Published on May 13th, 2013 | by Susanna Schick
First Long Distance Test | 2013 Zero FX
A month ago, I took delivery of a 2013 Zero FX. My first impressions are here. It’s been a wonderful month, even as I’ve had to work hard to keep The Smug from blinding everyone around me. Well, putting in an 80-mile day on Sunday was a great way to temper The Smug. If you aren’t familiar with The Smug, please take a moment and familiarize yourself here in South Park. Granted, that episode aired way back in 2006 when lowly hybrid drivers could think they were cool. Not so anymore, now that pure EV’s are becoming almost as ubiquitous, and Tesla is profitable.
Having plenty of time, I made plans with a riding buddy for a day in Malibu, my favorite way to spend a Sunday. I didn’t change my settings, keeping torque and top speed at max, and regen at 65%. But I tried to keep my speed below 70mph and tucked way down for improved aerodynamics for the 17 mile, mostly freeway ride to brunch at Sunset Blvd & the PCH. Thanks to all that conservative freeway riding (including drafting a van as long as I could) I used only about 35% of the charge. Plugged in at brunch for about an hour and left for the canyons with 73% charge.
Oana rides a Yamaha WRX250 supermoto so we figured we’d have comparable bikes. The Zero FX has about twice as much horsepower and gobs more torque, but she’s much more experienced when it comes to riding supermoto bikes. This was my first time in the twisties on the FX so I was cautious. Supermoto bikes, with their softer suspension and more upright seating position, enable a much broader range of body positions than a 477 pound 177 horsepower rocketship. I had a hard time believing it really is OK to sit however you want, and essentially un-learn all the strict lessons I’ve internalized after a decade on R1’s. As you can see from my Cyclemeter route, the fun in the canyons was dramatically truncated (purple line indicates my usual route) due to needing to be back in Hollywood by 6PM. The Mile 19 average is where Cyclemeter decided I’d launched into hyperdrive and flown over the hill at 108 mph. Not possible on a bike with an indicated top speed of 85mph, which is actually closer to 75mph on radar, but amusing nonetheless.
It felt great to be out in my favorite canyons on a motard, to have a bike far less likely to launch me over the cliff into oblivion for the slightest mistake. The coolest thing about motards is they’re so easy to ride and so forgiving. This was no different. I really want to go out and play in Malibu more often, but it will either take spending the night somewhere in the vicinity before and after or installing CHAdeMO nearby, and getting the $1800 upgrade. I’d totally do it if the Rock Store installed a station. What’s interesting is that I stumbled upon LA’s ONLY CHAdeMO station while sniffing out a new restaurant being built near where I work. Why waste time with half measures like J1772 when we could charge so much faster? Sure, home charging doesn’t need to be more than 110, but for places where we’re just passing through, it’s great to be able to charge fast.
However, the bonus of having to hang around the Rock Store for a couple hours is that I ran into a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in months. I rode up with Oana, and didn’t subject her to waiting with me, then rode down to Malibu Country Mart with Christine & Emily on their Ducati superbikes. They were just enjoying a relaxing ride, so we didn’t set a blistering pace. I had about 20% when I arrived at the Rock Store, and about 35% when I left a couple hours later. The ride back was all downhill, and I knew I could make the 13 miles. I plugged in at Malibu Country Mart, having to park on the sidewalk in front of a store. The security guard asked me to move, then took a picture. After I explained that I couldn’t use the J1772 stations on this bike (which were actually full of pure electric cars today!), he said he’d tell his wife, who’s a big advocate for getting more charging stations into the Mart.
After a leisurely lunch, we took off down Sunset Blvd back into town. Except the pace was a bit much for the ~30% of charge I had left, so I barely made it to the next outlet 23 miles away where the bike refused to continue. I knew Everleigh restaurant used to let Brandon and Harlan plug in out front, but that has changed. So I limped through Sunset Plaza desperately seeking an outdoor outlet. I asked a maintenance man if I could just roll into the service hall and plug in, and he told me about the secret outlets in the planters in the plaza.
So I slowly rolled into the plaza and spotted one amongst the pansies. Seriously. Parked the Zero, did some window shopping, then decided to drop into the Verizon store to get my other LiIon battery charged. (I need to stop leaving the Mophie at home!) Sat and chatted with the salesman who was very interested in motorcycles and curious about electric ones. Thanks to the diet Red Bull I’d had at the Rock Store, I was happy to tell him allllll about it. An hour later I had to take off to meet up with some friends 3 miles away. Although the indicator was still flashing and showing no bars, I had plenty to get there, then plugged in (thanks to their extension cord!) and juiced up enough to get home after our dinner.
Yes, the Brammo’s J1772 and longer range allowed me to enjoy Malibu a lot more than I did on my Zero FX. However, the FX is not a direct competitor to the Empulse, and it’s still the winner when it comes to the daily battle that is LA traffic and barely paved roads. The Empulse competitor would be the 2013 Zero S, a version of which I hope to test at Laguna Seca’s REFUEL event. Things I learned on my Zero’s first 80 mile day- having a slow-charging bike makes for a better social life, and it’s funny trying to explain to parking lot attendants that you need to park near an outlet. Many minds were blown that day. Action shots of the girls and I will be on HighwayPhotos.net tonight.