The call of the great outdoors is strong these days, especially in a motorcycle market embracing all things adventure. Offerings run the gamut from off-road-focused ADV sluggers to ADV-styled touring steeds, which isn’t lost on Northern California-based Zero Motorcycles, releasing its virtually all-new 2023 Zero DSR/X into the wild.
Zero’s electric ADV isn’t a spruced-up version of the dual-sport positioned DSR, despite the similar branding. The 2023 DSR/X is freshly engineered, boasting a unique steel-trellis chassis, leggier suspension, and geometry to facilitate excursions off the beaten path. Meanwhile, the updated Z-Force 75-10X is the brand’s mightiest electric motor, powered by its highest capacity lithium-ion 17.3 kWh battery.
If wilderness exploration is what you’re after, then there are few better backdrops than Park City, Utah. Resting at the foot of the Wasatch Mountain Range, outdoorsy individuals revel in the myriad of ski slopes, hiking, and biking trails year-round.
The Electric Elephant in The Room: Range and Charging
Topsy-turvy as it is to begin with stodgy mileage matters, chatter regarding range and charging enter the electric vehicle conversation at about the same speed as politics during holiday dinners. Add in the off-the-grid nature of ADV riding, and, naturally, there will be questions.
Zero claims its latest 17.3 kWh battery is good for 180 city miles, 85 highway miles at a sustained 70 mph, and the combined range is 115 miles. Adding the optional Power Tank ($2895) bumps the maximum battery capacity to 20.9 kWh and boosts range by 20 percent. Applying that 20 percent does increase distance, but it comes at a premium price and adds weight up high where the unit occupies the 7.4-gallon frunk’s space.
The Silicon Valley brand says that pure off-road ranges can grow to a whopping 200 miles or 13 hours when babied and, 155 miles or 5 hours of ADV-saddle time while running at a realistic clip. According to Zero, lower average speeds managed on the trail net the largest increase. There is a hitch to this plan, unfortunately, as trailheads usually don’t have EV charging stations, so you’ll need to factor in the ride there.
Vying for importance in this chat is charging time, and, on that note, Zero states that plugging the 2023 DSR/X’s onboard 6.6 kWh charger into a standard socket will take drained batteries to 95 percent in 10 hours. A Level 2 charger significantly reduces the waiting game to two hours. You can double your charging abilities by installing the accessory Rapid Charger module ($2300), which shortens recharge times to an hour. The latter scenario isn’t bad if you’re replenishing yourself as well. Word to the wise: The Power Tank and Rapid Charger can’t be used simultaneously, so you have to choose between extended range and faster charging—you can’t have both.
Manufacturer mileage claims need to be taken with not a grain, but a healthy pinch of salt, whether we’re talking EVs or internal combustion engines (ICE). When our varied 55+ mile testing route concluded, a highway sprint, winding mountain pass, and groomed fire road expended roughly 60 percent of my battery life—there is a direct correlation between the degrees a throttle is turned and the amount of fun on a motorcycle.
Well-behaved colleagues didn’t suck up nearly the same amount of juice from the DSR/X’s battery, as numerous variables impacted range. After repeated photo passes, a spirited pace with compatriots, weight differences, and plenty of sliding around on the trail, I’d made a sizable dent in my charge—proof that adventure occurred.
Those with an aptitude for patience and restraint might be able to hit the claimed mileage figures, but I’d say it’s more realistic for riders to enjoy their motorcycle’s performance instead of ration it. Plan accordingly.
EV Going ADV
What Zero has done here is no small feat, creating a true-blue ADV-touring unit with fixings that strike a balance between road and trail riding, where commendable ground clearance and suspension travel kick the party off. In the ADV segment, wheel size often dictates use, and the DSR/X’s 19-incher dangling from the front end says off-road capable, whereas a dirt-focused 21-inch hoop would have compromised its road abilities.
Of course, it all starts with the updated ZF 75-10X motor that’s gained another turn on its copper winding, pumping out a respectable 100 horsepower at 3650 rpm and a spit-take-worthy 166 ft-lbs of torque for the 2023 Zero DSR/X.
With torque numbers that elicit nervous laughter, Zero has done an incredible job in ensuring that the DSR/X shoves you forward via a chuckle-inducing amount of authority and not the brutal force of a dictator. Mild-mannered and wild-eyed define the spectrum, yet the sheer linearity makes it all manageable while reaching its 112-mph top speed in a flash. Additional ground clearance is gained by relocating the motor’s controller from the underbelly to the tail.
There’s no gearbox, either, and direct drive solves many issues for riders on- and off-road—don’t come to rest on any hills, as there’s no parking brake or transmission lock to hold it in place. With no clutch to finesse over technical spots, gear selection when entering corners, or stalling to worry about, twisting the grip and scooting along flattens the learning curve. The ultra-low center of gravity factors here, and the DSR/X’s 544-pound curb weight is only perceived when lifting off the sidestand or after a tip-over. On that note, we have a Parking Mode with a low-speed reverse function.
Unlike many ADV machines, the DSR/X isn’t a sky-high behemoth. The EV motor packaging allows the rider to sit in the chassis and enjoy an accommodating 32.6-inch saddle height, with a comfortable reach to the riser handlebars. The seating position is neutral, and wind protection is aplenty, thanks to a handy adjustable windscreen. When standing, one can grip the narrow seat section with their knees and romp around while in control—though as much real estate for your knees to clamp onto—the scalloped chassis design does have its downsides.
The wider 25mm Gates Carbon Drive Moto X9 belt is 2.6 times stronger than what’s found on other models and may seem ill-fitting off-road, but Zero says that they’ve worked tirelessly to ensure durability. Engineers went as far as designing a sprocket with openings between the teeth to shed any dirt, mud, or debris caught up in the final drive. A hardcore ADV audience will still go with the accessory chain and sprocket kit for $385, but it’s noisier and requires greater upkeep.
Doubling down on those positive attributes is the spot-on calibration of the 2023 Zero DSR/X’s five ride modes: Rain, Eco, Standard, Sport, and Canyon, adjusted through the striking full-color TFT display. While most of the modes can be taken at face value, Canyon offers all the athleticism of Sport at the wrist and 80 percent regenerative braking. The latter provides a similar feel to conventional engine braking and battery regeneration in the process—I gained a couple of precious percentage points on a sustained downhill descent. We also have an Off-Road setting that can be combined with any riding mode, offering up ABS and TC limits fit for the trail. Mind you, the IMU is deactivated, and ABS is disabled in the rear for proper slides.
Bosch’s MCS suite is in play, featuring cornering ABS with linked braking, lean-angle-sensitive traction control, and hill hold control. This is when things get interesting—electric motors react exponentially faster than ICE powerplants. Adjusting voltage happens more quickly than cutting fuel to a cylinder, changing ignition timing, and so on. Engineers have much more control over intervention, and that’s handy because electric motors also produce torque almost instantaneously.
Give the throttle a nice whack, and TC will intervene, restricting power to the rear wheel that might feel premature for experienced riders, on or off-road. Remember, electric motors spin up differently, so perhaps that TC isn’t as conservative as we might believe. However, if you’re smooth with your inputs, you can catapult from apex to apex in the streets and step out the rear quite a bit in the dirt.
Brembo-owned J.Juan stoppers help haul the 544-pound EV ADV to a stop, and doing so with commendable feel. Linked braking is always fascinating when hammering the lever into a corner, as applying the rear brake while weight is transferred forward results in a bit of movement out back.
The steel-trellis frame on the 2023 Zero DSR/X draws design inspiration from its SR/F and SR/S cousins (both of which gained the 17.3 kWh battery for 2023), rolling on wide ADV geometry to give it a sure-footed feel in any environment. A long wheelbase keeps things composed when tracking through street curves or bounding down a fire road. That does subdue its cornering abilities a hair, making for a leisurely initial tip-in. Importantly, it stays put.
Perhaps what colored that handling hot take is the comfort-minded settings on its fully adjustable Showa suspension. Plush is the operative word, with a good portion of its 7.5 inches of travel being used while enjoying a spirited romp on the road.
Those soft settings didn’t let me down when the pavement ended. The street-biased Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires are up for a modest off-road run, though optional tubeless wire-spoke wheels ($2500) and knobbier tires would purchase more grip in the dirt.
Comparing EV and ICE motorcycles isn’t apples to apples; it’s more apples to exotic imported mangos. Established gasoline-powered ADV motorcycles can routinely knock down 200 miles on a single tank. Today’s battery technology can’t match those figures—everything from use to range to price needs context. Electric motorcycles are subject to an “early adopters” tax, hence fancy Brembo-branded components or semi-active suspension aren’t in the mix at the DSR/X’s $24,495 MSRP. They need to be looked at differently.
Zero is working to prove the viability of EV ADV and partnered with Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR), a leader in off-highway route planning, to include EV-charging stations on its maps across the United States. Relevant information such as available chargers, connection types, prices, and more are included.
A lingering question is whether there’s enough juice to hit the trail and return to home base all in one outing. As with anything in life, it’s subjective. Your route, proximity to charging opportunities, and riding style determine that reality. If the infrastructure is there, you’re willing to spare the recharge time during your ride, and the price tag doesn’t faze your wallet, it’s an unequivocal yes. If not, you’ll have to wait for battery technology to extend the range, and that day will come.
The NorCal brand is the first to plant its EV flag in the ADV segment, and that deserves a nod, spurring its main rivals LiveWire and Energica to take the plunge. While infrastructure and battery tech have some catching up to do, we also need to acknowledge that great strides have come from our friends in Scotts Valley, and, if nothing else, the DSR/X is a well-sorted ADV-touring motorcycle.
Photography by Jenny Linquist (Action), Mike Biggins (Action), and Aaron Brimhall (Studio)
- Helmet: Arai XD4
- Jacket: Alpinestars Boulder Gore-Tex
- Gloves: Alpinestars Belize V2 Drystar
- Pants: Alpinestars Raider V2 Drystar
- Boots: Alpinestars Corozal
2023 Zero DSR/X Specs
- Type: Z-Force 75-10 5T interior permanent magnet AC
- Maximum power: 100 horsepower
- Maximum torque: 166 ft-lbs
- Estimated op speed: 112 mph
- Cooling: Air
- Transmission: Clutchless single-speed
- Final drive: Belt (chain optional)
- Type: Z-Force Li-Ion Intelligent Power Pack
- Maximum capacity: 17.3 kWh
- Level 1 charge time: 10.0 hours to 95 percent
- Level 2: 2.0 hours to 95 percent
- City: 180 miles
- Highway @ 55 mph: 107 miles
- Highway @ 70 mph: 85 miles
- Combined city + 70 mph: 115 miles
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa SFF-BP inverted 47mm fork; 7.5 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa piggyback-reservoir shock; 7.5 inches
- Front wheel: 19 x 3.00
- Rear wheel: 17 x 4.50
- Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Trail II
- Front tire: 120/70 x 19
- Rear tire: 170/60 x 17
- Front brake: 320mm discs w/ radially mounted J.Juan 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 265mm disc w/ J.Juan single-piston caliper
- ABS: Bosch Advanced MSC with combined braking
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 60.0 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 32.6 inches
- Curb weight: 544 pounds
- Colors: Sage; White Pearl
2023 Zero DSR/X Price: $24,495 MSRP