2009 Zero MX
I’ve never been into the “green” movement, but I was pretty excited for the opportunity to ride the Zero Motorcycles’ new 2009 Zero MX model on the motocross track at Lake Elsinore MX Park in Southern California. The electric motor specs are impressive-50 ft/lbs of torque and 23 peak horsepower.
Looking over the bike, the build quality is very good, and the Zero MX is built for the track. To that end, the Zero MX has beefier suspension, with eight inches of front travel and nine inches in the rear, as well as a larger 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel just like Super Mini class motorcrossers like the KTM 105 SX and KX 100 (bridge bikes between youth and adult MX bikes), though the tires bit narrower (keeping them lighter).
I was a little disappointed to see the stock tires are inexpensive Cheng Chin rubber. That’s not what you what you would expect on an $8,250 machine but the choices are limited when you want such narrow meats. Although the seat is claimed to be 36 inches above ground, it’s actually in the Super Mini range, so I’d say it’s at least an inch lower than that.
When I first sat on the bike all seemed pretty normal. This could be do to the fact that the Zero MX uses a SDG USA aftermarket seat for a Honda CRF450R, so nothing out of the ordinary there. However, the bars did feel slightly narrow for a full sized dirt bike. The brakes are mountain bike components, with the rear brake mounted up on the bars where the clutch usually is. The levers felt a little too close to the bars for my hands, but I was able to easily adjust them out with a few turns of the lever adjusters.
Once under way, the ergonomics felt comfortable, though slightly small, for my 6′ 1″ frame. The big wide-open Lake Elsinore track probably wasn’t the best place to try the MX, as Zero told me before the ride it is meant much more for a tight track or trail. However, Zero calls it an MX and they’re introducing it on a motocross track, so that is how it has to be judged.
On the track, the Zero MX has a good initial pull out of turns, then it just seems to go flat with a slow steady pull up to the top speed. The power doesn’t hit hard enough to clear the jumps out of the corners and, even with the upgraded suspension, I still didn’t want to get too crazy over the jumps.
I had no problems at all with the rear hand brake, perhaps because I pull in the clutch when braking hard into the corners on a manual transmission bike (the Zero has no transmission). It is nice braking into right hand turns though. Cornering was awesome with the 156-pound bike; you can just lay it over with ease and pick it right back up. Plus, being able to get forward with no gas tank in the way is a definite plus. I can see why this bike would be fun on a tight, pit-bike type track; not worrying about it stalling adds to the fun and flexibility.
The claimed life of the proprietary lithium-ion battery array is “up to” two hours (about 40 miles), but with wide open riding that we where doing on the track, we weren’t getting 30 minutes of full power. Battery changes on the Zero MX are quick and easy, but the 58V/35 amp/hr battery pack runs about $3,000; compared to a can of gas, that’s a high price for having the extra power ready to go.
With each successive model, Zero Motorcycles gets closer to coming up with a truly viable dirt bike, but isn’t there yet with the 2009 Zero MX–you won’t be seeing one on the starting line at any AMA Supercross or Motocross races. Still, it’s a fun play bike that could certainly be raced against like vehicles. And, of course, there’s the added bonus of being able to quietly ride the Zero MX anywhere without any tailpipe emissions.
Helmet: Shift Agent
Goggles: Utopia Slayer
Jersey, gloves, and pants: Shift Strike
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 10
Chris Cullins is the President of TEC-Cycles.com.