The Electric Crack Pipe

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I never “took” drugs – but I increasingly feel as though I’m the only one who’s not on the pipe.Zero lead

In the June issue of Cycle World, there’s a friendly article about the Zero SR electric motorcycle. Reading it made my teeth hurt.

The SR is a two-wheeled Tesla whose only redeeming feature is that Uncle isn’t paying people to buy it.


Here’s what you get for your almost $17k – the base price of a new SR:

* Maximum range, ideal conditions, gimping along to conserve battery life: About 93 miles.

Even my grotesquely fuel-inefficient ’70s-era two-stroke triple – mid-20s, atrocious for a bike – can beat that. Including when it’s cold outside. When the SR’s maximum range is less – because battery performance drops when it gets cold. Which is why the company is located in California. And even if it’s warm, if you ride it hard, the bike’s range drops to about 60 miles (per Cycle World’s write-up). But the relevant point is that I can “recharge” the triple – any gas-engined bike – in about two minutes.

Which leads me to:

* 10 hours to recharge the SR.

So, you ride about 45 miles – the one-way maximum, assuming you intend to go home eventually – and then hang out for ten hours to recharge the bike. Or, you can spring for the quick-charger, an accessory that cuts this down to about an hour-and-a-half.on da pipe

For another $1,800.

* Top speed, 98.7 MPH; standing quarter-mile, 13.07 seconds.

My 1983 Honda GL650 Silverwing, a slow-pokey middleweight touring bike with a full fairing and side bags is faster (about 117, all out) and nearly as quick. It’ll go almost twice as far on a full tank, too – and the bike itself cost me (used, with about 12k on the clock) about what Zero is asking for the SR’s quick charger rig.

Are your teeth hurting yet?

This thing isn’t even a real motorcycle – much as it tries to look like one. There’s no gearbox, no shifting. Just rotate the throttle and roll on – like a Moped. Which is what the SR really is – its bike-like suspension notwithstanding. A motorcycle without a transmission – a manual transmission, with a clutch lever up top and a shift lever down left – is like a buxom fashion store mannequin. It looks like the real thing, but doesn’t perform like the real 2

There’s no sound, either – and what is a motorcycle without sound? It is like a concert without music. A silent-running car, ok. Cars are essentially appliances, after all. But bikes are more than that – a counterpoint to that. They are about the joy of getting from A to B. And part of that enjoyment is the wondrous whirr of camshafts spinning and valves opening and closing, of exhaust pulsing – of machinery working. A “brushless, high-temp magnet” electric motor – the beat-less heart of the Zero SR – sounds dryer-worthy to me.

And then there’s the maff.

Zero says the cost to fully recharge the SR is $1.60 using the standard household 115V plug-in.

As opposed to about $12 to top off the typical bike’s 3.5 gallon tank (in about 2 minutes vs. 10 hours).moon pic

But you’re going to have to ride long – and not hard – to make up what you paid up front. Even if you skip the $1,800 not-so-quick charger, this is still a $17k “bike.” For less – much less – than what Zero is asking for the SR, you could buy the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 ($7,499) or – if your interests incline toward the sportier side of the aisle – a new Honda CBR650F ($8,499) and in either case you’d be able to ride to the Moon and back on the money you saved on the bike before you’d save any money riding the SR.

As that fruitcake gun store owner in Falling Down said:

Think about it. . . . falling down 3

Almost any modern four-stroke bike in the 600-750 CC range will give you at least 40-something MPG. A smaller CC bike will do a lot better than that. I’ve got a 250 CC dual-sport that never gets less than 60 – no matter how hard I ride it.

There are scooters and mopeds capable of 100-plus MPG.

In any event, the point is you can buy an ocean of gas with the $7-plus grand you’d save up front buying a new HD 750 or middleweight sport bike instead of the electro-bike. Two thousand gallons at the current (my area) $3.50 per gallon. You’d ride for “free” – relative to the SR – for at least 50,000-60,000 miles. Twice that far – or farther – on a 250 CC dual sport.

And you’d be riding a real motorcycle instead of this electric atrocity.

So, why? Is it the crack?

No – it’s the money.

LIke Tesla, Zero exists because it’s on the dole. It lobbied successfully to get the California legislature to pass into law the country’s first electric motorcycle rebate – Drive the Dream – worth an estimated $7 million bucks (see here for more). Rest assured that Zero, et al, will be lobbying for Uncle to dip into your pocket next – just as Tesla has already done.

I’ll bet your teeth are beginning to hurt now.

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  1. I have owned many motorcycles and a few mopeds. I was lucky to of had a 1953 series C Vincent Comet 500cc single that could do 110mph+ and get between 50 and 90 miles per imperial gallon.

      • My late friend Nigel and his dad were heavily into HRD/Vincents and I did ride a Shadow once, took my breath away, and I was lucky to ride “Glitter Glutz” a 1938 Series A Twin than did 1 and a bit laps of the Isle of Man TT when the alloy fuel tank spilt putting the machine out of the race, still holds the lap record as one of the corners has been changed since, too many riders killed.

  2. The electric bikes get better every year. They are quiet, fast, and don’t annoy anyone when you are driving them thru, say, Saguaro National Park in Tucson.

    Different machines for different jobs, EPautos. Why are you opposed to letting people spend money the way they want to?

    I can afford, without breathing hard, an MV Agusta F4. I’ve had four Ducatis. I like electric cars and bikes. So get with the 21st Century, EPautos. You are getting left behind.

    • Hi Dana,

      This $17k bike is slower than a $5k dual sport – and its range/recharge time drastically limits its usefulness.

      Besides which: Even your F4 is capable of 40 MPG – as good as just about any current economy car. There are scooters and mopeds capable of 70-100 MPG (or more) that perform about as well as the Zero – go much farther – and refuel in minutes vs. hours – but cost literally a fourth as much.

      The only ones getting left behind are those on Zeros.

    • DCK – Spend your money on anything you like, ride anything you can afford as long as it comes from the free market. Just don’t expect the rest of us to pony up our money to subsidize the cost of the EV of your dreams through taxes. As Eric pointed out above, California set up a rebate for EVs and Zero’s cashing in on it. Where do you suppose that money comes from? How about from a bunch of Cali taxpayers that aren’t ever going to own a Zero. So why should they pay for yours or anybody else’s? It’s probably just a matter of time before this spreads to the federal level and we all end up “socializing” the cost of your electric bike. That’s not “getting left behind”; that’s getting ripped off. If you don’t understand that then you’re not only riding a Zero, you are a zero.

  3. All good points and I don’t disagree with any of them. I still think e-bikes could be a viable option though IF the price came way down. And if there were no tax (theft/extortion) breaks or government/corporate meddling and making good bed fellows of course. I think bikes like these would make great commuting machines, especially if one is generating their own electricity. If the round trip was reasonable one could easily use this everyday and charge it up when they get home everyday.

    Brammo does have a model called Engage that has a six-speed transmission because a lot of people who have owned e-bikes do miss using a transmission (I’m in total agreement here…all my vehicles are manual and would never own one without let alone a motorcycle without one…I’d make an exception for a ’61-64 Lincoln Continental convertible). An electric motor’s flat torque curve sort of renders transmissions as unnecessary but they can still benefit from one.

    Another area these would be great for is MX/offroad. I used to ride MX/offroad a lot (quit about 10 years ago…trying to get back into it actually) and noise is the biggest threat facing that recreation today. This is mostly due to them moving away from two-strokes to four-strokes (don’t even get me started on that). Anyway, riding areas keep getting shut down and usually the main reason is noise. These would help in that area and would prob. open up numerous new courses/riding areas. That and and change the displacement rules regarding racing back to benefit two-strokes once again.

    Just my thoughts and opinions. I would never advocate electric displacing I.C.E. I love petrol. But it could be another viable option in certain applications/situations. And I say this only with regards to bikes. E-cars? Hell no. Those make absolutely no sense, at least at this point in time.

    • The whole affair is like a bad Abbott & Costello joke.

      First Uncle Sam says go electric, and throws billions at his pals, who take the money and go bankrupt days later.
      Then Uncle Sam says electric generating plants are bad, and in no uncertain terms is shutting down electricity production. Prices go up because supply is reduced & infrastructure building and repair is stopped.
      So then Uncle Sam says “wait there’s more” and he will give me money toward expensive wheels that suck more kilowatts out of a collapsing system. But it is really good for some C02 obsessed drone’s mental well being.

      All while we DO cheaply produce massive quantities of clean burning natural gas. But Uncle Sam says pump it over to the coast, liquify it, then load some big ships full of the stuff and push them 1/2 way around the world to willing buyers not in the USA (read: China).


    • c_dub wrote, “I still think e-bikes could be a viable option though IF…”

      Ya left out, “IF” you weren’t open to being controlled, corralled and directed by a mighty tyrannical empire. More-so than with any other older mode of transportation.

      I think you have in mind Landspeeders or pod racers from the film, Star Wars, when the actuality is more like a controlled drone version of a bike from the film, TRON?
      Garysco’s comment on this link was an even better description of the road an e-bike leads you down:

      I don’t eEven wanna think about what putting on the helmet of an e-bike in that world would do to ya. It’s Borgifyingly spooky.

      • Hi Helot,

        I read that post you are referring too and yes, that would be Borgifyingly spooky no doubt.

        I guess I’m just trying to judge the technology on it’s own merits without all the government connections and implications. Maybe not a fair assessment because it is being forced down our throats and we’re being steered towards it. Hopefully when the state vanishes (worldwide…I’m still optimistic at this point that’ll happen in my lifetime) and the market functions as it ought too, the market will decide if this technology (electric bikes) would work or not.

        • Nice thought, c_dub.

          Well, except for the first part.

          As to the last part, by then, maybe we’ll have nuke power bikes?
          A thousand years between recharges?
          Wouldn’t That be nice.

          TPTB will most certainly have WW III to avert that. …?

    • @C_dub – Here is why we are not ready to replace liquid fuel in vehicles.

      The EPA estimates that one gallon of gasoline is equal to 33.7 kWh. But how did they get that number? At first glance, some folks might think this is a pretty intimidating question. But never fear. The conversion of gasoline energy to kWh is surprisingly simple. Here’s how it works.

      The new top of the line Zero SR electric motorcycle. MSRP $16,995. Comes with an improved 660-amp brushless motor that delivers a claimed 67 hp and 106 pound-feet of torque, and weighs 450 lbs. EPA estimated 171 miles city with the Power Tank (I don’t think so, but that is the EPA propaganda). Should be pretty nice and quick IMHO. But wait. Claimed range is up this year with the new 11.4 kWh battery, and you can add Power Tank accessory that adds 2.8 kWh (unknown cost). So for $17,000+ you can have a bike that will run the equivalent of 0.5 to 1 gallon of gasoline energy (internal combustion heat and friction loss) before the battery is dead.

      Take a gas efficient conventional motorcycle like the new $7,000 Honda CTX700 (EPA 67 mpg and 51 hp), or smaller, and only put in a gallon of gas. You just saved $10,000.

      Battery science is just not there yet.

      • Hi Gary,

        Thanks for the link and info. Always appreciated.

        And you’re spot-on with regards to the battery science being the weak link. Electric motors are phenomenally powerful but the batteries just can’t keep up yet. Maybe they never will.

        • Hi c_dub,

          Batteries are the weak link, but – even if they developed a battery capable of range equivalence to a full tank of gas, that could be recharged in minutes rather than hours – I would still not want it in a motorcycle.

          Because, for me, a motorcycle requires an engine, not a motor. And a transmission – a manual transmission. Take away the sounds, the sensations – the pure physicality of internal combustion – and of working the gear box – and what are you left with?

          Whatever it is, it’s not a bike.

          • @Eric- Common. Or are you too young to remember putting playing cards in your bicycle spokes with a clothespin (what are those?). 🙂

          • @Eric – BMX bikes. I wish I had taken pictures of the tricked out ones the black kids had in Watts. Wet cell motorcycle batteries strapped on with tons of lights & 70’s era boom box am/fm/cassettes about the size of suitcase.

          • @Eric- Ha. They were probably the origin of helmet laws. Funny as hell when they ran from the cops & would crash. Why? Because batteries were expensive, so it was easier to steal one. 10Lb battery, acid, wires & broken plastic radios with a kid trapped under it all. 🙂

          • Oh I hear ya. I love all those things as well. I bought a used/clapped out ’97 Honda CR 125 last fall to get back into MX (haven’t had the time or money yet to dig into it though…your “Crush” article resonated). I plan on tearing it down to the frame and rebuilding it. It will be a new bike when I’m done with it. I went with a 125 because they’re so much fun, so raw. And I love two-strokes; the smell and the sound. Two things one would never get with an e-bike of course.

            On the Brammo’s you can get a manual transmission/gearbox though. So those are basically a legit motorcycle sans sound. It would be weird riding a silent bike no doubt and yes it might even be dangerous (no noise). But that’s a reason I think they’d be great for off-road/closed competition courses.

            And I’m sure we’re (and most all here) in agreement with “to each their own”. And no we shouldn’t have to subsidize the purchase or manufacture of these things through our theft…I mean extortion…wait, I mean our “tax” dollars. If people truly want these machines the market will provide them and government should get the fuck out of the way. And quit holding the companies hand and offering incentives for people to purchase them.

            One last lighthearted bit…It is kind of funny that people started calling them “motorcyles” to begin with when they should’ve been called “enginecycles”. But I guess that doesn’t sound as good. I don’t know. Would be cool to hear the origins of the word.

      • Hi Gary,

        Yup – only it’s worse than that (in re your comparison of the Zero SR to the Honda CTX700).

        The SR is a small standard/commuter bike; no fairing – not set up for two-up riding. The CTX is a larger touring bike, available with a fairing, that can easily handle a rider and a passenger and their stuff.

        A current 250 CC dual sport – something like a Suzuki DR – would be a more apt direct comparison. And you can buy one of those brand-new for around $4,500 IIRC.

        And they get 70-plus MPG . . .and their performance is equivalent to that of the SR.

      • That’s the problem with all the “green tech.” Everyone just figures that there will be some breakthrough or other that will meet or exceed the energy density of fossil fuels. Or they try to apply Moore’s law to energy production, just because we’re all used to our gadgets getting more powerful every 18 months.

        The fact is, wind and solar are terrible for producing energy because they just aren’t dense enough for doing a lot of work all the time. The scientists love to point out the amount of energy/meter^2 from the Sun, but fail to point out just how little energy it is compared to, for example, moving a vehicle. Or that wind blows everywhere but not all the time, so we need a complicated mess of a power grid that somehow can send power on the fly to where it’s needed.

        It’s a good thing that there’s not that much solar energy hitting the Earth, or it would be like the surface of Mercury. Just look at what the Ivanpah solar thermal power project is doing to the birds:–california-solar-thermal-farm-proves-fatal-to-birds_100014257/#axzz30m95iJPM

        And it really doesn’t produce much power, considering how much land the thing takes up. 3500 acres to produce (at peak) 1GW of power. Consider that 1 (of 3) nuclear power plants at Palo Verde produce 1GW of base load power, with better than 91% availability, at a fraction of the land mass used and you get some idea of how ridiculous it is to waste money on green tech.

        • Correction: Palo Verde is on 4000 acres of land, so it works out to be about 3X the power generated on a similar amount of land. And of course that’s still base load, not peak.

  4. I think the whole world is on the pipe. Everyone is facebooking, instagraming, tweeting, and doing whole bunch of other stupid shit I don’t care to even get involved in. I still don’t know what the hell an instagram is. Why don’t they stop fucking around and make the diesel bike already. I mean shit!

    • Ha! Yeah, “I think the whole world is on the pipe” too. No freaking doubt.

      RE: “Everyone is facebooking, instagraming, tweeting, and doing whole bunch of other stupid shit I don’t care to even get involved in. ”

      wHAt? you don’t like that shit!? Obviously you must be a terrists.

      From what I’ve read, an Instagram is something younger people do who think that Facebook is for Old people – Only – the young people are so clueless, they don’t know Instagram is owned by Facebook and Is Facebook by just another name. A.k.a. C.I.A. mug-shotbook-follow-you, track-you, and categorize-you-program.

      Dom, mang. They can’t make the diesel bike because then you’d enjoy yourself, save money, and you’d be that much harder to track and control.

      I mean, who wants to do something that doesn’t involve tracking and controlling your every move? People sign up for those types of things Every stinking day, just to save Two Bucks.
      Giving in – and Giving Up – is, ‘The New black’?
      Plus, a diesel bike would help to uplift the middle class in North America, that’s just Not something that’s tolerated.
      But I digress, I’ve been reading about how the middle class in the rest of the world has been racing on by us all.

      Anyway, just imagine the control You could Give to your overlords by buying an electric bike? It’s the “in” thing to do. All the cool kids are doing it. Giving In, and Giving Up. Just stop thinking. Don’t think.

      …Don’t think. …It’s the New ‘American way’.
      Same as it ever was.

      And, it’s sooo easy. It’s just like falling asleep in a pile of snow. Try it today.
      I know I can’t.

      • Terrorist, and that’s the other thing. Everyone is now a terrorist if they don’t tow the line. It’s applied to everything too! You like guns, growing your own food, making your own power, thinking for yourself, having supplies, and basically being independent and having the ability to critically think.. we’ll then you’re a terrorist. I can’t forget about the ridiculous ‘threat indicator” chart after 9/11.

        They had everyone running around looking for the bogeyman. A lot of people still don’t understand the whole deal is mass mind control. Then we have the completely obvious government shill employees like Clover attempting to manufacture online terrorist one blog at a time. He and those like him are here and everywhere else to snare those not dumb enough to accept the mind control and not smart enough to understand and believe in NAP.

        e-meth from MisterB on Vimeo.

    • It’s narcissism on ‘roads, mang.

      30 years ago, white trash and black trash could be found on Geraldo and Morton Downey. Looks at me! The public airing of one’s nonentity-ness, lack of couth and personal info that should be kept personal.

      Cue the Digital Age and everyone’s Inner Narcissist can flower. We’re all white trash now. Gabbling on the phone, “tweeting” and Facebooking.

  5. Remember Easy Rider?

    Can anyone imagine Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper “looking for America” on one of these contraptions?

    They definitely “wouldn’t be able to find it, anywhere.”

    On second thought, maybe these abominations symbolize today’s Amerika more perfectly than we imagined.

    Born to be Wild? Or Born to be Mild?

    • Hi Bevin,

      They wouldn’t get very far, either!

      I wish I were rich so I could buy every Zero they made this year… and smash them, one by one.

  6. Motorists have two ways to notice a motorcycle rider; sight and sound. Why would I buy a bike that is less noticeable to texting drivers?

    • Good point. Not going to lie, motorcyclists freak me out when I’m driving and I’m glad they’re loud because I really worry about their safety, especially on highways.

      • For a serious motorcycle freakout, come to South Dakota and Wyoming in mid August. The SD Sturgis bike rally draws literally thousands of bikers from all over the world. My little bitty town in NE Wyoming sets up bike parking lots in middle of Main Street! You can easily be surrounded by bikes on any main road here for a month or more on either side of the rally.

        But the thing that amazed me (after years of dealing with biker jerks in So. Calif.) was how marvelously polite they all are. Most of the riders are professional people (many now retired), even doctors and lawyers, and surprisingly… many cops – and plenty of women too! I’ve talked to lots and lots of them. They are all as welcome as the rain here… Polite, and spend big bucks. Every motel, B&B and campground for hundreds of miles around are booked full until the end of September, every year.

        Somehow, I don’t ever expect to see one of these electric things in the mix. It’s more than 80 miles from here to Sturgis, and no place to “plug in” between. They probably couldn’t get here. 🙂

  7. Eric,

    Well written article. The long recharging time effectively destroys the idea of an electric MC (or other vehicle) for me. The economics does not do much for me either.

    Wording questions
    Third block of bolded text —

    * Top speed, 98.7 MPH; standing quarter-mile, 13.07 MPH.

    Do you mean: quarter-mile, 13.07 seconds?

    3rd/4th paragraph after the above bolded text:

    There’s no sound, either – and what is a motorcycle with sound?

    Do you mean: motorcycle without sound?

    Drive the Dream ?!

    The creator of this must have been under some type of mind altering substance that causes logic to disappear. I must be dreaming if I expect someone else to pay for my ride.

    Maybe I am doing this wrong. Perhaps it is better to take as much as possible from the system in preparation for when the system collapses from the unsustainable levels of debt that will never be repaid.

  8. Eric, you said:
    As that fruitcake gun store owner in Falling Down said:

    Think about it. . . .

    I’m thinking, more and more and MORE… that guy was the only SANE person left, aside from Douglas’s character himself – who had to go through a pyschotic break to see the world as it actually was.

    We are not dissimilar, all of us – being a paycheck or two from a downward spiral, at best, I think.
    And there are so many Clovers, mental mediocrities, liars, prostitutes, FSA privates – Sanity is buying into the shared delusions of a society, essentially (Not a new phenomenom – ee cummings wrote about it, “much madness is divinest sense”).
    What is a sane man (or honorable man) to do? Waste away, starve? Work for peanuts at best, while liars, thieves, prostitutes, money changers, and tax collectors live like kings?
    Captive Honor ain’t no honor…

    And we see the results in abominations like you describe above, and in Tesla, and government Subsidies.
    We pay people to NOT grow food, at the same time that we subsidize Monsanto et al to poison us, our land, our air, our water.
    Sane men fight back…

    We have been supine for decades, maybe centuries…

  9. Thank you Eric. I have scratched my head at these “I am trendy” devices too. I am still waiting for a 100MPG diesel motorcycle package though.

    • Garysco,

      If one would like 150+ mpg, then one migght be interested in Craig Vetter type fairings.

      Actually if I bought a 250cc MC new for about $5,000 OTD + ~$2,000 for fairing materials + $500 (a guess, but definately < $1,000) to pay some one to install the fairings properly.

      About $8,000 to get a MC that gets at least 150mpg in the real world with some cargo capabilities.

          • Vetter made the fairings for Honda when Honda first began producing touring bikes – the original Goldwing (and Silverwing). Also for other bike brands.

            I’ve recommended it before, but once again: The early ’80s GL500 and (’83) GL650 Silverwing Interstate is a forgotten gem of a bike – a type of bike not made anymore: middleweight touring bike. Light – about 500 pounds, which for a fully faired touring bike with hard bags is very light. Agile. 10,000 RPM-capable pushrod twin. Shaft drive. 60 MPG. Reliable as an anvil. And you can pick one up these days for under $3,000 in excellent condition.

          • @Eric – I think Honda is trying. The CTX700 is a short range (by my stadards) 700cc touring bike. Claimed 64 MPG and starting at $7,800.

            • The CTX700 looks neat; I’d love to get a ride on one and see how it compares to my GL650.

              I just wish they wouldn’t peddle it with an automatic. It brings the wrong element to biking. And it slimes the six-speed CTX by association!

            • I used to own a Honda CX650 Custom but man, was that thing a hot bitch to ride in the summertime. All the heat from not only the road surface but from the radiator and the engine coming up in your face made it really uncomfortable.
              Sometimes I wish I still owned it as riding up here in Northern Michigan isn’t nearly as suicidal as it was around Grand rapids, Michigan.

          • @Eric- The only down side I have heard is that the engine performance is kinda blah. But that is the tradeoff for the advertised 64 MPG.

            • That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Willis!

              $1,600 for a very nice touring bike…. mine’s just like this, except silver….


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