Fun but Flawed
2019 Zero FXS Review: A Fantastic Urban Commuter With a Massive Drawback
The 2019 Zero FXs is one of the entry-level models in Zero Motorcycle’s all-new 2019 lineup. It is aimed at the city-dwelling rider and designed for quick commutes and short rides.
The Good: The sub-300-pound weight, low center of gravity and 78 lb-ft of torque make slaloming through city streets and traffic a breeze. As far as performance and handling go, in and around the city it’s one of the better commuter bikes I’ve ridden – it’s just so damn nimble and agile.
Who It’s For: The urbanite looking for a quicker form of alternative transportation than an electric scooter, skateboard or CitiBike. The average cost to fully charge the FXS XF 7.2 is $0.81.
Watch Out For: The Zero S and SR top-of-the-line models are the headline makers with 223-mile city range and 116 lb-ft of torque, but you can also expect to pay close to $20,000. At $10,495, the FXS XF 7.2 might have a 100-mile range in the city but take a highway, and your range plummets to just 40 miles.
Review: I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain how my week with the 2019 Zero FXS got off to an atrocious start. Around 9 AM on a cool Monday morning, a brand-new FXS arrived at the Gear Patrol office on Fifth Avenue. The only miles on the clock were from the factory, the vent spew nubs on the tires were still fresh. On the way to a parking garage two blocks away, while turning on to Sixth Avenue, I quickly learned what so many people warn you about: that cold virgin tires, slick oily city streets and handfuls of torque don’t mix. I dipped the bike into the turn, used a little more throttle than I should have and before I know it I was on my side listening to the tell-tale sound of metal scraping on asphalt. I low sided it, luckily only at 10 or so mph. This being New York at peak commuting hours, and with no high-pitched engine rev from the silent electric motor, of course, no one even noticed or even batted an eyelash. I picked the bike up and made my way to the garage. The bar and right-side foot peg took the scrapes; aside from my jacket and pants, it’s safe to say my ego took the most damage from my amateur hour first ride.
Anyway, around the city, shiny side up, the FXS is in its element. The amount of torque this bike has, especially for its size, is incredible. It’s not attached to a hair-trigger throttle — the delivery is very smooth. Without the aural feedback of climbing RPMs, you do have to learn how much throttle translates to the amount of power you need (which I learned the hard way). Once I got comfortable, the commute from Jersey City to the GP office (5.7 miles, one way) was something to look forward to. Judging by the Zero FXS spec sheet, I could make it the entire week without charging the battery, so long as I strictly stayed within the city limits. I, however, did not.
After the first two days of commuting into the city totaling just 15 miles, I made a trip out to my brother’s place in Long Island — another 20 miles. Given the bike’s overall range it would’ve been cutting it close to get back home to Jersey City, but possible nonetheless. Considering that back-of-a-napkin math, I decided to leave the charge cable at home, mainly because where it’s stored on the bike — an open tube compartment in the swing arm with no enclosure or cap to keep the cord from falling out. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the slightest.
If the city is where the FXS thrives, the highway is where it fails miserably. It’s not that it’s underpowered or that it feels dwarfed by SUVs and buses; the range is absolutely dismal at speed. Riding at steady highway limits or introduce even a hint of a wide-open throttle crack and the battery drains so fast that, if it were a conventional bike, I’d think someone threw a lit match in the gas tank.
Leaving my Brother’s, ten miles down the Long Island Expressway, it happened. The biggest fear of any EV owner, the engine light flashes at me and the battery reads ‘0%’ — range anxiety realized. So, I did the sensible thing and Google searched the nearest charging station. Which, as it turned out, was just off the highway, a mile back in the other direction. So I got to pushin’. Up the exit ramp, across the overpass and then back down the road adjacent to the LIE. By this time it was around 4 PM, so bus stops were filled with kids just getting out of school. I would rather have gone my entire life without pushing a dead motorcycle across Queens getting heckled by teenagers, but c’est la vie. I contemplated putting my helmet back on. “Sucks to be you,” they shouted, among… other things. Couldn’t have agreed more.
After running the gauntlet to get this bike to the charge point at a 7-Eleven, I took another kick to the gut. The charge station didn’t have the right cord for me to charge the bike. As a last resort, I call Donald, the guy who originally delivered the FXS, who obliged to make the trip out to Queens and hand-deliver another charging cord – but wouldn’t be able to make it until 9 AM. On the phone, I asked if there was a way to charge the bike off of his car, “Not possible. You’re going to have to find an outlet.” Except finding an outlet on the outside of any building is near impossible and with the length of the standard cord, short of riding the bike inside, there’s no way it’d reach an outlet inside anyway. My next question, how long will it take to charge? “With the regular cable and charger? Nine hours.”
Thankfully, I finally caught a break. When Donald arrived with the spare cord, he had a bike rack hitched to the back of his truck. Desperately and graciously, I pleaded to have him take me nine miles back up the road to my brother’s house where I could charge the bike in a garage. Donald obliged. (Thank you oh so very much, Donald.) I plugged the bike in, grabbed the keys to my brother’s 1999 Yamaha V-Max 1200, opened the choke, turned the keys, pumped the throttle and coerced the 1200cc V4 to life. It was delightfully analog — a welcomed relief and respite in a day full of frustration from silent modernity.
It’s not that the Zero FXS is a bad bike, it’s not. You just have to know how to live with it. Riding in the city, it’s genuinely one of the best bikes for the job. But, if you don’t have a garage with an outlet to charge it, if you can’t wheel it into your office during the day to charge, if it’s impossible to get it into your apartment to charge overnight, you might eventually experience what it’s like to push motorcycle up a busy highway. The FXS then might make more sense as a suburban runabout, where having a personal garage to park and charge your bike is more probable.
Outside of that, the only way getting an FXS would be practical is if you bought the optional quick charger. At $600, it brings the bikes price tag over $11,000. And considering performance and range, the FXS is akin to 400cc bikes, which carry price tags half the size. Zero is very proud of the fact it has the Zero SR, which will do over 100mph and achieve 223 city-miles, or roughly 112 highway-miles on one charge. However, you also have to spend $20,000 for the privilege and that’s a lot in the motorcycle community. Zero says its victory will come when electricity can outpace conventional gas engines in terms of power, performance and range. As it stands now, the FXS isn’t a part of that victory party. While it handles well and has the torque to spare, it still suffers the flaws of a conventional EV.
2019 Zero FXS
Engine: XF 7.2 battery
Torque: 78 lb-ft
Top Speed: 85 mph
Weight: 293 lbs
Charge Time: 9.7 hours
Range: 100 miles city/ 40 miles Highway
Zero motorcycles provided this product for review.
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