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Zero Challenges

Electrifying

Conquering the locality

So when I was asked to ride, offered the use of, the recipient of a vague threat from a man with a Newcastle accent regarding riding a Zero I have to admit that I was more than curious.

All you'll ever need to know

Initially I did some research. I didn’t really, my neurodiversity got the best of me and I found it really, really difficult to listen to the briefing. I had to download an app to find the charging stations. I’m surprised to find that there are loads of them. They’re all over Ireland. There’s a few icons based on their charging speeds. Each location even has a symbol that allows you to see if some hybrid Range Rover driving enemy of the people is hogging the machine while they drink childrens blood or what ever people like that do in their spare time.

Assisted by some of the biggest names in the business

There was then a briefing on which chargers did what. Which ones which needed the bikes own charger cable, had a cable of it’s own that can be used. There’s then a few minutes spent ‘discussing’ the chargers power delivery times. This is referenced by some numbers. That’s when I really disengaged. That’s because I have a serious phobia of numbers followed by letters.

Numbers, times, other numbers an App or two and I’ve completely disengaged. Then it gets even more confusing. A friend of mine who’s a bit of an EV geek, he’s on his second or third electric cars, explains it to me. I vow to delete his number from my phone.

There's a manual adjuster for the screen

The one thing that everyone advises is not to take on any extra long rides on it. This is a bike for urban and extra urban use. Go to work on it? Yes. Ride out to Laragh on a Sunday morning? Yes. Ride it a little over 300 kilometres from Dublin to darkest Donegal in the rain? No. You need to find someone to talk to. Guess what I did as soon as everyone stopped looking…

I set off at around lunchtime. Having consulted the ZapMap app, try saying that in the bar in Birmingham airports bar after a long day at Motorcycle Live, I opt to aim for Monaghan as it has no fewer than eight chargers. Six of them are on a petrol station forecourt. There’s a café selling a wide array of deep fried food stuffs with tables. Awesome. This is just what I need, I pack a laptop and I’m going to take advantage of the charging downtime to get some work done. I’m adapting, I’m adjusting, I’m getting with the whole EV thing. I have this, I’m going to rock this thing.

Like a Yamaha Tracer 900, only different

The bike I’m on is the Zero DSR/X. Think of a Yamaha Tracer 900 and you’re getting there.

I turn the key in the ignition. The clocks light up and a small almost complete circle appears on the lop left hand side of the TFT screen. We’re good to go. I scroll past the power options, choosing ECO as it’s going to be a big day. Then I move my left foot forward to tap the bike into first and with my left hand I reach for the clutch. My reaching out is unrequited as neither lever exist. As one would expect, the Zero is automatic. There is absolutely no noise. It’s as quite as it was when switched off.

Less leverage, modes to match the riders moods

I twist the throttle and the bike starts to move. Again there’s no noise. None. Just the sound of the tyres rolling over the tarmac. As part of my long distance plan I’ve agreed with myself not to break the speed limit. Then I leave the ramp and join the M50. So I rock up to 120 kph. Then I realise that the speed limit on the countries premier motorway is actually only 100. There are at least three lanes and in some places as many as six, but the speed limit is 100kph.

Admonishing myself for my wanton delinquency slash blatant criminality I wind it off and drop to a highly conservative 90. If nothing else I’m a law abiding team player. As I have an aversion to motorways, there are a whole load of reasons we don’t have the time or page count to discuss here, I take the M2 to Ashbourne where I’m planning to use a selection of national routes for the rest of the journey.

Now there are a number of reasons why I’m not being held up as an example of responsible motorcycling. These come from a number of different places. The most common theory is that I’m being chased by my demons. I like to, no need to, overtake everything in front of me. The Zeros roll on power delivery is un-be-leave-able. I know I should conserve the battery but it’s like a witches broom. From nowhere to the speed of light in an instant. There’s no gears to change, no engine to wind itself up. It’s just incredible. Think Millennium Falcon in those space opera movies.

Surprisingly few buttons abound

The power is dropping a little too fast, one articulated truck, tractor and badly driven local old ladies car at a time. Just beyond Slane the sky darkens. A few kilometres later it starts to rain. And rain. And it continues to rain for the next 220 or so kilometres.

As I’m approaching Monaghan I’ve depleting the battery at a rate that I’d promised not to. I roll into my target forecourt and spotting the charger with only 6 kilometres of range left I congratulate myself on my calculations and relatively conservative riding.

The first one is a bit confusing. There are four different cables on the one machine. None fit the bike and there’s no option to plug in my own cable. The adjacent charger unit has two points and it uses my cable. I plug in the bike, go to pay and nothing happens. Being someone who used to use PCs for work I know what the solution to the problem. Plug it out and plug it in again. And again. I’m having no joy so I call the number that promises that help is on the other end of the line.

No lube required

The lady who answers the phone kind of sounds like a telephone operator who has had quite enough of humanity and wishes that everyone would just pipe down and go away. After a bit more plug it in, plug it back out again, malarkey she declares that the charger is faulty and there will be a technician along to reset it. ‘When’ I ask. ‘In the next day or two.’ She replies and hangs up on me. I’ve been standing here, in the rain, for 15 or so minutes. 

However, I have the app and upon checking it I find that the remaining two chargers are a mere two kilometres away. A few minutes later I’ve found them with three kilometres of range left. I am a genius. A true adventurer. I feel a ‘brand ambassador’ offer coming my way.

Alas neither of these work. They both take my cable but won’t switch on. Bracing for rejection /humiliation /sarcasm or just plain old hatred, I call the ‘helpline’ again. This time I get a very pleasant young man called Brian. Have you ever noticed that male phoneline operators are all called Brian? Brian worked through the plug it in, plug it out again thing before declaring that he was going to check something and would call me back right away.

Pirelli and Showa keep it 'down to earth'

With two kilometres left in the ‘tank’ I start fantasising about an E Class Mercedes with a diesel engine. I call the nice man from Zero, the one with all the numbers followed with letters. His phone rings out. Then something wonderful happens. Brian calls me back! We work on some things, I enter my card details four, maybe five times, something comes together and the machine is on. This has taken a little over 20 minutes putting my ‘standing around in the rain as I achieve nothing time’ all the way up to just over half an hour.

A cup of ambition heals all ills

The screen on the bike says that it’ll be ready in two hours so I head off looking for a café with coffee and a table I can work at.

When I was a child Monaghan was a scary place. It was a long way from home and the people spoke with a difficult to decipher accent which may or may not have indicated that they were going to kill you. That’s definitely not the case today. Nope, Monaghan town is a bustling, cosmopolitan place with all the things we could hope for. There are even one way streets and some sort of regard for pedestrians!

This is what a clean one looks like

Within a few minutes I had walked to the Diamond, as the centre of so many Irish towns are called, and found the ‘Screaming Bean Café’. The cafe is one of those places that one only finds in an adventure. The staff are cool, yet friendly, the coffee is second to none and the food tastes so much better than a wet day looking for a working charger would suggest.

A couple of hours later and I’m dry again, well fed, have a decent quantity of work done. I walk back to the bike to find that it’s charged to 98%. It’s time to get going on the second part of my journey. 

For this bit I’m a lot more conservative and easier on the throttle. Who knew that you could see so much of your surroundings at the speed limit! I’ve established that I can make it to my local provincial town, Letterkenny, without needing a charge. The challenge would be to keep enough juice so that I could make it the additional 30km to the house.

By the time I got to LK, as we locals never refer to it, I still had a promised 55km of range left. I, therefore, pressed on. Other than the driving rain, which was somehow sending the water up and inside my helmet, the horrendous wind and the interesting road surface that the suspension which had provided such a comfortable ride until now, was having difficulty with. Think of being kicked in the arse by a small child. It doesn’t hurt, but it gets really irritating really quickly.

Then, all of a sudden, I was home. I parked the bike up in my shed where I connected it to my regular domestic socket. The bike said it would be fully charged in six hours. I locked up, went inside to get changed and say hi to my family. There was still 33km left when I did so.

Plug it in and go for lunch

In conclusion the journey was way too long. A trip like this isn’t what these bikes are all about. Most of us don’t ride that far on a regular basis if at all. A ‘tank’ of electricity on a Zero has all that I would normally need.

With a bit of planning, however, I was able to do it. Sure, it took longer and the service supplied by the ESB was a bit not great, but it did it. When I hear people talking about how they ‘just don’t work’ or ‘they aren’t fit to do what they should’ I can’t help but think how you could apply that to so many other things. Would you do an enduro on a FireBlade and if so how well do you reckon you’d do?

Now that I have it back here I’m looking forward to getting out on some real world spins and seeing how good these things are in the real world. I’ll just have to wait until the rain stops!

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