-See also Pt. I- Ergonomics, and Ear-gonomics
So lately I’ve been doing everything (road-wise) on a 2012 Zero S. More thoughts:
Ergonomics becomes an issue the moment you get on, and shove off. Next comes the transmission. The Zero S, like every electric moto so far, has direct drive: one speed, and no clutch. Natural response: isn’t that weird for a motorcycle? Is it like an automatic in a car?
Well, it sure felt that way at first. The first time I ever rode off, I itched for an invisible clutch lever, and pawed for a phantom shifter. Shifting and clutchwork are so ingrained into the existing motorcyclist’s mind that it’s (heh, heh) automatic. If you, as a car driver, don’t get it, it’s because you (as my stick friends say) have spent all this time steering, not driving.
Of course, cars have “prundle.” Before you can pull away in a gasser car, you have to actively fire up the ‘banger, actively engage a gear, and possibly actively release a parking brake. This keeps you from certain types of low-speed accidents. Other than the kickstand, this hardly exists in the moto world. Combined with silent “idling,” it’s very possible for a person to not realize an electric bike is powered, and accidentally shoot off. The Zero still has a kill switch on the bars, like many gassers. The owner’s manual encourages its use to prevent unintended take-off. Unlike a gasser, there’s a huge, green “power” lamp at the top of the gauges. This is as in-your-face as it can get, to remind you that yes, this thing’s on.
Another thing that helps is that the grip encoder (“throttle” in the gas world) and its control laws are well done. There’s a dead space once you start to turn the grip, before you actually move. Then when you turn it a little more, there’s a “stealth of stealth” range. It makes the bike really handy for gliding in parking lots, stop-and-go traffic and drive-thrus, parades, etc. Only after deliberate twisting do you actually pull forward with real force. With a multispeed, you do these fine adjustments by holding a low, even throttle, then slipping the clutch to control acceleration. Here, you always let one hand have direct control- far more intuitive.
Levers or no levers, I got it. Got it within a ride or two. Ingrained or not, I adapted quickly. People with manual cars can borrow your automatic just fine, even if you can’t borrow their stick. People with scooter experience can similarly get on a direct-drive moto.
There was one near-incident, though. When I got to my first red light, I had the urge to “rev the engine,” existing or not. Fortunately, I stopped myself when I felt the rear tire grip; I didn’t launch myself into cross traffic.
Okay, once you know how to launch the thing… how does it launch? People had warned that direct drive, with one wide gear, doesn’t make the best use of motor torque for launching. One of the joys of motorcycling (and even many scooters) is a great acceleration due to low weight, which you typically experience by blasting away from everyone else when lights turn green. (By comparison, cages, with their bulk, need low first gears to get out of their own way.)
I’m happy to report that the Zero S can blast just fine- not like an automatic in a car. Sure, a dedicated low gear would make it blast better still. But as is, I can peel away from a stop and leave normal traffic behind. Electric motors give high torque over a broad rev range, and this motor is no exception. Combined with a weight of only 300 pounds, one ratio does it for me. But if you want two votes of confidence, notice the Sport/Eco switch:
Sport versus Eco primarily adds regenerative braking. This simulates engine braking on a gasser, and recovers energy that would instead go to heating the pads and disc. Eco also reduces commanded energies: torque goes from a bit over 40 ft-lbs (measured, not claimed), to a bit under 30. And yet, in Eco, I can still leave normal traffic in the mirrors; I just have to pin it. Sport just makes it easy. Essentially, it’s a “transmission” in software- and even the “wrong” gear still works fine.
Notice I said “normal traffic.” If someone really feels like mixing it up, or is in a real sports car (not an econobox with bodywork), then all bets are off. But that has never happened so far. I stay in the flow of street traffic as I feel, and if I feel I can flow past.
Notice I said “street traffic.” What about interstates? Answer: I dunno. If I’m on an interstate, it’s because I have somewhere to be. I don’t go on highways to ride like flies around livestock. I pick a lane, and add the miles I need to add. If you’re looking for a hobby to be a d-bag in public, risking bystanders as well as yourself, then don’t ask my advice.