Zero electric bikes – electric riding experience

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Earlier Zeros used to have a lash-up feel, but the Californian firm’s 2011 models are very much proper bikes.

There are two new road bikes – the S (for Street) is purely for Tarmac and the DS (Dual Sport) has off-road capability. The DS is essentially a trail bike version of the S using the same major components but with higher suspension, dual-purpose tyres and a high-rise front mudguard.

With either machine, swinging a leg over the narrow saddle and grabbing the bars has much the same feel as any lightweight motorcycle.

Things get rather different from this point. Turning the ‘ignition’ key brings the electronics and LCD dash to life, and if you’ve had the Zero plugged in, the battery charge level (ironically labelled with a petrol pump symbol) will show full. Then comes the weird bit: no clutch, no gears, no sound, just turn the twist-grip (it’s not as throttle anymore…) and the Zero surges forward in near silence.

It takes a little time to get used to the lack of clutch or sound, especially when stopping and starting. Where your habits do have to change radically is at ‘refuelling’ time.

Find out more about the Zero electric bikes in this weeks MCN – out now.