From Zero to hero: Ali meets with the converted for an electric love-in

1 of 22

I’ve ridden the Zero DSR/X electric motorbike for the last few months, slowly getting to grips with the whole process of ‘owning’ an electric vehicle. The bike’s great to ride, comfortable, easy to handle, quick and efficient power delivery but I’ve found it a struggle to change my mindset towards the limitations of this new technology. 

I thought it would be an idea to chat to a couple of owners and met up with Rick and Andrew to find out what sparked their interest in all things electric.

Rick Forbes has owned his Zero SR/F for two years. He said: “I’d been watching Zero for years and bought it during lockdown without being able to test ride it but wanted to have a play.

Zero owner Rick Forbes

“It’s a motorbike, a computer, and a gadget. The power and regen (like engine braking) is customisable from my phone. It’s cool and a novelty.

“I’ve been doing local speed/range testing from home but now I’m doing further distances, testing to see how far I can go in different directions. The furthest so far is about 150 miles to Cambridge to test a few chargers then back home a longer way.

“I had a few panics when I first got it and ran it down to 0%. I’ve learnt to judge distances better and that slowing down gives more range.

Zero owners

“I wouldn’t go out with no plan of where I was going like I do on the petrol bikes, and I use Calimoto to work out twisty routes. It counts down the number of miles left so I can compare with the bike’s range and slow down if I’m rinsing the battery too much. Finding new places to charge and going to test them is a novelty. I work 2 miles from home. Riding to work and back is nearly free. It’s not usually worth firing up a petrol engine.

“Electric bikes have their place as a short-range commuter or plaything. Mine costs 2p per mile in electric. Or have one as a second or third bike. I don’t think they are good enough to replace petrol bikes due to range.

“I’ve had one issue caused by rain. On a recent ride to Oxford I got caught in a downpour. I got home ok but when I turned on the bike to charge it produced one error after another. It wouldn’t drive or charge. It’s booked in to be collected by the local dealer to investigate.

Zero owner Andrew Roddham

“I really like mine and will keep it, but I wouldn’t buy another one yet. They are too expensive and when they crack the problem of battery capacity and charging times the old models will be worthless.”

Andrew Roddham rides a Zero SR/S that he bought two years ago. He bought the bike for his commute during the fuel issues in 2021 and thought he wouldn’t have the problem with an electric bike.

“I cover the 50 miles to work and have found the Zero capable,” he said. “My longest trip has been to Inverness, it takes 16 hours over two days. Charging on the journey was ok but physically finding the chargers proves difficult.“I have been stranded because my bike has had a lot of trouble with water in the battery, it is an issue with earlier models. I’ve never run out of charge, there’s plenty of chargers around with the bike using AC chargers, they are plentiful.

The various charging apps

“I have the fast charger, so have a 3KW on phase one, 3KW charger on phase two and a 6KW charger on phase three. If I connect to a single-phase charger, it only charges on phase one, so if you adapt your lead, so the input is phase one and two, you can get 6KW charge from a single phase 7KW charger.

“If I want to charge to my fast charger, I will hook up to a three-phase charger and use the three phase cable, it then splits three ways. The adaptation to the cable improves the charging rate and speeds up the process, it would for Rick too, even though he only has a phase one and phase two charger.

“If I charge at a fast charger, it takes around 45 minutes. Only drawback is I’ve lost my tank storage space, as the fast charger is in there. I tend to carry just one cable now, but I used to carry my adapted cable, standard cable, and granny cable.

Charging a ero DSR/X in Kettering

“I always start journeys slow and only speed up when I know I am near the charger. I’ve found the optimum speed to travel is around 60mph, or you spend more time charging than you do riding.

“I use the bike for everything, it’s superb to ride, A and B roads, overtaking, there’s no messing about changing gears, it takes off like a rocket. My top tip would be to buy from a dealer who specialises in electric bikes.”

What are RFID Cards and how do they work?

RFID Cards

As we’ve already established, charging is a complete minefield, anything to simplify the process has to be a benefit. Both Rick and Andrew recommend the use of Radio Frequency Identification cards (RFID Cards). Obtained via the various charging companies, an RFID card is used to pay for charging at public charge points. 

Tap the card against the reader, to initiate the charging process, the unique data held on the card identifies the user. Only snag is, it’s not a case of one card fits all, cards are needed for all the suppliers. Best thing is to get a selection and stow them on the bike, rather than clogging up your wallet.

Update three: We celebrate making a 60-mile journey on the Zero DSR/X

Published 25.07.23

Ice Creams at Hunstanton on the DSR/X

I can’t believe the sense of relief and joy at making it to Hunstanton on the Zero DSR/X electric motorbike a whole 65 miles from home but feel the same sense of glee as when I made a solo 1000-mile trip to Venice a few years back.

Why the exuberance? I managed to get the bike to charge, in a completely fuss free manner, enabling me to reach sunny Norfolk, sounds ridiculous but it’s the truth.

To charge the Zero DSR/X is a complete minefield and one that’s causing too many sleepless nights to be healthy. Fuelling up a petrol bike is simple and pretty much the same process, irrespective of which brand of fuel you use.

Charging the Zero DSR/X

Not so simple with the world of electric, I’m open minded and embracing the change, after all, change keeps you young! (Currently I’ve aged ten years and covered a mere 250 miles!)

I had issues on a trip to Rushden Lakes, where the Pod Point chargers wouldn’t work. Before I felt brave enough to venture to the exotic East Anglia and to establish if it’s the bike that has a fault or if it’s the Pod Point chargers I’ve spent a day testing as many different chargers as I can. Keeping within easy reach of home to avoid being stranded.

To plot my route I use Zap Map, an App that indicates charger locations, who the supplier is and what type of chargers are at each location. Idea was to ride from home to Peterborough, around fifteen miles, then top up at locations around the city.  

Pod Point is more successful than the 100% fail rate I had on my first attempt to use them. This time, from eight different chargers, six worked, still not a great hit rate. Their app is simple to use and once hooked up, it’s an easy enough process.

Shell chargers at the local Aldi store were a complete fail. All offline, but it still took me ten minutes of faffing, as I try all four chargers just to be sure. 

Zap Map shows charging points in Asda’s car park. After a five minute ride round the car park (often charging points aren’t easily located, being badly signed or shoved away in the corner of a car park) chargers are decommissioned.

2023 Zero DSR/X long-term test bike on the road

A trip to the local Dobbies Garden Centre ends up another fail, two operational charging points but cars hooked up to both. At least I manage to get a cracking cheese scone in their cafe, only to find the cars still hooked up when I return to my bike.

Final stop of the day is MCN Towers and the EV Online chargers are great, easy to use and charge first time. 

Moral of the story seems to be is that you need to make sure there’s plenty of charge left in the battery when you attempt to charge up, as it’s not necessarily the easiest of jobs. And I need to recalibrate my thirst for going on a big trip, to be satisfied with travelling just over 100 miles in a day.

Update two: From Positive to Negative in less than 100 miles on the Zero DSR/X

Published 31.05.23

Zero DSR X charging

What an interesting week with the Zero DSR X electric motorbike, actually I’m lying. Rather than interesting, it’s been downright annoying.

A couple of short trips, have meant I charge overnight at home and my first attempt to use public chargers is in the safety net of the work car-park. A fifteen minute commute and I use 20% charge, an ideal opportunity to test the charging units.

Instructions on the chargers are easy to follow, the only bug bear is the rain, it’s a damp job hooking up the cable and setting the charger going, via the EV Charge website.

Electric bike charging apps

Planning is a big part of running the electric bike, as chargers aren’t as plentiful as petrol stations. With a visit to Sunny Hunny (Hunstanton) in the diary, I want to do a longer journey before I venture on what would normally be a ride I’d do with zero forethought.

My ‘dry run’ is a whole thirty miles to a local shopping centre, there’s a dozen Pod Point chargers and coffee shops are abundant. My aim is to ride there, charge the bike, while I consume copious quantities of caffeine and pretend to answer work emails.

The Zero DSR X is not the most attractive bike and weighs in at over 240kg, so it’s quite a lump but on the move, none of this matters. Open the throttle and it immediately responds, not in a threatening way but in a way where overtakes feel confident. The OE Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres aren’t great, I feel every lump in the road and, with no engine noise, road noise appears loud.

Static shot of Zero DSR/X

There’s a method my madness, should I have any issues with the chargers, I have enough juice to get home. To put this into perspective, last year, I took delivery of a Honda NT1100, with twenty miles on the clock. I immediately rode to Le Touquet. This year, I’m planning a sixty mile round-trip as my first ‘big trip’ and I’m more apprehensive. My riding has already changed to suit the bike, something I didn’t want to happen.

I arrive at Rushden Lakes on the look out for chargers, the first vacant one is in a disabled bay, does my need to charge Top Trump a Blue Badge Holder? Yes, desire to charge outweighs morality and I park up. Remove lid, remove rucksack, dig about in rucksack to find phone, unpack charging cable. Read the three step instructions on the charging unit, plug bike in and log on to the pre-paid app.

A smug grin on my face disappears, about a minute after Charge Confirmed appeared on my phone, the charging unit flashes a fault and the bike dash shows it’s stopped charging. Great! Start the process again, it fails. I move to another bank of chargers and repeat to fail.

Riding shot of Zero DSR/X

I’ve now been at this for half an hour, patience is wearing thin, temper frays. There’s a help line on the charging unit. a wonderfully helpful lady answers my SOS! Helpful and useless in equal measures. Fifteen minutes of remotely resetting the unit, it continually fails, she gives it up as a bad job.

I’m parched, fuming and ready to throw in the towel. My ride home is subdued, conservative and fearful I may end up stranded.

What now? I’ll try different charging companies, to see if the fault is with PodPoint and Zero are looking into whether there’s a fault with the bike. Firstly though, as I arrive home I take my trustworthy, sixteen year old Ducati Monster 695, Daisy, out for a spin, she’s never let me down! Bring back petrol, all is forgiven!

Update one: Taking Charge of the MCN Fleet Zero DSR/X

Published 19.04.23

Charging Zero DSR/X

Like a kid at Christmas, I’m nervously excited as I take delivery of the Zero DSR/X. It’s my first proper venture into the brave new world of electric bikes and I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to ride smaller capacity electric machines and some years back rode a previous evolution of the Zero. So, with limited knowledge, I know it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but I want to embrace it.

My riding year needs to emulate what I’d do on a petrol bike. I’m an electric sceptic and want to prove to myself that I can live a greener life and do my bit to save the planet in the process.

A quick run through of the bike, I learn the basics around the most crucial part of an ownership, how to charge it. The mock tank holds two cables, the ‘granny charger’ mainly for use at home, which is fitted with a three-pin plug and a cable to hook up to public chargers.

I soon glaze over as I’m told about the difference between AC and DC power, Type 2 or Rapid Charger, note to self – I’m a Type 2. For someone who got a Grade D ‘O’ level in physics and is quickly following in my mother’s footsteps regards technology (Mum regularly used to try to programme the video recorder using the telephone handset), I’m aware I’m not necessarily the best person for the job but love a challenge.

At £24150, it’s the most expensive bike I’ve had on test and while I know the money is in the technology, my first impressions are how simplistic and basic the bike looks. After last year’s over complicated controls on the Honda NT1100, it’s refreshing to have just the one MODE button, to operate riding modes, heated grips and other, still to be explored, settings. I cock a leg over the bike, seat height is low, at 5’10” with a 33” inside leg, my feet are firmly planted on the floor with knees slightly bent.

Charging Zero DSR/X

From the numerous riding modes, I opt for Standard, after all, it feels like the right place to start for my first ride. I head north on the A1, I’ve got around eighty miles of charge in the tank, (is this actually the right phrase??), so don’t want to venture too far afield on the first jaunt.

With the equivalent of 100bhp it is less than the bikes I’ve ridden of late, but has a whopping claimed 166ft-lb torque. It makes for an instant throttle response and power delivery is incredibly smooth.

I’ve got so many plans buzzing around my head. A big trip to Europe with my other half, visits to mates dotted around the UK, a leisurely day on the pillion perch as my mate takes charge of the controls plus my commutes to the office.

For now, as I arrive at home, I get the bike hooked up to the National Grid via the socket in my garage. I head into the house to research numerous apps and websites, to start plotting my routes and charging spots. I’ve got a broad grin on my face and have an air of expectation for a fun-filled year of riding ahead. 

About the tester

Going electric is going to be a massive learning curve. I don’t want to compromise my passion for touring, so am planning weekends away on the Zero DSR X and a trip to Europe, but will start with local hops and a lot of plug-in testing.


Alison Silcox

By Alison Silcox

Office Manager and centre of the MCN universe.