2015 Zero S: Long-Term Wrap-Up | DOIN TIME

We say so long to our electric long-term test bike.

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2015): $17,840 (as tested)
MILES: 1643
MPG: Not a concern!
MODS: None

Five months on, Zero wants the S back. "Our" bike is one of several units allotted to Southern California dealers for demo rides, and there's a line of riders waiting for a chance to sample Zero's e-locomotion. In other words, it's time for us freeloading editors to give the bike back so actual customers can give the S a try.

Several weeks before the bike was due to go back we had a local dealer install the optional Givi luggage (21-liter E21 top-loading side cases and a 33-liter Trekker top case) and a windscreen so we could try the Zero in touring trim. Total cost for the side cases including mounts is $600. The Trekker top case is $550 including mounts. Both setups can be purchased at your local dealer or through zeromotorcycles.com.

The added utility the luggage offers is great, and although none of the three cases is shaped right to hold a full-face helmet, there’s ample room for a weekend’s worth of clothes or three bags of groceries. The tinted windscreen, designed in collaboration with MRA, costs $190 and bolts to the handlebar. The windscreen offers good wind protection for your torso while leaving your head in clean air.

The accessories are functional, but they don't do anything to help the look of the bike or its highway performance. Editor in Chief Marc Cook observed that the parts' aerodynamic drag reduced the bike's top speed on the freeway and made the motor run hotter. Range likely suffered as well, though we didn't do any back-to-back testing. (See EIC Cook's Zero S update HERE)

Our time with the Zero S was shorter than the usual 12-month term, but I feel I had ample time to get to know it. The truth is, it doesn’t take much seat time to assess the Zero’s capabilities, focused as they are. Its prime purpose is as a commuter and around-town errand runner, and to a lesser extend a plaything for joy rides, the length of which will depend on how aggressive you are with the throttle and how hilly your local terrain is. The most I ever got between plug-ins was 75 miles, but I’ll admit that all of my rides included plenty of high-speed highway travel, which is the least ideal scenario for an e-bike.

Several staffers took the Zero's key to see if it satisfied their daily needs, and it worked—with varying degrees of convenience—for everyone. Online Editor Brian Hatano found that his 48-mile commute (see update 2 HERE) meant he had to plug the bike in once at the office if he wanted to make it home, while Cook's 29-mile commute drained a fully charged battery to a little over 50 percent and my 13-mile jaunt let me go several days on a single charge.

As a daily rider, the Zero S is excellent. The only significant complaints pertained to the hard seat and a lack of off-the-line acceleration. On the plus side, I love how simple this single-speed, direct-drive bike is to operate and that I get to delete gas stops from my weekly routine. If you’re after ease of use, it doesn’t get much better than the Zero: Plug it in when the battery gets low and keep air in the tires, but otherwise just ride it and enjoy a smooth and green means of getting around. With no fluids (besides brake fluid), filters, or spark plugs to change and a low-maintenance belt final drive, the Zero is about as easy to take care of as a houseplant.

If you’re looking for a dynamic riding experience, however, the Zero may leave you dissatisfied. Depending on what you want from your ride the Zero’s silky smooth and silent power delivery may intrigue you or bore you; a diminishing charge may serve as a challenge or a source of anxiety; the high price may strike you as a worthy investment for state-of-the-art technology or a sound argument for sticking with internal combustion. It all depends on your perspective and expectations.

Zero made lots of improvements for 2015. This latest bike has better brakes (with ABS standard), improved suspension, higher spec tires, and refined throttle response. It’s a big step above its predecessor. Is it on par with an equivalently priced gas-powered bike? No. Not even close. But the all-electric Zero S is a viable transportation option and one of the most refined machines in the category.