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The front 3/4 view of a white 2021 LiveWire One under a tent

2021 LiveWire One vs. Zero SR/F: Which Electric Motorcycle Sparks More Joy?

Riding the 2021 LiveWire One (nee Harley-Davidson LiveWire) and 2021 Zero SR/F Premium at the 2021 International Motorcycle Show in Chicago revealed that these two standard electric motorcycles, though similar on paper, offer distinctly different riding experiences.

It doesn’t officially wear the Harley-Davidson name anymore, but the 2021 LiveWire One is still Harley’s electric motorcycle. At least until the LiveWire EV brand starts expanding. And that will put it into even greater competition with Zero Motorcycles, which has been electric from the start. But even before that happens, Zero already has a LiveWire One competitor, the SR/F. So, which one of these two-wheeled EVs should you consider putting in your garage?

Specs showdown: 2021 LiveWire One vs. 2021 Zero SR/F Premium

The front 3/4 view of a white 2021 LiveWire One under a tent
2021 LiveWire One front 3/4 view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit
Spec2021 LiveWire One2021 Zero SR/F Premium
MotorLiquid-cooled permanent-magnet ACAir-cooled permanent-magnet AC
Power105 hp110 hp
Torque86 lb-ft140 lb-ft
Final driveBeltBelt
Gross battery capacity15.4 kWh14.4 kWh (standard)
18.0 kWh (with Power Tank)
Claimed city range146 miles161 miles (standard)
200 miles (with Power Tank)
Front suspension and travelFully-adjustable Showa SFF-BP inverted fork, 4.5” (based on 2020 specs, Cycle World)Fully-adjustable Showa SFF-BP inverted fork, 4.72”
Rear suspension and travelFully-adjustable Showa BFRC mono-shock, 4.5” (based on 2020 specs, Cycle World)Fully-adjustable Showa mono-shock, 5.51”
Seat height30″31.0” (standard)
30.3” (accessory Low Seat)
31.9” (accessory Tall Seat)
Curb weight562 lb498 lb
0-60 mph time3.12 seconds (2020 model, Cycle World)3.65 seconds (Cycle World)
¼-mile time and trap speed11.54 seconds @ 110.6 mph (2020 model, Cycle World)11.83 seconds @ 116.2 mph (Cycle World)
Starting price$21,999$21,495

As noted earlier, the 2021 LiveWire One is essentially a discounted 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire. And as the table above shows, that means it’s now significantly closer in price to the Zero SR/F Premium. Plus, these two are fairly close in terms of general specs.

However, when it comes to the details, Zero’s and Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycles start to drift apart. The 2021 LiveWire One, for example, has Brembo front brakes, while the Zero SR/F Premium uses J. Juan brakes. But the SR/F Premium has five preset riding modes, while the One only has four. Plus, while both bikes have adjustable traction control, cornering ABS, and rear-wheel-slip control, the SR/F has stability control. And Zero’s bike has a slightly larger TFT display: 5.0” to the LiveWire One’s 4.3”. Also, standard heated grips.

How do the 2021 LiveWire One and 2021 Zero SR/F Premium compare on range and charging time?

A mint-green 2021 Zero SR/F Premium in a parking lot
2021 Zero SR/F Premium | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Yet while the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium has the 2021 LiveWire One beat in range on paper, the IRL situation might be different. In Cycle World’s comparison, the 2020 LiveWire was roughly 10% more energy efficient than the SR/F. In addition, during “spirited riding,” the Zero ran out of juice after 67 miles, while the Harley-Davidson LiveWire still had 12 miles of range. And it’s worth noting that Harley-Davidson claims the LiveWire One has “evolved software and hardware,” so it could offer even more range.

Plus, unlike the SR/F, the One can charge at Level 3 fast chargers. However, Harley-Davidson recommends doing so sparingly to extend the battery’s lifespan. Nevertheless, the Zero SR/F Premium can only match the LiveWire One’s Level 2 recharge time with the optional Rapid Charge System. And that’s incompatible with the Power Tank.

On the other hand, the Zero SR/F Premium offers more customization than the LiveWire One when it comes to rider settings. And that includes the regeneration from the brakes and the motor. However, some of this additional customization has to be done on Zero’s smartphone app, Cycle World notes.

These electric motorcycles are equally fast, similarly sized, but offer different riding experiences

I recently rode both the 2021 LiveWire One and the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium at the 2021 International Motorcycle Show in Chicago. And while both electric motorcycles offer shift-free thrills, they’re by no means identical. Despite how close they are on paper, the One and SR/F are distinctly different flavors of two-wheeled EVs.

For, well, one, the 2021 LiveWire One offers more visceral sensations than the SR/F. Besides rocking gently upon startup, it’s also louder at speed, with a high-pitched, sci-fi turbine whine. Plus, it rushes forward more eagerly and explosively when you twist the throttle, as Cycle World’s 0-60 mph test suggests. And those Brembo brakes also bite slightly harder, especially initially, than the Zero SR/F Premium’s J. Juans, RevZilla says.

However, the SR/F Premium’s relatively silent speed is giggle-inducing in its own right. And with its lower curb weight, shorter wheelbase, and different suspension geometry, it turns in more easily than the One. It also makes transitioning between corners easier, RevZilla notes. RevZilla and Cycle World both said the SR/F felt less stable than the 2020 LiveWire over imperfect roads, but I didn’t notice such issues.

That’s not to say that the LiveWire One isn’t fun and stable on sweeping country roads, because it is. It’s just that the Zero SR/F Premium behaves like the sportier bike. And you’ll feel the 60-odd-pound-lower curb weight make a difference at a set of stoplights.

Which electric motorcycle should you buy, the 2021 LiveWire One or the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium?

Given that the 2021 LiveWire One is only about $500 more expensive than the Zero SR/F Premium, the budget isn’t a huge factor. In the past, RevZilla and Cycle World noted that Zero’s switchgear felt cheaper than what Harley-Davidson offered. However, while the 2021 SR/F’s switches felt slightly lighter to me, I wouldn’t call them cheap.

Ultimately, picking between these two electric motorcycles depends on what you value. The SR/F Premium has a few extra features and a sportier riding experience. But the One has more real-world range, speed, and sound. So, test-ride them both, and see which one sparks more joy for you.

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