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Zero Debuts New ‘SR’ Electric Motorcycle, And I’ve Been Riding It

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Electric motorcycle maker Zero has taken the wraps off a new top-line street bike, simply called the SR, and I can take the painter’s tape off the tank since I’ve been tooling around on it in public for a couple of weeks now ahead of their big reveal this morning.

The $17,995 2022 SR, a name that reaches back into Zero’s 15-year history of making electric motorcycles, is a close cousin to the existing SR/F and SR/S machines. The new SR is packing a 14.4kWh “plus” battery pack, an air-cooled ZF 75-10 motor making 74 horsepower and a healthy 122 pound-feet of torque, and the clean “naked” style that’s very popular today. Zero says the SR is tuned for “everyday performance” but it also has a bunch of ride modes, including a new Canyon mode along with Eco, Sport, Standard, and Rain modes. Each mode is user-adjustable in the Zero app. Solid J.Juan triple disc brakes feature linear power and great feel at the lever.

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But the bigger news from Zero is their decision to make the SR – and the SR/S and SR/F – upgradable, but not in the traditional parts-swap kind of way. Instead, the SR, SR/F and SR/S will be able to give users extended battery life, more horsepower and myriad other upgrades via the Zero app and through smartphone-based over-the-air updates through Zero’s Cypher III+ operating system and the new Cypher Store.

Indeed, a close examination of the battery pack on the SR shows it labeled as the “ZF 14.4+,” and that little “plus” means owners can buy their way to more battery capacity – up to 17.3 kWh – without changing out the battery packs. But there is also a new optional hardware upgrade as well: A 15.6+kWh battery pack for the SR/F and SR/S that can also be pumped up to 17.3kWh via an app upgrade. Zero says the new battery is six pounds lighter than the previous pack and includes new cooling features and other improvements along with the weight loss and capacity increase.

Other upgrade options available through the Cypher Store and Zero app will include faster charging options, speed and performance boost, Park Mode (aka “reverse”), heated grips (depending on hardware) and on-dash navigation prompts.

Last week, Dan Quick, Zero’s gregarious Director of Communications, arrived in rainy Portland along with a senior software engineer to give me the run-through on the upgrade process, which is still in beta. The Cypher Store and the upgrade tech should be ready for riders – including current owners of SR/F and SR/S bikes – in the first quarter of 2022. For some older bikes, Zero says some upgrades may require a hands-on service from Zero.

“Different riders engage in different ways,” Quick told Forbes.com in regards to the upgrade strategy. “Furthermore, the timing of the [upgrade] purchase is infinitely flexible, as well. This way nobody is beholden to making additional buying decisions within the confines of the actual motorcycle purchase. There’s literally nothing like this in the powersports industry.”

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I received the new SR in a “basic” or baseline configuration with no upgrades present. Thumbnail review: The SR is quick, comfortable and confidence-inspiring, even without any upgrades. Looks pretty sharp as well. As we chatted in my garage while liquid sunshine pelted down from a leaden sky, Zero’s engineer tapped away on a laptop and a smartphone, topping up the SR with everything in the cookbook except heated grips, since my press SR did not have the heat elements installed.

The next day, I donned warm gloves, the weather cleared (for a while, at least) and I set the freshly upgraded SR loose on the streets and highways around Portland.

Vive la différence.

Range bounced up by a solid 20 percent as the cells took a deeper charge, turn-by-turn GPS prompts appeared on the LCD display, and Park Mode is for real: The SR now backs up at a stately 1mph, and makes getting out of many hilly Portland parking spaces a whole lot easier.

More good news: The charging rate has increased at hotter public chargers and wait times have decreased. Zero says that if buyers opt for the “Power Tank” expansion battery that goes where the “gas tank” storage cubby is located, the SR/S/F can pack in a maximum of 20.9kWh of capacity, a solid boost of 20 percent, and good for 227 miles/365km of city range and 113 miles/182km at 70mph.

Still short of true touring duty, but if you stick to back roads, it’s a good bet you could squeeze in closer to 150 miles of riding at 60 or so before needing to juice back up. Pretty solid, considering most riders don’t log more than 40 miles of riding per day. Some do, of course, but most don’t until they set aside time for a longer trip. As such, the Zero machines are fantastic urban traffic fighters with the ability to reel in some country roads outside of town as well.

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The price tag for some of the upgrades is a bit steep, including $2,195 for the full 20% battery capacity boost and $1,495 for a 100% boost in charging speed. But there are less-expensive options as well, such as $295 for a 17% boost in charging speed. Most non-battery oriented options, such as the Park Mode reverse option and on-screen GPS prompts, are $195. Some of the big upgrades vary in price bike to bike or by bike trim (such as Premium versions), but not by much. Bottom line: Riders can mix and match upgrades at any time to customize their bike for their specific needs, and if they sell the bike, the upgrades travel to the new owner, enhancing resale value.

Despite Portland’s rainy season beginning right as the SR arrived in my garage, I’ve been watching for those dry weather windows to get in some seat time, and the SR is another potent entry in Zero’s catalog of high-tech electric fun machines. The SR features fully adjustable Showa suspension, roomy ergos and a configurable LCD display. The SR corners with a neutral countenance and it’s almost too easy to go fast on it since there’s no gearbox or clutch to fuss with. It just keeps on going faster, to a limited top speed of 104mph on the SR. Riders can set up regenerative braking feel and other parameters to customize the bike to their tastes. The SR even has cruise control.

Overall, the SR looks to be a solid addition to the Zero lineup. In town, plying the streets in near silence, it’s a hoot to twist the grip and feel all that torque rocket the bike forward. And when the sky started crying yet again, Rain mode re-shaped power output and ABS performance for a more traction-sensitive ride. I made it home safe and sound, if a bit damp.

I’m looking forward to sunnier, warmer days with the SR, so check back. The bike goes on sale early next year with Zero rolling out their upgrade strategy at the same time.

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