OK, Let's Get Serious

Ok, Lets Get Serious

Today it’s my ‘turn’ again…rode the Zero home last night. It’s been a few weeks. This little electric winter riding experiment will be ending soon (a month? Six weeks?), and I’ll be sad to see the Zero get crated up and head back to California. The experience of riding an electric bike over the course of this winter has been eye-opening and good.

Us trading off has been particularly fine…It’s funny, but if the bike were actually mine I’d have less problem letting others ride it than if it were a gasoline powered machine because it’s so simple. There’s nothing to adjust, manage or break. After using it off-and-on this winter I’d buy one, and I think so would my coworkers. It's so nice just to turn it on and go. No warm up, maintenance, nothing. Just ride.

My guess is large numbers of people will switch to electric cars and bikes for their daily transportation applications over the next fifteen or twenty years as more come to realize the hidden advantages…the ‘plug and play’ simplicity mainly, and as the prices of the vehicles continue to drop and the ranges of available vehicle types widens further. Eventually electric vehicles should actually end up being lower-priced than combustion vehicles for reasons inherent to the underlying technologies involved. At that point the electric vehicle market should explode. We mostly just want to get wherever we are going as easily, comfortably and inexpensively as possible.

The temp here was in the low forties last night and it’s in the mid-forties and sunny again today. In these warmer temps this bike is just a zippy little monster and its stealthy silence makes you want to ride even more ‘entertainingly’ than you otherwise would aboard your trusty ol’ combustion motorcycle. Every pass of every car is an ambush. Nobody around you understands how nimble and torquey the Zero is. You always want to zip right ahead, around and through whatever is just in front of you, grinning because before others in traffic quite realize what happened, you are already gone. No noise, no harm, no foul. With one of our Lane Share Tools out back, this thing with a young rider aboard would be a social and traffic pariah…but at least it would be a quiet pariah. Motorcycles have always been partly about riding through loopholes in the transportation matrix, and for this benefit (of riding), a Zero like this perhaps is the best tool/weapon yet devised.

What would I change? Other than the inherent and huge compromise with tires (not enough gnarly sharp carbide tipped suds for real ice-and-snow mayhem and a much lower rubber-against-dry-road traction limit on clear roads)? Not much. Here’s my shortlist, not in order of priority:

  • Replace the crummy stock headlight. It’s fine during the day, helping drivers see you, but for long winter nights it’s terrible. There are some large aftermarket LED headlights available which don’t draw much power and are very bright. I’d have a nice big 7 or 8” round one, thank you.
  • Diameter of our added electric grips is slightly too big. I’d install the electric grip warmers which go underneath the stock grips for a smaller-diameter grip feel.
  • Too small fenders. Wayyytoooosmall… Solution…Zero? (My personal fender-styling taste for a bike like this would be plastic versions of the curving steel fenders that were on the old '68-70ish Yamaha DT-1 'family' of not very hard-core on-off road bikes. High front fenders for dual-sport bikes are way over-done for how these types of bikes are actually used in the 'real world'. Plus, 'retro' style seems more fly-dope-hip-whatever in custom bike styling circles, for bikes like this, at the moment.)
  • I’d want a double plug setup for recharging, with the Zero’s optional one-handed 220V near-universal electric vehicle plug plus our 110v extension cord socket, both at handlebar level.
  • Slightly lower ride height. Maybe only an inch or an inch and a half. I’m 5’8” and for commuting lower works a bit better.
  • A nice modern updated version of ‘Hippo Hands’ for really cold days. Easily removable.
  • The steering lock changed so it locks the handlebars in the straight ahead position. A personal superstition…I’ve always disliked the way locked bikes looked with their handlebars flopped over. Bikes at rest look their best when the front wheel is lined up with the rear. They express sort of a gazelle-like grace that way. The forward motion potential is obvious. As ‘art’ or sculpture that is how motorcycles are always displayed. Locked the way they must be with their forks flopped to the side they imply going round and round in a circle. Or falling over. Who wants that? We humans want to see the potential of the far horizon displayed.

    There are historical reasons locked handlebars are always at the side. Until recently the fork lock was separate from the ignition so if the bars were locked straight ahead one could possibly start the bike and accidentally ride off not realizing…and then crash, which would be a product liability nightmare. Now that the fork lock is integrated with the ignition this would be impossible, so why not change the tradition and let me lock my bike’s forks in a straight-ahead position that looks right? The theft deterrent of a non-steerabillty is the same no matter what the locked position is.

  • Those little fake-looking plastic ‘wings’ on either side of the frame up by the steering head need to go away, and I’m sure the Zero’s designer(s) can find some other surface where the company logo would look just as nice.

IMG_6424About the only other thing I’d do differently if I’d actually owned this bike when we started back in December would have been to heavily spray-coat the engine and other corrosion-sensitive components with something like Boeshield but we were deliberately trying to slightly abuse it, so that didn’t happen. That’s it. It’s been the most ‘plug and play’ motorcycle I’ve ever enjoyed. And the most winter-friendly, at least in an urban commuting role. I might keep the add-on skull, too.

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4 thoughts on “OK, Let's Get Serious”

  • Henry S. Winokur
    Henry S. Winokur March 17, 2016 at 5:27 am

    In a recent blog post (1/29), you stated that the Zero bike is "pollution free". Not true. The amount of pollution it produces is directly tied to the method the electricity it uses is generated. Until electricity is completely generated by renewables, it won't be pollution free.

    • Green Meanie

      Your recent comment (3/17) - that renewables being pollution free is not true. Even renewables can pollute.

      The general phrase of "pollution free" is inferred to mean at point of use. Just as we no longer correct everyone who calls it "sun rise" unless being a dick.

      That childish nitpicking aside. The entire process of electric vehicle propulsion does pollute far less than their internal combustion counterparts. Pursuit of cleaner sources of electricity benefit the whole process without any change to the vehicles.
      Internal Combustion Motorcycles seriously lag behind cars in environmental friendliness contributing a disproportionately large amount of smog production.
      Thanks Zero - California breathes better because of your efforts.

  • Devin

    The whole "lock the bars and wheel straight ahead so it looks good to me" is a dumb argument.

  • Motorcycle Suit
    Motorcycle Suit April 16, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Bikers or motorcyclists fit in with a brotherhood of the quick and the irate. They are the undisputed cool fellows with a state of mind that separates them from whatever is left of humankind.

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