Shortly after we took to the roads of Scotts Valley, California to test-ride the 2011 Zero DS and 2011 Zero S the Californian all-electric motorcycle maker announced its all-new 2012 range

With all-new motors, battery pack and control circuitry, the 2012 Zero DS and 2012 Zero S motorcycles appeared far superior on paper than their predecessors, but how do they ride in the real world?

Over the weekend, we spent a scant 10 minutes on each motorcycle to find out. 

2012 Zero S

Following the same street-fighter stylistic cues as the 2011 Zero S, the 2012 Zero S we rode was fitted with the optional 9-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which Zero claims is good for up to 114 miles of range.

With the same simple key-start system as previous models, the 2012 Zero S takes a few seconds to go from key on to ready-to-ride. 

2012 Zero S Electric Motorcycle

2012 Zero S Electric Motorcycle

At slow speeds, the 2012 Zero S is almost silent, thanks to its quiet double-stator axial flux motor and Poly Chain Carbon drive belt. 

While there is no pedestrian warning system fitted however, we found judicious use of the horn warned pedestrians of our presence at lower speeds. 

Handling is refined at low speed too, with the single-piston, foot-operated rear brake providing stabilization at well under walking pace. 

Open the throttle, and the all-new motor moves you forward with the performance of a 250 cc gasoline motorcycle. While we found the initial acceleration to be a little on the slow side, once past 10 mph acceleration up to 50 mph is brisk. 

Due to the constraints of the road conditions, we were unable to test the 2012 Zero S’s top speed or conduct 0-60 times, but in a suburban environment we were able to easily stay ahead of traffic.

Unlike previous generations, the 2012 Zero S also includes regenerative braking, making it far more responsive and more natural to ride for anyone coming to it from a traditional gasoline motorcycle. 

In fact, aside from the occasional emergency stop, we found ourselves using regenerative braking to slow the Zero S on junction approaches, only using the front and rear brake when absolutely necessary to shed speed quickly. 

2012 Zero DS

The dual-sport sibling to the 2012 Zero S, the 2012 Zero DS shares the same motor, control circuitry and battery pack as its street sibling. 

With a higher seat, slightly smaller rear wheel, and a longer suspension travel however, the 2012 Zero DS gives a more upright riding experience than the 2012 Zero S.

Like the street version, the DS has impeccable road manners in and around town, with more than enough acceleration to stay ahead of traffic. 

2012 Zero DS Electric Motorcycle

2012 Zero DS Electric Motorcycle

Unlike the 2011 Zero DS we rode last year, we found this particular Zero DS -- fitted with standard handlebars and seat -- a little harder to steer in traffic than its predecessor. 

But for shorter riders, longer handlebars and a lower seat, both available as options, should make city riding more pleasurable. 


Compared with last year’s Zero DS and Zero S models, the 2012 Zero DS and Zero S offer a far more pleasurable riding experience that more closely replicates a gasoline motorcycle experience. 

Quick to accelerate, the low weight of each motorcycle, not to mention firm suspension, makes round-town trips a pleasure. 

While our test-rides were far from long enough, we think our time in the saddle, not to mention a real-world range test of the 2012 Zero S proves that both motorcycles should be on your test-ride list if you’re in the market for an electric motorcycle. 

As for us? We’ll be back in the saddle later this fall for a full ride review of both motorcycles. 


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