Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

My initial reaction was to scoff at the Zero DSR/X. An electric ADV bike… Seriously?

How adventurous could the DSR/X be when half its battery capacity will be discharged during an 80-mph freeway ride across Southern California to get somewhere vaguely resembling adventure?

Then I flew to rural Pennsylvania, where three turns within a mile of leaving the driveway puts a rider smack dab in the middle of Adventureville. My understanding of the DRS/X’s adventurousness shifted from my skewed SoCal perspective to a more worldly view.

That’s not to say motorcyclists living in rural areas won’t face some hurdles with electric motorcycles. For starters, we city folk have access to an established network of charging stations.

Even long journeys are less daunting when you know you won't be stranded somewhere if you stick to major thoroughfares. But traversing paved highways is not the kind of adventure for which the DSR/X was intended.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

So, what options does an electric adventure rider surrounded by miles of urban jungle have?

You can always truck or trailer the DSR/X to the borderlands and start with a fully charged battery (assuming you own a trailer). However, that seems like money not well spent, considering the BMW R 1250 GS comes with upward of a 200-mile range for nearly the same price.

Speaking of price, the DSR/X was originally listed at $24,495, but in October 2023, Zero dropped the MSRP by $4,500 to $19,995.

What I did was map out an adventurous route, beginning and ending at my place, that didn’t entail me waking before sunrise or arriving home after sunset. The goal was to ride 110 miles up Saddleback Mountain from the west to Santiago Peak, then down the east side of the mountain to a charging station, a bite of lunch, and a freeway grind home.

Here’s how that adventure went.

The Adventure Begins

The DSR/X is outfitted with a customizable, five-inch TFT dash allowing the rider to choose what information is most important and where to place that information on the color display. I chose to populate the left side of the display with the trip A meter, situated directly above the range indicator, which in turn hovered above the battery percentage meter.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

I left my house in Long Beach with 0 miles on the trip meter, 97 miles of range, and a 100% battery charge.

The first 20 miles of my route were freeway speeds on I-405, SR 22, and SR 55. When the trip meter read 20 miles, the range indicator estimated I had depleted the battery by 27 miles, leaving 69 miles in store.

I swiftly rode the next 10 miles of gentle curves on Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads to Silverado Cafe, at which point the trip meter was at 30 miles but the range had nosedived to 50 miles. That meant I had traveled only 10 miles but had spent 19 miles of battery range.

Another five miles farther, I was at the Maple Springs Visitor Center where the road continues as tattered asphalt for another mile or so before turning to dirt on the Maple Springs Truck Trail. Before continuing, however, I found myself entertaining the curiosity of a couple of bicyclists and Hymie, a visitor center volunteer.

After answering their questions about the Zero, Hymie warned me that the gate at the end of my route on the far side of the mountain may or may not be open. Good to know—thank you, Hymie.

Heeding his warning, I continued with my adventure.

The sound of an internal combustion engine powering up a mountainous incline is music to most gearheads, myself included, but not so endearing to the non-motorized crowd with whom we share the great outdoors. The few groups of hikers I passed that day were both startled and appreciative of the noise the Zero was not making.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

I, too, found myself enjoying the quietness of the ride. Don’t let the absence of noise trick you into complacency, because Zero claims a peak output of 100 horsepower and, more impressively, 169 lb-ft of torque, which, as anyone who’s ridden an electric bike knows, is immediately available.

The DSR/X has five ride modes (Eco, Standard, Sport, Rain, and Canyon) and a custom mode. There’s also an off-road-specific traction control (TC) setting that disables ABS on the rear wheel while leaving a certain amount of TC working.

You can also choose to turn TC off completely. All this information can be saved in the custom ride mode.

It’s also possible to save five more custom ride modes, replacing all the pre-programmed ones to ensure the DSR/X will perform exactly how you want it to. For anyone with experience aboard 500-pound or heavier ADV bikes, the DSR/X will feel familiar—the difference being the Zero does not shed weight as you burn fuel.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

A Snag in the Journey

I kept climbing Saddleback Mountain until the trip meter and the battery range indicator both read 40 miles. At this point, I stopped and spoke to some four-wheeling off-roaders, but they could neither confirm nor deny whether the gate at the end of my route was open.

I had to consider my predicament. The remaining 40 miles of range was more than enough to get me over the terrain and to the quick-charge station I had mapped out.

What was questionable was whether I could make the return trip from a closed gate back over the mountain and to an unknown quick-charge station on the other side. If I ran the bike dry, it’s not like I could borrow a gallon of juice from a fellow adventurer.

Even if someone were to give me a ride back to civilization, I would still have to get home, drive the truck back to where the bike was parked, load it, and drive home. With temperatures hovering in the mid-80s, hiking until I found someone willing to offer me a ride just wasn’t something I was willing to gamble.

Self-preservation and range anxiety prevailed, so I turned around and descended the way I had come.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

Returning to Maple Springs Visitor Center, the trip meter had gained another 12 miles, putting me at 52 total miles traveled. Meanwhile the range indicator said I had gained 10 miles of range, increasing from 40 to 50 miles!

Is it possible the regenerative properties of the Zero put that much range back into the battery? “I can ride home without stopping,” I thought to myself as I waved to Hymie on the way past the visitor center.

As I traveled the same route in reverse, I watched as the range indicator decreased precipitously. About nine miles from home on SR 22, with only four miles left until empty, I exited the highway and luckily stopped in front of a Nissan dealership that had a quick-charge station.

Unluckily, the two available chargers were of the Level 3 CCS and CHAdeMO variety, and not the Level 2 J1772 the Zero requires. The Zero app located a nearby Level 2 charging station inside a parking garage, where I spent the next 17 minutes increasing the Zero’s range from four miles to 19 and from 3% battery life to 19%.

It’s a good thing I overcompensated, because my nine-mile ride home reduced the indicated range by 14 miles, while the battery life went from 19% to 7%.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

Competing Conclusions

The experience made me think of a quote I once heard: “Adventure is where you find it.” Turns out, the whole quote is: “Adventure is where you find it, any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair.”

The saying is attributed to Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream travel trailer manufacturer. There’s truth in his words, but even Wally would have to admit that some adventures are better than others.

From my perspective, the DSR/X performed great. However, given I couldn’t complete a simple 110-mile loop in my backyard without the risk of being marooned, I’d rather not repeat this particular adventure.

To put electric motorcycle range anxiety in perspective, consider that time (we’ve all had one) when the petcock was on reserve or the low-fuel light was burning for 20 minutes or more with no sign of a gas station on the horizon.

Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle

It’s a no-bueno kind of feeling.

However, I can’t get the experience of riding Honda’s new Transalp on the Pennsylvania Wilds BDR-X route out of my mind. Residents there are surrounded by adventure, and, as long as you’re not Amish, there’s electric go-juice available from the 120-volt outlet in most garages.

It seems as though the DSR/X makes all kinds of sense in this environment. Some range anxiety will surely remain, especially considering adventure riding is meant to include unscripted surprises, but even then, many modern trucks are equipped with accessory electrical outlets.

Maybe borrowing a gallon of battery juice is possible, in the end.

I was also able to confirm that Zero will be working with the BDR folks to make quick-charge locations more accessible in the small towns that dot BDR routes. Let the adventure begin!

Technical Specs

+ stealthy quiet, multiple custom ride modes, cruise control and reverse
- range, charge time, weight

Distributor: Zero Motorcycles
MSRP: $19,995
Engine: Z-Force 75-10X, enhanced thermal efficiency, passively air-cooled, torque-optimized interior permanent magnet AC motor
Controller: High-efficiency, 900amp, 3-phase AC controller, regenerative deceleration
Power: 100hp @3,500rpm; 169lb-ft
Transmission: clutchless direct drive, belt final drive
Rake/Trail: 25°/4.3in
Weight: 545lbs
Seat Height: 32.6in
Battery Capacity: 17.3kWh
Range: 179mi (city), 107mi (highway)
Charge Time: 2.7h (100%), 2.2h (95%
Colors: Sage Green, Pearl White