Ride with us at the controls of Zero Motorcycles’ DSR/X electric-powered ADV bike.

Ride with us at the controls of Zero Motorcycles’ DSR/X electric-powered ADV bike. (Jenny Linnquist/)

Fresh for 2023, Zero Motorcycles presents its new DSR/X, an electric adventure motorcycle designed to take riders away from the pavement. The Santa Cruz, California, company has been a force in the electric motorcycle segment for 15 years, but this is its first ADV rig.

Editor’s note: We reported on the unveiling of the DSR/X during the 2023 Zero DSR/X First Look Preview article.

The DSR/X is powered by a giant 17.3-kilowatt-hour battery, and while the rating is a measure of energy storage capacity, Zero motorcycles are also known for producing a hellacious amount of torque at the back wheel. The last time we rode a Zero SR/F, it churned out 140 lb.-ft. torque. This motor is said to deliver 166 lb.-ft. torque. That’s more than a six-cylinder Honda Gold Wing or BMW’s mighty K 1600. And it’s a good thing it has that much juice, considering its hefty 544-pound ready-to-ride weight.

The DSR/X has rugged, modern styling, but it’s not overdone. Up front it rolls on a 19-inch cast-aluminum wheel, complemented by a 17-inch cast-aluminum rear hoop, the same type of wheel configuration employed by the BMW GS, Ducati Multistrada, Suzuki V-Strom, and Harley-Davidson’s Pan America. The 19/17 wheelset combo is ideal for riders who are looking to do light off-roading, with road remaining the focus.

Our favorite feature of this bike, next to its awesomely and easily adjustable windscreen, is the giant storage compartment. It’s capable of swallowing 7 gallons of gear. That’s double the capacity of the SR/F we tested three years ago, and enough to fill half a dozen decent-sized backpacks. Added auxiliary storage can be accessed via two torque screws on the front left side of the bike, and there’s also the usual small storage compartment underneath the rider seat.

This vehicle is charged with a standard J1772 charging point or a conventional household three-prong 110-volt adapter. The household adapter takes approximately 10 hours to charge from zero to 95 percent; the J1772 reduces that to roughly four hours.

Up front the DSR/X rolls on an inverted Showa fork with radial-mount brakes from J.Juan, a Brembo-owned Spanish brake manufacturer. A giant Showa shock mounts directly to the frame and swingarm without a linkage. We generally aren’t fans of bikes without rear suspension linkages, especially for off-road use, but in this application it works well. The suspenders offer more than 7 inches of suspension travel, fore and aft.

Another neat design feature is the belt final drive. So why doesn’t it employ a chain? Chain final drive is loud, and when used on a bike that otherwise does not make much noise, chain slaps get annoying. The drive sprocket mounts directly to the 17-inch rear wheel, allowing more even torque load during acceleration. The rear sprocket has holes inside designed to move dirt and debris out of the surface between the sprocket and the belt, helping to mitigate excess wear and keeping the belt from stretching or breaking when out on the trail.

This bike is a big rider-friendly motorcycle; those taller than average are going to like the ergonomics on this Zero. The handlebar is tall and swept forward, which is nice as it puts riders in an aggressive stance, though that might get a little annoying while logging highway miles. The rider’s seat is luxurious, cupping rear ends nicely. The faux fuel tank area is sizable and does a fine job of blocking the elements, which is what you want on a touring bike. The rearview mirrors do a nice job of showing off what’s behind.

Standing ergonomics on this bike work well throughout. Overall, this is a very cozy motorcycle.

True, the Zero is a tad wide, but that girth means it’s easy to squeeze the bike with the legs. The center of the bike is nice and flat and the faux fuel tank isn’t in our way, like it is with so many other modern ADVs.

Considering its heft, the suspension has a lot of work to do. The suspension has spring preload and damping adjustment, front and rear. No doubt that big reservoir chamber inside the shock has a lot of nitrogen to help keep the damping qualities fixed when controlling all 544 pounds of this motorcycle. The weight is certainly felt, and riders can sense the suspension controlling movement and vehicle pitch off-pavement. Realistically, though, riders probably won’t get really nasty with this bike; it just weighs too much. Still, for fire roads and light off-roading, this motorcycle is more than capable.

On the other hand, the DSR/X feels remarkably agile on the road. The suspension feels well-supported on slow to medium speed curvy pavement stints, and thankfully, there’s those triple-sized triple disc brakes. The rear disc brake on this vehicle is the biggest rear disc Zero Motorcycles has ever put on one of its bikes. The off-road traction control mode is really nice, allowing a decent level of wheelspin. The connection between motorcycle and throttle works well, and we like the throttle response, not too touchy, not too dull; the rider feels connected to the bike.

A good, old-fashioned mechanical key starts this bike. Insert key, turn the ignition on, and the 5-inch color TFT display illuminates with a neat Zero Motorcycles logo. The fonts are nice and sharp and it looks crisp. Problem is, the font sizes used mean there’s a lot of wasted space around the perimeter of the display. Still, just hit the “run” rocker switch, and away you go.

The DSR/X offers an easy-to-access 12-volt power point and two more USB-type chargers inside the center storage box. Three-level adjustable heated grips are also included and elevate comfort during rides in chilly weather. The manually adjustable windscreen offers a good range of adjustment; we usually ran it in the low position to get a little bit of airflow over our body, but if it had been colder out, we would definitely have elevated the setting. The rearview mirrors do a nice job of showing off what’s behind.

Zero Motorcycles continues to rely on switch gear that mimics Aprilia hardware from over a decade ago; it’s clunky and needs to be updated, preferably with a BMW-style multi-wheel. Until then, riders must fumble with the left/right toggle switch to access power modes. Obviously Sport was our favorite.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Eco power setting reduces acceleration force and uses power more sparingly. It also adds regen, which feels like engine-braking, as it slows the motorcycle without having to actuate the brakes by returning regenerated power to the power pack. Folks who like a lot of conventional engine-braking effect during deceleration are going to want regen.

The brakes offer decent response, but the pad-bite-feeling is a tad soft. Power-wise, riders really have to get in that lever for it to slow down; after all, there’s a lot of mass to stop here. An even more robust brake package would be nice considering how heavy this vehicle is. A neat feature here is the integration of Bosch-sourced vehicle stability and ABS controllers. Bosch-sourced ABS and vehicle stability controllers are class-leading in the powersport space. And Bosch and Zero Motorcycles have been working together for nearly a decade now. So the electronics and their integration of their vehicles works really well.

Not having any traditional motorcycle sounds makes for a fresh experience. Without typical ICE noises, it’s a serene experience. Riding electric motorcycles is neat, because there’s no engine noise, no vibration, no exhaust noise. And we like that there’s no clutch to actuate; no gears to shift.

Zero claims it’s good for a range of 85 highway miles. If you ride in the city, it’s over 100 miles. If you ride off-road, it’s over 100 miles too. Highway use is the worst energy consumption because you’re going at a constant speed. City and off-road, you are varying your speed. You also get the benefit of regen during deceleration, so that’s why range increases in the aforementioned scenarios.

Zero Motorcycles also offers a larger power pack as an accessory. This vehicle comes standard with a 6kWh charger that’s been repositioned; that charging apparatus was previously mounted underneath the motorcycle, as on the Zero SR/F. For this application, engineers moved it to the tailsection due to the DSR/X’s added ground clearance requirement. In typical Zero form, you can always scale the charging system: If you need more charging power, you can buy an accessory 6-kilowatt charger, effectively doubling the charging rate.

LED lighting front and rear helps this motorcycle stand out after dark. Curiously however, this bike has halogen bulb turn signals. We weren’t able to ride after dark, so the jury is still out on the nighttime usability of this motorcycle, but judging by the shape of the LEDs we bet this thing throws a good swath of light.

The neat thing about electric motorcycles is they’re virtually devoid of maintenance. The DSR/X needs periodic tension checks on the belt final drive and hydraulic brake fluid flushes, but that’s pretty much the extent of the maintenance. Of course, you’re going to have to update the firmware every so often; Zero Motorcycles is always improving its firmware and software. But for motorcycle riders who want to spend more time riding and less time dealing with maintenance, EV bikes are a great option.

Will this bike replace the internal combustion engine–equipped adventure-touring bike in our garage? Probably not. Gasoline-powered adventure-touring bikes continue to retain an advantage in terms of range and fuel availability. It seems there very well may come a day, perhaps in a decade or two, where the tides change and it’s EV bikes; may as well embrace the change. Zero Motorcycles is making a valiant effort to make that change an adventure with the DSR/X.

Gear Box

Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2

Jacket: Rev’It Blackwater

Gloves: Rev’It Kinetic

Pant: Rev’It Piston

Boots: TCX Rush 2 Air

2023 Zero DSR/X Technical Specs and Price

PRICE: $24,495
MOTOR: Z-Force 75-10, passively air-cooled, interior permanent magnet AC motor
TRANSMISSION: Clutchless direct drive
FINAL DRIVE: Gates Carbon Drive Moto X9 belt, 25mm wide
POWER SYSTEM TYPE: Z-Force li-ion intelligent power pack
CLAIMED CHARGE TIME: 10 hr. Level 1 / 2 hr. Level 2 / 1 hr. 6kW rapid charger
CLAIMED RANGE: 180 mi. city/85 mi. highway
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER: 100 hp @ 3,650 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE: 166 lb.-ft.
FRONT SUSPENSION: 47mm Showa Big Piston Separate Function fork, preload, compression, and rebound adjustable; 7.5 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION: 46mm Showa piston w/ piggyback reservoir shock, preload, compression, and rebound adjustable; 7.5 in. travel
FRONT BRAKES: Dual J.Juan radial-mounted 4-piston calipers, 320mm discs
REAR BRAKE: J.Juan floating 1-piston caliper, 265mm disc
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR: 19 x 3.00 in. / 17 x 4.50 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II; 120/70-19 / 170/60-17
RAKE/TRAIL: 25.0°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE: 60.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT: 32.6 in.
WARRANTY: 2-year standard; 5-year/unlimited-mileage power pack
CONTACT: zeromotorcycles.com
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