Let me introduce you the Zero Chronicles series in which I will break down and discuss different aspects of living with an electric motorcycle. From acceleration to long-distance travel, I will try to answer as many questions people have about e-bikes as possible. This week, I’m taking a closer look at how the 2020 Zero SR/F performs in an urban environment.  

Unlike combustion engine-powered vehicles that tend to lose fuel efficiency in an urban setting, electric vehicles thrive in traffic and stop-and-go situations. The Zero SR/F is no exception and that’s what I got to experience for the past three weeks. 

Here’s a little context: I’ve had the Zero for 17 days now. It was delivered to me with a 95-percent charge and 168 miles of range. I have since clocked in 80 miles of mainly city riding—something along the lines of 85% city, 15% highway. I also haven’t charged the bike once. As I write these lines, I have 35 percent of the battery left and an estimated 48 miles to go before the energy is depleted. 

Considering I’ve used 60 percent of the available energy to travel 80 miles, and assuming whatever energy is left is depleted at a fairly constant rate, a little math positions the average city range at around 130 miles. While that’s below Zero’s 161-mile estimate, it remains a pretty decent real-life number for an electric motorcycle. 

Zero Chronicles 1

While city riding can be frustrating and even sometimes stressful, that is also when the Zero SR/F performs the best. I’ve had a few occasions to experience this reality. I traveled to downtown Toronto on a number of occasions. One thing you need to know about my city is that, like most American urban centers, traffic is always part of the equation. Especially during the summer when main arteries are shut down because of events. 

Real-Life Commuting, Real-Life Pains

Now, we all know that traffic sucks. Crawling your way up the street, traveling half a mile in 20 minutes, people getting impatient and making dumb moves that end up making things worse for everyone: we get it, it’s infuriating. But when after traveling close to 20 miles, your electric bike has only lost two miles of range because of all the stop and go, you can’t help but feel a little excited. I’d even go as far as to say that electric motorcycles are a good way to reconcile yourself with traffic. Riding on an electric bike becomes a bit of a game: how little of that precious energy can you use, and how much can you get back by slowing down and braking early and being smoother in your overall behavior.

It takes your mind off of the chaos and makes you slightly less frustrated with the situation you’re stuck in. On one specific occasion, I met up with friends in the downtown area which also meant making my way there during a festival that took over one of the city’s main boulevards—classic, traffic-inducing scenario.

I obviously hit traffic on the way there, but also, later that night, on the way back, as everyone was leaving the festival. That’s a lot of “being stuck in traffic” in one day. I left home earlier that night with 68 miles of range and as I crawled my way back home in dense traffic, I looked down to see I had recuperated almost all of it stopping and going. Traffic sucks, but the optimistic always finds a silver lining, even when it takes 45 minutes to travel 10 miles. 

Up Next On The Zero Chronicles

On Thursday, I will take the Zero on a trip to Montreal, a journey that will add 750 of highway miles to the bike. I will get to extensively test charging times on Level 2 chargers, and actual freeway range without the additional power pack. How long does a journey that usually takes six hours will take on an electric bike? Stay tuned! 

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