Looking back on all the new and redesigned motorcycle models of 2023, it can be difficult to decide which one is the most influential. We saw everything from updated powerhouses like the 2023 BMW M 1000 RR, which received aggressive racetrack-ready aerodynamics, to brand-new beginner bikes like the 2023 CF Moto 450SS, which awed reviewers with its value for the dollar. However, the most influential bike has to go further, pushing boundaries in ways that fundamentally change the industry. It should also be a bike that appeals to a wide cross-section of riders, not just hardcore sport bike enthusiasts or newcomers to the community looking for a good deal.
One bike stands out for succeeding in all of these areas. The 2023 Zero DSR/X is an all-new entry in the growing adventure bike market, offering something to many different types of riders, from urban commuters to off-road explorers. However, it upends the segment with its all-electric powertrain, promising a smooth ride and remarkable performance in all types of conditions. While an electric adventure bike may seem like an incredibly niche option, Zero has applied all of its experience with electric powertrains to make the new DSR/X more capable and more accessible than might be expected from its non-traditional design.
A Legacy of Electrification
While Zero might not be a household name among riders, the brand has been around for longer than you might expect. Founded in 2007, Zero shipped its first street-legal model in 2009. The original Zero S was a small naked bike powered by a 4 kWh battery that produced 30 hp and 65 lb-ft of torque. It was joined a year later by the Zero DS, which added off-road components to the same chassis and powertrain to create a dual-sport model. With a top speed of around 70 mph and a range of approximately 60 miles, these early electric bikes were not particularly impressive but laid the foundation for the modern Zero lineup.
In 2016, Zero introduced the DSR. This bike built upon the original DS but improved it in every way, adding a larger battery, a more powerful motor, and a much more stylish design that blended in with the conventional motorcycles on the road. Equipped with a standard 13.3 kWh battery that could be upgraded to 15.9 kWh with the optional “Power Tank,” the 2016 DSR has a claimed 179 miles of range in the city. Plus, the new Z-Force Motor provides 67 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque, putting the bike solidly in middleweight territory.
Building an Electric ADV
Today, Zero has an extensive lineup, including everything from lightweight dual-sports like the FX to powerful sportbikes like the SR/S. However, until the debut of the 2023 DSR/X, it did not have anything in the popular ADV category. While the DSR/X shares many components and part of its name with the DSR, don’t be misled––it is a clean-sheet design intended to provide the specialized features that adventure bike riders desire. To begin with, rather than reuse a frame from one of its other models, Zero engineered an all-new frame for the DSR/X that is longer and more rugged to withstand abuse on the trail.
When it comes to performance, the 2023 DSR/X has more torque than any other bike in the Zero lineup, thanks to an updated Z-Force 10-75X motor that provides 166 lb-ft. For comparison’s sake, that’s more than twice as much torque as you’ll get from a gasoline model like the Honda Africa Twin or Suzuki V-Strom 1050. The DSR/X also has an ample 100 hp for a top speed of 112 mph. The single-speed direct-drive transmission means you won’t have to change gears or manage a clutch as you rocket off the line or navigate tricky terrain on the trail, which goes a long way toward making the bike a pleasure to ride. One particularly cool feature is the reverse gear, making it easy to back up the bike even on a hill.
Electronic as Well as Electric
While electric bikes have not yet taken over, it’s no secret that the modern motorcycle industry is in the grip of an electronic revolution. Manufacturers are offering everything from advanced rider aids to integrated infotainment systems to help improve our time in the saddle. The ADV market is particularly enthralled by these new features, and Zero has leaned into this with the 2023 DSR/X, offering an entire arsenal of advanced electronics. Stealing the show is Bosch’s Offroad Motorcycle Stability Control, a first for any electric bike. This system includes an IMU for cornering ABS, linked braking, traction control, and drag-torque control.
Six available riding modes, including a Custom Mode, provide even more control over the bike in a variety of situations. The other five modes include Street, Sport, Canyon, Eco, and Rain. While you might be wondering why an ADV bike doesn’t have an off-road setting, Zero actually includes five off-road settings. An Offroad Mode can be engaged for any of the five basic riding modes, providing less aggressive traction control and turning off ABS for the rear wheel. Another particularly nice feature in hilly terrain is Bosch Vehicle Hold Braking. Simply pull the brake lever all the way in, and the DSR/X will continue holding the brakes until you engage the throttle. Combined with the lack of a clutch, this makes getting started on a slope a breeze.
Moving on from rider aids, Zero also equips the 2023 DSR/X with its latest Cypher III+ infotainment system. This includes integrated navigation that can be displayed on the five-inch TFT dash. The Cypher III+ system comes paired with a smartphone app that can be used to control various aspects of the bike, including setting up the custom drive mode, monitoring charging, and adjusting the battery charging target. One place where Zero has drawn severe criticism in the past is for offering upgrades like extra range and more power for sale through the Cypher III+ app. Fortunately, the brand has decided to sell the DSR/X with all of these features standard, so riders don’t have to be worried about having to pay more to unlock features that are already on the bike.
The Million Dollar Questions
The two great weaknesses of electric motorcycles have always been range and cost. While we would like to say that Zero has solved this with the 2023 DSR/X, they are both still limitations. However, Zero has made them much less of an issue than before. With a standard 17.3 kWh battery, the DSR/X has an estimated city range of 180 miles. That’s fine for commuters, but don’t expect to enjoy that full range when traveling at highway speeds or exploring off-road. The available Power Tank option adds more batteries for nearly 20 kWh of power, but this is still one ADV bike that probably won’t be seen traversing uninhabited wilds. Of course, if we’re being honest, most motorcycles in this segment see many more miles on paved roads than on the trail.
When it comes to cost, the 2023 DSR/X starts at $19,995. While that’s considerably more than many other adventure bikes, it’s still in the same ballpark, especially when the performance and technology of this model are considered. Battery costs have been dropping steadily, and they are beginning to reach the point where cross-shopping gasoline and electric motorcycles is no longer unheard of. Overall, Zero has done an outstanding job of making electric bikes mainstream, and the new DSR/X is helping to bring the advantages of electrification to a wider cross-section of riders, making it the most influential motorcycle of 2023.