Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Review: 2023 Zero DSR/X | Photo by: Jenny Lindquist
Photos by: Jenny Lindquist

Zero Motorcycles has unveiled what it calls “the first true electric adventure motorcycle in the world.” Purpose-built to compete with big-bore ADV bikes in what Zero has identified as the fastest-growing motorcycle segment, the all-new 2023 Zero DSR/X is in a class of its own.

The DSR/X began with a platform from Zero’s existing DSR, and then the company got busy. It modified the frame, strengthened the swingarm, upgraded the suspension, and entirely rethought the engine.

The resulting powerplant is Zero’s Z-Force 75-10 permanent magnet AC motor, roughly the equivalent of a 1200cc internal combustion engine. It produces 100 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. Zero puts the top speed at 112 mph and the range at 180 miles in the city, 85 miles on the highway, or 115 miles combined, with a two-hour Level 2 charge time at an average cost of $1.94.

At 544 pounds curb weight, the DSR/X is class competitive. It wears its weight low, where the motor and battery live, comes off the kickstand easily, and, once underway, quickly sheds pounds. Riders new to the segment will appreciate the low seat height (32.6 inches standard, with a 31-inch seat optional) and the very tunable power, with riding modes that allow the DSR/X to be anything from a docile toddler to electric rocket ship.

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Review: Zero DSR/X | Photo by: Jenny Lindquist

Sleek and Silent Wind Machine

The test bike I rode was the stock model that will be available in Sage Green/Pearl White for $24,495. On the street, on the basis of about 40 miles of sweeping Utah canyon roads, the DSR/X was an extremely capable sport adventure bike—sleek and silent, with lovely handling into the curves and dramatic exit acceleration out of them. The 17-inch rear and 19-inch front wheel combination, wearing Pirelli Scorpion Trail II rubber and combined with Showa suspension and a Bosch-J.Juan braking system, made for surprisingly aggressive riding. The Zero comes standard with cast wheels, while wire-spoked wheels are optional.

Off the pavement, over about 20 miles of rough dirt road, the DSR/X was a very competent ADV bike as well. As ergonomically comfortable to ride standing up as it was sitting down, it sucked up the ruts and rocks and felt confident in loose dirt and patches of sand. The toggle-through menu allowed for easy adjustment or elimination of ABS and traction control. Soon, I was trail-braking into sideways slides and holding them through the turns. The motor protection bars on the bike are standard; a beefier skid plate and Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires are optional. Using the five-inch TFT screen, the operator can choose from five factory modes, plus five custom modes. All 10 can also be turned into off-road modes.

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Review: Zero DSR/X | Photo by: Jenny Lindquist

Standard are heated grips, an adjustable windscreen, and brush guards, alongside a clever “Parking Mode,” which allows for very slow speed forward and reverse crawling. A hill-hold function stops the DSR/X in place since, after all, there is no gearbox to do that for you.

This Zero is also the company’s first model equipped with linked brakes. Using a Bosch Electronic Combined Brake System, the DSR/X will actually apply the rear brake if it senses the front brake alone isn’t getting the job done. Options include a taller windscreen, centerstand, wider footpegs, both hard-sided and soft luggage, and varieties of ways to increase battery size and range and decrease charging time.

The DSR/X also wears a new carbon belt, 2.5 times stronger and considerably wider than that of any previous Zero. In this case, its rear sprocket is fitted with holes through which sand and debris are allowed to escape before jamming up the works—a real danger when taking previous Zero bikes off-road. An old-fashioned chain kit is also available as an option.

Is it tough enough? Zero said it tied the DSR/X to a car and dragged it over various surfaces at 25 mph to see what wouldn’t take a beating. I myself experienced a 2-mph tip over in the dirt that left the bike unscathed. I was told that other spills by other riders took out a brush guard and a mirror or two.

Other than the silence, there was nothing in the performance that didn’t feel equivalent to a BMW GS1250, KTM 1290 Adventure, Ducati Multistrada, Harley-Davidson Pan America, or Honda Africa Twin—the larger dual sport ADV motorcycles with which I’m most familiar.

RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Review: Zero DSR/X | Photo by: Jenny Lindquist

Range, Recharge, and Electric Zen

On-road and off, as I have with all other Zero products and electric motorcycles, I experienced the strange magic carpet sensation of effortlessly accelerating through space. In the absence of engine noise, vibration, and heat, I find that all my senses are more alive. I know I can hear and feel the road better. But I also feel that my vision is sharper and that even my sense of smell is more acute. Zero calls this feeling “Electric Zen.”

As with all electric motorcycles and cars, the DSR/X faces a strong consumer headwind. Experience shows that traditional riders who think of themselves as wedded to the sound, shake, and smell of an internal combustion engine are reluctant to give electric bikes a test ride.

Similarly, range and charge time become sticking points. The DSR/X’s off-road range depends dramatically on rider input, but should be enough for most riders’ actual needs. The company’s real-world testing showed a battery capacity of 200 miles (or 13 hours) of mild off-roading, or 155 miles (or five hours) of very aggressive off-road riding. Although 200 miles is more than most adventurers will ever choose, 85 miles of highway riding to get to and from the dirt may not be enough.

As for longer trips, where a one- to two-hour run may require an equivalent charging time to get back on the road, I’m looking forward to a longer-term relationship with the DSR/X to find out.