Tough to Put Into Words
This was by far the most difficult section for me to write. I feel it’s similar attempting to explain to someone who has never eaten an orange what it tastes like, its textures and fragrance. Sure they’ve had limes but oranges are different aren’t they? Give it a try; try explaining something you’ve experienced in your own mind. It’s not easy, trust me especially if I can’t really compare it to something else.
Similar to others, my enjoyment of riding a motorcycle is about the feeling of riding. We are not confined in a ‘cage’ with tons of metal around us, we are exposed which for most of us is a blessing. A single track vehicle like a motorcycle evokes such a different feeling than all other things which whisk us along the road. For me it’s magical, it’s delicious – it brings sensations forth that are hard to describe. I experience an undeniable sense of freedom when I ride. After I wrote this section I discovered a film by Flat-Out Magazine that so eloquently describes how I feel about the experience of a DSR. You can watch their video and skip reading my stuff!
With the Zero it takes those feelings and sensations to a completely different level. In my crude and course way of thinking it’s similar to the difference between self sex satisfaction and actual sex. Both feel great, but one feels completely different from the other. For me it’s the SMOOTHNESS and immediate on demand torque of the ride. Never being in the wrong gear, never missing a shift just a constant and immediate PUSH – but not being like a really smooth automatic car transmission. No matter how smooth those are I can always feel a ‘shift’ when it transitions from one gear to another. Direct drive like the Zero employs is just a constant as well as smooth thrust of power. So hard to describe, yet so addictive to experience and once my friend who is a Naval aviator squadron leader rides Zeus I will ask him if the feeling is the same albeit 1000x less thrust than his F18.
Wanna Go Faster? Ride Smoother
The complete lack of reciprocating mass of a smoker engine compared to electric is so hard to describe. The inertia of piston(s) moving up and down or back and forth is gone. Countershafts used to offset the vibrations are gone. Angle of cylinders to quell v configured piston vibration is gone. All that moves is a spinning band of copper wires and one that has a hum which is so unlike an ICE pulse. The only scents that emanate around me are those of the road and vegetation or sea around me. And make no mistake my favorite perfumes to smell were Bel Ray two stroke mix and 100 octane race fuel!
I’ve never owned a motorcycle with a belt drive. It produces a smoothness and quiet hum unlike anything I’ve owned before. Sure the Sur Ron and Cake are electric, but in my experience they are not what I consider now to be ‘real motorcycles.’ The power of the DSR eclipses both of those bikes as does the weight. I’ve heard many YouTubers describe riding a Zero as if it feels like you’re riding ‘on a magic carpet.’ OK, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never ridden on one of those. I have photographed a Magic Carpet for Disney Theatrical’s publicity imagery, but never got to ride on one. 😉
I’ve flown in a Bonanza V Wing private prop piloted by my uncle who was a highly decorated Korean War US Naval aviator. And then I was able to fly in a fixed wing glider plane as well as snorkel diving. For those who have never flown in a fixed wing glider this is a great example.
I’ve watched people scuba dive while using an underwater propulsion vehicle.
So first hand I feel the glider experience once the tether line was released from the tow plane is the closest feeling I can convey to how riding my Zero feels. If only the glider had the ability to be powered by a gush of air whenever I wanted would it be exactly the same as the Zero. And witnessing scuba divers being propelled by their underwater vehicles seems to me a similar feeling to riding a Zero. There is a gliding feeling to my bike that is completely different than my past smoker bikes. I think of swinging on a kid’s swing versus running. Like I said, tough for me to describe.
Less Is More
I can recall studying Keith Code’s “A Twist of the Wrist” book where he talks about humans only having $10.00 worth of attention to spend. In his example when we all first start riding we are using around $9.90 worth just figuring out shifting, balancing, braking and turning. This only leaves us with $0.10 for emergency maneuvers! Of course as we become more skilled that ratio flips since so much of what we do becomes second nature as well as muscle memory. I never owned a vehicle that wasn’t a manual shifter. As a matter of fact I still drive a six speed manual Infiniti G35, what enthusiasts refer to as the 6MT. I have always loved shifting and of course that includes motorcycles. Learning how to heal/toe in a car, blipping the throttle to double clutch while applying the front brake with my right hand ensuring not to squeeze the lever while I blip to downshift was an art that took some time to master until it became muscle memory on the track. Or when slipper clutches were invented and replaced that skill! Clutch less upshifts and downshifts by matching the revs. So much of what is trained got burned into our brains just as a matter of course for road racing. The famous motto from my coach, “Wanna go fast, go smooth.”
So imagine my surprise when I first got on the DSR and didn’t have to think about those long engrained actions, even if they were second nature. No feelings about what the right rev range is to keep the bike in the optimum power band. No short shifting to ensure traction around an off camber corner. A direct drive power delivery meant that the $8.34 of my $10.00 was back in my pocket after 20 years of not operating a real motorcycle. Not only is the bike smoother than I could manage in all of my years of shifting, but the optimum power band is literally always there!
I cannot accurately describe the combination of silky smoothness, always there power in a normal smoker motorcycle way. So I won’t try, but instead describe it in the way I know how. It is delicious, intoxicating and addictive. The lack of expending the subconscious energy I used to commit to tasks that had become second nature after 50 years of riding is indescribable. It’s a feeling of freedom much like the very first time I got on a smoker bike. The freedom to just RIDE and spend my attention on the things around me, the smells, the speed, my corner line, the seamless power just to name a few of the visceral elements that were there during my smoker bike days, but now new elements are in the front of my consciousness, something that I’m acutely aware of as I ride. And it’s simply because I’m able to shift from what I’d known to what I didn’t know I was missing as I rode.
Do I smile? Oh fcuk yes I do when I twist the throttle. The smooth shove at the in the small of my back and seat of my pants feels like when I was 4 years old and my father pushed me in a swing. The pure feeling of joy at incredible acceleration is just delicious. I can remember pulling in my clutch, downshifting sometimes twice just to get my bike on the pipe to smoke a competitor to the corner. Prior to Zeus the most exhilarating sense of acceleration was when my dad put me on a thoroughbred in a starting gate. I was effing nervous at 13 years old. He told me to hold the reins along with a handful of mane in my right hand, be on the balls of my feet in the stirrups and lean forward. When that blistering bell RANG and the iron gates SLAMMED OPEN my stomach and colon were left behind me. That horse was 16 hands high and not nearly as smooth as Zeus. But you get my point.
In a way it’s like that saying “I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know.” Is it a magic carpet? Hell I don’t know, but I will say the feeling is magical and I never want it to end. And if you’re thinking “WTF is with these photos that don’t have an effing thing to do with motorcycling, let alone you Zero!” I said at the start that it’s fucking tough for me to describe the feeling. The shoreline is about the smoothness of the experience. And this b/w is about the dark, mind bending amount of power available at any time that has the potential to overwhelm the rider. Yet Zero has smartly programmed the throttle to not be an on/off switch, keeping it smooth. I hear people say that Zeros cannot wheelie easily or at all. LOL Yeah I spent this amount of money to wheelie. I said at the start this whole section was tough as shit to accurately describe. Tell me again what an orange tastes like and why I would want to try one….?
Off Road Riding
I’ve only had a few limited opportunities to ride my DSR off road. Some fire roads some ‘secret’ off road areas that are just gorgeous. And these are just the types of areas I hoped to find and be able to explore with the bike. Because it’s so quiet when I have encountered people, they have only smiled when I rode by. In those areas where I can get up to speed, meaning 35-40 MPH the bike handles so well. Ruts are well dampened and the bike tracks as well as one can in rutted terrain; soft surfaces are no problem with the tires I have chosen. In deep soft sand or soft dirt the weight of the bike becomes apparent. Nothing dramatic, but it’s not like when I’m on hard packed dirt. I disable my ABS when I’m off road and use Eco or change my custom settings to 65% torque 100% regen. I use the rear brake much more than the front, but still find I use the front out of habit. I just don’t grab a whole handful, I feather the brakes downhill. I certainly never expect any bike to compensate for a lack of skill. After all skill is a big part of the fun of riding for me. Don’t get better? Then go down and learn a lesson!
I find that this bike is the dual sport in the sense of how I define dual sport. It’s damn powerful, but unlike smoker bikes where throttle control is an art form this bike makes throttle control nearly effortless. In some ways I get irritated in how much easier it is to ride the bike than a smoker. In the same way so many things have been made accessible and easier to more people; auto spell checks, auto correct, ABS, Lane deviation sensors, self-parking cars, back up cameras, etc. Zero has taken some of the skills I felt are necessary to operate a motorcycle out of the equation.
The smoothness, throttle response, instant torque, the ability to adjust the bike to your riding needs are all things that just a decade ago would have been considered science fiction. Yet here I am in Spring of 2021 totally enjoying these new experiences. Like all things some will resist and even resent these changes and I’m amazed that as an old fart I’m excited about living in a time equivalent to when gas engines were introduced during the steam engine era. Exciting times.
I want to sum up my impressions of riding this bike. Some of my more ‘hard core’ or they like to think they are hard core dirt riders would never consider a DSR, KTM ebike or Alta when it existed. Motocross racing, supercross racing, desert racing, some do those things and some ‘used to do them.’ I’m wise enough to know that my racing days as exciting as they were are behind me now. I like to go fast, ride in the dirt now and again but I know from experience that I could only learn the real limits of my abilities by racing on the track. This bike is not for that, but to simply enjoy the ride. And for me it’s a godsend.