Life Electric: range anxiety and an adoring public

Dailies, Reviews -



Not much riding today. Just running around Hollywood, 28 miles in all. Still, three days in, I’m starting to adapt to the Zero DS’s miniscule weight and silent operation. I’m liking the bike more the more I ride it, but enjoying the constant questioning less and less.

- I definitely don’t have a future as a Zero spokesperson. During the day, I’m typically distracted by phone calls, work stuff and just generally living inside my own head. I’m also constantly running late, so I really don’t have time to answer the same old questions over and over and over. Yesterday I was nice, today I just kept telling people “There’s a dealer on Fairfax, go talk to them.” Tomorrow I’ll probably just start running people over.

- From 25 to 70mph or so, the DS is a legitimately fast motorcycle. Roll on is sharp and responsive between those two speeds, enabling you to absolutely slice through traffic. The problem is, 0-25mph is slower than most cars. When splitting to the front of a queue, you have to make sure to stop squarely in front of a car to avoid getting stuck between them as they pull away.

- 28 miles today ate two of the 11 energy bars. It’s on the quick charger outside, getting ready for a night’s riding with Ashlee on the CCW Misfit and the East Side Moto Babes now.

Green means go. With no motor sound or vibes and no clutch, it’s an important reminder that throttle = acceleration. The clocks are this difficult to read in person too.

- I’m a little worried about that ride. As soon as I wrap up this article, I’m going to head over to Westwood to pick up Ashlee, then head downtown to meet the Babes. They want to do about a 40-minute ride and wrap up at a bar downtown. Depending on where that ride takes us, I may need to cut it short. Well, maybe, or maybe it’s just me being super nervous. I really don’t want to end up pushing.

- Weighing just 341lbs, the DS turns incredibly quickly at low speeds. Took me a little while to get used to it, but just now I was passing cars in turns inside my gym’s multistory car park. This whole electric supermoto thing could get dangerous…

- I’ve been double checking that the kill switch is off before paddling backwards or pushing the bike around. I guess I can add unintended acceleration to the list of things that I’m paranoid about.

- Said hi to a cyclist in traffic today. I think he was surprised that a motorcycle snuck up behind him completely silently. I was surprised that I could hear him say hi back.

- People love fooling with the Zero while it’s parked in a public place. Since there’s not much to push or fondle, they apparently play with the Sport/Eco button. Thought the bike was surprisingly slow on the way home today until I realized some handsy person had switched into Eco for me. Thanks.

- The kind of people that have been stalking me so far have all been well dressed, decent looking, in shape, 30-ish guys. Ladies, this Zero DS might be your version of a cute puppy.

- Ok, wish me luck…

I’m living with a Zero DS as my only transportation for two weeks, updating you with daily journal-style articles. It’s the Life Electric.

  • Archer

    It’s articles like this that are starting to convince me this technology will be our two wheel future.

    That probably sounds silly to you, but until now the balance sheet I keep in my head about such things was definitely tilted in the opposite direction.

    Congratulations. I think.

  • Mike

    > People love fooling with the Zero while it’s parked in a public place

    Seriously?? What about your mega-loud annoy-o-tron alarm?
    This is why I park my bike under a security camera @ work.

    • robotribe

      Meh. This is nothing compared to hundreds of ass clowns who think sitting on your Vespa when it’s parked and you’re away as totally acceptable.

      • BMW11GS

        I’m a big personal property guy and that just does not jive with me!

        • jp182

          Most motorcycle owners are :-p

  • protomech

    “28 miles today ate two of the 11 energy bars”

    or 1.1, or 2.9 .. the energy bar display is slightly better than completely useless.

    • Sean Smith

      Yeah, not just having a simple percentage readout’s a bitch.

      • Campisi

        But, but numbers are scary! Or something.

        Seriously, it seems like every single electric vehicle on the market has to use a cell-phone bar system for some reason. Maybe focus groups are allergic to information.

  • matt

    thanks for the blow by blow on this one. Good choice of a bike for this level of transparency. This could be the goto daily driver for loads of people. How to live with it and identifying the gotchas must be done. Thanks for being the lab rat. Couldn’t be so bad right?

  • contender

    East Side Moto Babes…I need to change my social circles.

  • DavidMG

    Wes, you’re missing on some primo advertising opportunities. Make some flyers for HFL or business cards and tell people to check out the site for feedback on the bike. How ’bout a license plate holder with the website’s address and logo?

    It’s the polite way to blow them off and still make something positive of it.

    • TuffGong

      Excellent advice,DavidMG. A bit more advice…be early to where you are going.It is impossible to be late when you are early…..

      • Ben W

        Unless you can’t be early because you end up leaving late from somewhere. Seriously, try telling my “in meetings 90% of the day” boss.

  • the_doctor

    So, why is the Zero such a slouch at 0-25? I thought ‘lectrics delivered good amount of torques on throttle.

    • pplassm

      In the previous entry, the rider alluded to motor controller tuning that makes the acceleration “soft” at low speeds. Apparently safer for noobs.

    • Ross

      Maybe the lack of a geared transmission? If it is going to hit 80 with only one ratio it would have to be a dog at low speeds.

      • aristurtle

        You’re thinking of the torque curve of a gasoline engine, not an electric motor.

        • protomech

          Taller gearing still hurts low-end acceleration. The 2012 bike is geared about 30% taller than the 2011 bike, and is still a little faster.

          It’s definitely not lugging or stalling like a gas engine would at low RPMs, but the acceleration is very soft.

        • fasterfaster

          Actually Ross has it about right. Electric motors have huge amounts of torque and from zero RPM. These bikes aren’t monsters off the line because they’re basically stuck in 4th gear to use all of that torque and get a reasonable top speed. If you ran that electric motor in the equivalent of 1st or 2nd gear it would have wild acceleration off the line (but not enough top speed). The big difference is on a gas bike, rear wheel torque falls off as you shift up through the gears (your gas bike pulls harder in 2nd gear than in 4th, right?), while it stays the same on an electric with a fixed ratio. what Wes is feeling above 25 is the bike continuing to pull when you would normally down shift and get weaker accel.

          • lowslydr

            Didn’t one of the elecric moto mfrs come out with a geared transmission recently? Without gears you’re stuck with the equivalent of a fixie bicycle.

    • pplassm

      From the previous entry:

      “Throttle response and therefore acceleration away from a dead stop is tuned so it doesn’t frighten new riders.”

  • kidchampion

    This is the way Chinese food will be delivered in the Manhattan of the future.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      A huge percentage of restaurants in NYC already deliver using electric bicycles. Elec bicycles don’t require plates/licenses and therefore can be driven by illegal immigrants; are still useful when the battery dies; are so light that their battery packs are cheap, small, and can be easily swapped for a freshly charged one; and importantly, electric bicycles can be ridden the wrong way on a one-way street (90% of the streets) or on a sidewalk without attracting any attention.

      The first time I was passed by a delivery ebike, it baffled me that the rider was coasting while I was pedaling. Then I quickly realized why. These days, I take it in stride that when I’m working in NYC, during my evening ride to my apt, I’m going to be passed by bikes carrying a wide basketful of takeout.

  • Brad

    I bet a pipe and power commander would fix that low-end bog.

    • JMcMahon

      Airbox delete and pod filters.

      • aristurtle

        A jet kit and a retune from the EPA spec.

        …Man, we’re going to have to figure out a whole new language of tuning and upgrading if electric bikes become mainstream.

        • Jesse

          Zap the PRAM, three-finger-reboot and call it a day.

          • Jake

            Set phazers to ton.

            • matt

              flash your moto

              • BigRooster

                Firmware upgrade.

                • MotoRandom

                  Stickers. Lots of sponsor stickers. Biggest performance gain for your buck available for any motor vehicle. Needs more NOS.

                • JMcMahon

                  Open up task manager and close all non essential programs. Run scandisk.

                • DavidMG


  • zipp4

    This reminds me of why I pay for a membership. Simple, honest, good stuff, Wes.

  • Chris

    This report has now become my first thing in the morning read.

  • karinajean

    last year I was having some work done on my motorcycle and a guy cruised in with an electric dirt bike. He offered me a ride and as I was getting on I totally grabbed throttle in a way that make the bike jump before I was on it. that unintended acceleration is DEFINITELY something to watch.

    on the plus side, the bike is so light that you can jump after it, catch the bars, and keep it upright so you don’t have to reimburse mr. friendly “wanna ride” for his broken dirt bike. PHEW.