What Do You Want To Know About The 2020 Zero DSR Black Forest?

Illustration for article titled What Do You Want To Know About The 2020 Zero DSR Black Forest?
Photo: Bradley Brownell

Zero’s S, SR, and DSR models are all built on the same architecture with different suspension and purpose of ride. The DSR, introduced in 2016, is the most off-road ready of the three, playing the part of comfy upright adventure bike in the lineup. With 116 lb-ft of torque and 70 horsepower on tap, it’s plenty competent for mild off-roading as well as anything the street can throw at it. When equipped with the optional $2,895 power tank, it can achieve as much as 204 city miles of range.

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New for 2020 is the special edition DSR Black Forest. This bike comes standard with all of the equipment you see here, including the three SW-Motech hard cases, the adjustable windshield, and front crash bars. It also comes in an exclusive black and grey colorway. All of this equipment is derived from the lessons Zero has learned in supplying electric motorcycles in its patrol fleet line to police and security officers. The Black Forest model will run you an extra $3,500 over the standard DSR, giving the DSR/BF a starting price of $18,995.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

The extra stuff tacked on doesn’t do anything to the bike’s top speed, which remains 102 miles per hour. It does, however, have an aerodynamic effect on the bike’s range, dropping it from the standard DSR’s rated 163 miles of city range to a rating of just 157. Both models achieve an epa rating of 435 MPGe city, 207 MPGe highway.

As a daily commuter, it’s a comfortable and quiet cruiser that can easily zip through rush hour traffic. As an off-roader, it does about as well as any other heavy half-and-half. The bike I’ve been testing tips the scales at 489 pounds, which is 15 pounds lighter than a comparable BMW 850 GS, for example. It’s heavy to pick up when you tip it over, and the tires are a compromise between off-roadability and street comfort, so don’t trust them for deep sand, but it can handle rocks and gravel pretty easily.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell
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Like everything I’ve tested from Zero’s quiver, it’s a pretty compelling product. Comfort in spades, easy to use, and quicker than it has any right to be. An overnight charge gets you back ready to go again in the morning, so you could easily ride this back and forth to work every day, plus have plenty of range to do a bit of trail riding on the weekends, even hauling all of your gear with you.

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So, anyway, here’s your chance. What do you want to know about it?

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

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Half-track El Camino

Serious question here: how would you justify the price? Hear me out a moment. To be willing to buy this I kinda feel like you would not only have to be the kind of person who is willing to pay 19 grand for a bike, but also the kind of person who didn’t care if their $19,000 bike was totally outclassed by the $11,000 bikes of 2023.

Because it will be, right?

EV tech is moving fast, no doubt about it. Electric motorcycles are on the cusp of being truly competitive with gas-powered bikes on both price and performance, but they aren’t yet. Not quite, but give it a few more years and they’ll be everywhere.

That’s Zero’s whole business model! They’re selling these bikes to early adopters who like the idea enough to be willing to pay out the nose to be a part of the revolution, and betting that they’ll have an early advantage when the market really blows up. But they do need to sell to enough early adopters to keep themselves in business (or at least in VC money) until the tech becomes cost-effective, and also to keep developing their bikes in the meantime.

A corollary of that concept though is that it assumes the electric bikes of a few years from now will be better enough and cheaper enough to make then a mass-market proposition. So those early adopters will, in a sense, get screwed by the very success of the products they are buying.

So, who are those people? Do you think there are enough of them for Zero to stay in this game and eventually succeed? And for that matter, does this bike feel more like the father of the first truly mass-market electric motorcycle, or more like the grandfather? Maybe (to stretch the analogy) it’s an uncle—influential but not a direct ancestor?