Sunday, September 5, 2010

2,000 Mile Update - Taking the scenic route

I struggled pushing this bike 38 or so miles, much of which on 55 mph highways where most cars want to go over 65 mph.  After mix and matching every possible combination of routes I've settled on the shortest, most scenic route. I spend less than a few hundred yards on the two lane highway for the first 17 miles. Then I hit the 2005 housing bubble built on what was California's greatest concentration of vernal pools where i travel the speed of traffic on urban roads.  The following photos show what my alternative route looks like each day.  The slower speeds, quieter roads and motor bike allow me to listed to audio books during my long commute which makes my ride feel much more productive.  This route has allowed me to never come close to running out of energy, I always have two of 11 bars of power left.  And when I factor in the time I spend on my gas bike stopping for gas every other day, this slower route adds right about 30 minutes total per day.  With being able to better listen to audio, low maintenance, cheaper fuel and hopefully endless reliability I think I've finally found peace an relaxation taking this bike on a 38 miles commute.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pissing Gas

Riding home after work, rush hour, road packed.  As I drive I get a horrid breath of gasoline smell, I see a road kill at the side of the road and my fried brain puts the two together and thinks "humm, there was dead animal and they tried to clean it up by scrubbing the road with gasoline, weird"...  then I get another huge wiff of gasoline, it brings another flashback of I think cleaning with kerosene when I was a kid, so once again my tired head thinks "are they trying to clean the whole road with gasoline?"  Then a mile or two later I wake up and realize it still smells like gasoline and this is not right! and I start paying attention and realize a mini van ahead two car lengths and in the lane to my left has a continuous stream of gasoline just pouring out from the back of the car.  I think how stupid I would be if I stop the car and I'm just being paranoid and its not actually gasoline so I pull up close alongside and kind of lean over and sure enough, is a full mist of gasoline hitting the road at 40 miles per hour and misting/splashing all over the road and up into the cars wind turbulence.

Of course next I pull up to the poor high school looking drummer (he had a full drum set in the back) kid's passenger window and let the kid know his car fuel pump is just gushing gas all over the place and so on.

I thought I ought to post this as that night when I got home I caught up on my emails and made it the the Tesla news letter with this forum about electric vehicle crashes being safer than car crashes (think pissing gasoline).

Crashing an Electric Car:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

55 mph Trail

The manual of the bike claims the bike should go 30 miles while the bike is traveling 55 mph. Last weekend I tried a second road test. My test road is not perfectly flat, but I cannot get the bike to break 25 miles with normal riding posture. I hope to try my aerodynamic (cyclist/road racer) position as I did on the 65 mph trial and see how much over 30 miles it will go that way. I'm left being a little skeptical the bike would make it 30 miles even on the most perfect road going 55 mph under “normal” riding form.

ADDED 09/12/10:  To compare the difference Aerodynamics played while traveling 55mph I tried another test this time fully tucked with as little wind resistance as I could figure out while keeping the motorcycle in stock form.  I pushed it about 20% further, with a distance of 33 miles.  However the difference is a bit overstate, the wind resistance factor may only be about 10% as I pushed the battery to a lower charge on this most recent test and previous.  Check out the range chart added on page two of the Data Log (linked on the right column of this blog. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1,000 Mile Summary – Still stuck in perpetual self restraint

(I'm actually now up to 1,240 miles)

Range: I have spent most of my time trying to optimize my 37.8-41.1 mile one way commute. Thus have yet to spend too much time looking into other performance aspects of the bike. On the long commute I'm left with the same feeling I had on my gas sport bike: stuck in a perpetual sense of almost painful restraint. Commuting on my gas motorcycle took self restraint to keep my bike from getting impounded by the police or face a hefty ticket or at least keep from instantly halving my gas milage. Now trying to get my electric bike to make it this 40 miles, with this much 55 mph travel, takes just as much restraint to not use a single extra watt of energy in order to make it to the destination.

In comparison this week I'm staying downtown and making a 20 mile round trip (16 miles on freeway) commute. I can easily make it there and back, still have miles of energy (4 of 11 bars when stopped) left and be able to push the bike all out, a treat I have not gotten to experience much over these 1,000 miles. As a city bike it's all fun, as an inter-county commuter, it is a long endeavor.

Besides my long commute, I've had no performance issues with this bike thus far. Every charge has been within the spec charge times, power remains steady...  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5.5 millimeter!!!

Fixing Flat (tire on my backpack after trip to get new tube)
I officially have my number one documented complaint regarding maintaining this motorcycle. It is supposed have almost no maintenance liabilities and the simplest standard motorcycle maintenance. However, my one task, adjusting chain tension, took me days just to even find the right tool. Somehow the engineers of this bike decided to use a 5.5 millimeter hex nut on two of the bolts needed to adjust the chain tension. As it turns out I could not find a 5.5mm hex nut socket even at Sears which I thought had every craftsman tool ever made. If the bike is going to need a proper tool that can only be ordered online just to adjust the chain tension (usually done every 200-800 miles) then they should save the buyer some time and just sell the socket with the new bike, it is note listed on for sale even on the Zero website.

I also had my first flat (picking up an industrial staple on the road). Between the chain the flat I've had myself busy past few weeks and not had the chance to write much about running the bike. More soon.

Note: As I was complaining to a friendly German who is riding his Suzuki motorcycle to Alaska in a few weeks, he advised me from his experience he thinks the Zero engineers mixed up the sizing and used difficult hex style bolts to deter theft.  No run of a mill meth addict would be able to get the motor out without having a specialty tool, or stripping the bolt and leaving the motor (hopefully run of a mill meth addicts aren't reading my blog for tips)...   that sounded like a smart analysis so we'll hope that was the plan and I'll get over my hex nut rant.  

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sound Part 4: “I Don't Like the Sound or Lack There of”

The sound of something new is a mental association not yet built into the brain and not yet linked to our feelings of adrenaline and excitement. Most anyone not involved in motor sports truly hates the sounds loud engines make, and this is by far a huge majority of people in this world. The only reason some of us think a race motorcycle or cruising Harley sounds good is because we have positive associations with those sounds. When we hear the gargling almost backfire of a motorcycle, we associate it with the feeling of down shifting and braking into a corner or the hum of the Harley is associated with the cruising over green rolling foothills.

No one who actually rode my electric bike has complained about the sound. When they ride it they've said something like it sounds so different, its so quite, its a fascination of how it sounds when riding it and not a complaint, something radical and unknown.

Sound is one of the key complaints that I hear/read every time there is a discussion about electric vehicles by those who have not yet had a first hand experience.

I want to start with the sound of the A123 drag race bike. Last time I checked I think it had a 168 mph quarter mile speed, in the 7 second range. When I saw this drag bike on YouTube it was the first step in creating an association with the sound of electric motors.

Listen to the sound of this bike:

When I heard that bike I said to myself that is not in the slightest way a “quite” bike. That is a ridiculous amount of energy burning through rubber tires and I can only pretend what it would feel like to race to 168 mph in a quarter mile with that sound.

After hearing that A123 bike tear off, I thought: nobody had ever said lightening sounds boring, or people being burned to death on an electric chair sounds boring. The sound of energy is the sound of energy regardless of its form, people have yet to link the association with sound of electric motors to the feeling of speed.

Even the much quieter sound of my electric bike still makes sounds at all speeds , and now that I'm tuned to it after 800 miles my brain has the association of the hum this bike makes under my favorite part of the gearing power ratio around 45 mph at full throttle and I know the adrenalin association of flying into a corner with no engine braking and the different sounds the engine makes still spinning into a decelerating corner.

Sound Part 3: Electric Bikes at Laguna Seca Raceway

With my growing associations with the sound of electric power this brought me to one of my favorite races of my life watching the electric bikes do an unofficial race at the world famous Laguna Seca Raceway. With my associations built, hearing the sound of the top two bikes racing down the track hitting 120 mph! I was more than 100 yards away and could still recognize the motor under different levels of power flying into the corner, rolling on the throttle and full throttle electrified energy.

The Electric bikes don't sound like the top of the world gasoline engines, but nothing does and most everyone in the world hates that sound. In fact most raceways are only allowed a handful of non noise restricted races a year. In regards the electric race last weekend someone posted a comment that the Electric bikes don't sound like Moto GP bikes (the top of the world motorcycle race series that was the headline at the track). But after the Moto GP bikes, The American bikes came out with restricted noise and it was hard to tell they were even racing (noise wise) compared to the Moto GP bikes. If the bikes aren't good enough because they don't sound like Moto GP then that is the end of racing as most racing/track time has restrict noise levels. I will still listen to Moto GP come to California once a year, but otherwise I am also thrilled to hear this electric racing on the track.

Sound Part 2: “Loud Pipes Save Live”

Back in the 60's cars were not insulated for sound and people did not walk around with cell phones and MP3 players. When driving in a 50 year old car and driving in a new car I can see how loud pipes may to some extent helped motorcyclist be noticed on the road back in 1960. However, today, there is no evidence that people on loud motorcycles are less likely to be killed by another driver. If you truly disagree with this and support motorcycle safety then I challenge you to put you money where you mouth is, as I have done, and donate to the American Motorcyclist Associations safety study to determine exact causes and solutions for motorcycle safety, or show me a modern study showing loud pipes save lives. (and just for the record: with my 60 miles on the street on a motorcycle I have decided visibility is best factor to improve motorcyclist safety, in the form of the modulating headlight, bright solid colored helmets and neon vest.  I take no credit for any of these ideas, just learned from years of reading and watching others)

Sound Part 1: Lawmakers Require Noise?

Quite vehicles and pedestrian safety: Right now Plug in America ( is working with lawmakers addressing a lack of noise and associated safety concerns for electric vehicles on urban roads. Lawmakers are trying to force electric vehicles to make noise, Plug in America is trying to prevent noise pollution and ensure the policies are effective and rational Once again, in today's time I do not think this is an issue. A new gasoline car with a stock exhaust traveling at 10 mph on an urban street does not make a noticeable amount of additional noise compared to an electric vehicle. People who are being injured and killed by vehicles are not correlation to the sound the vehicle is making. A teacher friend of mine just had a former student die from a train not because he couldn't hear the train, but because he had headphones on and wrongly placed what direction the monotonous, but surely loud train horn was coming from. At this moment, while writing the previous paragraph while sitting on a San Francisco street corner, a pedestrian was just almost crushed and caused cars to skid to a stop as he jay-walked through a red light with his MP3 player plugged into both ears. If your listening and paying attention you can hear and electric vehicle, if you not, nothing is going to save you except maybe other peoples evasive maneuvers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drafting the Logging Truck

To keep on the same topic of the last couple post I wanted to share my fastest commute to work on the electric bike the other day. I made it within 3 minutes of the normal time on my RC51 gas motorcycle. I'm not counting it, so its in red text on the chart, due to technically braking laws by riding with a 1-2 second following distance behind a semi truck instead of the 3 seconds that I think is supposed to be the safe following distance. On my way to work, I pull up to the main 55 mph speed limit road that I travel for 10 or so miles and I see a big logging truck on its way. Since I had just finished the 65 mph wind resistance test the weekend before, I decided to try drafting the truck to see how it would go. Now by drafting I don't mean Lance Armstrong style, practically kissing the bumper of the truck. By drafting I mean I was at the closest one car length following distance and would go back and forth down to two car distances, or 20-40 foot, 1-2 car, or 1-2 seconds was my best estimates of my drafting distance. It was pretty amazing feeling the difference of throttle required, it was more like I use to go 40 mph. We were cruising at 60 mph the whole way. After I turned off to arterial roads I had so much more power I road as aggressive as I could, taking off at each light and pushing the speed limits on all the roads, throttled through a yellow light and I still made it to work having more energy than I could get used on the bike (2 bars left). From this I imagined maybe some day in the future when there is an electric car lane where all the electric cars use the computer technology that exist today to have all the computers driver the cars with a 1 foot following distance and they could drive using less energy and at faster speeds than ever before... Or I will just see how long I can follow semi truck with 1-2 second following distance until I get a CHP ticket... maybe one day I'll draft trucks on I-5 and see how many miles I can get the bike to go that way.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Ride: 5 new folks

This past week 5 people I know tried the bike out, most of them not motorcyclist, all of them first electric vehicle. The most common phrase was "that was easy". A friend's 55 (or so) yr old mother even road it around the block. At first the bike looks intimidating for those not used to a dirt bike or sport bike due to the seat hight which seems high for them but is actually normal for those types of bikes (and lots of people get their bike lowered which this could do the same if needed). Once they get on the bike they are more than impressed with my promise that it feels so light it feels about as confident as a bicycle in terms of moving its weight around. No matter how intimidated, once they road it around they said that was easier than they ever expect (there are a few who are yet to get on, where my promises didn't quite overpower their intimidation. In addition they mainly made the general comments about the sound and how "it just goes" and things like that.

71 MPH Top Speed!

A main reason I'm doing this blog is to help put the new electric vehicle claims to the test and to find out if what they say is true. I have not had the time to do a trial yet to see how fast you have to go to get to 50 miles per charge or what is the furthest I can get the bike to go.  The manufacture claims this bike has a top speed of 67 mph, after getting to know the bike for 700 miles and maybe the bike go warmed up after these miles.  The bike now goes up to 71 mph if I lean forward a little, maybe even if I don't.  At the end of every ride, when I full up to my destination I always end with a blast of full throttle to see what the top speed is with the remaining power level.  Here is a list of top speeds I've found with varying levels of power.
Bars of power on gauge (total 11, still drive on 0 too, but not counting that as a bar)
8-11 bars = 71 mph top speed
3-8 bars = 67 mph
2 bars = 62 mph
1-2 bars = 55-60 mph (bike limits acceleration to save power)
0 = 45 mph

Friday, July 23, 2010

65 mph wind test

Note: In this study, the bike still went a good 9 miles at urban speeds after it lost the power to go 65 mph. 

I remember when I was a kid my dad told me the freeway speed limit was increased from 55 to 65mph because the state politicians wanted more money to make the budget look better and knew how much that 10mph would increase gas consumption due to wind resistance inefficiencies of most automobiles (note I've never taken the time to verify how much fuel tax revenue did increase after raising the speed limit).  As anyone who has tried cycling or taking a motorcycle say 100mph knows how strong wind resistance is and how much wind resistance hinders your speed exponentially (or something like that) the faster you go. With all that, I still was not sure how much wind resistance was affecting my Zero Millage.  Motorcycles are so much more aerodynamic than a car I have never noticed much of a difference when changing speed from 55 to 65 mph on my sport bikes (but there is a huge difference between 90 and 65 mph). On my sport bikes, over long freeway drives at around 70mph I have definitely noticed better gas millage when tucked under the windscreen compared to siting up straight, however it is a small enough percentage, 10% at best, I had never exactly quantified it.  

65mph wind resistance test:  I completed the same ride in two riding positions to compare the wind resistance influence on this vehicle.  I wanted to know if wind resistance was a factor when determining how long I could travel at the faster speeds.  I wanted to ensure I was making accurate data comparison by knowing the affect of my riding position.   Both rides consisted of trying to keep the bike as close to 65mph as possible, but had speed ranges from 60-67 in addition to at least two stopping points for the shorter distance. 

Tucked: I managed to ride this dirt bike style machine like a wanna-be road racer, trying to get my body as tucked as possible reducing the wind resistance my body would have on the bike. I made it 23.3 miles before the slightest loss of power took the bike down to top speed of 62 mph.  

Dirt bike style: On the second ride I wore my full gear and stat up as straight as possible, to make as much wind drag as my body could make. I maintained approximately the same speeds.  The millage was 50% less!. Down to 11.8 miles until the first reduced power.  Once again keep in mind the bike still effortlessly completed another 9 miles at speeds ranging from 40-55 mph. 

Moral of the story the model of the Zero being used to race the TTXGP this year (pictured above) may have much better millage (think 2 times better) at freeway speeds compared to the dirt bike inspired model.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

370 Miles - Commute Update

Catch-Up Post: July 14th, 2010

370 miles: 37 mile commute time on my Zero within 10 minutes! of time it takes to commute on my 1000cc 80 ft/lb torque RC51.

I completed my third successful day commuting my 37.5 mile commute and within the first 200 miles of owning this electric vehicle I became very comfortable with managing the power and getting a much better feel for the throttle and motor power in terms of keeping it a max power available for the full commute.  In this section I'm going to dwell a lot on the range of the charge and the time it took to get to work.  Please keep in mind that I am sharing this to share the experience of pushing the bike, if my commute was 30 miles or less (or under 20 miles if 65mph freeway entirely) there would be nothing to talk about because I could use all the power I wanted on the Zero and with time to get to work just as fast as any other vehicle following the laws of the road.  I am pushing this electric bike to go close to full speed for 37.5 miles and I'm sharing that to give a good idea of really how capable this bike is for just about ANY kind of city riding as at least 80% of commutes are less than my current commute (This site references Department of Transportation saying "The average United States driver travels 29 miles per day", note my total commute is over 75 miles right now.

37.5 miles commute description
First 9 miles: two lane rural road, 55 mph speed limit the whole stretched. Only a hand full of cars are passed during these 9 miles
9 - 19 miles: two lane highway with continuous cars going 55mph. 10 foot wide shoulder nicely paved. 
19 - 31 miles: Arterial 6 lane road 45-50 mph speed limits, suburban stop light frequency. 
31 37.5 miles: 2-4 lane streets 35-40 mph speed limits. 

The only compromise in the riding to get this to go 37.5 miles is to take it easy on about 10 miles worth of the 55 mph rural roads.  If I keep about 10 miles worth at 40 mph that saves plenty of energy to travel at the speeds of traffic during the entire rest of the ride and make it at full power when I get back. 

between maybe the battery getting conditioned in the first 200 miles and my getting used to the power delivery I have taken each trip at a faster average speed. I'm within 17% of the RC51 time and hope to get it under 10% within the RC51 time.  Follow details of all ride data on the Google chart once I get it up soon. (*)

TTXGP North America Races

Catch-Up Post: July 11th, 2010

last weekend the electric motorcycles raced. Here is a piece of the article:  
"Michael Barnes on the Lightning lit the track up with a best lap time of 1:35.278, only 13 seconds off the CBR600RR pace."
The first race at Infineon was some of the funnest racing I have seen this year next to a few hot Motogp laps, you can check it out all the race videos at: 

First 100 miles summary

Catch-Up Post: July 10th, 2010
To summarize everything I'm about to say into one sentence: The first 25-30 miles of every charge on thimoto bike is my favorite ride on two wheels and by far the funnest riding I have ever done under 70 mph, but if I want to ride for 50 miles, I have to treat it more like the best scooter ever made.
First thing I did was ride it all out. less than a mile down the street from where I'm living right now is an 11.5 mile (there and back) road, it's Irish Hill Road which I will probably refer to a lot as a test grounds.  On this first ride I tried to ride it as hard as possible continuously accelerating or braking.  The bike was comfortable enough I was able to keep it near top speed, so most of the energy used consisted of 55 mph-67 mph roll-ons going in and out of the corners.  The hp did not seem to flinch as it confidently kept the top speed 67 mph going up the steepest hill that took me down to 6 mph when I was on my bicycle. Going down the longest hill the motorcycle actually hit 70 mph which I did not predict.   

Throttle Roll on Fixed:  My biggest complaint test ridding the 2009 model was the throttle roll on when accelerating out of a corner.  This 2010 model perfectly fixed the issue and allows perfect acceleration out of the corners.  It is so smooth now it even makes my V-twin RC51 feel like an out dated poorly refined drive system. I think due to the V-twin, when fully off the throttle and then applying the throttle coming out of the turn apex the RC51 has kind of a kick when the drive system gets back in the power, feels more like hitting my tire with a small hammer. At slow speed on the RC51 I very often slip the clutch to give more of a smooth acceleration out of the corners on that V-twin gasoline bike.  The Zero 2010 model shares none of those traits and I hope to get to some amazing corner speeds like I have never done before. 

Brake-in parts:  It took the full 100 miles before the brand new brakes started to feel as amazing as the 2009 model did on the test ride and even with brand new tires (which usually require a slow 100 mph brake in period) I could not get the slightest feeling of any traction loss going as fast as I could go on this new bike. 

Power Delivery: Another of the most amazing aspects of this vehicle is the perfectly smooth power delivery.  From what I can tell there is no power "curve" or peak horsepower output. The entire acceleration feels like a perfectly smooth continuous delivery of the maximum power.  Unlike my 4 cylinder vehicles I have owned I do not have to wait for that 7,000-11,000 rpm range where the power output about doubles.  The smooth delivery eliminates the need for using major clutch wear every time you want a good acceleration.  

Lightness:  Going on with the unique aspects that make this the greatest thing I have ever ridden is how agile, light and still perfectly smooth and stable the vehicle feels.  The feeling of going in and out of corners on this bike at 65 mph must be similar to what it feels like racing one of those 125cc 2-stroke motor bikes, but without the 2 stroke sounds (which most people I know not used to them find painful to listen to) and 2 strokes have not been legal on U.S. roadways for many years.  With the lightness and smooth acceleration I'm predicting ridiculous tire range and maybe the ability to use some of the softest possible tires with still excellent range.   

The bike performed better than I ever expected in every way for these first 25 miles.  I thought as the battery reserve lowered the top speed would also slow, like a flashlight slowly going fainter as its batteries drain.  However I was totally wrong as I've only noticed power loss until almost completely out of power hitting the warning stages where the power is electrically reduced to extend those last few miles of riding.  This first 25 miles of excellent riding does not include any of that last stage restricted power loss, it was able to keep a full 67 mph for those full 25 miles. 

Pick Up and A First Ride:

Catch-Up Post: July 2st, 2010
I picked up the motorcycle in Scott's Vally near Santa Cruz California, that cut $450 off the delivery fee. I figured a part of the reason I'm buying my first new motorcycle is because it is made right in the same half of the state where I live and so I might was well  save that delivery fee to help it balance out the price a bit.  Everything went great, bike looks great. 
Originally I thought about riding it home, as you'll read in my millage discussion its a good thing I didn't try that 150 mile ride on the first day before getting used it the bike.  My first planned stop was going to be at a friend (Ruben's) who has started his own non-profit solar installation company with the goal of decreasing the installation cost of small single family type installations where just the labor sometimes come close to half the cost for a solar panel project that provides enough energy for their home usage needs.  In a goal to help individuals all get solar no matter how small the project his non profit can decrease the cost of a small project by maybe 30%. 
His company website is:
Ruben is a "casual" motorcyclist with one of those 70's bikes which he often uses to teach other people their first motorcycle experiences/lessons.  I had already told him all I new about this bike and he has ridden with a friend of his that works at Tesla, in a Tesla. With his experience he was pretty aware of new electric vehicle details and asked a few general question like how fast...  He took it out for a 15 minute spin around his town, I think he mostly kept on residential streets, and when he returned his review was simply "awesome".  Back in the truck and off to home I went.

A First Impression

Catch-Up Post: July 1st, 2010

It is the day before I pick up my Zero S.  I'm very entertained by peoples first impressions of these electric vehicles and there misconceptions.  I was originally going to celebrate my new purchase by driving it home the 150 miles, however the date it was ready to pick up happened to coincide with my partner's arrive from the S.F. airport so it turns out I will pick them both up with the truck.  The funny part is when I was planning my trip home I was asking a friend if I could charge my bike at their house along the way.  Their replay was: "I Don't really have a problem with it as long as our electricity bill doesn't go crazy. Do you know how much electricity you would require to charge up? Maybe then we could calculate some sort of rate."  It is funny because most people have gotten to know kilobytes, megabits, gigabytes and now terabytes as they are in everyones electronic lives.  However, also we all have used electricity for our entire lives almost nobody knows how many watts something is (unless its a 60 watt light bulb or a 500 watt car stereo system) and how many watts are in a kilowatt and what that means in terms of their bill and energy usage.  I let her know that yes a payment plan could be worked out, I'd be  happy to pay 5 times the cost, which happens to be less than running her dryer for one hour, or if calculated at the peak rate of energy that any household in California would ever pay if it was charged on a hot day at 3pm, it would cost up to $1.2 if the battery was completely dead.  But under most peoples household energy rates at $0.16 per Kilowatt, it would cost about 64 cents to charge the whole battery.  After explaining the cost to her she said: "I never knew that about electric vehicles -- that's fantastic! And no worries about the cost anymore, I had no idea it was so cheap.

Motor Trend

Catch-Up Post: April 10th, 2010

Reading so much about the new electric vehicles and talking with everyone I know about them the past few years I had heard every complaint in the book. I'm generally a pessimistic person and I was focused, looking for every critique. Motor Trend journalist after testing a Tesla cited: "I'm so uncomfortable in the corners; it just doesn't give you enough information to lean on it." After taking the car to a figure 8 track they sarcastically admitted the amazing handling experience from the Tesla but defended themselves by says "Why should the Tesla require experiments on a super-safe, black lake to reveal its soul? It shouldn't... The Tesla's clientele probably isn't hard-core, road-course-lappers, of course. They're enviro-techies...". After this most intimate experience on a motorcycle I concluded many people who are writing about electric vehicles sound exactly like many of the old folk in 1998 at the onset of the computer revolution. This script from Motor Trend sounds exactly like many defensive office workers when trying to finger type pecking the computer keyboard the way a chicken treats something new. In that situation the 50 year old office worker would say about computers "why should a computer require experiments (practice) to reveal its soul (or usefulness)? It shouldn't... They're enviro-techies..." Still currently working in an office where some outdated old workers resist better changes for as long as they can because its simply not what they are used to and would require additional learning. I just want let people know how old and outdated they sound when bashing something they have not gotten to know well yet. Its rare when there is such a product that can totally sell itself once you really use it. It is true this electric vehicle has some very different handling characteristics, but it is ridiculous to say gasoline motor that has to rev to find its power, can stall, stutter, lock wheels with improper shifting, is more "natural to drive" than an electric vehicle with none of those issues. A motor vehicle is not instinctual to drive! I was riding in gasoline vehicles since a few days old, and labored for thousands of miles to perfect the handling of my 1990 "sports car" in my younger teenage and adult years and likewise spent many more thousands of miles both on and off track to really feel connected to my motorcycles handling characteristics. If Motortrend really wants to find out which car naturally "reveals its soul" they should put 16 year old children who have never driven before (never driven any manual vehicle) to do the test and see which car is faster and more confidence inspiring. I will put money the Tesla would beat a Porsche with a 16 year old driving. You can't compare something old, to something new, and say I don't like new stuff its different, and then still call yourself a journalist.
*(Motor Trend, February 2010 Tesla Road Test):

First Ride

Catch-Up Post: March 20th, 2010
First Ride: The most intimate experience I've ever had with a motor vehicle (well at least tied for first)

I had already decided to buy the new 2010 Zero Motorcycle and arrived to test ride the bike at the company headquarters in Scott's Valley near Santa Cruz California. To keep it short, after dreaming of electric vehicles for years, the new 2010 model that could go 67 MPH and new state rebate released March 15th offering an additional $1,500 cash back was enough to make the purchase well worth my city traveling needs. 

The new 2010 models were out touring the country so Bryan (the Zero Motorcycle representative) brought out two older (2009) models that had 25% less power than the new 2010 model for me and my friend (James) to ride. We sat on the bikes and got comfortable as Bryan explained the controls.  I brought James with me since he was the one who put me on my first motorcycle 10 years ago, when I no longer needed my parents legal permission to ride, we took laps around the suburban loop on an old 1980 80cc Honda dirt bike.  Since he opened the door to the motorcycle world for me I figured he was the one to bring on the test ride of the first new (as in not used) vehicle I have purchased.  James sat on the bike, after being told how to turn it on, in retrospect he explained he didn't really believe it was on although Bryan said it was on, the green light on the dash and all the switches indicated it was on, he's brain still just wouldn't accept it was on. James being a commuter on a roaring cruiser that you can hear at least a block away every time it starts, made it understandably hard for his brain to register that the bike was on.  In disbelief his subconscious decided to give a fair twist of the throttle as unexpectedly the bike, anxious to go, lurched forward a few feet and James stumbled to keep the bike upright and not hit his own car, Bryan, or me on the other motorcycle.  Luckily the bike is so light and well balanced it feels as easy to keep up as a bicycle and James regained control in that split second before hitting any of us. Bryan kinda chuckled and reminded him the bike is always in gear as there is no gearbox at all, just motor and wheels.  James laughed at himself and explained he really didn't believe it was going to go anywhere when turning the throttle. 

Next we did some circles around the parking lot to get the first feelings of a bike almost half the wet weight of my RC51 (gasoline "sport" motorcycle) and definitely less than half the weight of my friends cruiser. I think Zero Motorcycles claims it has the best power to weight ratio of any electric street legal vehicle on the market. 

After a couple minute of 10 MPH parking lot maneuvers James pulls up and says: "It feels like it's powered my magic, it just goes."  As he continued to adjust to the new experience.

We took off, just down the street was a wonderful tight windy road up and down a mountain with a few straightaways long enough to just hit 50 MPH under conservative first time riding. 

This is where my tied for first most intimate experience with a motor vehicle occurred. Later I'll discuss the complaints I've heard prior to riding this Zero, but you've heard things such as "I can't ride a quite electric vehicle, the engine sound helps so much to feel the handling..." or "the electric motor doesn't give the same feel" and things like that...  

Going in and out of the corners I was blown away. Normally all I can hear is my motor and nothing else until I've gotten a rear tire high-side worthy sideways or totally locked a tire or hit something awful in the road... On this bike it was like a new world of riding, I felt like I knew the road as if I had touched every piece of tarmac with the palm of my hand. I could hear every pebble under the tire, I could hear the different degrees of flex in the drive chain and motor whisper variations while getting on and off the throttle. The different sounds the tires made on the different textures gave the feeling like sanding wood work with different grades of sand paper at different speeds or climbing a bolder and feeling the hand grip and textures of the different rock surfaces or types of bark on a tree. It was intimate, I almost felt like I should be an ashamed voyeuristic getting closer, where I had never been before into the soul of my vehicle carving the windy road. In the end, when it comes to Ben Spies and Valentino Rossi battling this year at the 100+ mph speeds this sensation will make no difference over the noise of the wind and the need for the feel of the many thousands of dollars worth of suspension.  But in my world, riding the back road at mostly street legal speeds, this was one of the most intimate things I have ever done on two wheels. 

It is hard for me to describe the emotions I felt taking this vehicle down a windy road so I'm going to share the only other motor vehicle experience that even compares.  I had invested maybe 500 track miles on a 15 year old motorcycle, it was fun hard work.  When I bought my, at the time couple year old RC51 (Honda sport bike), I went to the track and had the first experience fully leaned over dragging my knee through half the corners at Buttonwillow raceway at speeds around 40-70 mph.  That intimate feeling leaned over a perfectly stable bike actually touching the ground at track speeds, all those intimate emotions first felt while touching the track for my first time, that is the best comparison for how it felt making this transition to my first ride on a real road on this Zero motorcycle. 

Looking (actually staring) at the photos of the new bike I had a concern for braking ability and suspension feel.  I've gotten used to looking at the 43mm fork tubes on most new sport bikes and in the photo I thought the forks looked a little narrow and thus I was afraid maybe also of a cheap feeling.  But after seeing first hand and riding the bike the forks seem almost the exact same size, and thus easily tune-able in terms of finding after market parts for your riding style and gave a great stock feel for the riding they are designed for.  It is hard for me to tell what this bike should feel like since I'm so used to my RC51, which at the time was said to have one of the most "road race ready" suspensions and thus I can feel every crack on the rode and have to often stand up over the bumpy pot holes on the roads these days, if I don't the hard suspension jolt will shake my organs quite nice. In terms of the brakes I had not ridden a bike with 1 front brake rotor since my futile attempts on my first 1985 cruiser to keep up with a 2000 R6. I fully failed to realize the affect of having a bike around half the mass of most other road bikes out there.  The brakes with the stock steel braked lines and lightness of the bike gave an instantly 100% confident feel.  I was thinking about having essentially no engine braking, and especially paying close attention to my corner entries as at street speeds. On my RC51 I almost never even use brakes due to the extreme engine braking.  At first I thought the Zero would have less braking power without the engine assisted braking and single front rotor.  Keep in mind I'm no physicist, but while riding, I figured when braking traction is lost, it is simply between the road and the tire, it does not matter what is slowing the tire, whether from the engine or just the brakes, the total traction of the tire is still the same, right? In-fact all new sport bikes even need slipper clutches to help offset the engine braking to maintain safest and quickest braking. In a sense, once used to it, I think the no engine braking would give more rider control using the rear brake lever and may increase reliable and confident extreme braking maneuvers without having the variable of additional and ever changing engine braking on the rear wheel (keep in mind statistically most road motorcycle crashes involved the rear wheel locking when there is time for an emergency braking maneuver to occur). One of my first trials will be a self test of 60-0 braking and 0-30 acceleration comparison between my RC51 and Zero S motorcycles, first ride I think this Zero will give the RC a good run. Stay tuned for that comparison. 

Even with 25% less power, this 2009 model still had all the power I would "need" for street use. we could easily keep up or exceed all the speeds of traffic and definitely keep up (as in want to go faster) with all the cars on a windy road.  The extra power will really be for fun destroying cars at stop lights and being able to keep a safe pace on freeway commuting. 

Throttle Roll-On
 I had one major critique with the throttle roll-on.  Rolling on the throttle on the 2009 model while coming out of a corner was an unfriendly process.  Without the clear sounds of exhaust it wasn't easy to get a feel of what rpm the motor would be running at and thus it was hard to get a feel of when the throttle would give enough power to begin driving the wheel.  When leaned over, even at slow speeds it was uneasy waiting for that kinda sudden kick when the motor would reach the speed of the wheel and shift the bike weights and suspension loads into the drive mode. We only road it for 8 miles and just after that short ride it became much easier to get the feel of when the engine would kick in while exiting out of each corner.  On uphill corners the problem did not exist. Bryan assured us that the control system on the 2010 model has completely eliminated this problem. With more power and better throttle roll-on feel it looks like the only issues I have would be addressed.