2013 Zero S | First Ride

Moore’s Law Applied To E-Bikes…It Works!

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Kevin Wing

Dynamically, the Zero S is generally quite good. The 38mm inverted fork from Taiwanese pit-bike builder Fastace is fully adjustable, and works quite well. The Taiwanese cantilever rear shock is much less satisfactory, with a very harsh response to bumps and poor ride quality. Rear wheel travel is supposedly as much as 5.8 inches, but you have a hard time believing that as you’re jostled around over bumps. It’s bad enough that you start using the Zero’s sharp, responsive steering to zig-zag your way along city streets merely in an effort to avoid riding over manhole covers and other typical urban obstacles.

Given the improvements in range, performance, and capability, the Zero S provides a measurable upgrade in value even as the base price has risen for 2013. The updated Zero S with the 11.4 kWh battery pack runs $15,995, up $2000 from the 2012 model with the ZF9 (9 kWh) pack. The S with the smaller, 8.5 kWh pack costs $13,995, which makes it the same price as last year’s top-line model. Zero DS prices are the same, while the new Zero FX and MX run $9495 to $11,990, depending on battery pack, while the entry-level XU costs $7995 with a 2.8 kWh pack and $10,490 with a 5.7 kWh pack. Something to consider when digesting those prices is that the bikes run for pennies a mile on home electricity, and may benefit from government subsidies. What’s more, all of the Zero models are mechanically uncomplicated, and so should have good reliability and low running costs.

Forget for a moment all the hype about reducing energy costs and the stuff about saving the planet—after five minutes aboard one of the new Zeros you’ll have a smile on your face. Not because you’re sipping electrons instead of fossil fuels, but because you’re having a great time on an exciting and unique motorcycle.

The top-of-the-line Zero S gets a new, "inside-out" brushless motor, larger-capacity but lighter batteries, a redesigned frame, new brakes, suspension components, and more.

Brammo Empulse…ah, well…that’s it

Motor typea-c, permanent-magnet AC
BatteryLithium ion
Battery Capacity11.4 kWh (8.5 kWh optional)
ClutchDirect drive
Claimed horsepower54.0 bhp @ 4300 rpm
Claimed torque68.0 lb.-ft. @ 0 rpm
Framealuminum twin-spar
Front suspensionFastace 38mm inverted fork with adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspensionFastace shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brakeNissin two-piston caliper, 310mm disc
Rear brakeNissin single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire110/70R-17 IRC Road Winner
Rear tire130/70Z-17 IRC Road Winner
Rake/trail23.1°/3.0 in.
Seat height31.1 in.
Wheelbase56.6 in.
Claimed curb weight380 lbs.
ContactZero Motorcycles
170 Technology Circle
Scotts Valley, CA 95066

VERDICT 4 out of 5 stars
Higher-tech and better performing than ever, the Zero S approaches parity with small gas-powered bikes.

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