Ergonomically, the Zero-X feels as odd as it looks, but you certainly get used to the layout. With two hand brakes and a throttle being the extent of the controls, your feet will find themselves bored with only the task of staying on the pegs to keep them busy. In tight creek beds and such, the width at the pegs is quite apparent and you’ll find yourself wishing for more ground clearance. Other components-the chain guide, for instance-are low, obtrusive and simply not designed for serious off-road use (but then again, neither was the bike). One thing that the Zero-X crew definitely did their homework on is the frame geometry, as the specially designed chassis feels fairly even and balanced as far as steering and handling. The brakes are yet another mountain bike-inspired part and do a good job of stopping the bike when new, though we’ve heard from customers who bought this bike in late ’08 that the pads wear out almost immediately.Above all, the battery duration on the Zero is the one aspect of the bike that takes the most getting used to. We ran three batteries out at the Zero-X intro, and they all died in distinctly different fashions. One battery slowly grew weaker and chugged to a stop, another felt as though it operated at one-third power forever and then fell out, and yet another battery dropped dead like someone had turned the key off. This variation is most likely because the speed with which the battery runs out, much like a tank of gas, is dependent on which mode you are in and how hard you are on the throttle. Swapping out a battery with a replacement takes less than three minutes, but that’s if you’ve forked over the extra $2950 (plus shipping) for the replacement. If not, then you’ll have to wait about two hours to recharge. But hey, look on the bright side: Each battery is nontoxic and lead-free, so you no longer have to worry if you see junior gnawing on your Zero-X in between rides. Yippee!Although this is the latest Zero-X model, we expect to see even more improvements on this bike in upcoming years. With a high-power “Extreme” package in the works and an electric supermoto bike rumored to be on the horizon, the great minds at Zero are likely to keep churning out ideas and revamping this product until it’s fully off-road capable. Right now, the major competitor to the Zero is the Quantya electric bike, a machine that we’ve already ridden and are in the process of evaluating; look for a head-to-head Zero vs. Quantya standoff in the near future. In the meantime, you might want to look into a fanny pack-size soldering iron, because if things keep going in the direction they are, our gasoline-drinking dirt bikes will be considered lead-laced paraphernalia before the next election rolls around.Specifications
Claimed Weight (with battery): 151 lb
Fuel Capacity: Ha! Funny.What’s Hot!
Light, snappy and fun to ride.
Noise, smoke, gas and lead (oh, the children!) free.
Innovative and revolutionary
(see paragraph three).What’s Not!
Caution: Handle with care.
One recharge takes two hours.
Hits like a Dio song.
Not built for (or cut out for) gnarly riding.
Where is your Zero dealer?Brian Catterson
Weight: 215 lb
Editor, Motorcyclist Magazine
I really wanted to like the Zero-X. And I did-for a few laps. But my first two outings ended in broken motors. To be fair, Zero knew it was taking a chance when it invited the motorcycling press to a motocross track. Its electric dirt bikes really aren’t designed for that. And each broken motor was replaced in a matter of minutes, such failures said to be covered under the company’s very liberal warranty program. Listening to company founder Neal Saiki talk, I got the impression that Zero’s customers are for the most part willing R&D partners, a philosophy that likely stems from his roots in the mountain bike business. That’s admirable, but I’m not sure I’m down with it; if your motorcycle breaks out on the trail, you can’t just carry it home…A proprietary lithium-ion power pack. Say that five times fast.The Zero-X has more in common with your kitchen appliances than your KTM 200!Jesse Ziegler
Weight: 175 lb
It’s not a dirt bike. Really, it’s not. But it is fun. I raced the second-generation Drift-R at MiniMoto SX last year during a halftime show, and while I was happy to beat Chris Denison, I was even more stoked to be able to talk smack to him while we were racing. Electric bikes just might be the future. Although I sure hope the bikes keep evolving, or else our future will be full of short bursts of laughter followed by long stints of repair and recharging. I have hope, however, that evolution will happen and these bikes will begin to perform to legitimate off-road standards. I just pray I can afford it.It’s On! The Quantya
Quantya is a Swiss company attacking the electric bike market with a bike that shares a lot with the Zero-X. Both bikes are “fun size,” dimensionally about the ergonomic feel of a 150cc playbike. Quantya makes the Strada ($10,700) and the Track ($9,950), with the difference being the street-legal Strada has full road-legal lights (drawing power from a second battery) and different gearing.We got to ride some stock Quantyas and a modified version at this year’s Torture Test. Like the Zero-X, the Quantya’s power is strong and willing. The limiting factor to speed is traction, as the small, unaggressive knobbies are designed with rolling efficiency rather than traction in mind. The front tire is more of a factor than the rear as neither guiding the front end over uneven trails or aggressive braking on the Quantya can compete with a bike with real treads. The Quantya’s stock suspension is rather harsh, producing a jarring ride as if the suspenders were expecting to be holding up a much heavier machine. The rear brake on the handlebar is great for dragging into corners, but soon makes arm-pump from a clutch lever seem like a pesky itch.The exciting news is that Quantya’s modded bike shows the company has some good development already toward eliminating its shortcomings. A revalve proved the suspension components are very capable of a smooth and controlled ride, the fitment of true off-road knobbies instantly threw out any traction issues, and the current stock bike now comes with the option of a rear brake lever down where it belongs (and already-sold models will be retrofitted free of charge if the customer desires).We’re going to be taking possession of or own Quantya bike soon and can’t wait to give it a full test. Then we’ll compare it head to head with the Zero-X…and let the sparks fly. -Pete Peterson