IMS Chicago 2021: Zero SR/F Shows Electric Motorcycles’ Sporty Side

While other companies are getting into electric motorcycles, Zero Motorcycles is arguably the biggest name in the game today. Not just in terms of sales, but variety, too. The US company’s two-wheeled EVs ran the gamut from high-speed dual-sports to swift standards. Plus, it now offers both a fully-faired electric sportbike and a naked version, the Zero SR/F. And after riding the 2021 SR/F at the International Motorcycle Show in Chicago, it’s clear that the electric bike justifies the hype.

The 2021 Zero SR/F is one of Zero Motorcycles’ most powerful bikes—and a Pikes Peak competitor

A mint-green 2021 Zero SR/F Premium in a parking lot
2021 Zero SR/F Premium | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit
Spec2021 Zero SR/F Premium
MotorAir-cooled permanent-magnet AC motor
Power110 hp
Torque140 lb-ft
Final driveCarbon belt
Front suspension and travelFully-adjustable Showa SFF-BP inverted fork, 4.72”
Rear suspension and travelFully-adjustable Showa mono-shock, 5.51”
Seat height31.0” (standard)
30.3” (accessory low seat)
31.9” (accessory tall seat)
Claimed city range161 miles (standard)
200 miles (with optional Power Tank)
Curb weight498 lb
0-60 mph time3.65 seconds (Cycle World)

In the current Zero Motorcycles lineup, the 2021 SR/F, along with the fairing-equipped SR/S, stand as the brand’s most powerful models. And even though all of Zero’s bikes are speedy, thanks in part to lacking a clutch, those two are some of the fastest. A racing-prepped SR/F was fast enough to earn a fifth-place spot at the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Forbes reports.

Besides plenty of pace, the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium also offers plenty of tech. It comes standard with cornering ABS, stability control, traction control, cruise control, and adjustable regenerative braking. These systems are all controlled via the 5” TFT display, as are the standard heated grips. The configurable display also shows metrics such as the remaining range, state of charge, motor RPMs, and instant torque. Plus, the SR/F’s onboard Cypher OS links with Zero’s smartphone app to share onboard diagnostic info, as well as things like the bike’s location, nearby charging stations, and ride data. And you can use it to further customize the riding modes.

You can give the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium an even faster recharge time or more range, but not both

A close-up view of a mint-green 2021 Zero SR/F Premium's motor and battery pack
2021 Zero SR/F Premium motor and battery pack closeup | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Speaking of charging, the base 2021 Zero SR/F comes standard with a 3-kW charging system. Meanwhile, the Premium trim gets a 6-kW system. So, instead of a 0%-95% recharging session taking four hours on a Level 2 charger, the Premium only needs two. But if that’s still not fast enough, both trims offer an additional 6-kW boost. With that, the base SR/F’s 0%-95% recharging time drops to 1.3 hours, and the Premium’s time drops to one hour.

However, the ‘Rapid Charge System’ add-on is incompatible with the other major Zero SR/F option: the Power Tank. It’s basically an extra battery pack that gives the electric motorcycle additional range. And if you want it, you’ll have to schedule some extra recharging time. Plus, it eats up some onboard storage space, Cycle World says.

The upgraded charging system isn’t the only extra feature the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium gets, though. Besides the previously mentioned heated grips, it also has aluminum bar ends. And for 2021, both the base and the Premium have standard fly screens.

IMS Chicago 2021 isn’t Pikes Peak, but the SR/F is fun and fast regardless

Although the ‘loud pipes save lives’ notion is a myth, some riders might find electric motorcycles’ lack of noise odd. Riding the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium around IMS Chicago 2021, though, made it clear that, while the bike is fairly quiet, it’s not silent. There’s a subtle whine when you’re stationary that, as you build speed, gets louder and more whirr-like. But it’s never annoying; it just adds to the SR/F’s futuristic-style appeal.

Also appealing? The speed. Accelerating a Zero SR/F Premium requires very little drama—just twist the throttle and you zoom ahead. And as you go from Eco to Street to Sport Mode, it becomes easier and easier to stealthily speed ahead. I never missed hearing an exhaust note because I was too busy giggling at how easy going fast was. Plus, the throttle responds linearly and precisely regardless of the riding mode.

The Zero SR/F Premium isn’t just fast in a straight line, though. A 498-lb curb weight might sound heavy, but the naked electric bike feels fairly light on its feet once you’re moving. Turn-in is relatively quick, and the bike is immensely stable in the corners, Motorcyclist says. It’s a similar story with the SR/F’s ability to transition between left and right turns. To quote Cycle World, this is “a competent corner carver.”

One downside is that the Zero SR/F Premium’s brakes could use more initial bite. However, they offer solid feedback and modulation. And with how much engine—sorry, motor-braking the SR/F has, especially in Eco Mode, you don’t need as much brake-lever pressure to slow down. Cycle World found that the 2020 SR/F could “wiggle” over uneven road surfaces, but I didn’t notice that on the 2021 demo bike. As for the ride quality, the suspension strikes a good ‘comfortably firm’ balance.

How much does a 2021 Zero SR/F cost?

Admittedly, I only rode the 2021 Zero SR/F Premium for about 30 minutes. But I came back impressed with how the electric motorcycle rode and handled at low and high speeds. I also didn’t notice any issues with the odd cheap piece of switchgear, something that Cycle World and Car and Driver noted with 2020 models.

That being said, the 2021 Zero SR/F isn’t cheap to buy. The base model starts at $19,495 before options; the Premium starts at $21,495. Zero Motorcycles charges $2895 for the Power Tank, while the 6-kW charging upgrade costs $2300. With a few options, the SR/F costs almost as much as a 208-hp Ducati Streetfighter V4 S.

But is it worth the price? If you’re looking for maximum range, Zero Motorcycles’ SR goes further for less money, Cycle World notes. And there’s also the newly-discounted LiveWire One. However, few if any gasoline-powered naked bikes can accelerate like the SR/F for similar money. Plus, doing so requires dealing with a clutch lever. So, if you want a fast, silent, sporty commuter that can also carve corners on the weekends, the SR/F is worth test-riding.

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