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Author Topic: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review  (Read 2750 times)

JBC444

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Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« on: January 30, 2017, 12:57:23 AM »

I have been following this forum for about a month.  It seems more like an advocacy site than a forum, so I anticipate this review may not be entirely well-received.  Many posters appear to be engineers or possess technical backgrounds, and so much of the information posted reflects that.  My review is intended to reflect an "average" consumer experience, however, in the interest of full and fair disclosure, I am a mostly-retired venture capitalist.  My venture group is considering a range of investments in electric transportation and we wanted a hands-on, from-the-buyer, perspective on both the product and the company as we do research into where and how to place our funds.  I was willing to serve as the guinea pig and buy this expensive toy.  This review will help me to draft an article for our firm's periodical, which goes out to our principals and limited partners, well as into other industry re-publications.

I purchased my 2017 Zero S on December 27.  It was delivered to the dealership within the "7-10 business days" that were quoted to me.  Once it arrived, I did DMV paperwork and waited for them to deliver it to me.  In California, where I live, one can not drive a motorcycle off the lot without a Motorcycle license endorsement, which I lacked. While this may in fact be the law, it doesn't protect the consumer, but rather, protects the dealer only.  Silly, especially as California Highway Code is ambiguous at best on the need for such an endorsement.  This practice is not related in any way to Zero and the silliness of the law is just my opinion.

I intend on putting the bike through it's paces "stocK", although many of the wonky modifications are ... interesting and sometimes amusing.  Along with the bike, I purchased the "commuter" version of the windscreen and a week after purchase, added the "rain guard" rear fender.  Like others, the lack of a rear fender seemed a senseless liability.  You may argue style points, but fenders serve a purpose.  Duh.

I've now put 250 miles on the bike.  The promised range as quoted in sales literature and in the manual seem to be exaggerated on the order of 25-30%.  While I have not run the bike completely dry and stranded myself, I am fairly certain that, under any circumstances, it is unlikely to go any further than 60 miles or so.  Is this a scientific analysis?  Of course not.  Don't expect the typical consumer, if you intend to reach that market, to be interested in the scientific details of why the range is not as "promised", but do expect the consumer to hold you to your promises.  The company promises 80, although the number of qualifications and exceptions to that promise must have won their lawyer a big bonus.  The physics isn't complicated or hard to understand, but the promise is made boldly in many places, while the caveats are downplayed to the bare minimum required to meet fair disclosure tests and only appear in the online manual (another HUGE fail for consumers).  So, as a toy, it's a great bike.  For transportation, it's a disappointing limitation and less than impressive.  I expected better.

Aside from the exaggerated range claims, the bike itself has a lot going for it, so far.  It delivers on the promised torque, is relatively quiet, presuming that the sound it makes is not indicative of internal parts harmfully rubbing against each other, that is...   It's certainly fast, has more top end than I need even in eco mode, and a gets good marks for low vibrations, which one would expect from a new machine but is certainly nice. 

I have yet to determine any meaningful function for the associated "app" other than to program the "custom" mode.  That mode seems to function mainly as a way to change the level of brake regeneration.  True, you can modify torque and high end as well, but you can do that by the way you twist the throttle, too.  I suppose it's a fun distraction, but I'm not an engineer nor am I obsessed with battery statistics, so, meh. The idea that I would mount my phone on the handlebars and then look at it while driving is just completely alien to me.  Of course, I'm over fifty and don't walk around holding my phone in front of me, like pedestrians in a crosswalk...

The seat is uncomfortable and poorly engineered, the mirrors are nearly useless in their original configuration and only minimally adjustable.  The right mirror assembly is integrated into the brake handle, meaning that if you re-position the mirror, you also re-position the brake handle inaccessibly.  The headlight seems inadequate and a poor choice, given how much better and modern LEDs would have been.  I find the side stand doesn't inspire confidence and anticipate that, sooner or later, it will fall over if the ground surface isn't perfect.  While a center stand might require some thought, some thought would have been a worthwhile investment when it comes to a safe, stable center stand. 

Since I am a slim guy, I do like the reduced weight of the bike.  However, the ergonomics of the bike are so poor that I wonder what height they imagined their riders to be.  I am only 6 ft, and I feel like a giant riding a minibike.  A comfortable riding position, based on the distance between seat and handlebars, is difficult to find and maintain.  Thus far, the poor ergonomics have elicited to much fatigue to go beyond 30 miles or so.

While I've never owned a bike with a windscreen before, I have ridden plenty.  This windscreen is ... just too small to be effective.  The other OEM choices seemed either too small or like something that would shimmy, rattle, vibrate or even come apart under road conditions.  Like others, I anticipate the need to find one elsewhere that actually does the job.

As for the company, itself, I am seriously underwhelmed.  They have no after-sales concept at all, going on my experience.  I contacted them with inquiries about the lack of customer contact, failure to produce any sort of warranty card, and failure even to acknowledge the purchase and start date of the warranty.  I would categorize their reply as unresponsive and give them a complete "fail" on customer care/service/marketing, which seems to be the consistent experience of most owners.  I disclosed our venture group's interest and that we were doing a review article for the industry, but customer and media relations don't seem to be a concept that has registered with this company.  The argument that they are "new" is unpersuasive, given their ten year anniversary and the list of market failures is extensive

Our initial review will be updated in six months, once I have more on the road experience with the bike as well as with any other after-market experiences with the company.  The biggest question remaining is whether there will truly be any warranty support, how the need will arise, and what process, if any, evolves for handling warranty repairs.  All information so far points to this area as another epic fail for the company, and yet, given the claims of "zero" maintenance, may be ingenious from a cost-savings standpoint for the company.  Time will tell.  The great thing about so many weaknesses in the Zero model is that they do create some genuine opportunities for others to enter or mature the market.

Our group is considering the electric vehicle market and the various opportunities that might arise as the industry reaches a level of competence.  We will be paying more attention to the market deficiencies of companies like Zero and determining the best opportunities for advancement of a profitable long0term business model.  Pioneers, like Zero, have contributed a lot to that model, both in their successes and in their failings.

Feel free to comment.  You can't hurt my feelings.

JBC
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ctrlburn

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2017, 02:57:34 AM »

There is definitely a range of users on the forum. I'm not one of the engineers.
I think of myself as one of the first "consumer adopters" or at best "the last of the early adopters".

I learned from this forum is that Zero uses the MIC standard for range calculations.
If you read the test - you may understand why the figures are difficult to attain in real world scenarios.
http://www.mic.org/downloads/MIC-recommended-practice-riding-range-test-procedure-for-on-hwy-electric-motorcycles-042412.pdf
They are good as a comparative between models and makes.

This was an article (slightly off topic I found informative)
http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1100055_2016-nissan-leaf-range-107-or-155-miles-why-test-cycles-can-be-deceptive

Older models didn't have the gauge features of the 2017 - so the phone app (mounted to this 55 year old's handlebar) is a welcome compliment.
         Commonly we set the "Custom" or "ECO" mode for rain, using must less regenerative braking for optimum control.
         I use a lower top speed and torque for training new or unfamiliar riders.

Side stand - I think is over engineered - I've not had a bike with as sturdy a side stand... I use it to pivot and even lift wheels.  I love it as an Icon of the bike.

Size is slightly smaller.  But big enough for the function and with the history from off-road perhaps could be understandable.
I haven't sat forward on a motorcycle in 20 years... so the form factor does take using core muscles differently. I'm still adjusting to unlocked elbows... but my son (who learned on a Zero ) has no problems.

I'm not a fan of LED lighting - sure the ON time is fast for brakelights, and the power drain is much smaller. I'm not sold on the LED headlamps as presenting actionable information to the rider. My worries go back to an eye tracking experiment (sorry i can't find) where the eye makes more corrections when tracking an object utilizing anything less than Halogen.

I continue to be impressed on what it can do.

end Apologist mode....

Mirrors are a struggle between visibility and profile that I think errored on "profile".
The seat is hard and yet informative (ok a little apologist here) so i wouldn't call it poorly engineered.
Fenders I miss.
Post sale followup is weird but dedicated.

Keep riding - keep us posted. I do like what you are paying attention to. And a venture capitalist who tries the product is a rare breed that merits some reverence.
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Fred

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2017, 03:04:55 AM »

You've got a lot of valid points. The electric motorcycle market is in its infancy and by no means perfect. A lot of is have our reasons for being enthusiastic about it though.

Personally, I love the power delivery of an electric motor. I'm a geek and early adopter. Well - not that early I suppose. Zero have been going for 10 years and I knew I wanted one when I first rode one 5 years ago. Things finally tipped over for me to the point I could now justify one without feeling I'd taken too much of a risk. Yes, price and range aren't quite where I'd like yet. Good enough fur me to make the jump though.

Things are getting better and should continue to do so. Whether it's good enough for you or worth investing in is right now your decision. Hope you're enjoying riding the bike in the meantime though.
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JBC444

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2017, 04:12:22 AM »

... my article will incorporate comments, so thank you for your feedback.  I will also more strongly emphasize the things I do like about the bike. 

I realize the tone of that review is somewhat critical, but our investment committee needs to deal in hard realities.  From a purely emotional standpoint, I LOVE the bike, seriously.  It's the most fun riding I've had in a long time.  Even though we give up the "vroom, vroom" and even though I sometimes miss the connection to the road as expressed through the clutch, the bike is a fun new experience. 

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gyrocyclist

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2017, 06:14:52 AM »

   "In California, where I live, one can not drive a motorcycle off the lot without a Motorcycle license endorsement, which I lacked. "

I'm confused. From portions of your post is sounds as though you have past experience riding motorcycles. Why, then, do you not have a motorcycle endorsement? Have you never attended a motorcycle safety course? If not, why not? It would be helpful if you could let us know how much past experience, on what types of bikes,  you have?

"The promised range as quoted in sales literature and in the manual seem to be exaggerated on the order of 25-30%."

Um, yeah. So far as I know the *stated statistics*  (which are *not* promises) for any item -- be it a super-computer or a motorcycle, are always "the best possible/obtained given restrictive and specialized testing, etc." I am surprised  you, as a venture capitalist, are seemingly unaware of that. As a research scientist it's exactly the same. When you see published results you know that you're being shown the best results the researchers ever obtained, and no, if you attempt to replicate the science, you will not got results that good.

Regards, Dave
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BrianTRice

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2017, 06:29:23 AM »

First of all, welcome, and overall company critique would be much welcome. I've been in the software startup world for over a decade and have some idea what the reasoning investment decisions would entail. The advocacy tenor here is generally because the company does not speak up for itself and is relatively unknown, so the early adopters tend to speak up a lot about the basic principles.

As someone who is mercilessly collating all confirmed observations and such around the platform for various purposes, I have to acknowledge my part in that advocacy, but it's because I see potential in the platform, despite its overall shortcomings. In short, I was inspired by the 2010 ETracer X-Prize entry and Zero's models are still the most likely candidates to grow and be affordable.

I would like to know whether you've evaluated an EV startup before; Zero operates on a modest amount of investment considering their mission and the model pricing primarily reflects scale and battery costs so I just wonder where the expectations start from.

I will say that if you are in the Bay Area, and going up and down elevation or dealing with significant winds (on bridges say), range will not match for all the reasons Zero has published in their guidance. Just about any electric motorcycle ride around here will have significant factors in play for range, much more than for electric cars.
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Richard230

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2017, 07:57:11 AM »

And also our relatively cool temperatures this winter in the SF Bay Area seems to drop about 10% off of the warm summertime range or our battery packs.   ;)
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Richard's motorcycle collection:  2014 14.2 kWh Zero S, 2016 BMW R1200RS, 2011 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Classic, 2009 BMW F650GS, 2005 Triumph T-100 Bonneville, 2002 Yamaha FZ1 (FZS1000N) and a 1978 Honda Kick 'N Go Senior.

Kocho

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2017, 08:22:03 AM »

Yup, the bikes are made for shorter people. At 6'4" I find the handlebars too close and a little too low on my '15 SR. I recently installed a handlebar riser and that improved things considerably. I too ran into the "non adjustable" right hand side mirror and wish it was separated from the brake. The mirrors also won't stay in position at highway speeds, unless the stalks are at a certain angle, which is not the ideal angle for me (three mirrors so far, all like that).

The seat is another item that does not allow moving around much. For tall people it is too close forward. And it is angled somewhat too aggressively forward, making me slide forward and away from the comfortable rear end of the seat towards the less comfortable middle and front area. Sure, there is a $400+ option from Corbin that seems to address these issues somewhat, but I don't think it goes far enough from the looks of it to suit me (others have been very happy with it, some find it too stiff). The stock seat is not well padded for me, and has some internal edges that don't get along very well with my bottom - I feel pretty good on it in heavy riding pants, but with lighter riding pants or regular pants it becomes uncomfortable for me after just 10 miles. I've put about 2,500 miles on my bike so far, so I don't expect that feeling to disappear.

This is a naked bike, not intended for use with an over-the-chin windscreen, so none is offered. You could have tried the touring instead of the commuter screen. Better protection. Several of us taller folks have experimented with even bigger screens, that are 24" tall (the biggest Zero offers is something like 19" or thereabouts). Those huge screens do offer very good protection and for someone like you at 6' you will be completely protected.

Yup, rear fender would be nice. There is a popular $15 option made for Harleys that fits almost perfectly - just needs a fairly simple to make custom bracket (search around on these forums, you will find it).

Range as mentioned is measured under certain controlled conditions. Mine is consistent with the estimates - if I cruise on the highway with little change in speed on a fairly flat road without much headwind, I am getting reasonably close to the posted estimates for my model. Heavier and taller riders will get somewhat worse mileage, especially at highway speeds.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2017, 08:24:17 AM by Kocho »
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grmarks

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2017, 09:13:58 AM »

Show me any vehicle that will get its claimed fuel economy in real world driving! But for interest I have got better city range than claimed, only because of traffic slowing things down so much. Slower speed = more range.

I have my Zero because I love the electric power delivery and the ease and joy of riding it.
I don't know that the S 6.5 is the best bike to judge electric bike on. Why didn't you get an SR?

If you think the S has more than enough power in eco mode then you are not indicative of the majority of ppl that will buy a motor bike.
What is the point of testing a product that will not be purchased by ppl like you. Its like a man testing high heal shoes or a bra. You will most likely find them uncomfortable but women have gotten used to this already and it would not be an issue to them.

I would suggest you also buy a petrol powered bike of similar size to compare what the market expects/puts up with.

Show me a perfect product that fits everyone? 
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Shadow

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2017, 09:29:27 AM »

@grmarks I will try my best to "read between the lines" and hope you're thinking of good intentions.

Making a recommendation of the Zero Motorcycles line-up should compare to other 2-wheeled EV products out there currently in production.  Hint:  Nothing currently in production hits the performance and price point of Zero Motorcycles vehicles.

Zero bikes are admittedly bland in options and styling. There's no return on after-sale care because most of their research capital is tied up making one physical production bike model that you can slap a different regulatory label on and sell to a worldwide market. That's why we have a 10-years current Zero Motorcycles manufacturer and not some defunct label left to the past.

Also I do think Zero Motorcycles as a brand has much more to go towards mainstream adoption. I'm not concerned as an owner with everyone to want this instead of a Harley or Yamaha. I don't care about that. It is fun, and I think it is a fair value.
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NEW2elec

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2017, 09:39:26 AM »

I also find your story a bit "off" but since I have no proof and it doesn't really matter anyway I except your on the up and up.
First off my understanding is Zero is backed by some pretty deep pockets and is private and not looking for outside help but I could be wrong.
Next the 6.5 S is of course a new model and was strange to me as it was basically two steps backwards in it's own evolution.  The new R models are impressive rides compared to anything short of a super sport bike off the line.
At six foot I think you'd have been happier on the DSR with it's more upright position and enjoyed the high end torque which is what makes these bikes attractive to an average rider anyway.  Strange that you would buy one and not just test the whole line first but no more strange than not having a license and looking to invest.

Range is less but so is any MPG stats on any car or truck when used in the real world.  That is one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the 6.5 because for about 5 grand more you get twice the range and so much more "fun" from an R.
The only other thing I can say is the company backs up its warranty very well and though they do need to better handle customer calls and questions, for a small company they do a good job.
Good luck and safe riding.
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grmarks

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2017, 12:44:51 PM »

@grmarks I will try my best to "read between the lines" and hope you're thinking of good intentions.

Just trying to make the point ridiculously clear. If he is not a "rider" then he doesn't know what riders want and are happy with.
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MajorMajor

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2017, 03:21:11 PM »

On my 2016 FXS I'm perfectly happy with the published range vs actual range.
I think it's pretty much spot on at normal temperatures.

http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-s/specs.php
They're claiming 41 miles at highway speeds, why are you expecting 60?

I think your complaint about the motorcycle endorsement is ridiculous. These are dangerous machines, the buyer should be able to competently ride one.
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Richard230

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2017, 09:15:52 PM »

I too wish my mirrors were a couple of inches wider - except when I am splitting lanes, then I wish they were a couple of inches shorter.  Which just goes to show that you can't please everyone all of the time.   ;)

The Zero's seat has been my biggest complaint about my 2014 S.  It is too hard and uncomfortable for me, although a big improvement over the 2012 S that I used to own. I installed an Air Hawk pad on the seat, which helped a lot, but I still think Zero needs to make their seats flatter and softer.

Fenders/mudguards are an issue for me too, but most modern motorcycle models seem to be lacking in that area.  My new BMW R1200RS has almost no rear fender protection and not much coverage of the front fender, either.  Both receive a lot of complaints from BMW owners - which BMW ignores.  ::) BMW and most other motorcycle brands used to do a lot better when it comes to keeping water and debris off of the rider and the chassis.  (Of course cruisers, like H-D and Indian, have a style that provides a lot of wheel protection.)  Just riding over a damp road on my BMW will result in the entire bike being covered with dirt and water spots. Zero is actually better in this regard and their bikes are much easier to clean due to having fewer nooks and crannies and not having a hot exhaust system to bake on gorp.  The lack of decent fender coverage seems to be mostly a styling thing, but I do wish Zero would go against this styling trend.

So far, my 2014 S has has been completely reliable and has never had to visit the shop for repairs or maintenance.  That has saved me a lot of money, compared with servicing a BMW (as an example), where you typically get charged several hundred dollars for an oil and filter change and resetting the "service reminder" warning date. A major service on a BMW, that includes valve adjustments, can easily run over $600. (Add $1000 more for their K1600GT.) Those servicing costs add up over the years and really help to cut into the initial relatively high purchase price for the Zero - or any electric motorcycle, for that matter.  :)
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Richard's motorcycle collection:  2014 14.2 kWh Zero S, 2016 BMW R1200RS, 2011 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Classic, 2009 BMW F650GS, 2005 Triumph T-100 Bonneville, 2002 Yamaha FZ1 (FZS1000N) and a 1978 Honda Kick 'N Go Senior.

Adan

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Re: Yet Another Zero S 6.5 Review
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2017, 12:05:38 AM »

I rode my S 6.5 in to work this morning.  17.7 miles, of which 7-9 of that is freeway (sort of depends on what you count as "freeway").  Because I'm still feeling out the range, I've been keeping my freeway speeds at between 50-55 mph.  I arrived at work with 76% charge.

It was a bit warmer this morning than it has been, but still cool, low 50's, so range is at least slightly diminished du to that.

I can't tell if the original poster took the appropriate factors into account in his range estimates.  My S 6.5 seems to be tracking specifications.

The seat is threadbare.  It's an EV, so it doesn't need an all day comfortable seat.  I don't see this as a major fault.

Stock mirrors are not great, but that's true of a great many motorcycles.  I put on CRG diamonds and the problem solved.  Bike looks much less wonky now too.
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