Windscreen and Storage Mods for the 2015 Zero S | DOIN’ TIME

Update 1.2 - Our long-term eBike found a few mods and ends.

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2015): $17,840 (as tested)
MILES: 757
MPG: Ha!
MODS: Luggage and a windshield
Update: 1.2

I'm glad to have the chance to test the Zero S on familiar roads. The last time I rode the bikes in the Zero Electric Motorcycles line, it was on a variety of choice roads near the company's Santa Cruz, California, headquarters. While they performed well there, I wasn't exactly sure how the Zeros would compare on roads I know intimately well.

But now that I’ve spent a few days on our long-term Zero S, I can say that the improvements to the suspension and brakes are fairly transformative. There’s a section of the notorious Interstate 405 that’s part of my daily commute made up ill-laid concrete slabs with rough intersections. I can count on this short bit of highway to reveal weaknesses in suspension setup or to reveal cost-cutting hardware.

Somewhat miraculously, the Zero S glides over this stretch of road largely unflustered. There’s a sense of the wheels moving, the new Showa suspension doing its thing, but the ride is never harsh, the handgrips never threaten to leap from your grasp. I could rarely say the same thing about the previous bike. And then you have the new J. Juan brakes and Bosch ABS, both huge upgrades from before. (There was no ABS on the 2014 bikes, but now it’s standard.) I’ve said all this before, but it’s gratifying to validate the first impressions on much more familiar roads. Of all the upgrades for the 2015 model year, these may be the most important to traditional motorcyclists.

Between now and the previous installment, Zero's fleet center installed a number of accessories, which include a set of Givi luggage and a windscreen. Placed on a mount designed by Zero are a pair of Givi E21 top-loading side cases (21 liters each) and a 33-liter Trekker case, the one that can be used as a top case or side bag, here used as a top box. Total cost for the side cases including mounts is $599.99. The Trekker top case is $549.99 including mounts.

Because this Zero S has the Power Tank option—it takes the space where the basic S model has a small compartment in the "fuel tank"—the Givi components are the only options for on-board storage, so the S has gone from none to a lot. In fact, our Zero S now has the full-geek commuter look. All I need is an Aerostich and a flip-up helmet! (Oh, wait; I have those.)

This added utility is great, though as a long-time Givi top-trunk user I can say I'm not massively happy about the two outboard latches on the Trekker; it takes a bit of three-hand action to get the lid up. But if you're carrying a laptop or briefcase, the top case is a great addition. What's more, the Zero rack takes advantage of the bike's narrowness to keep the E21s close to the centerline. Installed, the saddlebags are barely wider than the narrow aluminum handlebar. Obviously built by people who know about commuting in California.

One side effect I hadn't considered before is the impact these accessories have on the Zero's performance and range. While the 67-hp bike accelerates about the same as before, the add-ons definitely cut down on top speed. While the governed top speed in Custom mode is 95 mph, the Zero struggled to get past 90 mph with the added drag of the windscreen and the luggage. (I know that this drag is an issue because Zero's Chief Technology Officer, Abe Askenazi, told me the sole difference in range from the Zero S to the dual-sport DS comes from the different riding position and consequent increase in aerodynamic drag.) Surely the windscreen, which effectively moves air flow around your chest, also adds to aero drag.

Nice, flat, and 33 liters large, the Givi Trekker top case is a nice addition. Hey, someone's been to Costco!

Because the Zero S is working harder to drag this stuff through the air, it stands to reason that highway range will suffer—I don’t know how much until I run some baseline tests without the pieces. Also, the motor runs notably hotter. On my most recent morning commute, I could get the high-temp warning to come on after about 20 minutes of running a steady 80 mph on relatively flat ground. And by the end of my commute, the light went from blinking (just a, “hey, we’re getting a little hot down here” warning) to solid (“okay, I’m gonna start cutting power if you don’t knock it off”). The Zero never actually started to trim back power, though.

All of these observations need to stand in front of proper backdrop. Electric bikes are best for and to a great degree optimized for urban travel. City streets call for short bursts of acceleration and braking to a stop, the duty cycle that the eBike likes best. Running hard at a constant highway speed is the absolute worst case. Even slowing down from the normal flow of traffic here in Southern California would offer the bike a ton of relief.

But we’re here to treat the Zero just like any other motorcycle in our fleet. So far, it hasn’t had a single mechanical or electrical issue, hasn’t stopped short of anyone’s destination, and is earning its fair share of respect.