big Twins to
aging baby boomers who, in a decade or so, will be mostly out of motorcycling.
Like the rest of the motorcycle industry, Harley needs new blood and new
markets, and feels very strongly that a line of electric two-wheelers led by
the high-end and high-price ($29,795) LiveWire is a prime way to reach them and
teach them.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Look Ma, no pipes! No pipes means no “potato-potato-potato” rumble that has been Harley-Davidson’s signature sound for decades.

“It’s a bold
goal, helping encourage and develop the next generation of riders,”
Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich told me over breakfast at the launch, “but we
think we’re on the right track with the LiveWire, our future electric
offerings, and our More Roads To Harley-Davidson efforts. Motorcyclists know
that nothing is more spectacular than two-wheeled travel, right? Spreading that
word among a more general population, and building riders in addition to
building great motorcycles…well, that seems like a pretty strong concept to us.

“That said,”
he continued, “we are not limiting in any way our emphasis on traditional
Harleys; if anything, we’re more energized than ever about Sportsters and
Softails and baggers and the like. But we do need to branch out, and see
electrification as a key avenue there. We very much intend to lead the way in
the electrification of the sport.”

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire charger
The LiveWire comes standard with a Level 1 charger that can be stored under the seat. At standard 110V, Level 1 charging takes 12.5 hours to go from 0% to 100% battery charge.

If leading
the way means introducing the world’s most advanced electrically powered
motorcycle, then Milwaukee has very clearly put its money where its mouth is. I
was only able to get a few hours on a LiveWire during the July launch, but thanks
to a thorough tech briefing, and following that a morning and afternoon ride
around town and on some of the faster roads in the hills surrounding Portland,
Oregon, I got a pretty good idea of what it is and how it works.

First off, there’s a lot of tech here. Leading the list is an all-new electric motor that’s liquid-cooled, offers 105 horsepower (78 kW) and 86 lb-ft of torque, and produces 100 percent of that torque the instant the throttle is turned. It gets its power from a 15.5 kWh battery that offers, according to H-D, a range of 146 miles in the city and 95 miles of combined stop-and-go and highway riding. Level 1 plug-in charging (e.g., at home or work) takes 12.5 hours for a full charge via an included charger cable. Since the bike has an SAE Combo CCS connector like many American and European electric cars, it can also be charged at thousands of Level 2 stations around the country (but at Level 1 speed). Approximately 150 Harley dealers nationwide (with more to come over time) will also offer fast Level 3 one-hour charging and two full years of free charges.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire battery motor
The LiveWire’s frame wraps around a massive lithium-ion battery pack, below which is the all-new Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor with water jacket cooling.

The LiveWire also has ABS and traction control, a 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen display centered just above the handlebar, seven selectable Ride Modes (Sport, Road, Range and Rain, plus three customizable modes) and HD Connect, which links owners to their motorcycles (free initially, then for a monthly fee) and offers tons of status and service information via a smartphone using the Harley-Davidson app.

Climb aboard and you’re
immediately struck by the riding position, which is more Ducati Monster or Suzuki
GSX-S than Sportster or Softail. Its ergos invite a slight forward lean, with
semi-rearset pegs, a mildly upward-bent handlebar and scooped seat locking you
into position—the reason for which will become apparent soon enough. It all
feels reasonably normal…right until you push the starter. The color info-screen
lets you know that things are ready to roll with a green light, but in place of
a chugga-chugga/potato-potato rumble you have silence (though the battery and motor give off a little “buurp” of movement
to let you know the bike is alive and running). Give the throttle a little twist and you’re off, the bike
moving forward smoothly and predictably to your right wrist’s commands.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire TFT display
The LiveWire’s 4.3-inch color TFT touchscreen display offers massive info. “Green” means twist-and-go!

In stop-and-go traffic I
found the LiveWire super easy to ride, which says a lot about the refinement
that’s been baked into it during eight years of development. Throttle response
at slower speeds was immediate, linear and controllable, the bike demonstrating
no lurching or driveline lash whatsoever. Steering was light and precise, and the
brakes crisp and predictable, both of which helped the LW feel considerably lighter
than its 540-plus pound wet weight might suggest.

Other than a low whine
under acceleration the LiveWire is totally quiet, eerily smooth and almost
completely unobtrusive in an aural and vibrational sense. The Harley folks call
this “Minimal NVH,” which means minimal noise, vibration and harshness.
Accelerating away from a light or tearing down a side street you find yourself
listening to wind noise and the tires slapping against the asphalt. It’s an entirely
new experience, and one that proved compelling all day long.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire action
The LiveWire’s chassis specs are decidedly sportbike-like: 24.5 degrees of rake and 4.3 inches of trail, with 120-70 and 180/55-spec wheels and tires, in this case sticky Michelin Scorchers. It’s a bit heavy at 549 pounds and has a longish, 58.7-inch wheelbase, but doesn’t feel it on the road thanks to crisp steering manners and firm suspension settings.

You’ll get that same feeling
when you ride the LiveWire hard and fast, too. I immediately found myself
running through turns faster, looking for pavement irregularities to hit while
leaned over to see how the chassis behaved, and then hammering the throttle at
the exit, trying—in vain, for the most part—to find what I figured would be mid-level
traction, suspension and handling limits. I didn’t find much of that at all,
which tells me that all the bluster I’d heard at the tech briefing about
chassis and engine refinement, optimized frame geometry, suspension quality and
power delivery wasn’t bluster at all. The thing is shockingly fast, amazingly
smooth, easy to get used to and ride quickly, forgiving and, most of all, big fun.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire seat shock
Stubby, stepped two-up seat perches the pilot 30 inches off the ground. Tuning knobs for the fully adjustable Showa BFRC-lite shock are easily accessible between the seat and rear wheel.

Nitpicks are few and far
between, unless you’re talking seat-to-peg distance, which for my multi-surgery
knees is a little tight. Suspension settings, which worked well for my XXL-sized
butt, are probably too firm for average humans in terms of spring rate and
compression. The bar could use a little more pullback and maybe an inch or two extra
in height, and the seat seemed a little thin on padding.

The larger questions, of
course, involve range and price. The first isn’t going to be quite enough for a
lot of folks, and the latter is likely to be too much. That’s just the way
things stand at this point in EV development. You’re either on board and
willing to accept the trade-offs for the bennies, or you’re a skeptic.

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire action
Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire is a break from tradition in more ways than one, with a sport-standard design and ergonomics. Which makes sense given that it will go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat.

But EVs are coming,
like it or not, and despite one’s perspective on price and range, the LiveWire is
a superbly designed, compellingly competent, seriously fun and
fascinating-to-ride motorcycle…a Halo bike that should represent
Harley-Davidson well as it moves into the EV space in the coming years with a
wide range of electric two-wheelers, from mid-range EVs to mountain bikes to
kids bikes and lots more.

So while that futuristic fortuneteller
might have seemed pretty crazy a few years back, this time he was absolutely

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire
Styling-wise, the LiveWire is an impressive machine, with fit and finish on par with its premium price. Its available in three colors: Orange Fuse (shown), Yellow Fuse and Vivid Black.

Author Mitch Boehm is the Editor of Rider’s
sister publication
Thunder Press and
a former Editor of

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire Specs
Website: harley-davidson.com
Base Price: $29,795
Motor Type: Revelation internal permanent magnet synchronous motor w/ water jacket cooling
Battery: 15.5 kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: Single speed w/ spiral bevel gear primary
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 58.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.5 degrees/4.3 in.
Suspension, Front: Showa 43mm inverted SFF-BP fork, fully adj. w/ 4.5-in. travel
Rear: Showa BFRC-lite shock, fully adj. w/ 4.5-in. travel
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 180/55-ZR17
Seat Height: 30.0 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 549 lbs.
Claimed Range: 146 mi. city, 95 mi. combined stop-and-go/highway

Source: RiderMagazine.com

BMW Unveils “Boxer” Electric Motorcycle Concept

BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
BMW’s Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle concept, complete with Duolever fork, shaft drive and “boxer” power plant. Photos courtesy BMW Motorrad.

As most of the major motorcycle manufacturers in the U.S., Europe and Japan continue to pursue battery-powered electric propulsion, BMW found itself asking, “What would an electric BMW motorcycle look like? And how would it be immediately recognizable as a BMW?”

Given that the opposed-twin “boxer” engine has been at the heart of BMW motorcycles for more than 90 years, the answer seems to be something along the lines of the newly-unveiled BMW Vision DC Roadster concept bike.

BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
This top view clearly shows the protruding cooling elements, a nod to BMW’s classic “boxer” engine.

While the Vision DC’s battery is oriented in a standard vertical/longitudinal position, it has two cooling elements with integrated fans that extend out to each side, a nod to the protruding cylinders of the boxer engine. Slung underneath the battery and connecting to the driveshaft (another BMW hallmark) is the cylindrical electric motor itself.

Clutching the battery from above is a split, milled aluminum frame with what appear to be carbon fiber reinforcing tubes that span the opening where the fuel tank would normally be. The subframe also appears to be of a tubular carbon fiber design.

Up front is a Duolever fork capped with an LED daytime running light (DRL) flanked by two LED lights, one for low and one for high beam.

BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
BMW says the rider’s apparel represents the next generation of riding gear, with integrated lighting and a magnetic backpack.

Even the rider’s clothes might offer a preview of things to come, including integrated lighting and a backpack that attaches to the jacket via magnets rather than straps.

Electric motorcycles are coming, whether you like it or not, and we’re excited to see BMW striving to stick to its signature look, making a battery-powered bike that’s still unmistakably a BMW.

Keep scrolling for more images….

BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
Subframe is tubular carbon fiber, with LED tail lights.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
Driveshaft is exposed. Metzeler tires incorporate postage stamp-sized LED lights to aid in visibility.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
The flat, milled aluminum frame is suspended over the battery, which attaches via carbon fiber tubes.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
LED daytime running light (DRL) turns its cooling fins into art.
BMW's Vision DC Roadster electric motorcycle
Side-mounted cooling elements extend out when the bike is turned on.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Zero SR/F | First Look Review

2020 Zero SR/F
2020 Zero SR/F in Boardwalk Red.

Zero Motorcycles has released its first new model since 2016, the 2020 SR/F, and with its streetfighter look and steel trellis frame it’s blurring the styling lines between gas and electric motorcycles.

The SR/F, powered by a new ZF75-10 IPM (Interior Permanent Magnet) motor and ZF14.4 lithium-ion battery, delivers a claimed 140 lb-ft of torque and 110 horsepower. Go ahead and read that again. Yes, that’s more torque than any of today’s top-of-the-line 1,000cc superbikes, and it beats Zero’s own personal best of 116 lb-ft and 70 horsepower, as seen on the 2019 DSR we reviewed last November.

With twist-and-go operation and no transmission, Zero’s controller quickly doles out power in a smooth, linear fashion all the way up to the peak, with response, power and regen (battery regeneration and “engine braking” function) regulated via Street, Sport, Eco, Rain and up to ten additional custom riding modes. The SR/F is also the first electric motorcycle to be integrated with a Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) system, which works with the SR/F’s Cypher III operating system to optimize cornering ABS, traction control and drag torque control.

2020 Zero SR/F
The brains behind the SR/F is the new Cypher III operating system, which now allows for four pre-programmed riding modes plus up to ten user-customizable ones.

Read our Best Bikes for Smaller Riders (and Budgets) list here!

Zero says the SR/F is the first fully “smart” motorcycle thanks to the Cypher III system, which now offers comprehensive rider connectivity. SR/F owners can monitor the bike in four ways:

  • Bike Status and Alerts – This includes tip-overs or unexpected motion notifications, plus interruptions in charging. In addition, the “Find my Bike” function allows the rider to keep tabs on the SR/F at all times.
  • Charging – The rider can remotely set charging parameters, including targeted charge levels, charge time scheduling, charge tracking and more.
  • Ride Data Sharing – The SR/F records bike location, speed, lean angle, power, torque, charge level and energy used/regenerated, and riders can replay and share the experience via the app. Riders also have the option to keep this data anonymous.
  • System Upgrades and Notifications – Riders can remotely download Cypher III OS updates to stay up to date and ensure optimal performance.
2020 Zero SR/F
The SR/F is the first Zero to come standard with a Level 2 Rapid Charger built in. It can still be plugged into a standard wall outlet using the included EVSE cable.

Battery life and charging time are two of the most important concerns in this early stage of electric motorcycle development, and as the newest Zero product the SR/F seems to be showing steady improvement. Despite the massive increases in power and torque, claimed range from the standard battery (without the optional Power Tank installed) is 161 miles (city), 82 miles (highway, 70 mph) and 109 miles (combined). This is roughly equivalent to the less-powerful DSR we tested in November.

Harley just announced pricing and details on its LiveWire electric motorcycle. Read more about it here!

The SR/F, like all Zero electric motorcycles, can be plugged into a standard 110V wall outlet to charge the battery, but it’s the first to come standard with a Level 2 Rapid Charger. So while you could plug it into a wall, using a Level 2 station will net serious reductions in charge time.

The standard SR/F, which retails for $18,995, comes with a 3.0 kW Rapid Charger that Zero says will charge to 95 percent in 4 hours, and to 100 percent in 4.5 hours. The premium SR/F, which also comes with heated grips, a fly screen and aluminum bar ends, is equipped with a 6.0 kW Rapid Charger that charges to 95 percent in 2 hours, and to 100 percent in 2.5 hours. It retails for $20,995. Both models can also be upgraded with another 6.0 kW Rapid Charger that drops charge time (to 95 percent) to as little as one hour.

Both SR/F models are available in two colors, Seabright Blue and Boardwalk Red, and will be available in dealers this spring.

For more information, visit zeromotorcycles.com.

Keep scrolling for more pictures….

2020 Zero SR/F
2020 Zero SR/F in Seabright Blue.
2020 Zero SR/F
2020 Zero SR/F in Seabright Blue.
2020 Zero SR/F
2020 Zero SR/F in Seabright Blue.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Harley-Davidson Announces LiveWire Electric Motorcycle Pricing

2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle. Image courtesy Harley-Davidson.
2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson today announced pricing for the 2020 LiveWire, its first electric motorcycle, which is now available for U.S. dealer preorder. MSRP on the LiveWire is $29,799.

Learn more about Harley-Davidson’s plans for 2019 and beyond

The LiveWire, which Harley says represents the next chapter in the 116-year-old company’s history, offers the benefits and performance of an electric motorcycle, with signature Harley attitude and style. Its H-D Revelation electric powertrain promises 0-to-60 acceleration in less than 3.5 seconds, with no clutch and no gear shifting, and an urban range of about 110 miles.

The powertrain sits low in the LiveWire’s chassis to lower the center of gravity and helps the motorcycle handle well at all speeds and make it easier to balance when stopped. The motorcycle also sports standard cornering ABS and traction control.

Read our 2014 Project LiveWire first ride review

It also features H-D Connect, which pairs motorcycle riders with their bikes through an LTE-enabled Telematics Control Unit coupled with connectivity and cloud services using the latest version of the Harley-Davidson app. With H-D Connect, data is collected and transferred to the app to provide information to the rider’s smartphone about:

Motorcycle Status: Information available through H-D Connect includes battery charge status and available range from any location where a sufficient cellular signal is available. This allows the rider to remotely check the charge status including charge level and time to completion. Riders will be able to locate a charging station with ease thanks to an integrated location finder built into the H-D app.

Tamper Alerts and Vehicle Location: H-D Connect indicates the location of the parked LiveWire motorcycle and alerts can be sent to the rider’s smartphone if the bike is tampered with or moved. GPS-enabled stolen-vehicle tracking provides peace of mind that the motorcycle’s location can be tracked (requires law enforcement assistance; available in select markets).

Service Reminders and Notifications: Reminders about upcoming vehicle service requirements, automated service reminders and other vehicle care notifications.

Looking for a more traditional Harley experience? Check out our 2019 FXDR 114 review!

Interestingly, while the electric LiveWire will of course produce minimal vibration, Harley says it’s designed a new “signature Harley-Davidson sound” that “represents the smooth, electric power” of the motorcycle. Whether or not that will be enough to satisfy riders looking for the classic “potato-potato” rumble remains to be seen.

To find a LiveWire dealer or place a preorder, visit h-d.com/LiveWire.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2019 Zero DSR | First Ride Review

2019 Zero DSR
The 2019 Zero DSR electric dual-sport gets more power and torque, increased range and useful features like a windscreen, grippy tank panels, hand guards and a 12V socket. (Photos by Aaron Brimhall)

Sometimes, I can be such a sucker. Apparently, the good folks at Zero Motorcycles know this and jumped on my weakness. While unveiling the 2019 DSR dual-sport electric motorcycle in Santa Cruz, California, the Zero reps set the hook and reeled me in. Following the tech presentation they explained, “…and after the street portion of the ride we’ll ride off-road at a private ranch that we’ll have all to ourselves—dirt roads, unimproved roads, water crossings, a beach-riding photo op and some single-track too.”

2019 Zero DSR
Riding an electric dual-sport on a private ranch with wooded trails and beach access? Sign me up!

What??? In my younger years I spent lots of time riding motorcycles around this very same area, decades ago before much of the land became fenced and gated. So I had a good idea about the mix of redwoods, bay laurel trees, ferns and banana slugs we’d see. Sold! I was all in and ready to roll.

2019 Zero DSR
Weighing a claimed 416 pounds, the Zero DSR carries its weight low since the “tank” is an empty storage compartment and the enormous battery occupies the space where an internal combustion engine would normally be.

Regarding electric vehicles, some cite concerns about limited range and hassles with recharging battery packs. That’s legit to a point, but the Zero engineers continue to notch advancements by tapping into new battery chemistry, advanced magnet composition, better firmware and redesign of the motor controller for more efficient yet more powerful motors, increased long-term charge storage and more. Claimed horsepower increases from 67 on the DSR we reviewed in 2016 to 70 on the new model, and torque jumps from 106 lb-ft to a whopping 116 lb-ft—that’s more grunt than the most powerful 1,000cc sportbike in production today, as the Zero reps love to explain, and the controller delivers it very smoothly and quickly.

Read about 2019 updates to the full Zero Motorcycles electric lineup

2019 Zero DSR
The Zero DSR’s digital instrument panel shows speed, mode, remaining charge, remaining range, battery output/regen as well as a clock and tripmeter functions.

Given increased range claims of 163 miles in the city and 78 miles on the highway, even this new and improved iteration still offers a radically different performance envelope compared to internal-combustion machines. So the key is to clearly identify and stay within the working envelope. Specifically, Zeros can work very well for commuting (especially if you can recharge your bike while at work or school), and in the case of the DSR, it would be grand to have one on hand for riding out from a mountain cabin.

2019 Zero DSR
Although considered a dual-sport in Zero’s lineup, the DSR is a street-biased motorcycle that is heavy by dual-sport standards. But having direct drive with no clutch simplifies things when the going gets rough.

Ken’s Gear
Helmet: Arai Defiant
Jacket: Cortech Sequoia XC
Pants: Aerostich Darien
Boots: TCX Air Tech

On pavement the street-biased DSR feels agile like a sporting 600cc bike in terms of weight and size—albeit one with monster torque. Much of its weight is carried low, which makes it feel even lighter and more nimble than its claimed 416-pound curb weight would suggest. Yet the instant-on torque rockets you out of corners, setting the front end to skipping over the pavement if you’re not careful. The wide handlebar lends leverage for steering input and you can slice and dice your favorite back road right into bite-sized pieces thanks to the stout aluminum frame and high-quality fully adjustable Showa suspension.

2019 Zero DSR
The Zero DSR has fully adjustable Showa suspension front and rear. Ahead of the rear shock is the air-cooled electric motor.

I got caught out on the fast-paced first corner; set on Sport mode, the Zero returns little regenerative “engine” braking when you roll off the throttle—surprise! Luckily, my old two-stroke reflexes kicked in and I just squeezed harder on the lever for the single-disc front brake. Off-road, braking power is less of an issue than tire traction; the hybrid Pirelli MT-60s strike a good compromise for street and dirt use, but of course they can’t match the grip of full-on knobby tires when riding on the loose stuff.

The DSR’s riding position feels open and comfortable, with a fairly broad and sufficiently padded seat, though the passenger step restricts rider movement a bit. The handlebar sits a tad too low for this six-footer while standing on the pegs, but the nice, wide footpegs are dual-sport comfortable.

2019 Zero DSR
The Zero DSR has an open, comfortable seating position, but for tall folks the bars are too low for stand-up riding.

In the dirt, managing the strong initial power onset can be a little tricky. But with practice it becomes simple to modulate power while negotiating tight spaces, especially if you ramp down to the Eco setting that restricts power delivery. (There’s also a Custom setting for adjusting power and regen to your liking.) Once you get the hang of it, negotiating tight quarters on heavily wooded trails becomes a joy since no clutch skills are needed—one less thing to distract you from the task of actually riding the bike.

In keeping with dual-sport and ADV bike trends, the DSR now comes equipped with a modestly sized windscreen, grippy tank panels for off-road, up-on-the-pegs riding, hand guards and a handy 12-volt accessory socket—all at no added cost over last year’s MSRP of $16,495. That adds measurably to the utility and versatility quotients. Also, the decent-sized “tank top” storage compartment is handy if you don’t install Zero’s accessory extra battery (Power Tank) or fast-charge (Charge Tank) setup.

2019 Zero DSR
The Zero DSR’s windscreen, formerly an accessory but now standard, adds wind protection and should improve aerodynamics for better range. The DSR has belt final drive, but a chain conversion kit is available.

Adapting to any vehicle takes some effort as you work to its strengths and cover its weak spots. We already do that when we jump back and forth from four wheels to two, so it’s just another parallel path when we jump from internal combustion to electric bikes. In summary, it’s not about the DSR’s limitations; it’s about how well it actually works as a motorcycle in a variety of settings. And as this short first ride proved, the 2019 Zero DSR can work very well indeed as a capable and versatile dual-sport machine.

2019 Zero DSR Specs
Base Price: $16,495
Warranty: 2 yrs.; 5 yrs./unltd. miles for power pack
Website: zeromotorcycles.com

Type: Z-Force 75-7R passively air-cooled, high efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent high-temperature magnet, brushless motor
Controller: High efficiency, 775-amp, 3-phase brushless controller w/ regenerative deceleration
Battery: Z-Force Li-ion intelligent
Max. Capacity: 14.4 kWh
Nominal Capacity: 12.6 kWh
Standard Charger Type: 1.3 kW, integrated
Input: Standard 110V or 220V
Transmission: Clutchless direct drive
Final Drive: Belt

Frame: Aluminum twin-spar w/ aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 56.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.5 degrees/4.6 in.
Seat Height: 33.2 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm USD fork, fully adj. w/ 7.0-in travel
Rear: Single shock, fully adj. w/ 7.0-in travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ asymmetric 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ asymmetric 1-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 2.50 x 19 in.
Rear: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 100/90-19
Rear: 130/80-17
Claimed Wet Weight: 419 lbs.
Claimed Load Capacity: 356 lbs.
GVWR: 775 lbs.

Claimed Peak Horsepower: 70
Claimed Peak Torque: 116 lb-ft
Claimed Top Speed: 102 MPH
Claimed Range: 163 miles city/78 miles highway
Charging Time (110V): 9.8 hours

Source: RiderMagazine.com