What is it?
The first full-fairing motorcycle from Zero, which has already turned plenty of heads with the sweet melding of technology and speed that is the SR/F. Zero classifies that award-winning bike’s successor as “sport touring,” a concept I found hard to swallow until I got a chance to ride it all over and out of New York City this summer.
Is it new?
Zero announced the SR/S at a press event in February and began rolling it out to dealers in the spring. While it shares roots with the SR/F, the bike boasts a number of innovations aimed at improving performance and comfort for both rider and passenger.
What makes it special?
As you may have gathered, the term "sport touring" causes a lot of cognitive dissonance for me, because sport calls to mind a Ducati Panigale, while touring makes me think of a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. Those two bikes could hardly be more different, so how can one motorcycle incorporate both words?
From Zero's perspective, the SR/F is a fighter plane, and the SR/S is more of a private jet. That means it's more luxurious, but it can still burn rubber when needed. The biggest shift in the comfort direction is lower pegs and higher handlebars, which translates to a more upright, relaxed riding position. Even the pillion area is bigger and has lower pegs. The SR/S also integrates nicely with luggage — accommodating spacious Shad top and side cases on my test model — making backpack toting unnecessary.
Even with a less sporty riding position and saddlebags, however, this bike is not exactly plodding. See, the fairing actually helps make the bike more aerodynamic, increasing its efficiency and range by 13 percent when you lean forward and tuck into the cockpit.
Such a position feels natural thanks to the lowering of the mirrors, which are located under the handlebars, as opposed to the ones that sprout above on the SR/F. This seemingly minor tweak creates a totally different, more aggressive feeling, especially if you forget to pop them back out after folding in while parking.
How does it ride?
Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Vacation where Clark Griswold says, "we're all gonna have so much fuckin' fun, we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamned smiles"? That's how I felt pretty much every time I got a green light, twisted my right wrist and left literally everything next to me in the dust. Even with a full-face helmet and mask on, you might be able to spot the gleam of a maniacal smile — and even laughter — as I zipped all over the city's pandemic-emptied streets.
This thing is just intoxicatingly quick out of the gate. When there was no one behind me, I actually found myself hanging out for a few seconds when the light went from green to red, both to zoom past everyone and to increase the odds the next light I was warp-zoning to would be green as well. So, so fast.
I guess in retrospect, it makes sense. I was expecting it to be less peppy than the SR/F, but it boasts many of the same specs: 110 horsepower, a top speed of 124 miles per hour and 140 pound-feet of torque, the main reason why, in sport mode, this 505-pound bike blasts past 60 miles per hour in seconds.
I should probably mention that the handling is pretty good, too. The bike's full-color touchscreen lets you easily toggle between four standard ride modes — sport, street, rain and eco — and customize up to 10 others. Meanwhile, the Cypher III computer maximizes the Bosch stability control system for optimal ABS, corner, traction and drag torque control. Trust me, I put that ABS to the test many times after getting caught up in the acceleration. I would describe it's responsiveness as "life saving."
Anything else stand out?
As a lover of traditional motorcycles, I am mindful of what's being lost here. There is an unmistakeable joy in the low rumble of a gas-powered engine, and an irreplaceable satisfaction in easing a bike out of neutral and clicking through the gears as you roll the throttle back and cut through the wind. It's a kind of magic, really.
You don't get that with the SR/S, but what you do get is a new kind of wizardry, borne of next-level engineering that, as much as I hate to say it, is both faster and more eco-friendly than what's come before. It's definitely not the same as a gas bike, but if you simply accept the difference and embrace what it has to offer, you'll have a hell of a time.
That being said, I must offer one related caveat. Last summer, testing the SR/F, my only major knock was that the infrastructure had not quite caught up. Even using the ChargePoint app, every garage I stopped by in the city charged me a different rate — often one that seemed made up on the spot — or refused to help me.
I wish I could say things have changed in the intervening year, but they really haven't. This time around I got charged up to $35, an outright gouging several times what it would cost to fill a four- or five-liter gas tank, and had my best luck during a visit to Tarrytown. My parents were staying at a hotel there, and while the place had an electric charging station that didn't accommodate Zeroes, the staff let me plug into a standard outdoor outlet. I got the charge level from about 20 percent to like 46 percent in a couple of hours, enough to smoothly cruise back to the city.
If you live somewhere with access to easy overnight outlet charging, that scenario probably sounds laughable. But if you live in a typical urban apartment, just know that despite being around for more than a decade, Zero is still ahead of its time.
What’s it cost?
The standard SR/S with the 3kW Rapid Charge System costs $19,995. The premium version, featuring the 6kW Rapid Charge System, heated hand grips, fly screen and aluminum bar ends, costs $21,995. For an additional $2,895, Zero’s Power Tank adds 3.6-kWh, extending the city range to 201 miles.