2019 Zero DSR Review

The Zero DSR is the flagship “do everything” machine from the Silicon Valley-based electronic motorcycle manufacturer.

With a mission statement of tackling your daily commute, trails, and everything in-between, the 2019 Zero DSR is the most powerful model in its lineup, as well as boasting the farthest effective range.

For 2019, the Zero added several components aimed at accentuating the DSR’s off-road chops. Also, the new electric dual-sport motorcycle features firmware updates and other tweaks to improve battery life.

With the trails and backroads of Santa Cruz, Calif. as our testing grounds, here are the fast facts about the 2019 Zero DSR.

2019 Zero DSR review1. The Z-Force 75-7R electric motor packs a serious punch. Give the grip of the DSR a whack, and you’ll be able to send a commendable roost into the breeze thanks to the claimed 70 horsepower at 3500 rpm and 116 ft/lbs of torque that is available immediately.

2. On the road, the DSR accelerates hard and progressively. Better yet, the Zero DSR is remarkably smooth. Without the tactile response that an internal combustion engine provides, you’ll be lulled into legally questionable speeds rapidly.

3. Out on the trails, spinning it up and steering with the rear can be done. The electric motor’s ability to break traction takes some getting used to, but once settled in, it’s satisfying.

4. Three ride modes are available and can be customized with the Zero mobile app. Adjustable on the fly, the DSR features three ride modes: Eco, Sport, and Custom. Eco mode subdues the power delivery dramatically and is more comparable with what we know as a Rain mode. Sport mode will let you give it all the beans, while Custom is a ride mode of your design. From the app, owners can adjust regenerative braking, engine braking, max torque, top speed, and other variables.

5. Grip it and rip it—that’s the joy of a Zero. Through the brand’s history, Zero has stuck with a direct drive solution, meaning that there is no gearbox or clutch to fiddle around with; roll the throttle on and set off on your merry way. For riders coming into the fold or commuters that slog their way through the Bay Area’s world-renown traffic, that aspect has a vast significance for no-nonsense riding.

2019 Zero DSR price6. Direct drive has its place off-road, too. When climbing hills or in different terrain, the rider can focus on throttle and brake control exclusively, without the added stress of modulating the clutch to prevent stalling out. For hardcore dual-sporting, a clutch system would be handy to pop the front over obstacles, but for average trails, the ease of use outweighs the downsides.

7. The 2019 Zero DSR has a belt final-drive, with a chain option. Belt drives, while allowing for little maintenance, do not hold up as well as traditional chain drives in the dirt. Fortunately, Zero offers a final chain drive for vigorous off-road motorcyclists.

8. Fully adjustable Showa suspension with seven inches of travel at both ends is standard. The suspension is tuned for more street-oriented purposes, while remaining quite compliant, and you’ll be able to adjust it to your liking. The Showa suspension soaks up major hits well, though fast, repetitive situations like continually rough asphalt will give it some pause. For everything else, it does well.

9. Ease of use is integral to the Zero platform, and that extends to the DSR’s handling. Once in the wind with the EV dual sport motorcycles, you’ll first notice the amicable handling. The 2019 Zero DSR’s 56.2-inch wheelbase and 26.5 degrees of rake put it right in the ballpark of the Yamaha WR250R, so the geometry is right for dual sporting. On the street during initial corner tip-in, the DSR appreciates a bit of direction, then arcs through a corner calmly. Side-to-side is just as stately, and it’s comfortable if you crack the whip on the twisty stuff.

2019 Zero DSR test10. The 2019 Zero DSR is no lightweight, especially when filled to the brim with batteries. The standard Zero DSR weighs in at 419 pounds. For comparison, a Yamaha WR250R hits the scales at 295 pounds with a full gas tank. Add the accessory $2295 Charge Tank—an onboard fast-charger that allows charging at a 6 kWh rate—that my DSR had, and that raises the weight by 25 pounds. If you opt for the 3.6 kWh-capacity Power Tank—a $2895 option—you’ll tack on 44 pounds while increasing the range by about 25 percent. Note that the Charge Tank is incompatible with the Power Tank.

11. Thanks to a low center of gravity, the DSR manages well in the dirt in spite of its weight. I traversed some tight trails and hard-pack roads, not to mention the beach. Sure, its front wheel pushed in the soft sand, but everywhere else, it remained easy to ride and highlighted the comical torque on tap. Learning to control slides and finishing out corners has a unique feeling. It can be figured out, but needs to be respected. In tight sections, the street-influenced lock-to-lock steering sweep is a weakness, making those areas a little more difficult than it is for your average dual sport motorcycle.

12. On-road or off, the Pirelli MT 60 tires perform. With an ADV-style tread pattern, the MT 60s provide more than ample grip on the street. When you turn off the beaten path, they hold their own on hard-pack. The beefy 19-inch front tire helps performance and deals with obstacles effectively.

13. The 2019 Zero DSR’s ergonomics are comfortable. The DSR features a seat height of 33.2 inches. Thanks to a narrow chassis, riders with shorter inseams should still fare well in the saddle. On the street, the wide handlebars provide more than enough leverage to hustle this powerful EV around, and the observation applies to the trails, too. A sensible reach to the bars and footpegs makes for a casual ride that’s happy in traffic. Standing off-road is fairly accommodating as well. For my tastes, I think a slightly taller set of handlebars would be more conducive off-pavement.

14. Single rotor brake setups are more than enough for the 2019 Zero DSR. Given the motorcycle’s weight and performance, I questioned the single 320mm rotor and dual-piston J-Juan caliper up front, along with a 240mm caliper and single-piston J-Juan in the rear. The maximum speed on the DSR is a reported 102 mph, and you can get up there in a hurry. Still, the brakes are up to the task. Feel at the lever is a bit vague, but the brakes don’t lack outright power. The rear brake had more feel and feedback, though the lever is a tad low for my liking.

2019 Zero DSR off road15. ABS is standard. I’m a proponent of ABS on all street bikes, and when in that setting it doesn’t conflict with the ride. In the dirt, I’d recommend turning it off, which can be done easily enough, though not on the fly.

16. The Zero ZF14.4 battery has improved range, and the Power Tank extends it further. Just like an ICE powered machine, the range will be dictated by how aggressively you ride it and external factors like temperature. Running it hard, up hills, or in hot or cold weather will negatively impact battery performance. We didn’t have a chance to test the range extensively, but Zero claims the DSR will go 163 miles in the city on a charge, with that going to 204 miles with the $2985 Power Tank. Running at 70 mph, Zero claims 78 miles from the DSR (raised to 97 miles with the Power Tank).

17. The average American’s commute is 37 miles, so the 2019 Zero DSR is capable of that, especially if you can charge at your destination. My 50+ mile tour of the Santa Cruz back-roads and trails left me with 18 percent available battery life at its conclusion. However, I was forced, nay, required to slide the DSR around and do burnouts in the sand in the name of science. Responsible riders, who still had their share of fun, were able to net available battery life into the high 40 percent area. Running around in the soft sand seemed to impact the battery the most.

Zero DSR Review18. The high-speed Charge Tank makes the Zero compatible with Level 2 charging stations. A Level 2 charger can be run on a 240V circuit at home, as well. This reduces the recharging time for a depleted battery from about 10 hours to 2.5 hours.

19. Long-term storage mode will help maintain the life of the batteries. Lithium-ion batteries can hold a charge significantly longer than acid-lead contemporaries, however, storing them with a full charge will reduce the useful A long-term storage mode will activate when the bike has been inactive 30 days. The battery will drain to a safe level, allowing it to be dormant and maintain its performance over the long haul.

20. Firmware updates now give an accurate representation of the battery. Early Zero motorcycles failed to account for battery wear. That led to battery life being inaccurately represented on the dash. To alleviate that issue, firmware updates now actively monitors both the ‘state of charge’ and ‘state of health’ by accounting for mileage and age. The result is a more accurate representation of the battery’s status.

21. Previous options are now standard. Inspired by the options that DSR customers favored, a windscreen, tank grips, handguards, and a 12V accessory socket are all now standard on the $16,495 motorcycle (base DSR). In practice, the windscreen does a decent job of shielding the rider from the elements, while smart additions like the handguards are useful off-highway. The power socket can easily be used to keep an on-board camera charged, so that you, too, may one day submit a video of terrible drivers to the ever-growing pool found on the internet.

2019 Zero DSR cockpit22. The 2019 Zero DSR can get the job done in a variety of situations. The DSR’s gentle handling and ease of use make it something that any commuter should be looking at. There’s more than just the doldrums of city life available when you turn the key of the DSR. If you want to get rowdy in a field or romp on some local trails, that’s more than within reason, and it’ll be plenty fun, too. The sheer rideability makes off-road excursions quite the carefree treat and ripping around the beaches of Santa Cruz seemed like a fitting way to close the day.

Action photography by Aaron Brimhall

RIDING STYLE

2019 Zero DSR Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Z-Force 75-7R high-efficiency, radial flux, interior permanent high-temp magnet, brushless motor
  • Controller…High efficiency, 775 amp, 3-phase brushless controller w/ re-generative deceleration
  • Maximum power: 70 horsepower @ 3500 rpm
  • Maximum torque: 116 ft/lbs
    Maximum top speed: 102 mph
  • Sustained top speed: 90 mph
  • Transmission: Clutchless direct drive
  • Final Drive: Poly Chain HTD Carbon belt

BATTERY

  • Type: Z-Force Li-Ion intelligent integrated
  • Maximum capacity: 14.4 kWh (3.6 kWh Power Tank optional)
  • Nominal capacity: 12.6 kWh
  • Charger: 1.3 kWh (6 kWh Charge Tank optional)
  • Charge time: 9.8 hours (2.5 hours w/ Charge Tank)
  • Input…Standard 110V (220V for Charge Tank)
  • City range: 163 miles
  • Highway range: 98 miles @ 55 mph; 78 miles @ 70 mph

CHASSIS

  • Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa 41mm inverted fork; 7.0 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Non-linkage fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir shock; 7.0 inches
  • Front wheel: 2.50 x 19
  • Rear wheel: 3.50 x 17
  • Tires: Pirelli MT-60
  • Front tire: 100/90 x 19
  • Rear tire: 130/80 x 17
  • Front brake: 320mm disc w/ J-Juan asymmetric dual-piston floating caliper
  • Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ J-Juan single-piston floating caliper
  • ABS: Bosch Gen 9 standard

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 56.2 inches
  • Rake: 26.5 degrees
  • Trail: 4.6 inches
  • Seat height: 33.2 inches
  • Curb weight: 419 pounds; 444 pounds w/ Charge Tank; 463 pounds w/ Power Tank

2019 Zero DSR Prices

  • $16,495 standard MSRP
  • $18,790 w/ Charge Tank MSRP
  • $19,390 w/ Power Tank MSRP

2019 Zero DSR Review | Photo Gallery