2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS Review

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Introduction: Built for Speed

2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS
The 2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS, menacing and mean with its flat black finish. Basem Wasef

Electric motorcycles have come full circle. From early wheelie-happy dirt bikes like the Zero X to the latest range-obsessed commuter tools and all the way back to devil-may-care hooligan bikes, there’s almost no corner of the two-wheeled spectrum that hasn’t been explored by manufacturers like Santa Cruz-based Zero Motorcycles. Their latest, greatest hot rod is the 2016 Zero FXS, which abandons any pretense of range and commits itself fully to wheelie-popping, tire-sliding fun. 

The Goods: Built for Speed and Agility, Not Range

Though it's not the most powerful Zero (that title goes to the SR, which in its latest version boasts 67 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque), the FXS is a supermoto-inspired ride with a considerably lighter curb weight (a whispy 293 pounds, versus the SR's 458 lbs), and a nimbler attitude.

Power comes from a 3.3 kWh battery (good for 27 horsepower and 70 lb-ft of torque, weighing in at 251 pounds, total), or a 6.5 kWh battery that produces 44 horsepower and the same torque. Combined estimated range for the 3.3 model is 31 miles (41 city / 25 highway), while the 6.5 model gets an estimated 62 miles combined (82 city, 50 highway). The Zero FXS ZF3.3 is priced at $8,495, while the ZF6.5 model is priced at $10,990. Batteries can be quick-swapped, enabling a 3.3 model bike to become a 6.5 model, and either battery to be removed for charging outside of the bike.  

Improvements to the FXS for 2016 include 14 percent more energy density from the lithium-ion battery and improved ergonomics thanks to taller handlebars, and better modulation from the rear brake.

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On the Road

2016 Zero FXS
Cornering is easy when your bike weighs less than 300 pounds. Zero Motorcycles

On the Road

Swing a leg over the Zero FXS's thin, hard saddle, and you'll immediately get a hint at its intended personality. Unlike other electric bikes that accommodate saddlebags and have Level 2 (J1772) quick-charger capabilities, the FXS is essentially built for one thing: fun. The sub-300 pound weight enables 0 to 60 mph sprints as quick as 3.8 seconds (for the 6.5 model, which drops to 4.1 seconds for the 3.3). Top speed for both versions is 85 mph, but the thrill is really to be had from about 20 mph to 60 mph, where acceleration is strongest. The single-speed transmission reveals the fat middle of the torque curve at those speeds; although electric motors produce peak torque at just above zero rpms, overcoming the bike's mass takes a moment, making for surprise endings to stoplight drag races. 

The FXS's minimalist body is a good visual indicator of how the bike feels and performs; beyond the mean, flat black finish is an elemental riding experience that places acceleration and nimble handling above comfort or long-distance range. Case in point: I may have been fine with the stiff saddle, but when my wife rode pillion, she barely lasted five blocks before complaining about the seat. Fair enough: the FXS's motocross-style saddle isn't really intended for a second rider, as it's really meant to be whipped around by speed hungry pilots (like myself).

While brakes feel strong (and almost grabby) at slower speeds, there's a bit more lever effort needed to slow down the FXS at faster clips. ABS kicks in relatively early and with strong torque readily available, the plush suspension reacts accordingly with nose dips and squats. Zippy, responsive, and fun to fling around corners, the FXS is exactly what you'd expect from an electric supermoto, a niche within a niche that appeals to a very focused type of rider.

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Bottom Line

2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS
The 2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS. Zero Motorcycles

Bottom Line

I got about 35 miles out of the battery during aggressive city and highway riding, which is pretty much in line with Zero's estimates. Could I have eked more mileage out of a charge? Absolutely. Between the regenerative braking (which charges the battery) and the throttle response (which is tuned well enough to enable light feathering of the 'gas' while accelerating), there was plenty of room for efficiency improvement. But given the FXS's eagerness to squirt ahead an turn (and the nature of my in-town riding, which left me relatively close to home in case I ran perilously low on charge), I felt perfectly confident riding the FXS like I stole the thing.

Had I pursued a lengthy errand with hopes of returning home safe and sound, my riding style (and level of concern) might have been different... but all things considered, the FXS, when viewed through the prism of its relatively narrowly focused skill set, did what it did with excitement and vivaciousness. Electric motorcycles still can't quite combine ultimate range with performance-- that realm is dominated by gasoline-powered bikes-- but if you're looking for a one end or the other of the spectrum, between hooligan bikes like the FXS and range-ier models like the DS ZF13.0 with a power tank (which can deliver up to 179 miles of city riding), there's a Zero that just might change your idea of what an electric motorcycle can pull off.   

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Wasef, Basem. "2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS Review." ThoughtCo, Jul. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/2016-zero-motorcycles-fxs-review-4037547. Wasef, Basem. (2017, July 4). 2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS Review. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/2016-zero-motorcycles-fxs-review-4037547 Wasef, Basem. "2016 Zero Motorcycles FXS Review." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/2016-zero-motorcycles-fxs-review-4037547 (accessed September 22, 2017).