The world, in 2023, is cyberpunk. We’ve got the advertisements in the sky, the retro-inspired asymmetrical vehicles, and the rampant wealth stratification that keeps the rich folks rich and the poor folks desperate. But in cyberpunk media, people are always riding sweet futuristic motorcycles. Why are we stuck with the same bikes we’ve always had?
Zero, it seems, wants to address this grievous wrong. The company makes bikes for the future, from the modern styling to the all-electric drivetrains, and the adventurous DSR/X should be perfect for making our ADV-loving cyberpunk present feel a bit more futuristic. It’s a bike from the future all right, but there’s a problem: It’s not our future.
The DSR/X is Zero’s entry into the oh-so-hot adventure market. After all, other manufacturers are raking in cash hand over fist with ADVs. Why shouldn’t the electric bikemaker throw its hat in the ring?
Spec for spec, the DSR/X seems like a direct competitor for larger, more road-oriented class of ADVs — your BMW R1300GSes, Ducati Multistradas, Yamaha Super Teneres and their ilk. The bike weighs in at 544 pounds, makes 100 horsepower and has a 19-inch wheel up front and a 17-inch wheel in the rear, all specs that compare directly against Bavaria’s finest.
What’s different about the DSR/X, however, is that electric driveline. The bike carries its weight low in the chassis, making it feel nimbler than 544 pounds has any right to, and the DSR/X makes a Trax-beating 166 pound-feet of torque. I thought my F800GS was all the power I’d ever want in a bike until I rode the Zero, and now I’m hooked on torque.
That electric drivetrain, though, complicates all the “ADV” marketing. There are plenty of electric offroad bikes, from trials to motocross, but the DSR/X isn’t targeting those smaller segments — it’s going after Adventure, a segment that has two main subcategories.
On one hand, there are the middleweights. Generally sub-500 pounds with 21-inch front wheels, these bikes trade cruising comfort for capability in the dirt, without ever getting quite as uncomfortable as an enduro. The DSR/X is clearly not that. It aims to sit on the more touring side of adventure touring, but its 180-mile range — which drops to a mere 85 miles on the highway — can’t cash those checks.
If the DSR/X has the comfort, speed, and capability of a full-size ADV, but lacks the range that buyers in the segment want, is it really an adventure bike? Or is it, with its heated grips, locking storage, and low running costs, simply the world’s best commuter?
How Does It Ride?
In a word, quickly. The 100 horsepower of the DSR/X isn’t too far off my bike’s 80, but the old adage proves true here — horsepower is what you brag about, torque is what you feel. The Zero’s 166 lb-ft have reset my benchmarks for speed and power, and now I’m hooked on the absolute warp speed feeling this bike can elicit. One second you’re pacing the cars next to you on the highway, and the next they look stopped in your mirror as you blow by.
While the power is fun, the Zero’s handling is far, far better than you’d expect from a 544-pound adventure tourer. I didn’t quite have enough time with the bike to fully dial in all of its suspension settings for my lanky frame, but I’m confident that a setup perfect for me exists somewhere within those rebound, compression, and preload adjustments. Even imperfect, the ride was still comfortable yet planted, confidence inspiring yet forgiving — fantastic for the daily ride.
If the drivetrain is the high point of the DSR/X, though, the switchgear is its counterpoint. It’s clunky, lacks the satisfying feedback you want, and is oddly placed around the bars. I often found myself trying to turn on my indicators, only to realize that I was hitting the bike’s ride mode switch instead. The switchgear, combined with the bike’s plastic construction, makes the DSR/X feel somewhat cheaper than its asking price would suggest.
Who Is It For?
I posed the question earlier of whether this is truly an adventure bike. After a week in the saddle, I posit that it isn’t — and that the whole bike is better for it. Instead of a singletrack slayer or round-the-world tourer, Zero has given us the commuter bike we all deserve.
Sure, Zero could’ve thrown a 21-inch wheel up front and added some knobby tires, but that would hurt the DSR/X’s low center of gravity and surprisingly nimble handling. At the same time, the company could’ve added yet more battery capacity, but that’s more weight to haul around, which is the last thing any motorcyclist wants.
Judging the DSR/X by typical ADV criteria, off-road prowess or “Long Way” touring chops, is judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree. Looking at it as a commuter, with locking storage within lane-splitting dimensions, make the Zero an instant standout in the category. It’s comfortable, practical, and costs nearly nothing to run — the ideal commuter of the future.
But, as the headline says, not our future. When Zero delivered this DSR/X to me, its MSRP was listed at a full $24,495. The 2024 model, which shortly followed, dropped that price down to $22,995, still no small sum to part with. Prices like these aren’t uncommon in the adventure market, where an outgoing R 1250 GS still regularly commands nearly $23,000 on dealer floors, but it’s a tough sell for the decidedly less dentist-oriented commuter segment.
In a world of plenty, where everyone has $23,000 to drop on a motorcycle, we’d all be riding DSR/Xes every day. Every office building would have motorcycle parking, we’d all carry our cargo in that locking false tank, and everyone could experience 166 lb-ft of torque hauling less than 550 pounds of vehicle on every on-ramp. It would be a beautiful, perfect world.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in a cyberpunk world, where most of us can’t afford to be spending that kind of money even on a daily commuter. We live in a world of income inequality, of halfhearted EV infrastructure, of software that locks down a motorcycle’s features behind smartphone microtransactions (not an issue on the DSR/X itself, but on its little siblings). No matter how perfect the DSR/X is to use every day, it’s not perfect for us. Maybe, someday, we’ll get it right.
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