If electric bikes are yet to come of age like their four-wheeled equivalents the Zero FXE is a step in the right direction, and if you fancy the idea of clean and silent commuting on an A1 licence (or L-plates) it’s a convincing package built with a reassuring sense of quality. True, the upfront price will have you wincing compared with an internal combustion powered equivalent like the Aprilia SX125. But it’s a huge step up from the Sur-Rons of this world, and in a parallel universe people are spending similar cash on e-bikes you still have to pedal. If you have a commute within its admittedly limited range it’s in a different league of performance compared to any regular A1-licence bike, while remaining just as accessible to new riders.
“The Zero FXE looks more like a proper motorbike than electric ‘crossers like Sur-Rons”
While still relatively compact and light the Zero FXE looks more like a proper motorbike than electric ‘crossers like Sur-Rons, and has a sense of road-legal respectability that hopefully puts some distance between it and some of the less sociably responsible users of such machines. The supermoto style is backed up by adjustable, long-travel Showa upside-down forks and monoshock rear suspension, the aluminium frame and swingarm (the latter with a distinctive integrated stiffening tube) showing neat welds to reinforce the sense of quality. Which, given the price, is no bad thing. A 7.2kWh battery lives within the frame, while an air-cooled electric motor sits where the gearbox normally would on a combustion-engined bike and drives the rear wheel via a poly belt.
Expert rating: 4/5
“The upright supermoto seating position means a good view of the road ahead”
On paper the 836mm seat height sounds quite tall but is more reflective of the long-travel suspension, lower than other supermoto 125s and, once you swing a leg over it, the sag in the forks and shock means even smaller riders will feel confident straight away. And, in relation to the footpegs, the seat is very low-slung, again boosting confidence even if taller riders will feel a little scrunched up. There’s enough length in it, though, and the upright supermoto seating position means a good view of the road ahead, which is as comfy as it is great for commuting and filtering through traffic.
Expert rating: 4/5
“Zero quotes a best-case city-only endurance of around 100 miles, though the EU combined figure of 65 miles is probably closer to reality”
There are few frills for the FXE, but for the kind of distances you’re likely to be riding it (or, more accurately, it will go before it needs a charge) that probably won’t be an issue. In terms of range Zero quotes a best-case city-only endurance of around 100 miles, though the EU combined figure of 65 miles is probably closer to reality and nearer to what we eked out on a mixed commute of open roads and urban stop-start. That was in favourable ambient temperatures, though, and on a cold day that could dip considerably, so we probably wouldn’t commit to much more than 50 miles as a round trip. We’ll also have to deduct a mark for practicality when it comes to charging on the basis you can’t plug into the increasing numbers of public car charging points dotted about the place. You can get an adaptor from Zero but the default is a three-pin plug on a regular ‘kettle’ lead, and unless your destination has an outside socket or you can cadge access to one at work your public charging options may be limited.
Given the style of bike protection from wind, spray and road grime are inevitably limited as well, making the range less of an issue. The FXE is small and light enough to wheel around if you need to stash it in a front yard or round the back of the house, which will probably be sensible as that ease of movement also makes it rather nickable. Make sure you invest in a sturdy lock, and have something solid to chain it to any time it’s unattended.
Expert rating: 2/5
Performance & braking
“The 106Nm of torque is way more than you’d get from an equivalent combustion-engined bike”
Something of a trump card for an electric bike compared with regular A1-licence compliant 125s on the basis the 15 horsepower/11kW power limit is measured from the motor’s continuous output, not the theoretical peak power in best-case combinations of charge, temperature and the rest. This figure is actually quite a bit higher, while the 106Nm of torque is nearly 10 times more than you’d get from an equivalent combustion-engined bike. And enough to prompt warnings from the PR man, who told us even experienced riders have been caught out by this, and the fact the electric motor delivers it to the back wheel instantly and without any form of electronic traction control. Suitably chastened we took the advice of setting up a custom riding mode from the phone app, which gives you a range of adjustment for the torque output to prevent inadvertent wheelies away from the lights. So, it’s fast, and the performance is instantly accessible. Which is great for cutting through traffic. Flat out it’ll hit just over 80mph as well, though riding at higher speeds murders the range so we wouldn’t recommend it for a commute with extended bits of motorway. The Bosch ABS-equipped brakes (single disc up front, all switchable)are plenty sufficient given the lack of weight, though we soon got into the habit of lifting off early and using regenerative ‘engine braking’ as much as possible to put charge back into the battery. This proved especially effective around town. The only real issue here is the lack of noise means you need to be extra wary of headphone-wearing pedestrians stepping out when filtering in town traffic. Be ready with that horn button, because they won’t hear you coming the way they would on a conventional bike.
Expert rating: 4/5
Ride & handling
“The narrow frame and low seat help make it feel small, while the 135kg kerbweight is comparable to combustion-engined equivalents like the Aprilia SX125”
The Zero strikes a neat balance between a sense of ‘real motorbike’ substance and electric bike chuckability. The narrow frame and low seat help make it feel small, while the 135kg kerbweight is comparable to combustion-engined equivalents like the Aprilia SX125. This and the instant response of the electric motor all make it feel super nimble and responsive, relatively narrow bars and the front wheel’s fast responses to inputs through them making it supremely agile in busy town traffic. The long-travel suspension also soaks up lumps, bumps and speed humps while maintaining enough damping control to avoid any sense of wallowing about. You’ll soon find yourself nipping through gaps regular motorbikes wouldn’t dream of, it being nearly as satisfying to leave pannier-laden adventure bikes stuck in the traffic as it was car drivers as we skipped silently on our way!
Expert rating: 4/5
“That is multiples of what most combustion engined, CBT compliant alternatives”
A two-sided coin here, because the upfront purchase price of well over £10,000 looks very expensive, even with the deal Zero is offering at the time of writing. However you cut it that is multiples of what most combustion engined, CBT compliant alternatives will cost you. Against that are the attractions of being able to ‘fuel’ from home at a fraction of the cost of pouring petrol into the tank of a conventional bike.
Expert rating: 3/5
“Zero is about as experienced as they come in terms of building electric machines”
The mechanical simplicity of a belt-driven electric bike over a conventional combustion-engined one with a chain and all the faff that comes with it are obviously very appealing. Zero is about as experienced as they come in terms of building electric machines as well, so we’d take some confidence in that.
Expert rating: 4/5
Warranty & servicing
“There’s additional reassurance in the shape of a five-year, unlimited mileage guarantee for the motor, battery and electric drive system”
The warranty on the Zero FXE is the typical two-year manufacturer cover you’d get on most bikes, though there’s additional reassurance in the shape of a five-year, unlimited mileage guarantee for the motor, battery and electric drive system. This should also require less in the way of servicing, though of course the tyres, brakes, suspension and other parts will still need looking after as they would on any motorbike.
Expert rating: 5/5
“LED lights front and back and a TFT screen complete the package”
As you’d hope for the price the Zero comes with a range of quality components, Showa suspension and Pirelli tyres among the ‘tells’ this is a properly thought-out machine and more than a glitzy badge on top of a random selection of mail order parts of unknown provenance. LED lights front and back and a TFT screen complete the package, the latter offering access to all the info you need about range, charging and more while also configurable via the app. This is easy to set up and means you can keep track of your journeys, set up a custom rider mode with your preferred combination of power, speed and regenerative braking and more besides. While the bike itself is pretty basic there are various accessories available, including a fast charger, fly screen, handguards, luggage, phone mount and more.
Expert rating: 3/5
“The Zero FXE’s combination of instant, silent power, agility and ease of use are all very appealing”
If you have a short commute – especially one with lots of busy town miles – the Zero FXE’s combination of instant, silent power, agility and ease of use are all very appealing, likewise the fact you can enjoy this much performance with little more than a CBT and L-plates, or an A1 licence. Much as we love good old internal combustion engines there’s also something very nice about the accessible power, cleanliness and smoothness of the electric motor and, range aside, there feel like few compromises over an equivalent 125. The upfront cost will be a hurdle for many, but if you’ve got the money and fancy something quick and easy for razzing about town, the Zero has the style and quality to make you feel you’re getting a return. And, played right, your running costs will be in the pennies.